Julia: 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.
Julia: 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.
Julia: The Very Very Very Long Dog began life as Bartleby.
e: What was your path to publication?
Julia: 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.
Julia: 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?
Julia: The message is that 'We love our friends not in spite of their flaws, but because of them'.
Julia: 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.
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!