Book illustration requires a whole different set of skills to fine art painting. Consistency now becomes paramount. Subjects must be recognisable from page to page, a requirement that is irrelevant for one-off paintings. Budgets, timelines and the ability to make edits on the fly interact with choice of media and style required. Most importantly you are recording another persons vision, adding the images to the words of the author, while hopefully, adding something special of your own to the equation.
I have found this an enjoyable challenge, moving me out of my comfort zone and leading me to explore new techniques and approaches to developing content and bringing ideas to life on the page.
Children's author Artie Knapp kindly approached me to illustrate his book 'Little Otter Learns to Swim'. I really like the optimism and enthusiasm of Arties' story and the images and scenes he has created.
The book required a shift in style, to one that still employs the realism of my usual work but allows for the whimsy of a children's story. Artie and I spent a good deal of time discussing how the book might look. I was very keen to produce something that harkened back to the children's books of my youth with rich illustrations that could be explored alongside the great story.
The book has also had the support of Megan Isadore of the River Otter Ecology Project, who provided the wealth of information for the fact pages and helped us keep everything about 'Little Otter' as true to nature as possible.
The book contains 17 new artworks that introduce not only Little Otter and her mother, but a whole cast of riverine wildlife for company.
The book is published by Ohio University Press and is available through all major outlets. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed illustrating it.
I have mentioned elsewhere that "I have the best job in the world". There is probably no better example of why I feel this way than the 'Charlie's Lost Tales' project.
Back in 2017 my brother Mark rescued an injured puppy from the streets of Oman (actually the pup was hiding under his car). Some months later, a good bit bigger and now named Charlie, that puppy travelled half way across the world to a permanent home with my wife and I, here in Canada.
When my brother, who has always been an enthusiastic writer, suggested a collaborative project, with his words and my pictures, to bring Charlies adventures - real and imagined - to life, it was a big yes from me.
This is a project in development and to date Charlie has discovered oil, encountered the infamous 'wiggly sticks', learnt to ice skate, captured a burglar and won the Olympics to name just a few of his shenanigans. Knowing Charlie, and often witnessing his very animated dreams right here in my studio, I'm pretty sure the adventures we have created for him are a pale reflection of the adventures he imagines for himself!
'Crocodile in Our Pickle Jar' is a cautionary tale from author Artie Knapp on the importance of eating well, not leaving your vegetables and being very, VERY careful of what might be lurking in your fridge!
'Can you illustrate a book about a flock of geese?' seemed like an innocuous question when I first heard it. Thats sounds like fun I thought...
...and it was, in the end. I learnt a lot working on this book. I learnt that geese look very unlike people, which is all well and good and as a goose should be, until you want one to do 'peoply' things. I learnt that clothes don't really fit when you are goose shaped. I learnt that geese have a secret code of honour. I learnt a lot!
But what I learnt the best is that there is an illustrative solution to almost every challenge and that finding them is ultimately great fun!
One of my favourite parts of book illustration is character development. Creating the right look and feel for each individual in a story is essential to bringing an authors vision to life while allowing the artist to put their own stamp on the work at the same time. It is immensely satisfying to see initial sketches and concepts evolve into a fully realised personality ready to go on adventures!