(Click on the images to enlarge the illustrations)
I first met Jane Goodall at Heathrow airport with the publisher Michael Neugebauer. Michael had already published The Chimpanzee Family Bookwith Jane; had been to The Gombe National Park in Tanzania to photograph the chimps, and was already a supporter of Jane’s charity, the JGI. The possibility of my working with her came up and I was asked if I could draw chimpanzees. I’d never drawn one and perhaps I could have replied, “Yes, but I will need to see them in their natural habitat”. Being freelance, I simply said, “Yes, of course”. Jane and Michael flew off to separate and exotic parts of the world and I drove back home to my drawing board. It isn’t just the freelance thing though; I assume that I can draw anything because drawing is a process of discovery; and a good way to learn about an animal, for example, is to draw it. As well as doing various pieces for the JGI, I have since worked with Jane on With Love a book of true stories about the lives of chimps and Rickie and Henri, again, a true story about the relationship between an orphaned chimp and a dog.
I stumbled into working in children’s books. This was 1984; I’d done some English Language work with OUP but had mostly been working for magazines: The Literary Review, Time Out, Radio Times and the like, when (as mentioned in a previous blog) a designer at Heinemann saw something I’d done and put me forward for a ghost story for children. Storm by Kevin Crossley-Holland was in the first series of Yellow Bananas Books, the first “readers” now prevalent in children’s publishing, (I think this had a great deal to do with Judith Elliott who was children’s book editor at Heinemann). With that book under my belt, by ‘phoning and arranging to meet with editors I went on to work with several independent publishers, illustrating work by Fiona Waters; Rosemary Sutcliff; Jill PatonWalsh, (including Thomas and the Tinners, above); Joan Aiken… you get the point; it was a good break.
Does this happen now? The small, independent publishing houses did seem more approachable than today’s conglomerated businesses, and I do understand the pressures on modern publishing. Somehow ease of communication has made connecting all the more difficult. I, naively, used to deliver work by hand to editors and was often welcomed, shown work-in-progress etc. It was part of an editor’s job to find and nurture new talent. Starting out was never easy; not everyone wanted to look at what was essentially college work. But I remember, having just left college, talking to Tom Maschler, head of Jonathan Cape, from a ‘phone box; he was helpful and encouraging and gave time to explain how I should approach publishers with my work. I sat in Klaus Flugge’s office, Andersen Press, whilst he read a story that I’d written; in both cases, probably unthinkable now. The story, Nowhere to be Found, (via an introduction from Frances McKay), was later published by Michael Neugebauer, now owner of Minedition and another great publisher, who took a chance with that early picture book. During all this time I don’t think I knew how fortunate I was.
I’m sure that new talent is encouraged today, if it can make itself known. I’m not sure that young illustrators can get away with stumbling any more.
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This is an illustration I did for a weekend supplement of Berliner Zeitung a few years ago. It was for an article called "Job & Career" and as you can imagine, they no longer order illustrations for this anymore ("It`s too expensive").
For me it points out, again, what the illustration job market looks like in Germany at the moment. It´s really hard to find new clients in the editorial area for magazine and newspaper illustration, which has always been my favourite "playground". And even though Germany is a country of photos I hope more illustrating jobs will come up again in future. I think no photo can replace a good illustration!
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Whilst looking at old illustrations I did years ago I came across this one. It was part of a newspaper story for children divided into three pieces which were published on Saturdays in "Berliner Zeitung". Working for this newspaper was wonderful and I did many jobs for them.
We were given the story and the size of the illustrations and then we were allowed to illustrate whatever and however we wanted to! I LOVED these jobs. For us illustrators it was like a playground: Just trying out new techniques, colours and styles. It was amazing what variety of fantastic illustrations were printed in this newspaper over years. The editors trusted us illustrators and it led to a high quality of illustrations, always fresh, surprising and experimental.