Illustration assignments

Owing to current deadlines, I regret that I am unable to answer your questions until further notice ~ Thank you


Q - Do you have a preference as to what you illustrate? Does it change?


A - I like drawing pictures where I can get really lovingly into the detail. With my style, crowd scenes where everything is very delineated and not suggested can be frustrating, so the detail has to be drawn. I enjoy drawing characters, animals, decoration. I love using colour, it’s always a challenge and an excitement. I like to be able to describe alternative and heightened worlds.



Q - Is all your work for children’s books?


A - I also do a lot of educational illustrations. These are often one-off stories or single pages that are part of a larger book, usually with lots of other artists’ work besides mine in them.



Q - Are you given complete freedom to come up with a series of illustrations yourself after having read the manuscript or are you required to follow certain guidelines (for example, ‘On page 6, we’d like a picture of the cat chasing the mouse based on the author’s description of the event on that page’)? Or does this kind of thing vary depending on which authors and publishers you are working with?


A - The amount of creative freedom I’m given varies hugely from job to job. Generally when you are illustrating for educational books you are given ‘tight briefs’ which means that they tell you exactly what needs to go here. You are usually working around the text when it’s all ready be put into position. Children’s picture books, on the other hand, can be freer to work on creatively than educational books, especially if you are producing a book speculatively. One book I wrote and designed before finding a publisher was The Stolen Sun. I had produced the whole story board and a sample piece of artwork and the publisher (Frances Lincoln) hardly changed anything about my original layout. Often with a picture book, the designer and illustrator and working out how the text and illustrations are going to fit together and around each other in a ‘creative conversation’.



Q - Did you start doing book illustration, or did you do magazine work?


A - I’ve done bits of editorial and advertising work earlier on in my career, but I have gravitated towards children’s books and I think my work is best suited to that application. Your work has to communicate very immediately to work well in either advertising or editorial (magazines) and my work is the kind that you have to look into for longer to see everything that’s there. I also like the comparative permanence of books.



Q - Is it easier to branch into editorial and advertising first?


A - No, I think each area is hard to break into. Advertising is a very tough world, and you are further along the food chain as an illustrator than in publishing. Also, the work is often speculative initially and you might be pitching for the same job against competitors. Editorial can be easier, as magazines need to be filled on a regular basis and there’s not as much money at stake, but deadlines can be short.



Q - When illustrating for a text, is it important to you to be accurate?


A - In my experience, attention to and understanding of the text are vital, so that if an apple is described by the author as green the illustrator doesn’t make it red. This is particularly the case when illustrating for educational books, but an illustrator must always strive to achieve a balance between accuracy and interpretation. Continuity is also vital, in that a book is a bit like a film. For example, characters need to be believably the same in different images and from different angles, which can be challenging.



Q - How big do you make your original illustrations?


A – It depends on the level of detail I am drawing, so if there’s a lot of tiny detail I might work at double the size of the printed image ie.  200% or 150%. If it’s less detailed, 100% might be OK. It just depends and these days it’s not a problem, as the image will be scanned and re-scaled to print at the correct size.



Q - How long does it typically take to complete the illustrations for a book of the length of ‘The Barefoot Book of Animal Tales from around the World’?


A - A book like The Barefoot Book of Animal Tales, which has eighty pages, with some illustrations on every page, takes me about six months to illustrate from start to finish.