rosie brooks beehive Christmas illustration

Rosie Brooks: The Ambassador of Music Illustration

A pen, some ink, and watercolour – this is all it takes for the UK award-winning cartoonist and illustrator Rosie Brooks! 

She created a new illustration brand “The Spoon is in the Lid” to celebrate the world of opera, ballet, and the performing arts.

After studying Music at Durham, Rosie completed her Masters in Children’s Book Illustration at The Ruskin School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge where she was shortlisted for the Macmillan Children’s Book Prize.

Rosie Brooks UK Cartoonist and Illustrator
Rosie Brooks – Cartoonist and Illustrator

Rosie has worked on several charity projects with The Big Draw, Elephant Parade, The Princes Trust, Nordoff Robbins, Teenage Cancer Trust, WaterAid, Breast Cancer Care, The Willow Foundation, and many more.

With a long list of clients in publishing, advertising, and editorial across the glove, her love of classical music has heavily influenced her work for leading musical names including Classic FM, The Royal Opera House, Wigmore Hall, Sir Paul McCartney, Opera Holland Park, and Naxos.

This Christmas, I am thrilled to share my conversation with Rosie Brooks!

Some of your music illustrations depict famous characters and stories of the world’s greatest operas and ballets, how did you come up with this one-of-a-kind idea?

It is an idea I’ve had on the backburner for years now, ever since I graduated as it seemed like such a shame there wasn’t very much lighthearted material, especially that was illustrated around the theme of operas so I always thought I’d get round to working on creating a series of the plots and what better time than during a pandemic!

What are the challenges of drawing such figurines?

Adding variety and fun in the costumes, without making them too outlandish and obviously keeping continuity once I’ve decided what each character is going to wear.

Being a musician yourself, do you think having a musical background and a classical culture helps in the inspiration and influence of the drawing results?

It has definitely helped having a musical background, having been taken to the opera and ballet from when I was very young, and also playing in orchestras at school and university, the familiarity I had with the subject was a huge asset.

It also meant I wasn’t too intimidated by the material, which is one of the reasons I want to create this series in the first place, to break down any barriers to anyone who might be curious.

Which steps do you usually follow in drawing opera storybooks? Do you watch the whole opera or do you simply take from the main scenes written in the libretto?

A combination of all of the above, quite a few of the operas I knew relatively well having seen them a number of times, so it was a question of researching the synopsis to make sure I had my characters and plot in the right order, and others I didn’t know at all.

So I have been watching lots of live streaming this year, as well as reading playbills, and programs from previous productions.

Do you think that in the future you might introduce a collection of cards from Broadway or any musical theme? Let’s say perhaps ‘the Phantom of the Opera’ or ‘Cats’? Disney’s Lion King or Aladdin?


The next subject matter I’ve already made a start on is ballet – there are a lot less titles to work with but there is still a lot of scope!

You came up with Lockdown funny greeting cards during quarantine and the COVID-19 pandemic, how do you stay updated with the latest ideas and technologies in your music illustration?

I use technology, social media etc. to stay connected, but I don’t really use it in my illustration at all, it is all pen and ink and watercolour.

“Your tiny sanitized hand is frozen” Che gelida manina‘s COVID-19 theme was a funny initiative. How do you see the future of opera and art in general after the pandemic?

Fingers cross it bounces back like never before, but there are a lot of people in the theatre industry would have had a terribly difficult time this year, so I guess there will naturally have to be a time of healing and rebuilding first.

Yay! Samples for my new range of musical cards with Holy Mackerel?‍??#theshowmustgoon ??

Posted by Rosie Brooks Cartoonist and Illustrator on Saturday, September 12, 2020

About the author

Rita Hokayem

I am a soprano opera singer, voice teacher with over 13 years of experience, and digital marketer.
I teach online singing lessons for beginners and professional singers in pop, rock, R&B, country, oriental Arabic music, and pop opera.
My blog contains a series of interviews and articles about interesting topics related to the life of a musician and singer.
I am currently based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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