Alumni Services

Catherine Rayner

Award winning author and illustrator Catherine Rayner talks to us about how she attributes her success to a nurturing art school environment and plenty of hard work.


Catherine Rayner

Degree Course

Illustration (Visual Communication, ECA)

Year of Graduation


Catherine Rayner

Your time at the University

When I first came to Edinburgh to find out more about the college I was overwhelmed by the city and the college buildings. I felt very small and overwhelmed! Luckily ECA is a very friendly place and it didn’t take long to make friends and find my way around. The fact that you can walk around the city means it’s great to explore on foot and even if you have friends on the other side of town, it’s not far!

On our course we worked long hours. I think we were all motivated by each other and we were often working in the studio at weekends and in to the night, by choice. I was in a fantastic year group and most of us are still in touch. So many of us went on to work in illustration and design, so we often bump in to each other professionally which is lovely!

If I had to look back and describe what ECA​ did for me the word would think of would be ‘time’. There was time to spend on your ideas, with gentle guidance and a nurturing environment.

Catherine Rayner

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

I really enjoyed my time at ECA – but the main thing for me, is that it set up my career. I had been offered a publishing contract before I graduated. I still work with that publisher (among others). If I had to look back and describe what ECA did for me the word would think of would be ‘time’. There was time to spend on your ideas, with gentle guidance and a nurturing environment. I felt I was nurtured rather than told how to succeed and this made the transition to becoming a professional illustrator less daunting, it seemed like a natural progression. The degree formed a perfect platform for my career, and plenty of hard work, very long hours and determination have got me where I am today.

Hilary Hare
Hilary Hare, Copyright © 2008 - 2015 Catherine Rayner all rights reserved.

I have written and illustrated 13 books to date, which have been translated in to 35 different languages, adapted for theatre, animated, read on CBeebies and have won awards. I also exhibit my artwork worldwide. This year I have been appointed Illustrator in Residence at Edinburgh Zoo and my first book Augustus and His Smile will be ten years old next year (I can hardly believe it!). To celebrate we are having major exhibitions in London and Edinburgh and special anniversary gold books are being released in the UK and USA.

Alumni wisdom

Use the facilities, question the tutors and listen carefully - but don’t always take their advice.  They are there to help you develop, if proving them wrong helps you find your path then they have succeeded in inspiring you. Make as many friends as you can and bounce ideas around as much as possible. You will learn as much from them as you will from your tutors. 

Related links

Catherine Rayner's website