How did the idea for A Bit Lost come about?
I had done an image of some birds in a forest that i really liked and wanted to develop. The birds were quite richly patterned and the forest was a complex web of undergrowth with little elements hidden in it. I really wanted to do a simple story for them that could feature the forest and all its hidden elements and simply introduce us to the animals of the forest, i loved books that are richly illustrated as a child that have hidden elements in them that you can find later.
Originally i had the idea of them coming down from their perches and traveling through the forest hunting for berries, cleverly dodging the other animals. The story was simple and repetitive but In the end it left a kind of sad and lonely tone to the book. The forest seemed like a very inhospitable place. I wanted a way of somehow introducing the other animals in the book that didn’t involve the birds running away from them. Eventually I had the idea that the bird could fall from his nest and then being lost he has a reason for approaching and interacting with the other animals.
i actually wrote a little bit about the process here
What illustrative processes did you use in making the book?
I start out with a quite quick pencil drawing, i scan that into the computer and colour it in and do other little tweaks and details from there. Its usually a quick sketch because often if its too detailed or elaborate it loses its energy and character.
What made you decide to make a children’s picture book?
I have always wanted to do picture books. I am a huge fan of picture books myself and I like the idea of doing something fun for children that can start them out with an interest in reading and books. Its a very nice area for an illustrator to work in.
Before I made my book I had been illustrating for various different projects from advertising and design to magazines but I had always wanted to produce something that was my own work from the initial idea to the finished result.
How did you go about getting published?
I wanted to have the story and look of the book quite finished before i contacted the publisher, that way I could do it mostly myself and do it as close as possible to the way I had planned. Some of my friends in London are Illustrators for childrens books but they are often strongly art directed and pushed into doing something that accommodates the author and the publishers vision for the book which they found frustrating. I had a fair idea of what i wanted to do, but the only problem was I could never get around to actually sitting down and doing it as i had no deadline for myself. Years went by, and in the end I decided to book a ticket to the Bologna Childrens book fair as it would give me a deadline to work towards. I managed to get the bones of the story together along with a few images i was happy with. At the fair i saw hundreds of publishing companies but really there were about 30 that i thought would be interested in my book and style of imagery. In the end it was a Korean publisher, Borim Press who agreed to publish it. They do some very interesting books and have a really creative approach so i was very lucky to get published by them.
You can read more about them here
What are your favourite picture books?
I really love Beatrice Alemagna’s work. Un Lion a Paris perhaps is my favourite. It is about a lion that takes the train to Paris, she wanders around the city and falls in love with Paris and finds here home as a famous Lion statue in the heart of the city.
Also Tara Publishing in India do some great unique (even screen printed!) books. Catch that crocodile is perhaps one of my favourites of theirs
Cho Sunk Yung is a huge inspiration for me also. His books are quite different in tone than my own. His Underground Garden is about a man who plants a garden in the middle of a dark city and it bursts through the walls and takes on a life of its own. There is a beautiful poetry in his writing and there is always a metaphor and meaning behind the stories.
Shinto Cho is great for funny very young books I think they really appeal to children. Leo Lionni and Bruno Munari are great for their simplicity and clever graphic ideas. Tove Jansson has great characters.
You are artistically involved in a variety of projects. Can you tell us about some of those?
I mainly started out with advertising and magazine work, but there has been lots of very random projects. I have done commercial animations, I did murals in Tokyo and London and elsewhere.
I am very proud of the work i do for the fair trade company People Tree. They work with 80 producer groups in 15 different developing countries. They produce ranges of clothing and gifts with womens shelters and disabled groups and I have been helping out with the designs of some of those products. I have done bags / t-shirts / stationery sets and repeated patterns for clothing and dresses for them. The profits all go to building schools and training their workers. They do really fantastic work
What are you working on at the minute? Might there be another picture book anytime soon?
I have actually spent the last 8 months in India and Nepal developing some new fair trade products and designs
One of the ideas im most excited about is making rugs from digital designs. They are an amazing group and support a school and orphanage
Also we have developed a little toy for the A Bit Lost book.
You can see it here
I have just finished the packaging design for ‘Coco Camino’ fair trade chocolate in Canada.
I have done a large 10m mural for the Gibson Hotel beside the Point in Dublin which went up last week
Also Im doing a new book about a bad dog (Oh No! GEORGE!) which will published by Walker Books and will be out in 2012.