It’s September, and you know what that means… Pumpkin Spice Latte season! And also… Maryland’s very own Small Press Expo 🙌 SPX is now less than two weeks away, and boy have we got a stellar line up for you all this year.
SPX is one of our absolute favorite US shows and joining us this year are the acclaimed author-illustrators of Skip and In Waves, Molly Mendoza and AJ Dungo!
Nobrow will have a booth at tables W76-78—if you’ve been to SPX before it’s our usual haunt, the same location in the ballroom where we were the last couple of years.
On Saturday at 1:30pm Molly will be on the Blurring the Visual Lines in Fantasy Fiction panel in the White Flint Auditorium, where she’ll be in discussion with fellow Nobrow illustrator Anne Simon (Marx, Freud & Einstein: Heroes of the Mind), along with Yann Kebbi, Rune Ryberg, Ida Rørholm Davidsen, and moderator Alex Hoffman. Molly will also be signing at the Nobrow booth Saturday 3 to 5pm and Sunday 2 to 4pm!
On Sunday AJ is taking part in the Depicting Motion in Sports Comics panel at 4:30pm in the White Oak Room (not to be confused with the White Flint Auditorium… we know it’s confusing), where he’ll be talking sports with José Quintinar, Rob Ullman, and Ellen Lindner, moderated by SPX Executive Director Warren Bernard. AJ will also be signing at the Nobrow booth from 12 to 2pm Saturday and Sunday.
BUT WAIT! That’s not all! On top of our full line of books we’ll be selling at SPX, we’re pleased to be debuting four new titles at the festival this year:
In particular Kai and the Monkey King is a very exclusive opportunity for SPX-goers only, as its general US release date isn’t until the 22nd October 👀
If you’ve never been to Small Press Expo it’s the biggest indie comics festival in the United States, and is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. We’ll be road tripping down to the show from our New York office, so keep an eye out on our social media channels for some juicy behind-the-scenes Nobrow content
So, see you in a couple weeks?
SPX takes place September 14thto 15that the Marriott North Bethesda Conference Center in Bethesda, Maryland
Released earlier this year to widespread acclaim, In Waves by AJ Dungo is a rare work of non-fiction that is as moving as it is fascinating. A dual narrative, AJ weaves together a history of the great heroes of surfing with the deeply personal story of his relationship with his late partner Kristen, and her prolonged battle with cancer.
We sat down and talked to AJ about the years he spent working on In Waves, and to get an insight into his working process.
How did you first decide you wanted to become an illustrator?
When I was in community college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was just taking general courses. The only class I was taking that I really enjoyed was a printmaking class. During this time I stumbled across a book on illustrators that Juxtapoz published. I was just so enamored. I learned that it was a broad genre that covered all of the kinds of images that I really gravitated to.
The artist that really stood out to me from that book was James Jean. I started collecting his books and just fell deeper into this new genre I never knew had a name. His book of Fables covers was a revelation. It was so revelatory to me because he included process shots alongside finished pieces. My mind was blown that these intricate images started as scribbles. I dove deeper into his catalog and saw all the work he had for all kinds of clients. Because of him, I started to read more about illustration as a profession, and that’s when I decided that I wanted to become an illustrator.
In Waves is incredibly visually distinct, with the beautiful limited colour palette and the switch between the browns and oranges of the history of surfing, and the greens and blues of the autobiographical sections. At what point did you decide to format the book this way, both with the colour palettes and merged narratives?
Thank you for the kind words. The merged narrative had been an aspect of the book since it’s inception. It was the prompt that Sam, the CEO of Nobrow, gave me when we started this project together. On a study abroad trip with my school, I presented Nobrow with a project about surfing. When Sam approached me to make a book together, he referenced my surfing project and wanted to make a book about the history of surfing. Eventually he wanted a story with a more personal connection. So I told him about Kristen and how she introduced me to the sport.
That’s when he suggested I try and merge the two; the history of surfing alongside my personal history with surfing. A request that I thought was ridiculous at first because it seemed impossible but one that I’m so grateful for today.
In regards to the color, I had always known the book would be a limited palette due to the tight deadline. It was the practical choice since I had so little time to work on the book. Sam later insisted I add another color, some sort of spot color. That’s when I decided to use the color as a system of placing the reader in a certain narrative. This choice both fulfilled Sam’s request and added a layer of subtle organization to the storytelling.
How much does the final version of In Waves differ from your initial idea?
Not much. The only thing that I wanted that changed was the beginning of the book. In my mind I knew how the story would start and how the story would end and that was with the chapters “the kiss” and with “bushwick request.” I thought it was a powerful way to drop the reader into the thick of the story without much explanation. But a fantastic editor at Nobrow, Ayoola, suggested swapping the beginning out with the chapter that opens the story now, “last summer.” It made more sense, it brought all the elements of the book to the reader in a subtle way; Kristen, her illness, and our connection to surfing. In the end, I think it worked out for the best. Thanks Ayoola!
This book is clearly a complete labour of love, was it difficult to work on such personal subject matter so intensely?
When Sam asked me to make a book with him and Nobrow, it had only been 3 or four months since Kristen had passed away. It was very intense. I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think the timing was right. I had just started a full time job, I was doing freelance illustration on the side, and now I had to tell Kristen’s life story and the history of surfing within a few years. It was a Herculean task. Not only was it difficult emotionally but I think logistically it was pretty hard. I would work from 9 to 5 then stay at the office until 10 or 11 pm working on the book. My commute was over an hour long and there were many nights I fell asleep on the ride home. Also every weekend was spent working on the book. I became notorious for cancelling plans and being absent from events because I had to work on this book that meant so much to me. As hard as it was, it was worth it. It was a unique way for me to process my grief, I think the self induced isolation was good. This project allowed me to immortalize my best friend.
All of Kristen’s family and friends have clearly been amazingly supportive about the book’s publication, were they very involved in the making of the book?
Yes, they are incredible and I consider them my own family. Initially, they weren’t involved. I was so secretive about the whole project the entire time I was making it. I never showed anyone anything, it was important to me that everyone read the book in it’s finished state to absorb the story in its entirety, which I think is the only way it makes sense. After submitting a draft to Sam, he thought the chapter where I met Kristen for the first time was too clichè and would benefit from an outsider’s perspective. Which I thought was weird because it was exactly as I recalled. I had wanted to include Kristen’s family in some way and this was the perfect opportunity.
With a voice recorder ready, I interviewed Kristen’s mom, brother, and cousin. It was during the interview of Kristen’s cousin that his wife recounted a story that Kristen had shared with her. It was about how I met Kristen and it was told in a way that I had completely forgotten about. It was much less cliché and much more humiliating haha. I must have buried that one deep in my subconscious. It was so great having their input because it gave the story more depth and dimension. I love that their voices are a part of Kristen’s story because I’m just one aspect of her life. To have them included gives the reader insight into the depth of the love Kristen’s family had for her.
Are there any artists or illustrators who have influenced you and your work the most?
This question is always so hard to answer. There were artists that I had in heavy rotation during the writing of the book. Adrian Tomine, Jillian Tamaki, Craig Thompson, David Mazzucchelli, Connor Willumsen, Sam Alden, Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Olivier Schrauwen, Alison Bechdel, Katsuhiro Otomo, Yoshihiro Tatsumi. The author William Finnegan’s book “Barbarian Days” was a huge inspiration, he writes about surfing in such an intimate and transcendent way.
Are you working on any other long-term projects at the moment, or do you have anything in mind for the future?
Right now I’m just doing freelance illustration and weirdly enough I’m working part time assisting James Jean. In terms of long term projects, I’d love to make another book but I think I need to live a little before I start another one. It’s definitely always in the back of my mind though.
And very importantly, do you still get the chance to surf much?
I try to get out as often as I can. If anyone wants to paddle, hit me up!
AJ is based in Los Angeles, and In Waves is his debut graphic novel.
Copies are available from our site, or in your local best bookshop. American customers can also purchase In Waves from the Penguin Random House site.
We’ve got a bunch of Flying Eye titles available at your local library ready to be read as part of the challenge, from Professor Astro Cat to The Secret of Black Rock.
If you’ve not heard of it before, the Summer Reading Challenge takes place every year during the summer holidays. You can sign up at your local library, then read six library books of your choice to complete it.
And best thing is, it’s completely free!
To see if your local library is taking part head over to the SRC website here
We’re also giving away some special books to those who take part, just take a photo of a Flying Eye book one of your family have read as part of the challenge in your local library, and tag @FlyingEyeBooks on Twitter or Instagram.
And whether you’re a librarian, a care-giver, or a parent looking for some extra activities for your kids this summer, we’ve got you covered. As part of the programme we’re giving away these free Space Chase themed work and colouring in sheets, which you can see below
(For the large versions just email [email protected] with Summer Reading Challenge in the title)
I’m sure we can all agree that the artwork for Ancient Wonders, our latest non-fiction Flying Eye title about the mysteries and marvels of the Ancient World, is absolutely stunning.
Fully illustrated throughout by Avalon Nuovo, you can feel the awe-inspiring nature of everything from the Pyramids of Giza to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon emanating through the pages. The depth and sense of scale that Avalon creates in her illustrations is incredibly impressive – bringing a monument to life that hasn’t actually been seen for thousands of years is no small feat!
To celebrate the publication of Ancient Wonders we decided to dig a little bit deeper into Avalon’s working process, and she let us in on some of the secrets behind how she puts together her illustrations.
Avalon was also generous enough to send us some of her work-in-progress videos, which document her entire drawing process. See below for a time-lapse of one of her double page spreads coming to life!
So how do you begin your illustrations, do you use one program for every element?
For the roughs, I always work in Photoshop on a big Cintiq monitor. The roughs of each page are really more about design than they are about drawing, so I’ve found it really important to do the roughs on a large screen, where I can view each spread at the same size as the printed book while I’m drawing. If I don’t, I often make something that looks nice at half-size, but when it’s enlarged to actual size, it might look totally awkward!
I tend to make the rough illustrations really, really detailed— they’re in black and white, but I basically paint in all of the darks and lights and make it look pretty finished. Sometimes it feels like a lot of work for something that really only a handful of people will see, but it’s so helpful to to be super clear when showing the designer/editor what exactly what it’s going to look like, so that we can do all the decision-making before the final illustration.
It’s also a lot more enjoyable for me to make all those decisions in the sketches, so that when I do the final illustrations, I get to sit back and let my mind wander and just enjoy the drawing (and some music/podcasts/netflix to keep me company!)
And what do you do when it’s time to move on from the roughs?
Once they’re all approved, I turn the photoshop files into flat JPEGs and send them to my iPad. I use Procreate on my iPad Pro to make the final illustrations, and as you can see from the time-lapse videos, I basically use the rough sketch as an underlay.
I usually draw over all the linework first with the sketch at low opacity underneath. After that, I keep the sketch layer turned off while I fill in the color, but I continue to use it as reference for all the lighting and darks/lights that I’ve already figured out in the rough sketch. I send it back to my computer when I’m done, change the document from RGB color mode to CMYK (Procreate only support sRGB at the moment— hopefully that changes soon!), and it’s done!
What makes you prefer using an iPad over a computer?
I could definitely do the final artwork on my computer, but using my iPad really just became a habit because— aside from the fact that I LOVE the workflow in Procreate— I had to do a fair bit of traveling for Christmas holidays and other jobs while I was working on Ancient Wonders, and working on my iPad meant that I could be working on final illustrations pretty much anywhere.
That’s made for some really nice memories associated with the book, personally— when I look at the Hanging Gardens of Babylon spread, I remember working on it while watching an (American) football game with my family in northern California while visiting for Christmas, and when I look at the Inspiration: Artemis spread, I remember making it while on a trip to Finland to meet my partner’s family for the first time!
And what about the analogue vs. digital debate, are you firmly a digital person?
I actually really love working with analogue media— I’m a really dedicated sketchbook keeper and when I’m making illustrations just for fun, I still find it most satisfying to use ink, gouache and colored pencils.
I have two desks in my home studio— one with my monitor/computer, and one that has a tilting top for good old-fashioned drawing. I haven’t used it a lot these days though— ultimately I’ve realized that because my work is so detailed, it’s more realistic to work digitally for my professional work.
As a result, I haven’t used traditional materials much lately— nowadays my drawing desk is where my partner sits so that we can keep each other company while we both work late into the night (or, now that my partner has finished their thesis, so that we can still hang out while I work and they play Skyrim!)
Invented by Luke Pearson, beloved by us, Hilda follows the adventures of a fearless blue-haired girl as she travels from her home in a vast magical wilderness full of elves and giants, to a bustling city packed with new friends and mysterious creatures
And whether you’ve been following the Netflix series or not, you can follow along with Hilda’s adventures in our illustrated fiction series!
These tie-in titles expand on Hilda’s adventure’s in the show’s first series, giving you a new insight into both Hilda’s world and her own thoughts and feelings
This makes the books perfect for either a lover of the animated series, or someone only just setting out on their first Hilda adventure
Each book is beautifully illustrated by Seaerra Miller, who captures all the citizens of Trollberg perfectly
And if you didn’t already know, Hilda actually first began as a graphic novel way back when we published Luke Pearson’s Hilda and the Troll! Have a look at a page below and you can see how far Luke Pearson’s drawing style has changed
Since Hilda and the Troll we’ve published four more graphic novels following her journey:
Zines, comics, sun, beer – this years ELCAF had it all!
It’s coming up to a month since the end of East London’s greatest (at least in our opinion) annual comics and illustration fair, so we thought we’d do a little recap
A huge huge thank you to everyone who came and braved the weekend crowds for some illustrated goodness, the fest was one of the busiest it’s ever been
Whilst there’s almost too much to mention, we’ve picked out a couple of highlights to show you below…
The festival’s artist in residence, Jon McNaught, was selling some of his beautiful prints all weekend, whilst also signing copies of Kingdom. Jon also did a sold-out talk on the process of creating Kingdom, branching out to speak more generally about printmaking, poetry, and the use of comics to explore distant memories and the passing of time
Tom Haugomat’s stencil workshop created some amazing works of printed art – all with only the use of simple stamp ink pads! You could also find Tom at our own Nobrow stall, signing copies of the wonderful Through A Life
We also loved taking part in Carles Porta’s Silly Ballet workshop, creating dancing stop motion works of art
David Biskup was the winner of 2019’s ELCAF x WeTransfer Award, where he won funding to complete his book There’s Only One Place This Road Ever Ends Up. We can’t wait to see what David gets up to over the next year- make sure to come to ELCAF 2020 to see the results!
Here’s a few more photos of the fest to keep you busy, and we hope to see you all again next year!
We have the pleasure to announce ourselves as a supporter of Pathways, an exciting new initiative for diverse, ambitious and talented artists who believe they can be the next generation of children’s illustrators.
Pathways is exclusively for those from ethnic minority and disadvantaged backgrounds and is open to both those with no formal illustration training, and well as to undergraduates, graduates and postgraduates.
The programme is a two year course, during which you will be taught by tutors from BA and MA illustration courses from ten affiliated Universities. A wide range of world-renowned illustrators, editors, art directors and designers will also be taking part as mentors – that includes some of us here at Nobrow & Flying Eye! Members from our very own editorial and marketing teams will be working with Pathways to help you get the very best start in the world of publishing.
Check out their website for further details, and don’t forget – applications close September 2nd!
It’s our favourite time of year again here at Nobrow and Flying Eye – ELCAF 2019 is upon us!
Celebrating the very best in illustration and comics the East London Comics & Arts Festival is now in its 8thyear, and this year’s programme is bursting with talks, workshops, screenings and masterclasses.
The festival takes place at the Round Chapel in London, and will be open 12 to 7pm Friday 7th, Saturday 8th, and Sunday 9thJune (head on over to the ELCAF website for further details).
Take a look at our pick below to see when and where you can catch the best of the weekend…
Francesca Sanna of The Journey fame joins Rui Tenreiro, Samandal, and Warren Bernard for this panel talk about what role comics and illustration have to play in the 21stcentury. Head over for what will no doubt be a fascinating discussion on how powerful a tool illustration truly can be.
Finally, an opportunity to achieve your lifelong dream of taking part in a cardboard paper puppet ballet! Illustrator, animator and graphic designer Carles Porta will be heading this workshop, teaching you how to bring your dancer to life through stop motion animation.
Francesca Sanna will take you behind the scenes of her latest picture book Me and My Fear, which is a heart-warming tale about sharing and overcoming the things that scare you the most. As well as talking about her illustrative process Francesca will be talking about the months that she spent working with a research group from Birkbeck University, and how their work influenced both the story and design of the book.
Come along to hear some insights into AJ Dungo’s In Waves, his debut graphic novel that covers the topics of love, loss, and the solace of surfing. As well as covering the book’s life from concept to creation, AJ will also be talking about the role of comics have to play in escapism.
ELCAF 2019’s artist-in-residence Jon McNaught joins us for this very special talk, which has Jon talking in depth about Kingdom, his latest comic. An illustrator with an approach and aesthetic like no other, Jon will also be talking about printmaking, poetry, and the use of comics to explore distance memories and the passing of time.
All talks come free with an ELCAF all access ticket
TCAF is just around the corner and this is going to be the biggest year yet for Nobrow! Come out on Saturday, May 11th and Sunday, May 12th to check out the latest Nobrow titles and join in on the fun! The Nobrow team will be at tables 133 and 134, so be sure to drop by and meet some of our incredible artists: AJ Dungo (In Waves – preorder here), Molly Mendoza (Skip –preorder here), and Jérémie Royer (Darwin: An Exceptional Voyageand Audubon, On the Wings of the World) and TCAF Special Guest Lorena Alvarez (Hicotea and Nightlights)!
TCAF will also be the first place you can get your hands on two exciting debut graphic novels from some new stars in the comics scene!
First up is In Waves, AJ Dungo’s deeply personal and inspiring graphic memoir about love, loss, and the legends of surfing who rode the waves from cultural tradition to global phenomenon. Be sure to come by for advance copies, stickers, and limited edition bookplates while supplies last!
We’ll also be debuting Molly Mendoza’s Skip, a fantastical and colorful sci-fi teen adventure unlike anything you’ve ever seen! Molly’s a talented up-and-comer, and we can’t wait for you to see what she’s done with her stunning and inventive debut graphic novel!
Check out the schedule below for all the signings and panels featuring our Nobrow artists!
Saturday, May 11
Signings (Tables 133-134) 11am to 12pm – Molly Mendoza 12:30pm to 1:30pm – Jérémie Royer 2pm to 3pm – AJ Dungo 4pm to 5pm – Lorena Alvarez
Panels 11am to 12pm – Spotlight: France (with Jérémie Royer) at Forest Hill Ballroom 2:30pm to 3:30pm – Spotlight: Imaginary Worlds (with Lorena Alvarez) at Beeton Auditorium
Sunday, May 12
Signings (Tables 133-134) 11am to 12pm – Lorena Alvarez 12:15pm to 1:15pm – Molly Mendoza 1:30pm to 2:30pm – AJ Dungo 3pm to 4pm – Jérémie Royer
Panels 11am to 12pm – Your First Graphic Novel (with Molly Mendoza) at Summerhill 12pm to 1pm – Mental Health Panel (with AJ Dungo) at Forest Hill Ballroom 1:30pm to 2:30pm – Science Non-Fiction Adults (Jérémie Royer) at Forest Hill Ballroom 1:30pm to 2:30pm – Inter-generational Comics (with Molly Mendoza) at High Park Ballroom 2 & 3 2:45pm to 3:45pm – Meet the Colombians (Lorena Alvarez) at Learning Center 2:45pm to 3:45pm – Other People’s Stories (AJ Dungo) at Hinton Learning Theatre
TCAF, May 11th (9am-5pm) and 12th (10am-5pm) Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street, Toronto Nobrow Tables 133 and 134
If you’re in New York on April 6-7, come visit our booth at the Society of Illustrators MoCCA Fest 2019! We’ll be selling books on Saturday from 11am to 7pm and Sunday from 11am to 6pm at Booth C141 and 142. Kingdom by Jon McNaught, which The Comics Journal has called “a pleasure,” and Hilda and the Great Parade, the second TV-Tie in to the Hilda animated series on Netflix, will both be making their show debuts at MoCCA.
It’s only a week until the guide to everyone’s favorite mysterious creature publishes: The Secret Lives of Unicorns. In all our excitement to bring more facts about unicorns to the world, we sat down with Dr. Temisa Seraphini, the writer of The Secret Lives of Unicorns to ask about her personal history with these magnificent creatures. Read on for first-hand stories of encounters with unicorns, historical details, and tips for what you can do to protect this endangered species today.
Flying Eye Books (FEB:): What made you want to start studying unicorns?
Dr. Seraphini: I’ve always been fascinated by odd creatures – by odd, I mean that they are odd to other people but no odder than most things. I like things that seem to defy logic and puzzle expectations. So from a young age I collected books on monsters, tomes on zoology, encyclopedias on ornithology, and ancient codices of forgotten animals. My local library was small but I was quite determined. What I discovered was that the unicorn was far more present that I ever imagined. It existed throughout history and across cultures in symbols from Ancient Babylon, legends from the Ancient Greece and was even sighted by Genghis Khan. They popped up everywhere. Their image was repeated, and repeated in places that were completely disconnected in space and time. The image of the unicorn still features on many coats of arms across the world—including that of the United Kingdom. It’s also the national animal of Scotland. Who wouldn’t want to start studying something so utterly mysterious?
FEB: Where were you when you saw your first unicorn? Can you tell the story of that time?
Dr. Seraphini: It was in the Sherwood forest in Nottingham, England. On Saturday mornings I used go walking with my grandparents in the woods. They packed a picnic filled with treats and after lunch they’d fall asleep under the trees, as grandparents do. Once they were sound asleep I would trot off to do some investigating on my own. I used to collect funny shaped twigs, the woods were the best place for finding new ones. I was running about quite happily until I tripped and fell over some protruding roots. I had scuffed up my legs badly and was on the floor weeping when a young unicorn appeared. It licked the wounds before galloping off. It happened very quickly but I still remember how large and curious its eyes were.
FEB: Why is it so hard to find a unicorn? Have humans ever tried to keep them in zoos?
Dr. Seraphini: They are incredibly shy and don’t tend to venture into human spheres. From around the 5th century and throughout the medieval period they were viciously hunted and caged. They were deemed symbols of purity and much of their anatomy was used for medicine. Their numbers dwindled and for a very long time they almost completely disappeared. Academics across the world believe that unicorns began accessing a space called the ‘Realm Beyond.’ It’s a haven for all magical creatures, we’re not sure how it was created or when, but we know it exists and we know it is as fragile as our own natural world. With the efforts of the SSU—Secret Society of Unicorns—we’re trying to encourage unicorns back into our wild spaces.
FEB: What do people need to know about protecting unicorns? Are they an endangered species?
Dr. Seraphini: Yes, they are. Today the greatest danger is that their natural habitats are disappearing. These are the wild windy moorlands where their berries grow, or dense forests of North America where they have roamed for centuries. They are incredibly fond of spaces of extreme beauty. The best thing we can do to protect them is learn about their habitats and how to maintain the spaces that they love to live in.
FEB: What is the most magical thing you’ve seen a unicorn do?
Dr. Seraphini: A young unicorn taking flight for the first time. It’s not magic in a sense that it is supernatural but the moment itself was magnificent! It was magic in the way that nature can be magic. Much like seeing a spectacular view that takes your breath away.
FEB: What advice do you have for budding unicornologists?
Dr. Seraphini: Keep tracking, keep learning, keep fighting for their habitats. And never stop believing in magic, without it the world is a sad sort of place.
There you have it! You can find out even more next Tuesday, April 2, when The Secret Lives of Unicorns is available everywhere books are sold! Dr. Seraphini will be hosting a live Instagram Q &A on April 2, so follow along there for details.
The incredible Lorena Alvarez is coming all the way from Bogotá, Colombia for a bookstore tour in Los Angeles! Lorena will be doing events at three different locations, signing her new graphic novel Hicotea, and answering questions about writing, illustration, and creating her graphic novels Nightlights and Hicotea. Check out the details below, and don’t forget to sign up for her writing/illustration workshop at Gallery Nucleus if you’re near the Alhambra area on March 30. Follow us on Twitter for updates!
Since yesterday was the first day of Spring, we’re celebrating with this interview with Sandra Dieckmann, the creator of Leafand The Dog That Ate the World. Both of these gorgeous books are available wherever you buy your books. Read on to discover how Sandra was inspired to turn a dark season of her life into a tale of resolve and strength in The Dog That Ate the World.
1. How did The Dog That Ate the World start?
The first time I thought of the story for The Dog That Ate The World I was lying under a tree in a park near my house watching the sunshine come through the tree branches above, celebrating being alive and warm. It was all roughly there, beginning to end. I don’t think it could have formed as a story in my mind if I hadn’t gone through a particularly dark time beforehand. I struggled through crippling anxiety and health problems for many months and connected that day to the the saying that “depression is a big black dog.” I imagined it swallowing the sun and everything alive, but that I would come out the other side stronger than before.
I thought about the power we give to thoughts that are counterproductive and destructive and shared a little sketch of handing the dog a flower. I wrote: ”If the big black dog comes to bother you don’t fight him, invite him! He’ll soon become much smaller even if he never leaves your side.”
In the book the dog disappears through taking everything in existence but mainly also because no one gives him any power by thinking about him or physically fighting him.
2. What and who in your life inspired the different characters and the overall arch of the story about building community in the wake of intense greed?
The Dog The Ate The World is a cyclical story of a community that lives peacefully, but is segregated into different groups of animals, until one day the dog appears in their valley. He swallows everything and everyone and does not stop, while growing to incredible proportions. The animals must band together and rebuild their lives. There is music when words fail, growing together as friends and rebuilding lives in uncertain times. It’s a story of rebirth and dark and light.
In a big way it’s the story of the world we live in. It is not a classic hero story where good defeats evil, but it is a story about overcoming darkness by living well and also about balance. The dog eats and eats without being satiated, which brought up the theme of blind consumerism. In my eyes it is also about the strength we all carry inside to make the best of a bad situation: be it a mental health crisis or living under a disagreeable government. The children of the world (the bunnies in my book) are faced with an incredible threat but respond peacefully. These characters were inspired by an early sketch I had made responding on the current political climate in the UK around the Brexit Vote. The calm, wise fox leads with little words and speaks through his music to pull the community together. He is the pillar of the animals in the valley and gets swallowed first by the dog, making everyone spring into action. Hans Christian Andersen said it best: “Where words fail, music speaks.”
The other characters I imagine all have their roles in the community and help rebuild it together, even though they lived very separate before this difficult time. The ferrets are silly and fun, the badger is the support system, etc. and all together they form a brilliant band. They dance by fire light and get on with living a good life. Hopefully everyone will find a different angle on this story. You will also notice a lot of mushrooms. It’a a surreal fable so you know…
3. After the success of Leaf, how did you feel putting together your second book? Was your process any different?
The Dog That Ate The World is more of a concept book than Leaf. Leaf grew together out of different stories and that was a marked difference between the two in the beginning. It was a little daunting to follow Leaf so soon after but also freeing in a weird way as I had been really pleased with the response to my debut, and I felt like I could try something a little different. The Dog That Ate The Word is a story very close to my own heart and in my mind this book looked darker, far too dark for a picture book so we worked really hard on balancing the dark and the light without losing my vision.
My brilliant editor Harriet was imperative in this task. I initially also thought about trying to work with simpler shapes and less detail but my usual way of working in detail automatically crept back in. In early idea sketches and roughs the dog was a very flat, black shape and the idea was to have him grow throughout the twelve spreads until he disappears when he has consumed everything. This we kept as a visual tool. In an early version of the story the dog swallows the mountains too which break his teeth. He started off looking quite silly but we later decided to make him more wolf-like.
4. What’s your ideal drawing space and what kind of snacks/beverages does it include?
My dream studio would be a light space filled with plants, big windows, and french doors leading into a garden which ends at a stream or lake. That would be bliss. I have worked in a shared studio for many years now with different illustrator friends and that has always been pretty ideal. My workplace, Studio Mama Wolf moved venue several times. Once we even had a studio/shop open to the public. That was especially good when we had short dance sessions to loosen up and laugh together and stuffed ourselves with morsels we had brought in to share. Space and food has always been best shared!
5. When did you start creating illustrations? What has kept you going?
I went full time as a freelance illustrator in 2012. Before that I mostly illustrated nights and days off for a couple of years, while I worked part time and built up my contacts and portfolio. Etsy was a big part of getting established, and my shop there has always been busy and a lifeline in supporting myself as an independent artist. I have always been in love with drawing from a very early age and still have paintings I did when I was four years old. When I was young I explored the countryside and forest in rural Germany as I wasn’t allowed to watch more than an hour of telly a day, spent loads of time reading, drawing and making things, and in the end just never stopped. I think at every stage of my life drawing has been my soul’s soothing balm.It’s been my retreat, my way to communicate feelings and cope with life in general (apart from crazy deadlines of course).
Hello, dear reader, we’re very excited to share some news with you..! We are thrilled to announce that DreamWorks Animation have optioned the motion picture rights to the Brownstone’s Mythical Collection series by Joe Todd-Stanton! We can’t tell you any more than this for now but rest assured that we will share all further details as soon as we can!
Brownstone’s Mythical Collection follows the stories of the Brownstone family and their adventures through ancient mythologies. Two books have been published in the series so far. In Arthur and the Golden Rope(2016), unlikely hero Arthur journeys to the land of the Vikings where he meets Norse gods and monsters. In Marcy and the Riddle of the Sphinx(2017), an anxious Marcy travels to ancient Egypt to save her adventurer father and overcome her deepest fears. The next book in the series will be based on Chinese mythology, and is publishing in Autumn 2019.
Winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2018 forThe Secret of Black Rock, Joe Todd-Stanton said upon hearing the news: “Knowing this studio, which was such a huge and positive part of my childhood, have even read my book is mind-blowing. The fact they are interested in possibly adapting it is on another level. I’m really excited to see what happens. “
Sam Arthur, publisher and C.E.O. of Flying Eye Books commented “DreamWorks have a knack for picking up on great content – Joe Todd-Stanton’s star is rising!”