Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?
When I was very small, I remember drawing a little witch, unfortunately for my Mum, it was scratched in to her bedside table. I don't remember the telling-off, but I do remember how good it felt! I have always had a compulsion to draw and never envisaged being anything other than an artist. I love story-telling and that has been a part of my work since a child; creating my own characters and books;
Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?
Yes I did my Datec Diploma in Art ( all forms! ) in my home town Worcester. I couldn't believe I could spend all day everyday drawing and creating, I was often found waiting for the college doors to open.
From there I went on to do a BA in Graphic Design in Bristol.
A few years later I did an MA in Authorial Illustration where I studied folk and fairy tales and created my own fairy story.
Who or what have been some of your major artistic influences?
When studying in Bristol we had a tutor who came in to teach us the dip-pen and calligraphy tecniques, just for 2 terms. Brian Walker, went on to become a mentor, advisor, supporter and jolly good friend for the next 35 years.
Brian taught me much about the balance of a picture's compostion and how to lead the eye around the page, AND the importance of a sketchbook!
Brian illustrated for the Beano and Dandy, for the Countryman and even for Viz!
Describe your working technique and how you came to perfect it.
I sometimes will draw thumbnails, and always do pencils first. I use a Staedler Mars Lumograph pencil on detail paper for this. The combination of these two, feels lovely to draw with! Because I still paint on real life watercolour paper, sketching out on detail paper first, prevents the watercolour paper's surface from being destroyed by too much rubbing out! Then I use a home-made light box to trace the first sketch on to the watercolour paper. I do use Photoshop extensively since all work needs to be stored digitally, it is also really handy for making alterations that would have been difficult in the old days - how I remember trying to make a literal cut and paste invisible!
Which project has been most instrumental in developing your personal style?
Many years ago I worked on a book called "That's when I'm Happy" with Meadowside publishing. Up until then much of my work had been more cartoony with stronger outlines. This is when I changed to drawing more realistically using light and shade to define a character as much as an outline. However, my work is always changing and developing - to the degree where I may have created a pseudonym.....
What advice would you offer someone just starting out as a children’s illustrator?
Some people are lucky and are picked up by an agent or publisher straight away, but many, like myself, worked hard! I followed every thread possible to see if it would result in work. I've visited the Bologna Children's Book Fair many times which often has resulted in work and great connections. It's easy to fall at the first hurdle, but if, like me, your art is in your bones, you will find a way!