My (writing) process

A while ago I was asked by Sean of the Brothers Hilts if I wanted to join in a blog tour that’s going around, which you may have seen here and there.
The idea being that we answer some questions about our process and then pass the baton on to two other people.
So here goes!

1. What am I currently working on?
At the moment I’m illustrating a picture book for Schwartz & Wade. It’s been quite fun so far, although I am making things rather difficult for myself by painting the whole thing in separate little elements, which I’m putting together and colouring in photoshop.
This is what that looks like on paper.


And eventually it starts to look like this.


I’m also still working on the jacket for the last book I illustrated. I can’t show you much of it, but here’s a detail.


And when I have some time left over I’m trying to work on a picture book project of my own.
That looks sort of like this.


2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

That’s a somewhat hard question to answer; the spectator sees more of the game than the player, and so on.
But if I were to give it a try, I would say my work possibly stands out as being rather mid-atlantic, by which I mean: it falls somewhere in between American and European styles.
In so far as I’ve heard comments back home that my stuff looks quite American. And conversely in the US my work has been considered European. A term that usually means not commercial.
Apart from that I think my work might differ by generally being different from what I’ve done before. But perhaps that’s more my experience making it, than that of viewers.

3. Why do I write what I write?

I can’t help feeling like a dilettante answering that question, as though I have any authority or knowledge of writing. While I have written things, I’ve not been paid for it, so talking about something that would constitute ‘my writing’ feels laughably pretentious.
All qualifiers aside though, I write generally because I want to articulate certain moods, ideas and settings. That’s rather vague, so here’s an example. The story I’m currently working on came out of missing friends back home, visits to the Oregon coast and a childhood vacation to Finland. Something about those things just sort of stuck together in my brain and lead to some sketches. Which gave me an idea for a story,
so I started sketching more.

I feel I’ve wandered into the fourth question.

4. How does my individual writing/illustrating process work?

I suppose this is the same for everyone, but it starts with sketches, completely unintelligible thumbnails to be precise. I like to cut those out so I can shuffle stuff around, swap out different sketches and get a good view of the book as a whole.
Like so.

Then I move on to actual sketches, where you can tell what’s going on.


That’s when you usually get a lot of feedback from your editor and designer, so you do another round of sketches. I like to think of that second round as a practice run for the final illustrations. I generally have a pretty good idea of what I want those to look like, but I don’t always know how to achieve that. So the sketches can be helpful is figuring out the right techniques.
The thing I’m after with the final illustrations is getting the mood just right. That often means that I switch up the way I work, trying out different things with pencils, inks, paints and photoshop to get the desired look and feel. And not unimportantly, seeing if I can’t speed up the whole process as well.
The tricky part though is bridging the abyss between what I actually make and that ideal in my head. Probably that’s not actually possible and the most creatively rewarding thing to do is to just embrace the abyss.

So, who’s next?
I asked Emily Hughes, who made my favourite picture book of last year: Wild.
And Phoebe Wahl, who makes pictures I want to live in.

Anonymous asked:

Why did you only have yourself to blame?

Because I was lazy and insecure. I didn’t do enough promotional work to get my stuff seen by people who could pay for my work and I was an ass who didn’t get himself a shitty day job until I was super broke.
So learn from my mistakes kids; sometimes you have to do stuff that you don’t like.

Also from 2005.
What was I even thinking?

It’s hot in my apartment, maybe looking at the book I illustrated over the winter will help.


In Iceland they light bonfires to celebrate the summer solstice. I sat in a car for 11 hours and had mediocre sushi, before taking a bath.
The picture goes with this other piece:


In Iceland they light bonfires to celebrate the summer solstice. I sat in a car for 11 hours and had mediocre sushi, before taking a bath.
The picture goes with this other piece: