Walking the dog: 2009
Silent Night published 2001.
Otto's Trunk drawings on cardboard offcuts. 2000
Questions:Would you say that there are consistent themes within your work? If so, what are they?
NO. ARE THERE? MAYBE. THAT'S FOR THE PSYCHIATRIST TO FATHOM OUT.
To what extent do you think your work is influenced by your real-life experiences?
WALKING THE DOG (JONATHAN CAPE 2009) WAS AN ACT. IT WAS BASED ON REAL LIFE BUT IT'S STORY TELLING - IT'S BENDING AND DISTORTING LIFE. IT'S AN ACT. IT'S ALSO GETTING PAID FOR SELF INDULGENCE. A MATTER OF SURVIVAL.........
Do you think any autobiographical elements in your work happen subconsciously? Or are they a purposeful choice on your part?
What is your opinion of autobiography within illustration? Do you think it is necessary? Inescapable? Self-indulgent?
SELF INDULGENT. UNNECESSARY.
If you do feel that your stories come from a place of real-life experience, how do you then make them “child-appropriate”? Does your audience dictate what you show and how you show it? How?
MAKE THEM CHILD APPROPRIATE? - I COLOUR IN WITH CRAYONS. I DON'T HAVE AN AUDIENCE. MY THEATRE HAS CLOSED DOWN AND IS A BINGO VENUE.
What is the most difficult project you have ever done? Why?
ANYTHING I'VE EVER DONE IS DIFFICULT. NEVER EASY. IT'S ALWAYS HARD TO START. WORKING FOR THE FOLIO SOCIETY FOR EXAMPLE, IS DIFFICULT. THEY THINK I AM INTELLIGENT I GET CLASSICAL ROMAN AND GREEK LITERATURE TO DECORATE. BUT I SHOULDN'T MOAN, I AM FLATTERED THAT I GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO DECORATE THE FINE PAGES OF SUCH INSTITUTIONS AS THE FOLIO SOCIETY.
THATS THE TROUBLE WITH DRAWING HONESTLY ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE, IT'S NOT CLEVER AND IT SENDS YOU UP A CUL DE SAC, DON'T LET ILLUSTRATION BE THE THING THAT DEFINES YOU. DEPRESSING THOUGHT. HARD TO HANDLE WHEN YOU ARE LOST IN A CUL DE SAC. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT TOO AND THE STREET LAMPS ARE FLICKERING.
THE CURRENT 'PROJECT' (SELF INITIATED, FOR GOD'S SAKE) IS DIFFICULT BUT I AM NOT EXPECTING SYMPATHY. STILL THE GRASS GETS CUT.
LESS STRIVING..............MAYBE THAT'S THE WAY?
Is it important to you that your work should teach the reader something, or communicate a message? Or is the aesthetic of your work the primary concern? (for example, do you come from an idea first, or decide that you want to write a book about a bear and wait for the story to shape itself through your drawing?)
HOW DID YOU KNOW I'VE WRITTEN A STORY ABOUT A BEAR?
ANYWAY TODAY I MAKE IT UP AS I GO ALONG.
14 YEARS AGO I CAME UP WITH SANTA CLAUS AND A SMALL DOG. AND THEN I BUILT A WORDLESS STORY AROUND THAT SITUATION. (SILENT NIGHT -ATHENEUM BOOKS 2001)
BULLY (WALKER BOOKS 1992)WAS SUGGESTED AS A THEME BY AMELIA EDWARDS AND DAVID LLOYD EDITOR AT WALKER. IF I WAS SERIOUS ABOUT ILLUSTRATING CHILDRENS BOOKS I WOULD HAVE TO WRITE MY OWN. IN THEIR OPINION,WRITERS WERE 'SCARED' OF MY ILLUSTRATIONS! I HAD JUST HAD A SERIES OF DRAWINGS REJECTED BY AUTHOR MARTIN WADELL FOR HIS SCRIPT 'WITCH GIRL' ONE OF MY DRAWINGS FEATURED A PLAYGROUND SCENE, THE BACKGROUND SHOWED A BOY PULLING A GIRL'S HAIR.AFTER ABOUT THREE YEARS WORK,I HOPE WE COMMUNICATED A MESSAGE THAT BULLYING IS EVIL AND ISN'T SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE. BULLY IS THE ONLY BOOK THAT EVER EARNT ME A ROYALTY, AFTER ABOUT SEVEN YEARS AFTER PUBLICATION I GOT MY FIRST CHEQUE FOR NINETY POUNDS. IN TOTAL IT PROBABLY EARNT ME ABOUT ELEVEN THOUSAND.
IN OTTO'S TRUNK (SANDY TURNER, HARPER COLLINS 2001) THAT FEELING LIKE A MISFIT IS PART OF GROWING UP BUT THERE IS LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL BLAH BLAH BLAH - IT WASN'T A DIFFICULT BOOK TO DO. I THINK IT WAS DONE START TO FINISH IN A WEEK. WELL OK A MONTH.........UNLIKE BULLY. IN THE PAST I NURTURED THE AMBITION TO WRITE, ILLUSTRATE AND DESIGN A BOOK IN A WEEK. NOWADAYS I'LL BE LUCKY TO PRODUCE ONE MORE BOOK BEFORE I SHUFFLE OFF MY EARTHBOUND SHELL. .............THAT GIVES ME ABOUT 10 YEARS? A SOBERING THOUGHT.
How does your work differ when you are illustrating someone else’s story? Are you more or less attached than when you also are the author? Do you find the quality of your drawing is better or worse?
DEPENDS. SOMETIMES THE DRAWING IS BETTER SOMETIMES WORSE. IN THE EXCEPTIONAL CASE OF OTHELLO (ALIBABA VERLAG 1997) IT WAS SOMEONE ELSE'S IDEA THAT I SHOULD ILLUSTRATE OTHELLO, ABRAHAM TEUTER HAD HAD SOME SUCCESS PUBLISHING A FRANZ KAFKA STORY AND THOUGHT IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA TO HAVE OTHELLO DONE AS A PICTURE BOOK. I FAILED ON THAT COUNT AS THE INTENTION WAS THE CHILDRENS BOOK MARKET. I WAS INSPIRED AND UN LEASHED BY SHAKESPEARE, BUT THAT WAS PROBABLY BECAUSE HE WAS DEAD AND ALSO I WAS ON A HIDING TO NOTHING SO I FELT I HAD NOTHING TO LOSE BECAUSE YOUR SHAKESPEARE SCHOLARS WERE GOING TO DISLIKE MY INTERPRETATION ANYHOW........
I am particularly interested in your children’s book alter ego, Sandy Turner. Can you explain a bit about why you chose to publish your children’s books under another name? And do you find that you approach work differently when you are working as Sandy?
THERE HASN'T BEEN A SANDY TURNER BOOK SINCE 2005. SANDY TURNER WAS KILLED OFF NEARLY TEN YEARS AGO. SOAP OPERA STUFF. MY MEMORY TELLS ME I USED ST AS AN ESCAPE FROM 'TYPE CASTING'. I WAS FRUSTRATED IN THE NARROWNESS OF MY WORK. BUT ORIGINALLY I WAS FORCED INTO A CORNER OVER A DRAWING FOR THE NEW YORKER WHICH HAD BEEN CENSORED WITHOUT PRIOR CONSULTATION BUT THEY STILL WANTED TO RUN IT, SO AFTER A CONVERSATION WITH CHRIS CURRY THE ART EDITOR I CAME UP WITH A BLAND NAME FOR A BLAND DRAWING. I'VE TOLD THE STORY MANY TIMES IT WILL TAKE TOO LONG TO REPEAT HERE. ANY HOW A DAY AFTER PUBLICATION A NEW YORK LITERARY AGENT GOT IN TOUCH ASKING TO SPEAK TO SANDY TURNER. SANDY TURNER WROTE AND ILLUSTRATED 5 BOOKS IN 3 YEARS. I ALWAYS LOOKED AT IT AS IF I WAS WORKING FOR A BRAND. LIKE LAURA ASHLEY OR CATH KIDSTON OR MARKS AND SPENCER. I WAS WORKING FOR SANDY TURNER. IT'S A JOKE. BUT IT ENABLED ME TO GET AWAY FROM THE SO CALLED SATIRICAL DARK EDGY WORK AND HAVE SOME GENTLE FUN - AND I LOVE WORKING IN PENCIL. IT'S ONE THING TO CONJURE UP AN ALTER EGO AT THE END OF A PHONE IT'S ANOTHER TO WALK INTO A ROOM STUFFED WITH STRANGERS AND HAVING A NAME TAG PINNED TO YOUR BREAST. THINK IT THROUGH BEFORE GIVING YOURSELF AN ALTERNATIVE IDENTITY.