My name is Sarah-Leigh Wills
Welcome to my studio! I am an award-winning Designer, Artist and Children’s Book Illustrator.
I have spent many years within the arts and media sector, primarily designing and teaching. Through this, I have gained a huge amount of experience by working with clients and students worldwide. Many people ask me what I like about illustration and design. For me, it’s not work, it’s pleasure! If I could wake up and do the same job every day, I would choose illustration!
When I’m not either enjoying a walk along the river or in the beautiful countryside where we are based, playing something from our huge record collection or creating a heck of a noise by playing my drums or banjo, I’m a children’s book illustrator. I have a huge passion for children’s picture books and a big collection of them. I don’t like reading biographies or novels! I have a child’s imagination, which allows me to create the fun and quirky style that children just adore, and, just as importantly, makes them laugh.
Where it All Started
I have a passion and a gift (passed down from my father) for illustration; “The Drawing Hand“, I like to call it! When I was in college I discovered a passion for design. You see, I have been able to draw since I can remember, and this carried me through school. I started out wanting to be a vet, like many 13-year-old girls, but I quickly realised that my path in life involved pencil and paper. I spent many years around animals. I spent 10 years on a farm, showing and breeding animals. But these days I just love drawing them!
I cultivated a passion for drawing animals at the age of eight. I would spend hours just drawing, rubbing out and re-drawing. I knew from then that drawing animals was something that I would be able to do on a daily basis for the rest of my days, so what better than to make a career of it!
So that’s where it all started. I went to college and studied a National Diploma in Graphic design, and I then went on to study at Falmouth University on the BA(Hons) Graphic Design course. It was here that I won my first award, which was first place in the UK & Ireland in the DAF (Design Against Fur) Award 2007. My work was featured at the London Design Festival.
How Happydesigner Started
Happydesigner was founded in 2007. When I was in college I wanted to become a freelance designer. Working for myself seemed the perfect job! I managed to get a few hours a week working for a local design company, Richard Quick Design in Penryn, Cornwall. Here I was able to gain industry experience of live clients, live briefs and quick turnaround deadlines! I was working with local website developers and printers, and have built up a great knowledge of the way things should function within a company. I then thought well, if I can do this kind of work for someone else, why not just do it for myself? So that’s when I decided to make a professional business for myself! Since that day, I have been working with hundreds of clients across the world, including high-profile companies such as Pets at Home, BBC, Harper Collins, Faber Music, Fletchers Solicitors, Respect for Animals, British Airways, Sky and TalkCoach. I have worked with agencies in the past including Printing.com, Cornwall College and Crunchers.
When I left Falmouth and Richard Quick I went on to study a PGCE (teaching degree) as I had a passion for teaching my design skills. I went on to teach for two years on a foundation degree course at Cornwall College. I worked as a visiting lecturer, teaching on the Graphic Design Degree course, for several campuses across Cornwall, including St Austell College and Falmouth University. My fuel as a teacher was to give the students a true representation of the graphics career world. It’s hard going and takes years of dedication to succeed and I wanted my students to be ready for the hard, critical world that awaited them. Being a freelancer myself, and having in-house experience, I was able to bring live briefs and clients into the lecture hall and let the students and local contacts, printers and developers engage with one another. However, through all of this, I always had a string tied within me that pulled me back to becoming a children’s picture book artist.
Working with Clickety Books
One day I had a very interesting conversation with a certain Mr Craig Green in regards to drawing some animals! Myself and Craig knew each other from when we were working for separate companies. It was Craig’s idea to create a new educational resource for his son, who struggled with speech and language. All the resources that were available were not to Craig or his son’s liking and they felt a need to develop something more fun and engaging for children with similar issues. We started off with one character, ‘Jacqueline The Black Alpaca‘, and we now have reached double figures! I am now well known for my cheeky style within the Clickety Books range and have provided illustrative input and ideas for the company for several years. The company are specialists in speech and language resources for children of all ages. You can see more of my Clickety Books work here: www.clicketybooks.co.uk
Ever since I left college I knew that I wanted to become a successful children’s picture book illustrator, and working with Clickety Books has given me the confidence and knowledge of the book world. I’ve had the chance to see what it is children like and respond well to, and also what sells! So, with all of this behind me, you can see how I got to where I am today!
A Few Facts About My Work
- I always create original, creative and professional work.
- We are always available to support you along the way!
- I have an unparalleled method of working, as there is no big company to deal with, no separate departments and no big bosses! It’s simply a very personal service focused on you and your project.
- I create professional designs that can be applied to any medium and any format.
- And all this is always delivered with a SMILE! That’s free!
- I have recently expanded Happydesigner and now have a great little team.
Gillie Can Series
I have recently (FINALLY) plucked up the courage to start on my own series! After working on over 200 books for
other authors, it’s time for me to start creating my own series. So, I’m proud to present my creation, “Gillie Can”.
Start Today With A Smile
Sometimes in life all we can do is… SMILE. It might be that you get caught in the rain, the cat claws your foot or maybe when you can’t find matching shoes! Sometimes things don’t go to plan… but to make things better all we can do is try again and smile! Available and Published by Magic Mouse Books
The little tree with a big history. This is my latest title. Im so excited to share this with the world as it has been a labour of love for me for a few years now 🙂 It will be available and Published by Magic Mouse Books in 2022.
Once I Saw A Band Called Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Recently I indulged my love of all things eighties by writing my own “fan fiction” style book about OMD, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
NOW AVAILABLE, my OMD book is a children’s book about little Gudrun, whose parents love OMD, but she really doesn’t! Can their passion for OMD win over little Gudrun? Find out by ordering your copy from the band’s website.
Some Quirky Facts About Me
Speaking of OMD, my husband and myself have set up our own tribute band to Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark called Manoeuvres. I absolutely love OMD and they’re very often on my playlist when I’m illustrating. I love playing music when I’m working in the studio.
I was certainly born out of my time! I love old music and vintage clothes and am a little bit of an old fart at heart! I like the simple life; staying at home, baking and enjoying family life. But then there’s the little rock chick in me that loves to get out and have a good old boogie or jive at a local gig or concert! Really I’m just the typical arty person, collecting random objects that are only important to me, that kind of thing. Here are a few facts about me:
- I LOVE fruit! I should have been a Fruit Bat!
- I LOVE to make lists!
- I LOVE the 60’s; I think I am re-incarnated!
- I have very clicky joints. Not a good thing really!
- My work-related idol is Roald Dahl.
- My favourite movies are anything Sci-Fi/Thriller.
- I LOVE vinyl records! We have THOUSANDS!
- I am only 5ft 1 (all good things come in small packages my dad tells me).
- I am a keen British coin collector. I have thousands of the things!
- I’ve recently taken up felting!
But that’s enough of my waffling!
Not answered everything? Do you still have questions? Visit my FAQ page to find out more about my services
You want to see what I can do, right? Well just grab yourself a cuppa, slap on some good tunes and have a good old nose around the site! If you’d like to find out a bit more, just drop me a message, I really would love to hear about you and your exciting project. Thanks for visiting and please come back soon! Sarah, aka Happydesigner.