The year twenty fourteen is drawing to a close and before the final curtain call we thought we’d catch up with our authors for a little hello; chat about their books and see what they have in their sketchbooks (sneeeaky). First up isJesse Hodgson. Jesse is a bristol based illustrator and author of the wonderful children’s picture book Pongo. Pongois a beautiful tale and one that we go back to again and again, both to marvel over Jesse’s illustration style, which is simply a joy, and to revel in the warmth of her narrative. Here, folks, is Jesse Hodgson.
Which is your favourite spread from Pongo?
In terms of the artwork, I think it must be the one where Pongo meets the snake. I love the depth of the colours in the snake’s skin, and Pongo’s muzzle is a great shape, making it seem like he’s about to give the snake a kiss! However, many of the children I’ve spoken to actually find this page the most upsetting because the snake is so mean to Pongo…
When I’m reading the story aloud, I love to read the one of the bees because the children tend to start humming and suddenly the story comes to life.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given and which piece of advice would you give to budding new illustrators?
I’m fortunate to have many people around me who often give me good advice. In fact, just yesterday my friend Elisa Cunningham, who is also an illustrator, gave me some feedback about how to develop my characters; she loved Pongo because his emotions are so real and you can really empathise with him as a reader. She compared Pongo to my other characters that are in my sketchbook waiting to get out, and told me I needed to think of them in the same way.
Sometimes it can be difficult to get back to the roots of why you do what you do; we were watching Little Women together the other night and suddenly my ears pricked up as Friedrich said to Jo:
“You must write from life, from the depths of your soul…there is more to you than this. If you have the courage to write it.”
That line struck a chord with me because in the story, Jo is trying to get her work published but in desperation she writes what she knows will sell, but what doesn’t reflect her heart at all. And in some ways I think I need to take moments back from my work every now and then to remember that I love drawing and I love my characters, and I need to keep falling in love with them.
For those who are starting out as illustrators now, I would encourage you to stay true to your creativity. More practically, I’ve worked on my own since graduating which is such a change from being in a studio whilst I was studying. I meet up regularly with another illustrator to discuss our goals, critique each other’s work, encourage each other and bounce ideas around. I’d recommend doing something similar if you’re not in a studio as it’s been invaluable.
Tell us your top 3 pictures books featuring Monkeys.
1) The Lemur’s Tale by Ophelia Redpath – The illustrations are absolutely beautiful and it’s such a great story.
2) Monkey and Me by Emily Gravet – This book is for very young children, and the writing has a strong rhythm and the story is very simple. The drawings have a lot of energy and movement to them.
3) Gorilla by Anthony Browne –I remember these drawings from when I was younger. I found them quite frightening actually, but now I look back on them and they’re really sensitive, but I didn’t see them like that before.
Which three tools of your trade could you not live without?
1) My colouring pencils. They’re soft and creamy, and my housemates have found me talking to them on occasions because the colours all have nice names like, ‘cedar’ and ‘mars’.
2) My scanner. It’s a very high quality one and if I didn’t have it my work just wouldn’t look the same once imported onto the computer.
3) My Architects Desk. It moves all over the place – you can tilt it flat and up and down and vertical if you want. I had to get it because I paralysed myself for a few days once after too much drawing…I strained the muscles in my neck and through my right arm. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to draw or play piano again, so I bought this desk to help my posture.