What I do
I make picture books for children. I try to work out the best way to tell a story using a balance of words and pictures. I work mainly from my studio in London, but seeing the world is important for generating ideas.
How I got my job
I studied to be a painter. Shortly after leaving art school, somehow, someone in New York saw some of my drawings and asked if I’d be interested in illustrating some children’s books – for actual money. I said yes!
What I love about my job
I love the total freedom it brings to live how (and where) you want. I love learning how to make a story engaging for the audience. I like bringing to life a new and different character and world with each book; one that a child will believe in. I love the events I do in schools and book festivals, all around the world. From here to China, to Mexico, to India or the US. Reading for children and drawing with them is thoroughly rewarding and very entertaining.
What is difficult about my job
Making a book is an emotional journey in itself. There are times of real self doubt when good ideas don’t emerge. Really, you just have to keep persisting [continue to try].
What skills I need
Drawing. Not at Leonardo da Vinci levels, but well enough to portray emotions and, for example, make a frog froglike – be it an enraged grumpy one, or a delighted joyful one.
You need to be curious about the world. To watch how it works and ask questions about it. My book Grumpy Frog came about by noticing pre-schoolers’ behaviour. They either LOVE something or absolutely WILL NOT tolerate it… and then need to throw a massive tantrum!
Where to start
Keep drawing, keep writing, read a lot and learn to really look at the world. Have adventures – they bring experiences that are useful for ideas.
You can study at university, which is good, but it’s not necessary. I didn’t study it. Many of the best people I know didn’t study it, but they all loved to draw, and through that learned to tell stories. And above all, they persisted!