Anthony Lloyd Jones
Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?
I studied Illustration at Unversity of Portsmouth (BA Hons), and Illustration & Sequential Design at University of Brighton (MA)
What was your first commission as a professional illustrator?
Back in 2005 I started making webcomics and managed to build up a small following. I was still living in my hometown, Portsmouth, at the time, and got commissioned to design a few things for some artists in the local music scene.
Pictured is what I think was supposed to be a t-shirt design, and I guess this would have been in 2006, when I was 18. I think I only asked for £15 or £20 or so and I don't think it ever made its way onto a single shirt.
I didn't get (back) into children's books until a few years later, while studying for my MA in Brighton in 2013
Do you keep a sketch book?
Big time. I have one big "main" sketchbook in my studio at home and a little pocket sketchbook that stays with me at all times. I've been an avid sketchbooker ever since college. My favourites are the Seawhite 10 inch square sketchbooks, of which I've started to amass quite a collection. Any given page is full of mostly illegible, not-necessarily-work-related notes, rough page layouts, splashes of colour when I've been too lazy to find a clean palette or just wanted to save a swatch for later, random ephemera I've stapled in for reference, random ideas I just needed to get out of my head, character designs, little doodles of Sonic the Hedgehog. All sorts of stuff! I'm allergic to blank paper - I have to fill it all before I can turn the page, so things tend to end up chaotically laid on top of each other. I think my sketchbooks are a good reflection of what the inside of my head is like at any given time.
Do you offer more than one style, if so – talk us through the different approaches and the audience you are targeting for each.
I think my work is fairly consistent with enough variation to keep it fresh - It always looks and feels like my work but I generally like to mix media, and I will adapt my way of working depending on the brief I'm working on. My favourites are watercolour pencils, Posca paint markers, acrylic paints, Photoshop's Pencil tool, and collage with found materials (either physically glued together or scanned and overlaid digitally.) I love to experiment, and I will mix and match these based on what I feel would best suit the piece that I'm working on. For example, The Princess and the Fog - my picture book about depression - was chaotic and messy, as a reflection on the protagonist's mental health. Colours and details were inconsistent from page to page as I switched constantly from one media to the next, as a way of making the timeline of the story feel ambiguous since everyone's experience with depression is different. But Pearla - another children's story that canonically takes place over just one day - is much more visually consistent and grounded.
For my picture books I use a lot more traditional media for the most part, but I have also found a (slightly) more mature audience in the gaming community. I am often commissioned to provide graphics for video game streams, social media avatars, album art for tabletop game podcasts and things of that nature. I'm even working on the graphics for a video game demo with a couple of friends at the moment. For work like this, I tend to make the art a little neater, and lean a little more towards digital methods. All my work is bright and vibrant, with plenty of humour, and suitable for all-to-most ages, though I will occasionally be asked to draw some slightly more PG-13 material in my non children's book work.
What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
One of the best pieces of creative advice I have ever had was during a life drawing class at uni. I was advised to spend as little time looking at my paper as possible, and only take my eyes off the model when absolutely necessary.
It seems counter intuitive at first, but my main takeaway from this lesson is that I do not really know what things look like. It's easy to fall into a trap of thinking you know what things look like and getting stuck in the echo chamber inside your own head, but that will produce diminishing returns in the end, and you're never really seeing the world and taking in new information. I always try to keep my eyes open now.
Are there any children’s classics you’d love to illustrate and/or re-tell?
I remember as a kid being read a Caribbean folk tale about a king who had everything anyone could ever want, he was beloved by all and really let it go to his head. He decided one day he wanted to prove how great he was by reaching into the sky and touching the moon. He devised a plan to stack all his belongings on top of each other and - to his credit - got very close to getting to the moon but in his hubris, blinded by pride, ended up making a critical mistake that sent him crashing back down to earth and destroying all of his things and ending up with basically nothing but a valuable lesson.
I was absolutely inspired by this story and decided I needed to illustrate it, so I wrote and illustrated it with felt tip markers on sheets of A4 that I'd folded really small and stapled together - a little zine, essentially. It ended with this amazing, dramatic, zoomed out shot of a very grumpy king sitting on a pile of his smashed possesions, in the dark, by himself, with the moon hanging elegantly and thoroughly undisturbed in the sky above.
Tragically I do not still have that little zine, but I would absolutely love to have another go at that story someday.
Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?
Hard to say. I was interested in art from a very early age. I was always using up all our printer paper drawing my favourite cartoon and comic and video game characters, and Art was my favourite subject at school. Even in non-Art subjects I was constantly annoying my teachers by asking if I could provide illustrations for the work we were doing. I could be in a maths lesson learning long division and I'd want to illustrate it. The Beano and The Dandy were particularly big early influences on me, stylistically.
If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be doing?
I don't know. I can't imagine not being an illustrator and the very thought scares me.
When you are not drawing, how do you like to relax?
I play a lot of video games - Big fan of all-ages adventures, roguelikes and platformers rather than the gritty or realistic stuff. I also read a lot of comics, particularly funny slice-of-life stories. And I watch a lot of Let's Plays and cartoons.
I'm a kid at heart, which I think goes a long way in this line of work.
What do you hope children take away from your drawings?
I hope children have fun looking at my drawings. Even when the subject matter is heavy or personal - like with the two books I've written so far about mental health issues - I like to keep it light as often as I can, by drawing energetically and injecting as much humour as possible.
The images from reading picture books in my own youth that have stuck with me the most were bright and colourful and funny. Books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Tiger Who Came To Tea, The Large Family. I remember these stories so fondly largely because of the wonderful illutrations that accompanied them. I hope my books are fun to read, that the messages get across, and that they will be remembered happily later.
Are you an author/illustrator?
I am an author/illustrator. I like to illustrate other people's stories too sometimes.