Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in England and spent my first few years hopping between Reading, London and Bath. After graduating with a degree in Illustration I took one massive leap over to Australia and have been enjoying the sunshine ever since…
When I was small I used to spend hours sat on the studio floor of family friend and illustrator, Jan Lewis. I made hundreds of little books complete with blurbs and bio. When I was about twelve, Jan offered to send one of my books to her publisher for review. They responded with such a kind and encouraging letter that my mind was made up – I was going to be a children’s book illustrator. Then, now and always (hopefully!)
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That everything needed to be done yesterday. I used to get myself in quite a pickle worrying about anything and everything. Now I try to take deep breaths and count to ten…
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as an illustrator?
The top three spots would definitely be picture books but I feel terrible picking favourites! So how about a lucky dip from my bookshelves in no particular order…
5. Considering the innumerable avenues open to visual artists, why did you choose to illustrate books?
There are so many exciting things to explore within the world of children’s books that once I took a stroll down this path, it was hard to turn back…
Oh that would be Ted. It’s my first solo picture book about an unassuming dog called Ted who has spend far too long in a pet shop. The adventures begin as Ted tries to discover where he belongs. But his perfect ending isn’t quite what he was expecting with a surprise twist in the tail… Ooops, I meant tale.
FROM THE PUBLISHER
A story about finding your perfect place. Ted is a smart dog, with his own jumper. But he has lived at the pet store for as long as he can remember and nobody seems to notice him. Will Ted ever find the perfect place to live?
7. What do you hope people take away with them after viewing your work?
I think it’s fantastic how many different undertones people find within picture books. But if everyone found one thing that made them smile within my stories or illustrations, I’d be super happy.
Shaun Tan is 100% incredible but there are so many people doing exciting things with books, illustration, design, food, textiles – the list goes on! For me, it all adds up to one big bubble of inspiration.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Too true… Not only do I set myself ambitious goals but I also like to move the goal posts just to keep things interesting… Perhaps it’s time to just enjoy the moment? Easier said than done…
10. What advice do you give aspiring illustrators?
Don’t wait until you think everything is perfect in your portfolio before approaching publishers – you will always be your own worst critic!
Leila, thank you for playing.
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.