I am often asked to do interviews. Here are my answers to some of the most perceptive and frequently asked questions (click on the questions to read my answers). Scroll down to view films of me being interviewed by fellow author/illustrator Shoo Rayner.
  • I usually write when the mood takes me, but have a fairly strict regime for my illustration, as I need to plan out in advance how long I am going to spend on a project, and stick to it. I start my day with an hour of exercise (it’s a bit unhealthy otherwise, just sitting all day) then I work from 10.00 until about 6.00 most days. I don’t usually work at weekends unless I’m away doing a festival appearance.

  • Obviously, if I’m illustrating someone else’s story, the words are all finished before I begin. When I have an idea for a story of my own, the words still come first but, because I am an illustrator, the pictures keep jumping into my head as I’m writing. In my case they are usually funny pictures and that can then give me more ideas about where the story might go.

  • It takes about 4 weeks to develop the characters, design how the pages will work and then draw the whole book in line – the ‘roughs’. The publisher usually takes a couple of weeks to consider, and make any suggestions for changes. Then it takes me another 6 – 8 weeks to rework any alterations and create the final illustrations in colour. So altogether I am working on a picture book for around 3 months. Of course that’s just the illustrations – it usually takes at least another year before it is available in the shops!

  • Not with every new drawing, but the very first drawings for a new book are always a bit scary. I often find excuses to put off getting going that first day. Sometimes it is fine once I get started, often though I need to ‘warm up’ and the first day’s work can be pretty rubbish. Even after all these years, I always worry that I’ll never be able to do it right, and then, like magic, on the next day it is fine!

  • I enjoy nasty or ugly characters much more than cute, fluffy ones. Class Two at the Zoo has a wonderfully evil looking anaconda that gobbles up all the children and gets bigger and bigger. And I had fun with Rocky the wolf in Rocky and the Lamb, who is basically a mugger. I had to strike evil poses in the mirror while I was sketching him, to get the predatory body language just right!

  • Ideas come from ordinary, everyday things that are happening all the time all around you. The trick is to notice them (and to make a quick note of them before they disappear from your head).

  • I rarely go anywhere without a paperback tucked away somewhere, just in case I get a spare moment! I really enjoy being transported somewhere new by a book and getting lost in an alternative world for a while. It’s interesting too to find yourself inside the head of different characters. Books that can make you laugh out loud are excellent, and probably very good for you, and I love it when you get one of those rare but wonderful finds – a book you truly can’t put down.

  • My favourites are novels. No particular genre, but I tend to read contemporary fiction the most. I usually choose on the basis of the first page, on whether it grabs me. I do like to try new things out from time to time (although I draw the line at westerns!)

  • This changes all the time, but one picture book I love is The Rabbits by John Marsden & Shaun Tan. It’s actually the sort of picture book that I suspect appeals more to grown ups than children. Shaun Tan’s illustrations are both beautiful and sinister. The story is an allegory about what settlers did to the indigenous populations in the New World .

    For longer fiction Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials it rather special. He is a master storyteller, painting extraordinary word-pictures of the settings and characters. But I also love the fact that the books will challenge children to think more deeply about issues like religion.

  • I read a lot of Enid Blyton and particular remember the Wishing Chair and Faraway Tree books.

  • I am inspired by new illustrators all the time, but the first person I remember being excited by was Ralph Steadman. I still love his anarchic, scratchy style and his wit. Another long-standing favourite is Dave McKean who also has quite an edgy drawing style, but combines this with collage and powerful colours to create wonderfully rich images. I also recently discovered the fabulously funny world of Anna-Laura Cantone.

  • Illustration can be a bit messy, so I wear an artist’s smock to keep my clothes clean, but although it is now extremely grubby, it is very, very special – it used to belong to my Grandad who was a restoration artist. He specialised in restoring the ornate ceiling murals of stately homes and palaces. He met the Queen once when he was working on Blenheim Palace and he might even have been wearing my smock!

  • Try not to underestimate children or write down to them. Write for the child inside yourself.

See the videos below to learn a little more about how our work.

Let me tell you more about becoming an illustrator…
All my picture books are drawn in chalk pastels, let me show you…