David Lucas

David Lucas describes his drawing as ‘knitting with ink’ and his stories are a mix of myth, fairytale and autobiography. Previously published by Candlewick Press and Andersen Press his books include Halibut Jackson, The Robot and the Bluebird and The Lying Carpet, a richly illustrated fable for older readers. A Letter for Bear is his first book with Flying Eye.

What inspires your work?

I like making patterns – story patterns, and visual patterns. Visually, I’m inspired by folk art, outsider art and medieval art: pattern-making as a ritual – a magical diagram of the interconnectedness of everything. The patterns of folk art are the same all over the world – and the mindset of the folk artist is recognisably the same in every culture – it’s all about privileging the group and tradition over the individual – about celebrating what unites rather than divides, about making things beautiful rather than adding to ugliness. It’s optimistic, carefully structured and pretty – and not ego-driven.

Tell us a bit about your process….

I am fascinated by where stories come from – they sometimes seem to pop out of nowhere, but then I realise that they’re full of coded autobiography. I develop words and pictures together. Poetry, whether visual or verbal, depends on double meanings – on things being real and symbolic at the same time; too much realism and the whole thing loses sparkle and sinks into dreary literalism; too abstract and it lacks emotion, and feels too much like a formal exercise.

It’s always a struggle to find a balance. The key, I suppose, is finding symbols that seem to live and breathe. In the end, as everyone says, it’s quite mysterious.

I draw with a dip pen and Indian ink, and paint in watercolour. A Letter for Bear was painted in grey watercolour, with colour added on the computer – the first time I’ve used that technique for a book.