Thursday, 3 October 2013

Interview with Marijke van Velhoven

Earlier this year I was asked to write a couple of funny stories for Oxford University Press for their Oxford Reading Tree - Treetops Chucklers, series. It was lots of fun writing the stories and it's been great seeing them being brought to life by the wonderful Dutch illustrator Marijke van Veldhoven, that the publisher chose to illustrate them.

When I visit schools and talk about the illustrations, children and adults are often surprised to hear that I don't choose the illustrator and I don't tell the illustrator what to do... In fact, most of the time, authors and illustrators don't actually talk very much about the book that is being created between them. Children ask me lots of questions about the illustrators but I can't always answer them... luckily, Marijke was happy to help with this and here she answers a lot of the questions that children have been asking me...

What is the best thing about being an illustrator?

The very best thing about being an illustrator is; doing what I love as a living. I have been drawing everything and on everything since I was little (it drove teachers crazy) and it was wonderful to make it to an art school. For the first time I could do art full time! After that I worked hard to make a living with my illustrations and I've been doing that ever since. It's great to create something for others to enjoy. And I like making jokes in pictures too (I do that with stand-up cartooning too, making funny cartoons during a meeting or training session).

How long would it take you to do all of the pictures for a book (like the Sock Eater and Nelly’s Nest) ?

All the pictures in a book! It can different for each book. But for 'The Sock Eater and Nelly's Nest' it took me 4 weeks for the sketches and 6 weeks for the colour art work. On a big picture book I would work for months!

Is it hard thinking of how people or creatures will look?
Sometimes it is hard to get them just right. With a little cheek, or very strict or just very lovable. And sometimes I get it right immediately. I have a special sketching strategy to design the characters.

Do you have to do lots of rough sketches of characters before you are happy with them?

Yes I do, most of the time. The characters always need fixing before they are right. And of course they need to look good from every angle.

What is the hardest thing to draw?

For me, the hardest things to draw are cars.

What are your favourite things to draw?

I love to draw people and animals.

What do you not like to draw?
Cars (no surprise there)

Do you use computers to help with your drawing?

The drawing is done by hand. Colouring I do by hand and with photoshop (or combined).

What do you like to draw and colour with? (Paint, pastels, pencils, chalk...)

Sketching with a good old pencil. I use pen and ink a lot. For colouring I use gouache and some water colours. 

Were you really good at drawing when you were at school?

Yes, I had some talent and I practiced a LOT.

Apart from yourself, who is your favourite illustrator?

I love several illustrators: The Tjong Khing, Annemarie van Haeringen, Quentin Blake, David Roberts, Peter van Straaten, Maaike Hartjes and many more.

How many books have you illustrated?

I've illustrated about 25 books.

And finally the answers to those questions that everyone gets asked...
Favourite food: a good lasagne.
Favourite animal: cat.
Favourite colour: green.

A big thank you to everyone that gave me questions to ask Marijke - and a special thank you to Marijke herself for taking the time to answer them... As soon as I see finished pictures (and the finished book itself, I will let you see it here.) You can see more of Marijke's work by visiting her website... the writing is in Dutch of course so you might have some difficulty reading the text but there are lots of pictures and video clips to look at...

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