Our guest: Fred Blunt is a Swindon-based illustrator. After years of illustrating other people’s books (including Cow Takes A Bow, written by Russell Punter, Peter Bently’s The Knightmare series, and The Banana Bunch and The Magic Show, by Harriet Ziefert), his first book as author-illustrator –Captain Falsebeard in A Very Fishy Tale– comes out July 2 in the UK, from Penguin.
The Proust-Esque Questionnaire is based on a set of 36 standardized questions designed by Marcel Proust in the 1890’s to give an overview of the respondent’s personality. Our goals are less lofty, but hopefully will provide some insight into how your favorite authors and illustrators work and what they love.
One of my earliest memories is my mum reading Where the Wild Things Are to me. I can remember being totally immersed in this detailed world of hatched lines and subtle colour.
I also recall being quite scared of the creatures and really fascinated by the huge, sculptural feet of the bull headed one!
Even at that young age I knew that book was different and special. A masterpiece.
Gosh, I have no idea? I wish I was like many of the hero’s of my childhood books, but I can’t pretend to be much like any… Sometimes I feel like having a tantrum like Mo Willem’s pigeon (left), especially when drawing isn’t going well!
I suspect there are more elements of my personality in the characters I’m now starting to write myself.
3. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR? ILLUSTRATOR?
I was fortunate to be the perfect age for reading classics like The BFG and The Witches, when they first hit the shelves. There was a tremendous buzz around those books when I was a kid and I’m sure that lives on. The writing is so funny and original. There’s not a whiff of patronising the reader and no finger wagging lessons to be learnt.
I think I can honestly say that they remain amongst my favourite books even now. I re-read many of them when my daughter was first born – during those bleary eyed night feeds and I was still laughing aloud, like a cheeky school boy.
And of course Quentin Blake (left) has been a huge inspiration, ever since I first read those classics. His drawings are always full of such life and he can say so much in so few lines, which I believe is a very special skill. Children always relate to his drawing style too. Something about the slightly wild and seemingly spontaneous technique, speaks to the psyche of a child. (Hope that doesn’t sound too pretentious…)
I feel that I’m working in an exciting time for childrens’s books and many of my peers inspire me and depress me in equal measure with their amazing abilities.
Gabe Alborozo (right) was very kind to mention me in his list of favourite illustrators on his same Questionnaire, which was a great honour. I’m am a big fan of his work too. He has a special knack for writing stories that have a unique personality and heart all of their own; he weaves magical, timeless tales that touch the reader with a gentle humour and warmth. He’s also an amazing draughtsman, who, like many of my favorite artists, has a style which is like handwriting, unique and instantly recognisable.
So, right back at you, chief!
OK, I’m going to choose some of my favourite characters for this one…
Willy Wonka, who would certainly make proceedings rather colourful and unpredictable!
Babar, because it would be interesting to see how gentrified an elephant can really be.
Sam I Am, so he can annoy everyone with his green eggs and ham.
And finally, Mr Benn (right), so I can follow him out of a magic doorway back to normality, when it all kicks off.
5. WHICH QUALITY DO YOU THINK IS MOST IMPORTANT IN GOOD CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?
Personally, for me it is sheer escapism. I want a book to take me somewhere exciting, not just teach me a lesson.
6. IF YOUR OWN WORK HAS A DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC, WHAT WHAT IS IT?
I think humour is key to my work. I strive to make my work as funny as possible. That might be in an expression drawn or dialogue written. I’m always trying to ring out a chuckle somewhere.
Tarzan of the Apes. I mean, every boy wants to be Lord of the Jungle, right?
8. IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND REDO ONE THING IN YOUR WORK, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Everything! I think as an artist (of sorts) you are always striving to create something better than you’ve achieved before, so whenever work moves on you start to look at older work unfavourably. In saying that, I really wouldn’t want to re-do any of my old projects. I’d far rather look to new adventures…
9. WHAT IS THE GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
I think the best advice I ever got was from a Lecturer from my UWE days (a great illustrator of maps, David Atkinson) who noticed that I was trying too hard to do work that I thought was expected of me. He opened my sketch books and pointed to the loose uninhibited character drawings and made me realize that they were the real me. So basically, be yourself. Do work which pleases you, as far as you can!
10. DESCRIBE YOUR WORK PROCESS.
With writing I tend to storyboard first, then write dialogue bubbles and move onto the narrative last. This will be edited and refined several times until I can make it fit over 32 pages! With the art, I tend to draw in pencil first and then scan images into my Mac. Then I colour in Photoshop, overlaying scanned areas of painted colour / tone washes and pencil textures, until I feel the image balances. I have to say that I like the freedom the Mac allows me, but I do like my illustrations to look fairly natural in their finish.