What book made the strongest impression on you growing up?
I used to love Asterix and Tin Tin and comics of all sorts (and still do). Then I started reading a lot of fantasy, sci-fi and adventure books. When I eventually found The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as a kid, I was utterly hooked.
How did you enter the illustrating world?
Drawing was always something I did as a child right through to teen years and beyond. I always had a dream to become a book cover artist like my artistic heroes and paint pictures for a living. But it was not until much later, after trying my hand at many jobs, including working for years as a graphic designer for magazines and advertising, that I grabbed my chance to become an illustrator.
I had managed to do some small illustration jobs for the magazines I worked for. Slowly, I built a little portfolio of illustrations that I could use to approach publishers and agents with.
I was actually rejected by five Sydney agencies before sending my work off to the United States. I had met a fellow who worked for a fantastic agency in New York. He agreed to look at, and also share, my work with the head of the agency. They saw potential, but I was not yet ready to work for their clients. With persistence (and persistence and diligence is the secret to succeeding in ANY venture!) I was one day handed a small Harry Potter assignment.
From there things snowballed, and I have never been without work. Thirteen years later I am still represented by the same agent, and have maintained good relationships with many of the publishers in New York over the last decade. And I still love it!
What five words best describe your style? Has it changed over time?
Style is a funny thing. Most artists grapple with finding their own personal voice for many years. Sometimes finding your own personal style might take a whole lifetime of drawing!
I spent years adopting styles I admired in other artists, past and present. And out of all of that input, a style of my own began to develop. I do not know how I would describe it, and it is still developing. Your art should be constantly developing throughout a life of making pictures.
In five words, I guess I would say graphic, whimsical, line, narrative, figurative.
What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
My favourite part is the concept stage. Working out the designs and sketching up the ideas is always exciting. My next best part is when I see all the hard work of executing the picture actually start to come together. Then, out of all the mess of sketch lines and marks and smudges, I start to see an image that I am pleased with.
What mediums do you most enjoy working with?
For my finished work, I have always liked to use ink. I also enjoy watercolour. However, now I have a new love ... charcoal sticks! They are lovely and atmospheric, and give a picture a certain depth and softness that I have always wanted but could not achieve using ink lines only. I really love charcoal. I drew the recent 'Conrad the Brave' cover [Blast Off 8, 2014] with charcoal sticks.
Once the art on paper is done, I scan it, and then I also use a computer to do the final colouring over the top of the charcoal drawing.
Do you have a particular piece of art that you are most proud of?
I have a few book covers and rock posters that I am quite proud of. I'm also proud of The School Magazine comic stories, but I'm always searching for that one picture that I am completely happy with, and I have not drawn it yet! I think that is part of developing as an artist ... you always think you could do better than the last picture. That is all part of the drive to keep making art.
What is one thing about you that would surprise our readers?
One thing that may surprise people is that I find drawing difficult! You might expect that an illustrator who has been working for so long finds drawing a breeze, but let me tell you that every piece is challenging and a lot of hard work. My first attempts at any drawing are very messy looking and, with that persistence and diligence, I get them to look nice.
My favourite part is the concept stage. Working out the designs and sketching up the ideas is always exciting. The next best part is when I see all the hard work of actually executing the picture start to come together. When out of all the mess of sketch lines and marks and smudges I start to see an image that I am pleased with.