Tom: I always start with the characters, so once I have the brief I set to work just doodling the main character, varying hair lengths, clothes etc...I do this on paper, very loosely, then once I have a few options I scan them in and re-drawn them in a program called "Sketchbook Pro" on my drawing tablet.
Tom: For this book it was quite interesting. Mara, the lovely editor at Peter Pauper Press who worked with me on this project, had seen a portfolio piece I had done via my agents. She had honed in on the little boy at the centre of the piece called Winston and thought he might be a good starting point for HOW I TRAINED MY DOG IN 10 DAYS. So I received the manuscript and the brief to make the boy of the story have the look and feel of Winston. So that was nice and straight forward for this book!
Tom: In terms of the story, you'll have to ask the author, Norma Lewis, I'm sure there is though! When my agent Beth emailed me the proposal for this book I think its the quickest I've said yes to a project. I LOVE dogs, we have a lovely dog called Wilma, she is getting on now (approximately 9 this year, she is a rescue so we didn't know her exact age when we got her, maybe 6 months-ish). There is a little picture of me and her in the book jacket. So the story of a boy and his dog was a no-brainer for me.
There is one other thing, when it came time to think of a dedication, it coincided with the very sad and untimely death of my uncle. He was a big dog lover and he had owned a number of dogs in his life but his favourite was a springer spaniel called Harry, so that's who it is dedicated to - Martin and Harry.
Tom: Wow this is a big big question with no real definite answer, but for me, I love art and illustration that feels really created and hand made. Where you can see the artists lines and intentions behind them. So while I can admire the skill in a really slick, almost life like painting or picture I do feel something is lost in that exchange between the artist and the observer. But the wonderful thing that some people forget is that art is so subjective. If you love it, great, if not, who cares, someone else will.
Tom: I have a website, which is fairly straight forward and functional but it does the job. At least with an illustrators website there aren't that many moving parts to it, its just pictures so maintaining a site is pretty simple! I do a bit of instagram when I have the thought or energy to do it but I am truly rubbish at advertising myself, my wife is a whizz at that sort of stuff and is forever trying to explain it to me. I will get round to it one day.
Tom: There are a few moments in projects that excite me, the first is stumbling across an idea and realising its not rubbish! The feeling of having a story or picture idea that is actually worth something is a great feeling, then to have that echoed by someone gets me pumping. My other favourite moment is starting the final artwork on something, once everything is set, people are happy with the idea and you have that nice chunk of time just to assemble it and put it together, I love getting lost in that period.
The biggest challenge is self motivation, being my own boss is great and hard at the same time. Deadlines certainly help!
Tom: While I was making this book it did make me see my dog in a different light, I think it made me slow down and appreciate her a bit more. We can sometimes see them as burdens or a nuisance but hopefully readers will give their pet a bit of extra affection after finishing the book. Beyond that I just hope they enjoy Norma's wonderful story and find some humour in my pictures!
Tom: I'm in the middle of two projects at the moment, an early reader book which is part of an ongoing series and a middle grade fiction book about a boy that turns into a monster which is great fun. I have also just accepted an offer for my 3rd author/illustrated picture book which I will start in the summer.
As for my dream project, I have a picture book idea that is pretty mad but it has been floating around in my head for years, I would love a publisher to humour me one day and let me make it!
e: I hope so too!