What brought you to illustration?
I've always liked and been able to draw and then when I grew up I worked in graphic design doing page layouts for newspapers which I really enjoyed, and all sorts of other commercial stuff. When my children were young I discovered I really loved a lot of the picture books I read to them and realised it was the perfect medium for combining stories, illustration and composition of image and text. I kind of I studied them as I read them and tried to learn what worked and what didn't. I made my first book for my children and it turned out looking ok, so I decided to get serious about it.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
It depends on what chores need doing at home, how busy I am or how close a deadline is, all that kind of thing. I like working in the mornings most and evenings if I'm busy.
The afternoons are always a drag.
What was your very first illustration?
Not sure of the very first, but there's a random memory of something I did when I was around ten — at the start of the eighties when there was the Citizens' Band radio craze in the UK and a CB radio shop opened on the route of our walk to school. I decided to draw a groovy potato character talking into a CB radio, called 'CB Spud'. I have no idea why. My friend was convinced I'd copied it from the merchandise in the shop window and I was really annoyed by that. It was my CB Spud. The first professional illustrations I did were for an English-language newspaper in France that I worked for. Occasionally we had some page-space to fill and a story looked like it'd suit a satirical or humorous picture. I was allowed an hour or so to come up with something and I really enjoyed that super-quick process.
What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
Usually lots of thinking time. Sometimes an interesting premise or fictional situation presents itself in my head and I try to make a story of it — often failing, occasionally succeeding. I once (and only once) woke up in the morning with a four-word sentence in my head and five minutes later I had an almost finished story for it. I don't know if it's very good yet, but I wish they were all so easy. 'The Suitcase' took less than a week to fall into place after initially struggling for a while going up different avenues. Other books took more than a year.
Do you have a favourite illustrator/artist/author?
I grew up with Quentin Blake who infuriatingly makes it look so easy. I have lots of favourites now, but they change from week to week.
Do you have a favourite place to work?
For thinking I like walking and all the rest is in my little studio/office at home.
What was your favourite illustration you have made so far?
I have a lot of love for some of the illustrations in my first published book, "I'm Going To Eat This Ant", because I struggled for a long time to find an illustration style that felt authentic to me and also looked like a serious or 'professional' picturebook illustration. I was learning by trial and error, making several subsequent versions of the book until I finally started thinking it was looking ok. I like the water-crossing spread in 'The Suitcase'. It's simple, but dramatic. It was finished quite early in the process of making the book, but literally the day before deadline I decided it could be better and I asked my editor, if I had time to have another go. She said yes and the new version just made it into the book.
Do you struggle sometimes? Do you have to motivate yourself, and if so, what helps? Is there a kind of "illustrator’s block?"
Oh yes, there's an 'illustrators block'. I think The Block happens in all kinds of work, no matter how creative or not it is. Sometimes you just can't make it happen. And you have to find some willpower if you can, or have a serious deadline zooming closer towards you each day. That helps motivation but doesn't make it more fun!