Do you remember which illustrated children's books were your favourite when you were a young reader? Why?
One of my earliest memories is gazing over the pages of The Muddle-Headed Wombat, illustrated by the great Noela Young. I would carry this book with me everywhere I went and wonder how a person could possibly sketch such realistic and magical images. I spent many afternoons after school trying to draw her muddle-headed wombat. This book sparked my love of children's books. I still love seeing Noela's illustrations in the pages of The School Magazine today and, each time I do, I think about my childhood.
As a child I also loved illustrated books by Quentin Blake and, in particular, his hilarious illustrations in Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes. These drawings cleverly pushed the boundaries.
Where did your first piece of published art appear? Can you describe how it felt when you saw it for the first time?
My first piece of published art appeared in a travel magazine in Vietnam while I was teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City. It was a comic serial called Bruce ‘n' Betty about two bumbling travellers making their way through Vietnam. It was created in order to highlight the high and lows of being a tourist in Vietnam. I was thrilled when I first laid eyes on the magazine in the local newsagent and I bought every copy in the shop!
My first Australian piece was published a few years later in 2010 at The School Magazine. It was a ten part serial called 'Suzie Space-Legges and Meteorite Jake'.
How would you describe your style? Has it changed over time?
My style has experienced many manifestations over the years. When I first became serious about my art, I would try and emulate other artist's styles, thinking that this was what editors wanted to see. Finally, I realised that editors wanted to see something from me, not just me reproducing other artists.
I'd describe my style as a splat of abstract cartoon, influenced by Japanese Manga, splashed on with pen and ink, touched up with strokes of digital watercolour and served with a glass of icy-cold chocolate milk.
Do you have favourite things you like to draw?
Heads. I don't know why, but I love drawing heads. I always start my drawings with a head … unless the drawing doesn't require a living thing of course! Facial expressions on a head can be such fun to draw.
Can you remember the moment when the idea for The Bloodhound Boys first came to you? How attached do you feel to the characters in your graphic novel?
The idea for The Bloodhound Boys first came to me as I was sitting in one of my weekly school assemblies. I usually carry a sketch book with me wherever I go just in case any ideas pop into my head, and this assembly seemed to be a particularly creative one.
When it comes to writing my stories, I often start in an unusual way. I like to work in reverse, where I will make up the title before I think of the story! I've used this method ever since I was in primary school. I start by jotting down interesting words on a page. I play with them, sketch them, scribble them, move them about until I come up with a catchy title I like. I then think about what characters could relate to this title, put them into some unusual scenarios, give them a problem, solve it and then hey presto … I have a story.
This was the same process I used for The Bloodhound Boys. From this title I developed Rocky Werewolf and Vince Vampire and I turned them into crime fighting detectives that needed to solve the mystery of the great blood bank robbery.
I've become very close to Rocky and Vince, and I thoroughly enjoy drawing them!
What would be your number one tip for budding artists?
My number one tip for budding artists is to draw whenever you have the chance. Carry a notepad everywhere you go and whenever you're bored, draw. If you're stuck on a bus or a train, draw. Some of my best drawings and ideas have been jotted down in waiting rooms, staff meetings (don't tell my headmaster!) or on public transport.
Another piece of advice would be to never ever give up wanting to be an artist. No matter how hard things might seem, how many rejection letters you may receive, or how difficult something looks to sketch, if you love drawing, keep drawing and these obstacles will be overcome. The more you practice, the better you'll become and the more likely you'll be noticed … so get drawing!