Children's Literature Interest Group: Interview with Korky Paul

Korky PaulKorky Paul (real name Hamish Vigne Christie Paul; born 1951) is a British illustrator of children's books. He was born in Zimbabwe,
studied and worked in South Africa, but now lives in Oxford, England.  His work, characteristically executed with bright watercolour paint and pen and ink, is recognisable by an anarchic yet detailed style and for its "wild characterisation".

What stages (technical) do you go through when creating illustrations?

Reading through the manuscript several times.  
Make quick scribbles and notes of first ideas.
Research any photographic (only) images I may need to draw either main characters or environment.
Prepare thumbnail sketches regarding the layout and design of the pages.
Draw a thumbnail sketch of first double page spread
Work that up into a 'pencil' rough to size of the first double page spread
Ink in first spread, improving on the drawing, adding some colour if necessary.
Transfer the finished rough with the aid of a light box on to watercolour paper by lightly pencilling in the key outlines, again improving on both the drawing and layout/design of the spread.
I remove the paper from the light box, place it on my drawing bench and ink in the line work and apply the final colour washes with water colour.

Which comes first - the writing or the pictures?

The writing or the finished manuscript. But I am a great advocate of the illustrator deciding on the page breakdown in to the standard twelve (12) spreads.

Who chooses the illustration for the cover jacket and what factors help decide the choice?
Lots of people are involved in 'Choosing the illustration for the cover'.
Illustrator, art director, editor, author, rights staff and sales staff.
The cover is the last illustration I do.
A brief is worked out with the editor, the art director and author.
I illustrate a pencil rough based on an illustration from one of the inside illustrations.
The cover illustration should show clearly the main character against the environment the story takes place in.
The cover should be a shorthand, a brief synopsis of the story without giving too much away.
Sometimes I hit it first time, sometimes I do NOT.
The latest Winnie, 'Winnie's Pirate Adventure' took seven (7) roughs!  But we got there in the end and the cover looks great.

What kinds of materials do you work with?

 I use Saunderson's Waterford Cold Press watercolour paper (90gsm).
 Schminke watercolours.
 Pebeo Technics watercolour ink (waterproof).
 Rowney's Khandahar black Indian Ink.

Do you use the computer to generate some illustrations?

No I do not as I love the tactile quality of drawing and the mess you make. But I am planning to teach myself to use the amazing software called Painter 12.

If not, do you think there is a role for digital pictures?

It is not a case of 'is there a role for digital pictures'. It is here already. I heard from a major publisher that 75% of the art work for picture books is done digitally. I do not have a problem with that at all.

What kind of research do you carry out?

Yes definitely and this is where the internet is such an aid. I use only photographic reference material.
When I was illustrating Winnie in Space I used the NASA website which was brilliant.

From where do you get your inspiration for facial expression, attitude and gesture?

From life! I also trained as an animator and use the old animators' trick of using a hand mirror.


What are your favourite subjects for illustration?

I have no favourite. If the story inspires me then I draw it.

Did you always want to be an illustrator?

Always loved drawing from when I was small but only on graduating from Durban Art School Fine Arts degree and working in large advertising agencies did I realise there was work out there as a 'freelancer'.

Are there some things that you would hesitate to picture for young readers?

Porn, violence and anything racist.

What sort of feedback do you get from young readers about your pictures?

My readers/fans love the humour and absurdities as well as the details and stories within stories told with pictures not necessarily in the manuscript but inspired by it.
I am also known for making mistakes in the pictures and children look for them.

Do parents and teachers comment too?

Same response from adults.

Which is your favourite of all the Winnie the Witch books?

Winnie in Space - I have always loved space and this gave me an opportunity to illustrate planets, deep space and best of all Winnie's madcap rocket ships.

Do you have a favourite illustrator or a favourite illustrated book? Please tell us why you liked it.

Straw Peter, Struwwel Pieter or Shock haired Peter by Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann. The often shocking and scary stories with a strong moral always appealed to me. But as an illustrator or a boy who loved drawing it was the unusual characters and unique style of drawing that caught my eye. The layout and design of the pages, a precursor of comic book layout also fascinated me.

What advice would you give to children who would like to illustrate books?

Draw anything and everything from life, from memory and from your imagination.
But more importantly draw every day.

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