The first idea for a book can come from watching children play, from the interaction between adult and child, from an overheard story or remembered experience, or just out of the blue.


I make initial drawings and notes anywhere - often away from home - in a city, a coffee shop, on a train or bus, or waiting in a concert hall for the music to begin. I have scores of small sketch books, and always carry one with me.




Here I have put sketches I did at the Bologna Children's Book Fair together, as a narrative.



Next, I draw rough pages and storyboards, where I usually work on the text and drawings together.

When I feel the whole thing works as a book, I make a mock-up of how I think it will look, and take it to a publisher.




Once it has been accepted for publication, and I have a contract, then I begin the next stage, which is to make more detailed drawings of the people and places in the book. I often get my family and friends to model for me as my characters, and draw rooms in their houses, and go out to sketch street scenes and landscapes.


Now I begin the final artwork. I draw each spread in pencil on thin paper, in detail, with much rubbing out. This is the foundation of the book. Next, I put each drawing on my light box, put good quality paper over the drawing, and work on it in pencil, ink, or watercolour. This is the only time I play music – it helps me to forget myself, to concentrate on making a free and fluid line, and to give life and energy to my characters. Finally, I can begin to use colour, and that is a pleasure.



This is my studio – a long, narrow
attic room with good light. I took this photo while I was working on
Azzi in Between, surrounded by photos and drawings, and my materials – felt tip pens, crayons, Dr PH Martin's Concentrated Water Colours, and my regular water colour boxes. Propped in front of my drawing board are sketches of the characters in the books, and reference photos, which are often cut out of newspapers. I need to refer to them often, in order to keep my characters consistent. When the artwork is complete, I take the drawings down, send the artwork off, and clear up the chaos in my studio. It will be at least a year before I see my characters again, in the newly printed book. By then I can look at them with a more objective eye, as I will have begun to work on my next project.