A conversation with...Alison Hawkins

A conversation with...Alison Hawkins

The Conversations Series create a positive image for young girls to refer to by having conversations with different business owners, entrepreneurs and creators. Here, we are catching up with Alison Hawkins, an illustrator based in Durham, NC. She grew up in the Washington, DC area, drawing, painting, and taking field trips to the Smithsonian. She started her career as a Graphic Designer and worked as a Product Designer. Alison loves to explore colour and hand lettering in her illustrations, as well as to experiment with animation. 

Our featured artist for Issue 7 The Art Edition is Hélène Baum-Owoyele. You can read all about her creative journey. Buy our latest issue here 

Alison Hawkins


You’ve illustrated a few children's books. What was different about the Little People, BIG People Nelson Mandela story?

This was the first non-fiction book that I've worked on, which is a big difference. Nelson Mandela, he's such an important figure. It was really important to get the visuals correct and accurate. I was glad to be part of a very cool series of books. I love the many biographies of important current and historical figures, including artists and scientists. The illustrations are all amazing. 

 Little People, Big Dreams Nelson Mandela

 Little People, Big dreams - Nelson Mandela

Alison Hawkins - Illustrations for Little People, Big dreams Nelson Mandela 


How important are illustrations in children's books?

I hope that they're very important. As a child, I knew that. I loved illustrated books, because I was interested in art. Art can help spark the imagination, makes you think about the world. 


I loved illustrated books, because I was interested
in art. Art can help spark the imagination, makes
you think about the world. 


What medium(s) do you use? 

I mostly work digitally, always start with pencil and paper sketching. I scan my sketches, and use Photoshop to move things and paint. For fun and practice, I work with watercolours or create collages within my sketchbook. Most artists enjoy using Procreate on their iPad, because it’s easier. 

 Alison Hawkins Work

 Alison Hawkins- Personal Work 


You started your creative career as a Graphic Designer. How did you get into illustration? 

I grew up always drawing and doing traditional art. Another is that the design positions that I had also included some illustrations. So I could just sort of do more and more illustration until I went into freelancing. I mainly do graphic design. There's a lot of overlap between the two.


Alison Hawkins Art

 Alison Hawkins Personal Work 


Who are your favourite illustrators/designers?

I have a couple of books that were a favourite of mine when I was a kid. One is by Shel Silverstein called A Light in the Attic. A collection of poems that had small line drawings for each poem. I would often copy the drawings when I was younger. Another favourite book of mine as a kid was called Swimmy picture book written and illustrated by Leo Lionni. It's about a tiny fish who stands out because he is a different colour from all of his school. The illustrations look abstracted and textured. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak, I really loved that when I was a kid, one of my favourites of mine. It’s a very imaginative story.   

Another book which is quite current is Coqui in the City, written and illustrated by Nomar Perez. An autobiographical story of a small boy who moves from Puerto Rico to the US.  

Quick Fire Round 

What’s currently on your playlist?

I listen to all kinds of music. I love to just put shuffle on and just let it go to all different you know, hip hop, reggae. You know, indie rock music. 

Books or movies?


Nelson Mandela book

Little People, BIG Dreams : Nelson Mandela | Frances Lincoln
Available from bookshop.org

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