A spread from Duck Sock Hop, illustrated by Jane Porter
When did you discover that you loved creating visual art? What kind of art did you do as a child?
I always loved drawing and painting and making things generally. I can remember painting dozens of tigers at playschool, and later I used to like making cartoons about our pet guinea pigs. I also made a series of concertina books for my sister - they were comedy guidebooks to our house, garden and neighbourhood generally.
What drew you to illustration and picture book illustration in particular?
I grew up loving picture books - particularly funny ones like Richard Scarry's. So the idea of helping to create one is a dream come true.
Can you describe your training as an illustrator?
I had a previous career as a magazine journalist/editor specialising in landscape architecture, horticulture and garden design. But later I felt a strong urge to do something more directly creative. I went and did an art foundation part-time at Wimbledon School of Art while still doing freelance writing, then went on to do a part-time MA in illustration at Kingston University.
How did you get your start working as an illustrator? How did you enter the children's book world?
After I finished the MA it was quite a while before I sent any work to publishers - I felt I needed to develop a little bit more, and at the time I was also doing a lot of art projects in schools which took a lot of time and energy. You can see some of them in the archive of my blog at http://www.maxwellandmyrtle.co.uk/whatsnew/ . But after exhibiting my work in two different shows at The Old Sweet Shop gallery and selling a lot of prints, I felt confident enough to send samples to publishers. I designed a concertina-fold flier, had some printed and did a big mail-out which resulted in getting an agent and a deal for two books with Hodder, as well as the chance to illustrate the wonderful Duck Sock Hop!
Alongside my picture book work I still do some work in schools which I enjoy very much, and I work with organisations such as the National Trust and Historic Royal Palaces producing family guides and trails - great fun and takes me back to those guidebooks I used to make for my sister all those years ago.
How did you develop your unique style?
There's an online interview in which I show some pages from a book which had a great influence on me as a child and still does - Modern Tales and Fables illustrated by the Czech illustrator Vaclav Sivko.
A spread from Modern Tales and Fables
I also like to watch animals and how they move, and fill books with drawings to help get a sense of that movement.
Here's Jane Porter's Video Interview
The opening sequence has some wonderful examples of her artwork
Can you talk a bit about how you develop characters?
I always have an ideas notebook on the go, and try to remember how the world seemed to me as a child. I also think back to when my own children were little, and what sort of things they did and said.
What is your favorite medium to work in?
I love using pen and ink in quite a loose way, and then layering it with unusual textures that I've photographed - anything from nested pastry cutters to an aerial view of Berlin. In Duck Sock Hop the sun is the gills of a mushroom. I keep a small camera with me all the time just in case I see something special.
I also love printmaking methods like monoprint, silkscreen and etching when I have time.
What is your studio like?
A bit messy! Here is a picture. I stick ongoing work on the wall and now there are lots of layers like an onion skin.
What would you do on your perfect day?
It would involve taking out a rowing boat for the day and having a picnic with my family, ideally on an island with a swim after lunch!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Being able to spend all day drawing and making things, and calling it work. I also really like doing projects with children and find their ideas inspiring.
We were also interviewed together on the blog Literary Friendships, where you can hear about what we thought when we first encountered each other's work, why socks are the clothing equivalent of ducks, what our favorite books as children were, and see photos of our matching kitties.