First of all, I’d love to know what some of your children’s books were when you were growing up, and your favorite illustrators.
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs was hands down my favorite children’s book growing up. It’s wordless, so you had to interpret the story visually, which appealed to me as a child. As for my favorite illustrators, I’d have to have say John R. Neill, John Tenniel, Edward Gorey, Alan Lee, William Joyce, Richard Kirk; the list goes on and on. Did you draw much as a child?
Oh yeah, all the time. It was a great way to make friends in school. I’d like to hear about how you go about placing a background photo with your creature illustrations. Do you keep a file of background photos on hand, then look through your supply to find one appropriate for whichever character you’re developing? Or does a particular background inspire the characters that will inhabit it, and their story?
I would say both. Most of the time I work in a cycle where I’ll shoot tons of images, save them, and then go back through and just daydream; like a kid looking at clouds trying to see something in them. However, I do sometimes go through old sketchbooks to see if there are any connections between new photos and the ideas I’m developing for them and older sketches; often I have incomplete characters and stories that are waiting for the right stage to fill in the gaps. Keeping the process organic like this is very important to me; the work I make could easily become a routine technical exercise if I didn’t allow for spontaneity and the ebb and flow of inspiration between the two media.
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