Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?
Art School in Vancouver in 1966, Brian Wildsmith, childfren's book illustrator gave a talk. He seemed to be doing exactly what I wanted to do.
Where do you currently live and where did you grow up?
I currently live in the Shropshire Hills in England. Although I was born in Scotland I grew up in Canada, returning to the UK to pursue my career age 22.
Was creativity part of your childhood?
Very much so I loved drawing and reading and I was very lucky to have some excellent art teachers in school.
Who or what have been some of your major artistic influences?
When I came to England in 1968 the Pre-Raphaelites were very much in vogue, I fell in love straight away with all of it, and it's been kind of with me ever since. I also had a cousin who was an art director at HarperCollins in Glasgow who introduced me to the great Edwardian childrten's book illustrators, Rackham, Dulac, Robinson, etc. they too dominated most of my thinking throughout my career.
Which books from your own childhood really stand out?
There were not many books in my home when I grew up but I always had a 'Rupert' annual at Christmas - I love him still.
Who or what has been your greatest mentor?
Probably Klaus Fluegge of Abelard Schumann, who commissioned me to write and illustrate 4 books on how things work, but also Jan Pienkowski at Gallery Five who commissioned many greetings cards in the seventies and always insisted on the highest standards!
What was your first commission as a professional illustrator?
The first book Jacket I illustrated was a biography of Eleanor Duse in the pre-raphaelite style for MacMillans. The first book I illustrated was a compilation of Tennyson poetry, again in the pre-raphelite style. Then of course the first book I wrote and illustrated was commissioned by Klaus Fluegge at Abelard Schumann.
Describe your working technique and how you came to perfect it.
It has evolved and varied through the years, water colour, gouache, inks, acrylics and now line work scanned in to Photoshop and coloured there, but also of course watercolour too when a more organic look is required.
What piece of software or hardware could you not live without and why?
I could certainly live without digital assistance since I did so quite happily for many years, but I use Photoshop a lot now and of course Google is the most fabulous resource for reference.
Do you keep a sketch book?
I haven't always but I do now that I have a little more leisure time. I'm becoming more and more interested in the human form and enjoy drawing friends and family.
Tell us about the creation of your favourite character from one of your books.
My favourite character is Slam Duncan the star of my 18 book series which tells of the adventures of a little gang of downhill mountain bike racers. He was based on my son, Jamie who raced with a little team of boys for several years.
How many times do you tend to draw a character until you are happy with it?
They tend to arrive pretty quickly.
Do you offer more than one style, if so – talk us through the different approaches and the audience you are targeting for each.
I work in several different styles as my portfolio shows. The style I choose depends on subject matter and age range of the readership.
Have you ever thought about trying out a different technique or a different style?
I think about it and often do it!
How long does it take on average for you to finish a spread, from initial sketch to final colour?
That depends on what it is of course but seldom more than two days.
What do you hope children take away from your drawings?
A feeling of life's infinite possibilities and the understanding that nothing is impossible. Plus of course, kindness.
What do you do in your spare time?
I partially heat my house with wood and own a small forest so I spend a bit of time chain sawing, chopping and stacking firewood, which I enjoy. I also enjoy cycling, walking in the local hills,working on my elderly MG car, and travelling in Europe.
What is your favourite children’s book and why?
Wind in the Willows, because the characters are so believable, we all know a Mr. Toad! And of course the original drawings by Shepard are fantastic. I was priviliged to illustrate it myself and had a hard time not being influenced!