There are three things that I’ve learnt during my career as a children’s book illustrator.
First of all, you can’t always rely on there being someone out there who actually wants you to illustrate something.
Sometimes you can wait for weeks, or even months, before a “sniff” of work lands in your inbox, and you can finally give a gasp of relief.
I have to say that I’ve been really lucky over the past thirteen years, and these stretches of time where I’ve sat twiddling my thumbs and wondering whether I’ve chosen the right career path have been very few and far between.
The first six months of this year, mind you, were a different kettle of fish altogether. By all accounts there was a “lull in the industry”, and the commissions completely dried up.
Work was slow. It was slower than an asthmatic slug. So slow that time started going backwards, and the theme from “Chariots of Fire” played whenever I walked down the street. You get the idea.
In fact, things became so dreadfully unrushed that my “savings” quickly turned into “spendings”, and I had to go and look for a “proper” job to supplement my rapidly dwindling income. I have to admit that the thought of doing that filled me with dread.
I hadn’t left the warm, comforting glow of my little studio for an eternity..how the hell was I going to survive?
It turns out that I needn’t have worried.
At the beginning of May I became an employee of Oban Distillery, and found myself working alongside proper, honest to goodness human beings for the first time in years….and it was great! I loved every minute of it, and the fact that my colleagues were such a pleasure to work with made the job so much easier, and more of a joy to do.
The second thing I’ve learnt during my career as a children’s book illustrator is that “Something always turns up”.
This sounds like I’m crediting an sudden influx of work on “fate” or some sort of “higher power”, but I’m not because I don’t believe in either. All I know is that, in my experience at least, if you wait long enough then commissions turn up like buses, and that’s exactly what happened after only two months in the Distillery.
A sudden rush of intense illustration work meant I had to scuttle back to my little studio, and wave a sad “Goodbye” to both my new found employment and the real world.
Balance had been restored to the force.
Thanks to the hard work of my two fantastic Agents (Kidshannon in the U.S.,and the wonderful Sylvie Poggio in the UK, who has represented me since the year dot), and not to mention a not too shabby amount of hard work from yours truly, I found myself swamped with work….and it felt great!
In the past few months I’ve done work for Magazines, Picture books, Educational Books, and things I can’t share with you on pain of death. Top Secret, and all that.
Here are a few of the pieces I’ve done.
The first three are for an American magazine called “Clubhouse JR”, who wanted bright, colourful images to go with some animal stories.
In June I started working on a series of books for Sourcebooks, in the U.S.
The first is going to be called “How to Catch a Leprechaun”. Here are a two rough ideas for the cover, as well as a full colour version of one of them.
In the end we went with a different design completely. Click here to see it *roll up, roll up, order your copy now 😉
Apart from these I’ve done work for a publisher of educational books, some pieces for a major toy manufacturer, and I’m about to start illustrating a piece of classic literature.
I don’t think I’ve ever been busier.
Which brings me to the third, and most important lesson that I’ve learnt
No matter how tough things get, no matter how desperate the situation might become, if you have the passion to create something artistic in your life and then pursue that passion as a career, then never, ever give up.