Madison Fotti-Knowles is the wonderful artist behind the beautiful illustrations for the full SWAGG franchise. Madison, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Ok let’s see – I’m a professional dancer and creative artist from Auckland, New Zealand. I originally trained as a classical ballet dancer and moved to Russia at 17 to study ballet. I love to tell stories and am always working on new ways to do so. I’m always moving, writing, making something, or hanging out at the nearest beach.
There must be many to choose from, but do you have any favourite artists or illustrators that inspire you?
As an illustrator I take inspiration from a lot of sources, but I'm particularly inspired by graphic art and fashion illustration. I love the work of Kay Nielsen for his vivid use of space and contrast, and Julie Houts' dynamic line work and hilarious use of detail. I'm inspired by work with a point of view that tells a unique story!
And what about your favourite authors?
Some of my favourite authors are Elanor Catton and Wally Lamb, who are amazing at creating intricate worlds and stories. And I've never met a Bill Bryson book that didn't make me laugh out loud! As a kid I loved fantasy and alternate worlds, and still do. Some of my favourite YA reads are Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle, Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series and Scott Westerfield's Uglies.
In 2020, you began illustrating the SWAGGbooks™ collection by Jill Marshall. That’s 19 books and many more different elements to illustrate! Who was your favourite SWAGG character to create, and why?
Jack B-C aka Anubis and Jane Blonde were probably my favourites to design because they were the easiest to get on the page. Sometimes it can be a long trial-and-error process to get a character 'right,' but Jane and Jack were clearly ready to come to life - they just leapt right out onto the page.
What did you enjoy about the process?
What I really enjoyed was getting to create the characters from scratch. When working with books I really love the process of trying to align the character's 'personalities' on the page with the author's vision.
There were probably a few challenges to face while coming up with the illustrations! How did you find it? And did being overseas and/or in lockdown while creating the illustrations for the characters affect the process?
Some of the challenges were illustrating covers for books that didn't exist yet, because you have to make your best educated guess as to what the author is going to do with the story! Luckily, I was in constant contact with Jill who gave me some great feedback on what she was looking for.
It was definitely challenging being in lockdown or overseas at various times throughout the process, mostly making sure I could get my hands on the right art materials to keep things consistent - it definitely forces you to get creative! I finalised one character from a hotel room in Los Angeles!
Like all the SWAGG characters, you've had many adventures and been courageous in following your own path to be a dancer and creative. Do you have any nuggets of advice for anyone in your shoes? I'd say be brave, be determined, and be willing to stray off the beaten path in pursuit of your dreams! Thanks, Madison, for your inspiring illustrations, and for being an inspiration yourself!
Check out the full S.W.A.G.G collection - that's the four-book S.W.A.G.G series and four origin series about sensational spy, Jane Blonde, Jack B-C aka Anubis, legendary Catgirl Matilda Peppercorn, and Stein of Stein&Frank - on swaggbooks.com, or find S.W.A.G.G with more of Jill's books on jillmarshallbooks.com
All S.W.A.G.G books available for order in ebook or print on Amazon, all ebook retailers and in local bookstores.