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.
– How would you describe your illustrative style?
Im always asked that but i still don’t have an answer. It is mostly character based illustration. And mainly produced on the computer. I do a fairly broad range of stuff, everything from animation to repeated patterns for textiles.
– When you did Illustrate for Irish publications, what publications were they? when was it?
Ive been illustrating for Irish publications since 3rd year in college. 2000 or 2001 i think. I started doing regular work for dSIDE in college and did that for a year. (its now gone out of business) I did a few images for the Irish Times Saturday magazine but nothing at all regular and recently Ive done quite a bit for Cara magazine. (Aer Lingus’ inflight magazine) To be honest though a lot of the work i do is advertising rather than editorial. Editorial commissions are probably about 30% of the stuff i do. Only 20% of that is for Irish publications.
– Do you think there is demand for illustrators for magazines or newspapers? (not only in Ireland)
Many Illustrators work almost exclusively for editorial commissions but i tend only to skip from editorial to other different types of illustration, so im not really that familiar with that specific line of work.
But having said that, I do think that illustration is getting more popular in general. There has been an explosion in illustration and animation in advertising in the past few years. Id imagine its probably thanks to the computer. It has made illustration easier and more flexible, allowing more control and creativity in the final images.
Many articles can be ‘illustrated’ a lot more effectively through illustration than photography, so there will always be a demand for some sort of illustration. The style can be ‘owned’ which is very useful in branding as it gives consistency in branding that photography cannot do so easily.
This is important for brands who want to be easily recognised from their competition but less so for magazines and newspapers.
To be honest I myself dont notice if there is a growing or declining trend for editorial illustration. I really dont know which way its moving.
One thing i do notice is that with the internet and distribution becoming more global i think it is probably becoming more and more difficult for more local magazines and newpapers to survive. London is a hub for the whole of Europe really for quite a lot of advertising and design. Ive worked on an a lot of specifically Irish ad jobs through London based companies.
– What is your opinion of stock illustration?
There is a very strong reaction against stock illustration amongst some of the established illustrators. But i dont have a big problem with it to be honest. Stock illustration suits some cheaper magazines because its not too expensive and you know what you are going to get. There will always be a market for original and specific images and illustrators and photographers can focus on that. If a specific illustration isnt really needed for an article they shouldnt really have to pay for one.
1) What is your favourite book of all time?
Maybe Guns Germs and steel by Jared Diamond. Its a really interesting history of the last 10,000 years.
2) Why do you love reading?
I think reading is a great way of following and developing your interests. If you have a mild interest in something and you discover a good book about it you can really start to get into it. it can open up a new world and lead you on to other books. If you follow your curiosity theres no end of places you can go.
3) What advice would you give to both adults and children to help them to make more time for reading?
I usually carry a book with me, you can make use of your time on the train or if theres a delay. I go through phases of reading a lot and not reading at all depending where i am living and the circumstances, if i live in a quieter house with nice living room with no tv or distractions i will read a lot more. I dont have a tv in my place now and i think i probably read more because of it. Always have a bedside light and good book beside your bed.
4) Is there a reading or book related memory/tip that you would like to share with young readers around the country?
Ask your friends what they enjoyed reading. I have friends that share similar interests and whenever i meet them we swap interesting books we have come across. There really is nothing better than being able to share a good book with someone.
5) What are your must-reads
a. In literature
The Third Policeman – Flann O Briens
Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M Pirsig
b. Children’s book
Where the wild things are – Maurice Sendak.
Oh the places youll go – Dr Suess
Alice in wonderland – Lewis Carroll, is an amazing book for both children and adults.
i loved everything by Roald Dahl. I read ‘the twits’ for the readathon when i was very young and i loved it so much i read everything else by him.
c. Adults book
The man who mistook his wife for a hat – Oliver Sacks
The selfish gene – Richard Dawkins
6) Who is your favourite author?
I really enjoy the books of Jared Diamond, ‘Guns Germs and Steel’, ‘Collapse’ and ‘The Third Chimpanzee’. He writes about very interesting popular science and i saw him give a talk in foyles bookshop in london a few years ago.
7) Where is your favourite place to read?
I tend to read more and i really enjoy reading when im away. on the beach or train or wherever. when im in london i mostly just read on my bed
8) How did you get into writing?
im really more of an illustrator, i never wrote anything i was proud of while i was at school, i wasnt great at english and i was always pretty terrible at writing essays. I just focused on drawing and art. But after i finished art school i was doing illustrations for other peoples ideas and i thought i could try and give it a go myself. It didnt seem to be that hard. Actually it was harder than i thought, but i enjoyed the process almost more than i enjoyed doing the actual drawings. I dont know if i could write anything that didnt have pictures though, it’s the pictures that tell my stories.
9) Any advice for budding authors?
im a budding author myself really. i think the main thing is to find an area or an interest you enjoy and dig deeper and follow your enthusiasm. if you continue along that path far enough you will always arrive somewhere interesting.