Between the Pages with… Becs Bartells

4 weeks ago by

In this interview series we sit down with the illustrators behind some of Aotearoa NZ’s self published books to learn more about their illustration processes, book print designs, and tips for self publishing. 

This week we chatted with Becs Bartells, the author and illustrator of Go Girl Go.

This series is proudly sponsored by Bookprint.


Kia ora Becs. Can you share with us a little about yourself and your creative background?

I’m a designer with a degree in Industrial design, but my skills are quite diverse, with a background in character animation, furniture design and graphic design. 

I’ve lived in Auckland for the last 20 years and I spend most of my days doing design work. I’m working on a couple of startups right now and I love working on new innovative ideas. I actually started an eco casket business 2 years ago, .  I spent 2 years prototyping, so I just love getting hands on and making stuff!


Walk us through the message of Go Girl Go and what initially inspired you to create the book.

Go Girl, Go!, which I wrote and illustrated, is about real kiwi women that I know who have succeeded in interesting/diverse careers. It is aimed at young girls and written in rhyme, to show them that they too can achieve whatever they set their minds to.

I really just want to inspire and empower young girls and with feedback so far it sounds like it’s doing that!


From an illustration perspective, what was your process like for creating and developing the look and feel of the story? How did you decide on what medium to use? 

I always start with good old paper and pencil, everything I do is done by hand. Once I’m happy with it  I upload it to my PC and tidy it up/colour it up in illustrator with my wacom board. I do all the finer details in illustrator. I think the reason why I love pen and pencil is from studying character animation nearly 20 years ago and flicking paper between your hands, you can’t beat it. Gosh that makes me sound old.


Was Go Girl Go the first book you self published? If so, what did you learn from the process?

Yes, it is my first book and it has been an awesome experience, so much so that I want to start working on my next book with the same theme. My biggest learning was to spend money on using a professional editor and get it looked over by different people for errors.  Once it’s printed there’s no going back.


What were some of the challenges you faced while illustrating this story?

My challenge was to try not being so critical of myself and how I draw. I would look at a drawing and think it’s not good enough but there comes a point where you have to say that page is done and move on. Otherwise I’d never have finished the book.

So don’t be so critical, there’s no such thing as perfect!


Why did you ultimately opt to print your book within Aotearoa, rather than overseas?

I knew that I’d have control in Aotearoa. And that the quality would always be better. It was my first time printing a book, so there’s no way Id’ risk getting it done offshore. Plus, it’s supporting local! Made it super easy that the printer was only a 15 minute drive from my house.


The work isn’t done once the book’s been printed is it? Then comes the whole process of marketing and selling it. Do you have any advice you can share around this process – how you found a distributor or what you do to help promote your book?

This is totally the hardest bit and what I’m working on now. I’d suggest making sure you have a slick author website to begin with. That way you can always direct people back to that.

I’m promoting my own book and it’s going well. I sell through my website and I already have it in a few book stores. You just need to get out there and promote it, don’t rely on anyone else to do it  for you! 

Lastly, any other advice you can share for illustrators interested in self publishing their own books one day?

Do something that excites you. If you work like that it’s fun and time flies, in no time you’ll have a book finished. Just give it a go! 


Where can we find you online?


Up Next...

Fresh From The Field — Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts - By Culture and Theory

Culture and Theory share with us their design thinking and strategic response behind the recent brand identity work for Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts – which outlines a bold, contemporary expression to consolidate the Festival’s rich legacy while galvanising a new, younger generation of New Zealanders. Want to submit your own work to…

More from 'Celebration'...

Fresh From The Field - Altura Coffee By White Rabbit

Altura Coffee reached out to the coffee fiends at White Rabbit to create a special edition Coffee Cup design to celebrate their 30th anniversary in NZ. Fueled by many coffees a day, the design team were stoked to create custom illustrations representing Altura’s accolades and show off the uniqueness of this Kiwi brand in their…