As an author, our job is to world build with words, relying hugely on a reader’s ability to use their imaginations to do the colouring in, so to speak. But in order to grab the reader’s attention for them to pick up your book or click on a thumbnail and be intrigued enough to make a purchase, requires a different kind of skill. A visual one. And that is where the illustrator comes in.
Working with Darran to create, not only my book cover, but the character illustrations and images for my website has been nothing short of incredible and I feel lucky to have partnered with such a talent. Over the weeks and months, Darran and I have worked closely to ensure that the picture he paints is the vision I’ve held in my imagination for many years. I am also interested in what makes other creatives tick, so it felt like an ideal time for a little Q&A with the man himself.
What inspired you to become an illustrator?
From an early age I was always drawing. I remember my mum buying me a copy of the Dandy and thinking that I wanted to be a comic book artist one day. From then, I created my own characters and just kept drawing. As I got older I discovered the Fighting Fantasy books and the world of Tolkien. I think you need to be passionate about drawing. Draw every day. And, don’t ever be afraid to push yourself. I also felt lucky that I had a brilliant Art teacher who encouraged me.
Which illustrators do you admire and why?
I loved the art of John Geering who drew Bananaman for the Nutty Comic. His style was awesome. Lots of detail and expression. His Line work is beautiful. In my eyes he was one of the best.
Iain McCaig is just brilliant. His illustrations for the Fighting Fantasy books back in the 1980’s got me hooked on the genre. His cover art for The City of Thieves is amazing – I definitely recommend Googling it! His style has had a lasting impact on the way I draw today.
Also, Adam Hargreaves, son of Roger Hargreaves, the creator of the Mr. Men books is, in my opinion, one of the best Line work and storybook artists of all time. To be able to draw perfect simple illustrations without the clutter of detail and still capture a reader’s attention is genius.
And finally, Johnny Duddle. His recent cover art for the Harry Potter books is sheer brilliance. He is a master of character design, tone, mood and composition.
What is the most important thing to remember when you’re illustrating a book?
Never settle for ‘okay’. Push yourself. Don’t be afraid of criticism. Get as much feed back as you can. I’m lucky to work with some amazing people. Carly Corlett and Nicola Moore at Peahen Publishing are the top of their field when it comes to getting the best out of your artwork. Also, remember to take breaks from your current illustration. Time away can help you spot and correct your mistakes. A neat trick is to ‘mirror-flip’ your artwork. This helps to highlight any problems with proportions.
Lastly, enjoy what you are drawing. If you aren’t happy with your illustrations, chances are other people won’t like it either.
For me, what strikes a chord from what Darran said, is that creatives will often say there was that one teacher who offered encouragement or gave praise or instilled some element of self-belief. I experienced something mildly similar.
I think what Darran highlights in terms of stepping back from your artwork or manuscript is vital because it is only through fresh eyes that we gain new perspectives and any author or illustrator will tell you that.
In Part II of Illustrated, I’ll discuss with Darran how he breathed life into my book cover, characters and creatures and how he enhanced the story by adding his own welcome touches to Hannah and the Hollow Tree.
To find out more about Darran and his work click the links below.