Someone told me Dick Bruna was an inspiration to you. why do you like his work? What did you learn from his work?
Yes, i went to visit his show at ‘the museum of childhood’ here in london a few years ago
i love all his work, his earlier graphic work for book covers as well as Miffy. Its very very graphic and deceptively simple. There was a story in the London exhibition about how he came up with the idea for his first book, it mentioned that he was 28 on a rainy beach holiday. I was actually 28 at the time so it resonated with me somehow, I had been promising myself for a number of years that i should do a picture book and it reminded me that i should try and give it a go. In fact it took me nearly another year to come up with the idea!
Are there other artists who are a source of inspiration? Leo Lionni? Eric Carle?
Yes i especially love Leo Lionni, every time i try to make something simple i try to look to his work.. he has so much character from so little, it makes it magical. I really like the russian animator Yuri Norstein for his simple characters too. I like lots of contemporary artists too, olivier tallec, kitty crowther, marc boutavant as well as animators (i worked in animation for a while)
What does it feels like that A BIT LOST is ‘Picture Book of the Year’ in the Netherlands?
im very excited, i have a dutch friend prina who studied with me in university in dublin and she is always sending me updates and pictures of mama kwijt in shop windows. she is a designer herself in holland.
http://www.prina.nl/ I love the animation that was made and all the exciting that have been done around this award. Another irish designer friend lives in amsterdam and is also keeping me up to date with sightings and events! Im particularly proud that it is doing so well there as im a big fan of dutch graphic design and the standard of design over there is so high.
Do you make your illustrations on the computer?
i always draw everything first in pencil but the majority of the work happens on the computer. the computer is a very powerful tool because of the flexibility it allows. Things can be changed endlessly so sometimes its hard to know when to stop.
What was the most surprising/satisfying reader’s reaction on A BIT LOST?
One mother wrote to me to say her baby’s first words were ‘Uh-oh!’ im not entirely sure if she was joking or not! Another mother said that when her daughter sees the book she always says ‘uh-oh’, for her first birthday she baked her an owl shaped cake and she knew it was a success because when her daughter saw it she said ‘uh-oh’!
i got some lovely letters from kids too
Many parents have told me that their son or daughter has spotted the mummy owl hidden in the background before they did.
What do you think about the fact that your book got a slightly different title in Dutch? ‘Mama kwijt’ is short for ‘I lost my mommy’.
Its hard for me to comment as i dont speak dutch, i think editors do need to make decisions about what will work best in their language. I was perhaps a little dissapointed that the quote was not used in the Dutch version though. In the original versions i have a little epigraph by Robinson Crusoe on the title page which says: ‘Thus we never see the true State of our Condition, till it is illustrated to us by its Contraries; nor know how to value what we enjoy, but by the want of it’ (in summary: you dont know what you’ve got, until it’s gone) Although it really only speaks to the adult reader i quite like that its there. I quite like the contrast between the 17th century classic and a funny little book about a lost owl. I have a similar quote by a stoic philosopher for my next book Oh No George! (stoute hond) which is about a dog trying to be good.