e: What is your creative process and medium, can you walk us through it?
Ged: My creative process varies. Sometimes I'll just be doodling away and something will stick out and trigger an idea. Other times, it won't involve drawing. It will be just thinking of stuff that might work as a story. Or I'll be watching a tv programme or something on the Internet and that will inspire me.
Ged: Thanks! I'm learning to accept that often, less is more. This is really important with picture books. Sometimes, it's when you take away a background element that you suddenly feel happy with an illustration and think "that's finished!"
There's a spread in my next book Ava And The Rainbow (Who Stayed), where there's a load of people getting off buses. I wasn't happy with it until I took away the grass and the asphalt. It just suddenly all worked against white.
In the same book I leave a lot of objects uncoloured, black and white. This wasn't laziness it's simply because I thought it looked better! Instead of filling in every building, sky and tree, I would just stop when I was happy with how everything looked.
Ged: What makes an illustration magical? Well, for a start, it shouldn't look like it's trying to be magical! It has to have this quality because it's done by someone with a style that comes straight from their own personality. Rather than trying to be some other artist. I have to get a sense of the person behind the art. It's nice if it looks like somebody used paints or pencils or ink or crayons for at least some of the process. But it must have originality, humour and an ingredient of the past. Beatrice Alemagna, Oliver Jeffers, Lesley Barnes and Kevin Waldron are examples of artists that fit this description.
There are so many professional people using tablets exclusively to do their art, that a lot of illustrations have all the lovely texture but no human quality. There tends to be a uniformity to these illustrations. Like people who've gone to the same plastic surgeon.
Ged: Linda Marshall is the author so I think you’d have to ask her that one. She’s such an insightful and empathetic person. Not everyone can get into the mind of a dog! It wouldn’t surprise me if she’d experienced this situation in real life with one of her own animals. The poor dog’s confusion when his owners’ tempers are frayed due to lack of sleep. It’s heartbreaking - he doesn’t know what he’s done wrong.
What’s great about dogs though is that even after that initial surprise of the new arrival, they soon join in with the parenting. Linda shows this really sweetly in the story.
Ged: I always wanted to be a picture book author and illustrator - it was something at the back of my mind for a long time.
I was working in music - composing for TV ads, trailers, stuff like that. I had this idea for a story, so when I wasn’t writing tunes for a job, I would work on the book.
At the start, I was really clueless about putting together a simple story in the context of a picture book. So mine ended up super complicated and meandering. But I got fantastic advice from a couple of friends in the children’s book world. They showed me how I could edit the text right down and get rid of unnecessary scenes and characters.
I knew I needed to get representation to have any hope of publication. I sent Elsie & The Vampire Hairdresser out to agents. Isy Atherton of Creative Authors came back saying she loved the story. She got me a deal with a New York publisher. It was so exciting!
That was about five years ago and, thanks to Isy, I’m now doing this full time and I love it.
Ged: I love it when I think I've come up with something good. You just get this feeling that a new idea might have potential. It doesn't always pan out like that afterwards but I just get a massive kick out of that moment when you suddenly think "hmm that's interesting". I spend most of my time doodling and thinking of ideas - when I'm not working on signed off jobs, that is - so the aim is to surprise myself with something.
One of the challenging things for me is to make myself happy with my art style. I'm constantly pushing to improve the look of my illustrations. It's a slow process. I think things like Instagram are great because you're seeing lots of amazing illustrations and sketches by very talented people. It inspires you to try different stuff with your own work.
I think it's dangerous when you're completely satisfied with how you do things. You have to be open to new processes.
Writing is also something I find a challenge. It comes less naturally to me than the art. I don't mean the shape of the story or coming up with ideas - I just mean the actual writing of the text and making it flow and sound interesting. That feeling that I've got my own 'voice' as a picture book author is elusive. But maybe that's hard to judge from this side.
Ged: I'd like people to come away with the idea that life is all about adapting to new situations and new ideas. And that we should always try to see things from the other person's viewpoint before we make a judgement - even if that person is a dog! Empathy is a great thing.
In fact, I think the problems we face in the world at the moment are because a lot of people won't do these very things!
Ged: In a few months, my next book Ava And The Rainbow (Who Stayed), comes out with Harper. I'm really excited about this one because it's the first time I've done something that's like a fairy tale. I'm proud of it and I think it's an original idea with hopefully lots of humour. Fingers crossed people like it!
I've got a couple of new things I'm working on that I think could be really good. One of them, if it comes off, could very well be a dream project! It's a story that involves music. I would love to combine writing and illustrating a story with composing some music and maybe having the whole thing performed.
I'm just finishing the follow up to Douglas, You Need Glasses! , which is called Douglas, You're A Genius! I've also done a second Shark Dog book, Shark Dog And The School Trip Rescue!
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