The award-winning artist talks pirates, picture books and Potter
What does it take to make a living in children’s books?
You have to be open to a diverse range of clients. Most illustrators work in book publishing, educational publishing, magazines, advertising and sometimes games, film or television. Many also do school workshops, library visits, book festivals, lecturing and other public speaking about their work.
What’s the most surprising part of the industry?
When my first book, The Pirate Cruncher, was published, the biggest shock for me was having to read my book to children. All authors do it, and the first time you have to stand up in front of a couple of hundred children and read your book – in a silly pirate voice – is frankly terrifying.
How daunting was it to paint the new Harry Potter covers?
Very. I originally tried to turn it down: I’d never read the books and had only seen the first film, so felt like I was poorly qualified to create the artwork. In the end this helped, because I had few preconceptions of how things should look, and the resulting art was therefore a very personal response to the texts.
How did the creative process compare to usual?
I visualised the Harry Potter universe as I read the books, with some tweaking based on feedback from Bloomsbury and JK Rowling. The process was the same as any other illustration job, but there were a lot more words to read beforehand and a massive fanbase, with huge expectations. I was given a choice of a couple of scenes for each book, apart from the first cover, which was a ‘test’ with a specific brief.
Jonny’s working on another pirate themed book and is also planning a Vikings-based saga for children. www.jonny-duddle.com