Click the cover to visit the book at Holiday House.
John: I’ve used a lot of different materials in my wider illustration career, both hand-drawn and digital, but for children’s books I tend to stick with pen & ink with watercolour.
John: As I tend to work on all the spreads at once it’s a little difficult to calculate how much a single picture takes… If I were to do just one spread, then maybe 5 days to a week?, depending on the level of complexity. That’s for the final art production, there was a lot of time spent on research, sketches and so on before then.
John: I think back to that sense of wonder I had as a child when discovering children’s book illustrations, the way certain pictures capture your imagination and send a tingling down your spine. When I think of the ones that affected me, I think it comes down to one or more of three key things:
John: When I first read Carrie’s text I was struck by the fun rollicking gait of the rhymes, but also by the spooky locations, so my first step was to create the shop interior in my own mind. I wanted to give a sense of claustrophobia, of being a jumbled, mysterious shop overflowing with spooky items in every corner, but at the same time reflect the rollicking fun of the narrative, so finding that balance was the target.
John: I like nooks and crannies, so designing the interior of the shop and finding things to fill it’s shelves was endlessly fascinating, research took me in all kinds of mythological and supernatural directions which I’d like to explore more in future projects. I also really enjoy drawing spooky buildings and landscape too, so the views of the street and the shop from the outside were particular fun.
John: There are a few details that might encourage some readers to delve a little deeper… some of the objects in the basement and shop are referenced from history and mythology, in addition to things specifically mentioned in the text. The ‘blue’ spread of the ghost celebrating for example - the background behind includes amongst other things a Cerberus (Greek legend), a Tarasque (French mythology), a Krampus costume (European Alps) and an Anomalocaridid, an early sea predator. Here and there you might spot the odd talisman & runic symbol aimed to protect against witchcraft (there’s one on the cover!) I don’t expect readers to understand these, but they are authentic occult symbols for those interested! No hidden messages though, and rest assured, no secret spells!
John: At the moment I’m working on my own ideas for picture books. Over the last few years I’ve been very busy illustrating a string of picture book texts written by others, which has led me to put my own story ideas on ice for a long time, but now I’m slowly getting back into the rhythm of developing my own projects. Also I’ve been very busy working on black-and-white illustrations for novels, I just finished inking drawings for a series of three children’s novels about Auckland Harbour ships, which will scheduled to be released later this year.
Many thanks Elizabeth!!