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Helen Craig

Illustrator and Sculptor

Angelina Ballerina

About Helen

I live in a little house in a village outside Cambridge in England opposite an old and beautiful church. I live very near to my son and his wife and have two grandsons who are now young men! 


My studio is next door to my bedroom where I can go and work anytime I feel like it. Besides illustrating books I also do a lot of drawing on my iPad and I now find time to make sculptures which I had always wanted to do from a very young age. They are rather fantastic creatures and very different to Angelina! Here is one. I call it "The King and His Advisor".

The King and His Advisor

My agent contact - Carol Heaton



Angelina Ballerina's World


Helen Craig

Inspiration for Angelina’s world comes from my own childhood and Angelina's cottage from two places where I have lived.

When I was very small we lived in this tiny cottage down a lane. 

There was no electricity at that time so at night we used paraffin lamps and candles and cooked on an open range.


In Angelina’s Christmas you can see these things in the picture of the kitchen


Later when I was illustrating the Angelina books I lived in another cottage in a different part of England. This one was built with stone which I used for Angelina's cottage.

Both my cottages had thatched roofs made of straw and oak beams inside and so I used these in all the cottages in Angelina’s world.

This can be seen in Angelina's Christmas book with the cross-section of Mr. Bell’s house.

The shop in Angelina’s Birthday book is just like the one that was in the village where I lived as a child. It sold absolutely everything and I was fascinated by it and loved it.

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Why ballet appeals to me - When I was little I wanted to draw and be an artist but I also wanted to dance and ballet was part of that. But there were no ballet classes for little girls in our little village. This is me dressed up in a tutu about 14 yrs old.

Later I went to a boarding school where two of the girls knew a lot of ballet steps and I learnt from them and we used to put on performances. I also loved looking at books with all the dancers and fantastic stage sets. 


When I grew up I realised that unlike Angelina I would never become a ballerina but my love of the ballet must have stayed in my mind so that I was able to use it later in the pictures.


Helen Craig

Drawing Angelina Ballerina

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Why Angelina Ballerina is a mouse - When I was little my mother had a collection of china mice, and sometimes as a special treat, I was allowed to look at them. They were all very realistic, and carefully wrapped in tissue paper, so it was always exciting to unwrap them. Years later when I became an illustrator, my mother's china mice were still somewhere in the back of my mind, and I instinctively drew Angelina Ballerina as a little dancing mouse. I've always enjoyed drawing mice because they're so expressive. Angelina's tail and whiskers change with her moods, and her little paws have fingers that are just right for ballet positions. Angelina is a wonderful character, and working with Katharine on all the books over the years has been great fun.

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Angelina in Ballet tutu.jpg
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Angelina possible NON ballet outfit.jpg

From a rough sketch to a final - This shows how I do very rough drawings to get the feel of Angelina dancing etc. and then I do it more carefully with more detail.

Adding colour - These are two unused images from Angelina’s Baby Sister. The one on the right shows how the drawing is done using a fine pen and waterproof ink before I add the colour. I may add more pen work and even more colour before I am happy with the finished picture.

Unused.Image+b_w.Line.A's Little Sister.

Costume ideas - Here are rough outfit ideas for Angelina and Henry when they went camping. Katharine, the author, really wanted Henry to have a Panama hat so I changed it.


Creating a storyboard - Once a story has been written, I create a storyboard. Each numbered section of the storyboard represents a page in the book. My drawings will illustrate the words as you read them.


Here is a very early storyboard for Angelina at the Fair. This one is just to make sure that the story fits exactly into the amount of pages that I am allowed to use for the book. Later on, I will do a more detailed storyboard.

Developing each page - This is a full sized rough for Angelina dreaming about the Fair coming to her village.

Rough 1st Fair copy.jpeg

The finished picture - Once the detail and colour have been added, this is the finished version of Angelina dreaming about the Fair coming to her village

Helen Craig

Drawing Alexander... 

Alexander and the Magic Boat is book from another children's series Katharine Holabird and I collaborated on.

Rough Colour Sketch - Here you have another example of a rough sketch before the final artwork, this time in colour,


Proof Print of Final Artwork -  When the artwork is complete, it is sent to the printer and compiled with the words of the story.  A printed proof is then sent to both the author and illustrator to review and make any small changes.  

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© 2020 Helen Craig 

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