An Interview With... Hannah Tolson

An Interview With... Hannah Tolson

I dreamed of having one of those big wooden sets full of pens, pencils, paints in every colour possible. I’d still quite like to have one of those now. 


Hi Hannah!

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a full-time illustrator?

Some influences as a child: I had a few books I really loved and have still kept hold of, one being this big treasury of children’s literature, full to the brim of great stories and illustrations, I’d read over and over again. Another favourite, was the "Mousehole Cat" by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bailey. The story is set in a little Cornish fishing village and I loved the illustrations of sea and the giant Storm-Cat. We’d spend every summer holiday making the 8 hour drive from Yorkshire to Cornwall and staying in a caravan by the beach, so the book was a nice little piece of that when we were back home again.

Absolutely no-one in my family was creative, so I’m not entirely sure where mine came from, but it was definitely encouraged. Every birthday and Christmas I’d love getting new art stuff. I dreamed of having one of those big wooden sets full of pens, pencils, paints in every colour possible. I’d still quite like to have one of those now.  


 What did you want to be when you grew up?

I’d flip back and forth between something arty and something with animals. I remember at one point really wanting to be on Changing Rooms (a home improvement show from the 90s) I know now some of those rooms were pretty awful, but I loved the crazy colourful designs as a kid.


When did you know you wanted to be come an artist / illustrator?

I went to art college for 2 years after high school, and figured out right at the very end, after dabbling with every possible route, that illustration was the one for me. 


What are the three things you cannot live without as an illustrator?

Tea, more tea and Tunnocks teacakes.


When or where do you feel most creative?

After I've been on a walk either in the middle of nowhere or in a city somewhere.


Who is your illustration hero?

Ahhh too many! Tove Jansson is pretty wonderful. I have a print from "the Dangerous Journey" sitting above my desk.


Tell us one thing from your childhood bedroom that you treasured...

A boxed collection of all the Beatrix Potter books, that was chewed up on one corner by our mischievous dog Rolo. At some point it disappeared and I found out it was sold at a car boot sale for 50p. Very sad. 


Tell us about your workspace: is there anything you keep around while you work to inspire you?

Lots and lots of picture books, plus my recently adopted whippet, Murphy, who comes to the studio with me every day and provides no end of inspiration for doggy related picture book ideas!


How does your working process usually start?

Probably a good amount of procrastination whilst drinking tea. Then lots of wobbly little sketches to get my ideas into something that makes sense.

Talk us through your inspirations for your favourite M i N i B E A U design.

I really love the world of Richard Scarry, the peep into buildings and his characters going about their totally normal everyday lives and all the details to spot amongst the artwork. Fun fact: one window is inspired by me and my studio! 

Can you guess which one?


 To learn more about Hannah's work, visit 


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