Emily Gravett is a Kate Greenaway Medal-winning author and illustrator working primarily in children’s illustrated fiction. She was  was born in Brighton and returned to the city in 2001 to begin an illustration degree as a mature student. 

For the Brighton College of Art’s 150th anniversary in 2009, Emily Gravett wrote:

Two page book spread with Emily Gravett drawings of mouse laid out like Polaroid snapshots.

Emily Gravett, page spread from Little Mouse

“In the last months of my illustration degree at the University of Brighton, I entered, and was lucky enough to win, a competition run by my current publishers Macmillan. This resulted in a publishing deal and a huge amount of happiness for me!

Since then I have written and illustrated a number of picture books, several of which have been short-listed, and even won, children’s literature awards.

My work is a mixture of hand-drawn and digitally-altered ephemera. I try not to be too prescriptive about the way I work, because each book needs to be treated individually. For me the beauty of picture books is that they have to work on so many different levels, with text and illustration often playing different roles, and an audience that can range in age from age 0 – 100! It’s a fantastically challenging medium, and one that I love.

Although I studied illustration at Brighton from 2001-2004, I have a much longer association with the college. My father worked at the (then) Polytechnic between 1970 and 1989, so some of my earliest memories are of visiting my dad at work and being allowed to hose down screens in the print room, or agitate etching plates with a feather.

An Emily Gravett drawing of a frong holding up a trompe l'oeuil book of Spells.

Emily Gravett, Spells

As a young teenager I loved the degree shows (mainly I think, because the students would sell me wine in a plastic cup!). I liked everything about the college, from the inky smell to the squeaky corridors, but as I got older teenage rebellion kicked in and I dropped out of education (and society) to become a traveller and live in a bus. 

It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties and had a small child that I was ready to think about returning to education. Brighton seemed the logical place to go. It was familiar, close to family and friends, and had a great reputation.

I can’t pretend it was an easy three years for me. I didn’t see eye-to-eye with most of the other students or, occasionally, with the tutors. (My lowest point was crying in front of the whole class in a first year crit.) But it taught me when to listen, and when to have the confidence not to listen.

I found a work ethic I never knew I possessed, and a passion for picture books that I hope will last forever.