Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born in Yeoville, Somerset, England but brought up in the north of Scotland. I now live in Melbourne.Where did you go to school
Banff, in the north east of Scotland — north of Aberdeen.Did you have a nickname?
‘Kratatoa’ was used in early primary school. I had an explosive temper at the time, apparently.
What were you like in school?
I wasn’t very successful socially at primary school, and preferred to stay out of the action and read at my desk. I had some nice teachers who pretended not to notice this… High school was a much more social time and, hence, a bit of a blur.
What is the naughtiest thing you did?
Regularly sneaking out of school and going straight back to my parents’ empty house with my friend Susan, to eat garlic bread while watching horror movies. My mum must have wondered why the house smelled so.What was your favourite book growing up?
I used to read and re-read all the Enid Blyton school books — Mallory Towers, St Clare’s etc, — it was complete escapism as the nasty girls always got what they deserved.Who is your favourite children’s author?
Joan Aitken —
followed by Dianne Wynne Jones and Philip Pullman.What is your favourite colour?
I really love that soft grey-green of seaside grass — just as it’s about to rain.
Who inspired you to illustrate?
The talented and encouraging illustrators I’ve met over the past few years who have shown it’s possible to draw for a living and who all clearly LOVE what they do.How did you get started?
I’ve always drawn, and have been thinking up book concepts for years. So I gradually put more and more work on my website, then sent my folio up to a SCWIBI folio showcase. The book work has come from these sources, very recently.
How old were you?
Old. This old — as old as I am now. As old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth ... ok: 43.
Why did you want to be an illustrator?
Making art is just so enjoyable — and I love stories. When adults reminisce about favourite picture books and their eyes light up, I’m also reminded that it’s a worthwhile job - as well as fun.How do you think up ideas?
Maybe someone will say something, or my kids will do something funny, or I’ll notice something on my morning walk or cycle into town. And, if I think there could be a story in it, I’ll sketch it out and work it over in my head for a while. Sometimes I tell my idea to my family, who then make fun of it (my oldest son is particularly merciless); but this is, infact, surprisingly helpful. I also keep — sporadically — a visual diary and ideas can come from there too.Do you have a special place where you illustrate?
Yes! We moved house recently and I now have my own little room — stuffed full of books, paper, art materials, a scanner, laptop and a digital screen I can draw on. It’s heaven — or it would be if the coffee machine wasn’t still down the corridor, in the kitchen.
What is the best thing about being an illustrator?
I love taking a story and working out how to bring out the funny, poignant moments, sometimes adding characters, working out what viewpoints to use. I used to work as an Art Director in an agency and our Creative Director would say ‘push it — just that bit more’ — so that’s what I like, working out how to take something good and ‘push it’...Have you had any funny or embarrassing moment as an illustrator?
Not yet. I’m sure they’ll come — probably during a school visit.What do you do when you are not illustrating?
All the things I should have done when illustrating — starting with the neglected laundry.What would you have chosen to be if you were not an illustrator?
I’d love to do storyboarding for movies — though is this still illustrating...Which famous person from the past would you like to talk to?
I’d love to have a brainstorm with Joan Aitken. Failing that, an art lesson from Gustav Dore would go down well —
I might have to brush up my French first.Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?
I love spotting mushrooms and toadstools, and find them absolutely fascinating. I’m trying to work out how to wrangle a mushroom idea into a picture book — there’s loads of material at 100th Monkey Mushroom Farm