I grew up in a 400-year-old thatched cottage in a village in England. We were a big, artistic family with lots of pets. My dad and my brother both drew and painted, while my mum and one of my sisters wrote. My other sister became a nurse (I didn’t get that gene!)
I had a childhood dream of having a lot of animals and drawing them when I grew up, and that’s sort of what happened.
My dad taught at the Cambridge School of Art. He also designed and made costumes and stage sets for many of the theatrical productions at what is now Anglia Ruskin University. He used to build the sets in miniature on our living-room table. I would help him with the costumes when I was growing up, and I think this was a great source of inspiration for me, as illustrating books is a bit like putting on a play.
I went to art school in Cambridge, England, and studied illustration. From the word go I felt comfortable drawing pictures for books. After college, I went to London to start my career as an illustrator, but came back to live in Cambridge as it’s safer to ride around on a bicycle here.
I usually work in my garden shed/studio using watercolor paints and pencil crayons, but I’ve recently started to use other materials such as gouache and acrylic paints. I’m really enjoying the change.
Tales from India was a collaboration with the children’s writer Jamila Gavin. Jamila’s wonderful tales are based on stories from Hindu mythology, so it was natural for me to draw inspiration from traditional Indian art, which was—and still is—done using gouache and tiny, tiny brushes. I went to India and saw artists in the city of Udaipur working in a very similar way to me. The pictures for Tales from India were so detailed that I had to use a huge magnifying glass to see what I was doing and a brush with very few hairs on it.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. My big wooden studio has its own jungle garden, with wild animals in it such as frogs, birds, and the odd fox. The cats there aren’t really wild, and there’s nothing poisonous, I’m glad to say!
2. I am also lead singer and 12-string guitar player in an eight-piece semi-acoustic band. I love singing and performing.
3. I’ve always enjoyed building and making things, but when I was little I was sometimes a bit too enthusiastic. I once made a hole in my bedroom wall and put a round sunglasses lens in as a secret window. I was very surprised to see the window from the farmhouse across the road projected upside down on the opposite wall, as the lens worked like a camera. My dad wasn’t impressed—the hole was filled up again with plaster very soon afterwards!