Our guest: Owen Davey is the freakishly talented, award-winning illustrator behind Laika: The Astronaut (Templar), Foxy’s Feast (Templar) and this month’s Mad About Monkeys (Flying Eye Books). He also plays guitar in the quite excellent band LOM.
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.
I’m honestly not sure. I remember Percy the Park Keeper, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Dear Zoo and Where the Wild Things Are. Not sure which of those came first. I don’t really have a good memory (at all, in fact).
2. WITH WHICH CHILDREN’S LITERATURE CHARACTER DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY?
It’s probably a bit of a cop out, but my main character in Knight Night. A lot of the things he imagines in the book is based on how my brother’s and I played when we were younger. We would imagine crocodiles in the carpet and jump from chair to chair to avoid touching the floor. Imagination was always a massive part of my childhood, and still is now. Other than that, maybe Mr. Bump. (I cracked my head open about 10 times as a kid.)
3. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR? ILLUSTRATOR?
My illustrative hero is Charley Harper. His work is always an inspiration for me. I love the ability he had to simplify complicated things into a series of shapes. He had such a unique way of looking at the world.
4. IF YOU WERE THROWING A KINDERLIT PARTY FOR FIVE GUESTS, WHO WOULD YOU INVITE?
Oh wow. Okay, so I’d probably go Maurice Sendak, Sanjay Patel, Jon Klassen, The Gruffalo and am I allowed Ron Weasley?
5. WHICH QUALITY DO YOU THINK IS MOST IMPORTANT IN GOOD CHILDREN’S LITERATURE?
Imagination. And, personally, I think it’s important not to dumb stuff down. I think its good to challenge kids in some way.
6. IF YOUR OWN WORK HAS A DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC, WHAT WHAT IS IT?
Hmmm. I suppose the sort of slightly retro inspiration behind it, that encompasses everything from colour palettes to the visual style.
7. IF YOU WERE TO DIE AND COME BACK AS A CHARACTER FROM CHILDREN’S LITERATURE, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BE?
8. IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND REDO ONE THING IN YOUR WORK, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Nothing really. They’re snapshots of my work at the time. I’m never going to completely love anything I do forever, so why torment myself. I accept my imperfections.
9. WHAT IS THE GREATEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
I’m sure there are plenty of amazing ones that have become engrained in me without me really registering it, but the only specific one I can think of was from my Art Teacher in college who told me that I should never use paint straight from the bottle. Although I don’t paint very much anymore, I appreciate the subtle differences between different off-blacks, off-whites and greys, all of which are quite characteristic in my work.
10. DESCRIBE YOUR WORK PROCESS.
I research stuff a lot and try to understand what I’m illustrating or writing about, whether that’s visually, historically or whatever. Then I do some thumbnail sketches exploring composition and concept. Then I scan them in and work digitally, playing around a lot with colour palettes and textures.
This is my studio space, but it is considerably more full of stuff than this now.
11. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CHILDREN’S BOOK AND WHY?
I really don’t know. Favourite things are hard to choose because it depends on your mood and the time in your life. I really like Ms. Rubinstein’s Beauty by Pep Monserrat. I love the visual style and the sentiment is both wonderfully accepting and I think quite romantic.
12. TELL US ABOUT A BOOK YOU LOVE THAT, FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER, HAS NOT FOUND A WIDER AUDIENCE.
I have no idea on this to be honest. Most of the books I like these days aren’t best sellers. I like the niche books that probably don’t appeal to everyone because of their specificity or approach, but absolutely nail it’s smaller target audience.