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About Us / The Illustrator

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The vibrant personality of Gisborne artist Cris Morrell shines through the illustrations she paints for Gill Pittar’s Milly, Molly Books. Renowned for injecting colour and humour into her own large watercolours, Morrell’s observation of life and all its foibles gain good expression through the simple characters of Milly, Molly and their many multicultural friends.

Morrell has painted for as long as she can remember, always putting paint to paper for fun... and giving creations away to friends. For the past five years she has donated two paintings a year to a fundraising venture for children in need. But it wasn’t until a dying friend implored her 11 years ago to do something with her art that she really took up the brushes again seriously. She hasn’t stopped since.

Her works started with naïve, hotchpotch presentations of everyday items and have progressed to more contemporary and quirky works that explode with colour and a strong marine presence—a world where still life steps out of the ordinary.

Illustrating the Milly, Molly Books has been a whole new ballgame, inspiring both creativity and discipline.


“It was surprisingly easy coming up with a look for Milly and Molly and as I get more confident with them, I’m getting to know them as little people.

I wanted the dark one Milly to have curly ringlets—although sometimes I’ve regretted the extra work involved with all those curls—and fair-skinned Molly to be a strawberry blonde. But I have to remember they are five-year-olds. They can’t grow up before their time.”


Morrell is a fast worker, completing a whole book from pencil roughs to finished watercolour and gouache products—24 x A3 paintings—within two weeks.


“There’s never much rubbing out, it just flows. The colours come easily. That’s the fun part, plus working out what they’ll wear and what colours their clothes will be. Creating characters is fun too and I often use real characters as templates.”


She paints seven days a week in her family living room amid the hubbub of family life and is inspired by living near the beach and within the Wainui community.


“It’s my dream job. I’ve wanted to illustrate for years.”