Y'know how sometimes you meet somebody and it feels like you've known them forever and you become immediate BFFs? That's how it was when I met author/illustrator Julia Patton. Even though she lives down in Berwick Upon Tweed and I live in Edinburgh, we get together for play dates when we can. I wrote about my first visit to her studio HERE. Meanwhile, Julia has a new book out called THE VERY VERY VERY LONG DOG. I'm thrilled to send some readerly love her way. Read on!
e: What is your creative process and fave medium, can you walk us through it?
My creative process for writing a new book is becoming more established now as I've published over 30 titles and my 3rd author/illustrator book, working on my 4th for Sourcebooks USA right now. An idea for a book usually comes as an image initially. A character arrives, that looks like it has a story to tell. Immediately a title pops into my head, then i'm off... If you've followed Elizabeth and I previously, you'll have seen that we've discussed my 'Style Bible', my sketchbook, my A-Z before. (CLICK HERE to for the article.) This big book holds all the baby seedlings of characters and stories to be told. Currently there are over 30 seeds awaiting watering. They are organised there and periodically revisited when I get a moment. I then take them to full colour character sketches and begin to write. I write quickly and instinctively, knowing the pictures sometimes don't require any text and vice versa. I must admit the concept stage is the very best part of my job. I have sold stories on showing my A-Z to publishers with just one character sketch and a synopsis. I only make stories that I'd loved to have seen as a child.
      My favourite media is pencil. 6H to be exact. I carry it around with me and my knife, plus only now an inch is left of my soft grey and red coloured pencils.
I always carry a small sketchbook and often scribble on anything I can get my hands on.
I have always used mixed media to create my artwork as I undertook a BA Hons in Textile Design before completing my MA in Illustration at Edinburgh University. I use combination of collage, pencil and oil paint, often finished digitally in Photoshop.

My news work is very collage based which i'm very excited about.
e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
If I had to define Heart Art in three sentences here they are...
      I believe every child should be able to see themselves, identify with the themes and hear their voice within a picture book.
      There are just some stories that need to be told.
      I believe it's my privilege and responsibility and role as an author and illustrator is to illuminate words, suggest the magical and interpret the unspoken.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this book?
The Very Very Very Long Dog began life as Bartleby.
I was attending the International Children's Book fair in Bologna when I saw a lady walking her long-haired sausage dog, right under this graffiti.
The dog was so unbelievably cute everyone who passed just stopped, fell over shopping, bumped into things staring at him...I was just captivated by the whole scene. Hence Bartelby was born.
The name change happened at the very end of the creative process, a culmination of feedback from Sourcebooks and Barnes & Noble (who's New York bookstore Bartelby lives in) I really love the new title. I have Long Dog merchandise arriving daily and a new trailer for the book has ben created for him. lucky boy. A tour of some USA states is slated for early 2018 as part of a promotion and marketing plan. Exciting times ahead for Bartelby. e: And you!

e: What was your path to publication?
After I graduated from Manchester University I set up a freelance greeting card business. I have worked for M&S, Paperchase and more or less any other high street stationers and books shop you can think of. I eventually had the finances to return to University to study an MA in Illustration at Edinburgh University and was signed by an illustration agency on my graduation day. I cut my teeth through working in educational books to begin with, then moved on through non fiction, to picture books. Some career highlights were being selected as the illustrator for the No.1 Bestseller BBC Children In Need Book 2017, The CuriousTale Of Fi Rex written by a whole host of celebrities, and working with The Gruffalo legend Julia Donaldson on a book named "Don't Call Me Mum". I had the honour of working alongside Vivian French at the University who gave me the tools, confidence and metaphorical shove to write. I have just recently signed with a new agency after working almost exclusively in the USA for 4 years, and will be relaunched in the UK in November.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
This question and your queries about what is Heart Art, may just have the same answer here ... I've always been a creative ever since I was a small child. Expressing myself visually gave me comfort, joy, avenues for exploration and took me on journeys to far away lands, with talking frogs and pirate space robots. I will follow this adventure until my last breath. BUT, unfortunately, I've been told I make my job look easy. It's not. I work more hours than I'll ever admit and my brain is wired 24/7. The responsibility to inspire and delight my intended audience can be overwhelming sometimes. I travel a lot to keep myself sane, visually inspired and constantly inquiring about the needs of my ever changing target market in this often challenging global climate.

e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
The message is that 'We love our friends not in spite of their flaws, but because of them'.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
My dream job would be to create a wordless book. The ultimate challenge for any illustrator. Here is the interview from Tiny Owl about my thoughts on the subject...
Wordless books transcend language barriers
Our industry is lucky to be championed by publishers, educationalists and parents that understand and actively promote the importance of sharing a book with a child as early as possible. In my experience, even sharing a book with words with a very young child is often edited to reduce the vocabulary until their literary comprehension advances. I personally devoured picture books before I could read or spell, specifically Richard Scarry’s books filled with endless details to discover. I actually ate one page because I loved it so very much, behaviour I don’t condone!
      A wordless book passes on incredible gifts to whoever turns the first page… A wordless book is the ultimate visual communication tool that encourages, sometimes demands, the viewer’s interaction. One has the opportunity and creative freedom to become the narrator, and potentially the same book may never be described the same way twice. A wordless book is a springboard for personal interpretation, allowing the reader to hear their own voice and personally identify with the protagonist and themes. Wordless books transcend language barriers, breach learning gaps and plant the seeds of adventure into the youngest of hearts. They are masterclasses in beauty and narrative, expanding the visual, verbal and empathetic vocabulary of any child. I’ve witnessed a wordless book being absorbed silently by individuals, and conversely being utilised as a powerful platform for sharing excited questions, taking whole classrooms on unforgettable journeys of wonder.
      A wordless book is simply a legacy of enchantment.
e: Lovely!
If you'd like to learn more about Julia, visit her on Instagram, Twitter, or her website at JuliaPatton.co.uk. Thanks for sharing, Julia!

1 comment:

Jane Yolen said...

I have an ALMOST wordless book I'd love to show her!!!

Love love love her work.

Jane Yolen