Sarah McMenemy

books by Sarah McMenemy


Sarah McMenemy

When I was growing up, my family lived in London. I was used to the hustle and bustle of city life. I loved the beautiful buildings and the distinctive black taxis and red buses. We would often go to see the Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace. We would check to see if the Union Jack flag was flying; if it was, then we knew the Queen was there. It was such a wonderful sight that I quickly had a sense of pride and enjoyment of my home city. I knew it was an exciting place even as a child. Being the oldest of four children I often had time on my hands as my parents were occupied looking after my younger sister and brothers. I got into drawing imaginary scenes, such as streets full of people buying goods in different shops, and would then set them in different countries. The characters in the drawings would be buying baguettes from French boulangeries and the Italians would be buying spaghetti, and so on. My mother and grandmother were both very good at drawing, so there was also plenty of encouragement from them. At home we had many beautifully illustrated children’s books, and I would get totally absorbed with the pictures and wonder how they had been created. I also liked making tiny models out of paper and card. Somehow all of this activity seems to have been leading to the Panorama Pops books in my adult life.

It’s been wonderful creating the pop-up books; the series has allowed me to celebrate places that I have loved since childhood. I have enjoyed working at a small scale, and have been lucky enough to draw my favorite cities. The concertina folded style of book is really exciting to work with. Deciding what should pop out of each page is the best bit. First I draw out my ideas in pencil, trying different compositions until I am happy with the layout and marking where I think pop-ups should go. These sketches get sent to a paper engineer and then I find out whether the pop-ups are going to be possible. Next I create the artwork in liquid watercolor, gouache, and black ink on watercolor paper. At this stage there are lots of decisions to be made about colors. Usually I take a color that actually relates to the subject as a starting point; for example, the color of the stone on a building, then enhance it and bring in other colors that will go with it. At the same time I have to be aware of varying the color schemes on each page so that the book is interesting and easy to look at. I get all of the pictures started, then finish them off in stages. I stand them all up in order around my studio, as they will be seen all at once as well as individually. Sometimes it is quite difficult to decide whether a picture is finished or not. Usually the publishing deadline helps to sharpen my mind.

Often when adults look at these books for the first time they open them one page at a time, as if it was in the usual book format. When children look at them they nearly always open the concertina right out so they see all the pictures at once. Quite often they will then put it on the floor or table and look at the pictures together and sometimes play with them like they were a little city-scape backdrop for a game or some characters.

Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:

My school holidays were spent visiting grandparents in the countryside and by the sea. So:

1. I like being on boats.

2. I like swimming in the sea.

3. I like arranging pebbles on the beach to make different faces.

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