Andrew Joyner

Photo of Andrew Joyner When did you first realise that you had a passion and a talent for illustrating?

Well, I've always loved drawing, for as long as I can remember. I think my love of illustration specifically started at university though, when I used to draw cartoons for the student newspaper. For a long time, my focus was on illustrations for magazines and newspapers, but I was always looking at children's books, because I think some of the most exciting and vibrant illustrations can be found in children's books.

What was the first book that you ever illustrated? Can you describe what it felt like when you received the published book?
boy balancing on tongue AJ

The first book I illustrated was The Terrible Plop, a picture book written by Ursula Dubosarsky.  In fact, Ursula used to be an editor at The School Magazine - that's how she thought of me for The Terrible Plop. Really, I can't believe how lucky I am - without The School Magazine and Ursula, I doubt that I would be illustrating children's books.  So I've got a lot to be grateful for! It's a strange feeling when you first get your copy of the printed book. In a way, the work feels quite separate from you. It takes me quite a while to do a picture book, and yet all that work and effort seem to evaporate from my memory when I look at the finished book. But really, that's the effect I'm hoping to achieve - I want it to look like the pictures just fell onto the page, as if they're both inevitable and effortless.

Your delightfully funny characters are loved by readers everywhere. Do you have a favourite?

I am very fond of Boris, a young warthog I created for a series of chapter books. He's in no way like me (I'm much more like Boris's very cautious friend Frederick), but I often wish I could be a bit more like Boris. And I'm also very attached to Mungo and his chooks - especially the chooks. They're just such fun to draw. In fact, when it came to giving Boris some pets, I couldn't resist giving him a couple of chooks as well.

Ostrich reading

You've worked with some wonderfully talented authors. What's the key to producing a great book together?

As I said, I'm very lucky to be able to work with writers such as Ursula Dubosarsky.  The main thing I've learnt is to listen closely to what the author is saying. For me, illustration is a bit like reading. So I try not to get too caught up with technique, and instead put a lot of my energies into telling the story in the best way I can. 

You have illustrated countless pieces for The School Magazine. What sort of thinking do you have to do before starting work?

I always try to find the character first, which usually involves lots of scribbling and rubbing out, false starts, wrong turns, mistaken identities and so on. Eventually, they just show up on the page. I know that a character is working when I can almost feel them looking back at me. 

Elephant AJ
What's the most enjoyable part of illustrating for you?

I think I enjoy the rough stage the best, when the characters feel like they're first coming to life. There's something about that first moment of creation which is very hard to replicate when it comes time to do the final art. Although having said that, I'm also pretty happy when I've finished a book. Yes, finishing is good!


To find out more about Andrew Joyner visit his website