Award winning children's author and illustrator Tim Warnes' first book was published in 1995. Since then, he's worked on more than eighty books, which have been translated into twenty or more different languages. Tim is married to fellow illustrator, Jane Chapman. They have two boys and work from home in the countryside in southwest England. When he's not illustrating new books, Tim enjoys birdwatching, sculpting, playing his banjo, reading comic strips - and wearing fancy hats!
I was so fortunate to have family who read to me when I was really young - my dad in particular stands out for me, as he would always use different voices and accents for the characters! Because of that, some favourite memories are of Miffy, Barbar, Mumfie the Elephant, Beatrix Potter, Richard Scarry, Brer Rabbit - and of course, Winnie-The-Pooh (which I sometimes listen to when I’m working).
From preschool I remember the book, Are you my Mother? by PD Eastman. I loved that! I don’t remember reading Maurice Sendak’s Little Bear books, but a few years ago I bought some for myself, and when I opened the parcel the rush of nostalgia was almost overwhelming - so sometime, somewhere they must have been really significant, too. My local library had picture books by Ezra Jack Keats, and the Mr. Bear books by the Japanese illustrator, Chizuko Kuratomi, and they still stand out in my memory.
Later down the line, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Oz books, The Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan and Gerald Durrell’s The New Noah were all significant reads (and rereads!). Whilst these stand out as great stories, it’s also significant that when I look back I realise the connection I have with the illustrations, too.
Wait! - I forgot to mention my big Disney story book - and Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (favourite poem: True Story).
As a kid growing up, hands down the biggest influence was Walt Disney (or rather, his studios!). I remember when I was about five years old; we could choose our own topics to work on in our project books. I chose Walt Disney. I can still see it now! I was so pleased with it.
I spent hours copying Disney characters, following step by step guides in my Disney comics, and sometimes with the aid of some Rotadraw Disney sets (remember them?!). I also had (and still have) Walt Disney’s Giant Storybook which I liked at over and over.
As I became older, I referred more to comic book art - Peanuts, Marvel’s Spiderman, Garfield, then MAD Magazine as a teen.
3. The Big Book Adventure - from concept to completion: Little Red Riding Hood spread.
The way I work on my rough layouts and sketches varies from project to project, but essentially the process is the same. The first step is for me to get to an idea that I’m happy to show the publisher. For the Little Red Riding Hood spread from The Big Book Adventure, I began with sketching out ideas of how I wanted the wolf to look, and the general feel for the spread - that of imminent danger and threat (without being so scary as to give a small kid nightmares!). At first I planned not to show the wolf, but concentrate on Piggy and Red Riding Hood - the wolf’s presence was suggested by warning posters.
In the end I realised I was missing a trick by not illustrating the wolf himself. I’m so glad I came to that realisation, as he was great fun to draw! I collaged his teeth on from cut paper, too make sure they looked suitably crisp and sharp!
One of the joys of working on this project was that I was allowed to work in different styles throughout, to help get across the premise that the two main characters, Foxy and Piggy, are diving into imaginary worlds via the books they read. I knew I wanted the art for the Red Riding Hood spread to be very graphic, pretty much black and grey scale, with a splash of red. I explored thorny backgrounds, and sketched an idea for a very graphic background made up from letterpress Ws.
In the end I opted for making the trees more decorative with stripes, with the text reversed out on the black background.The fact that we see Piggy leading the escape by turning the page gives a sense of relief to the drama, and was intended as a visual aid to remind the reader that the adventure is happening in Piggy’s imagination, after reading the book.
For me, the job of the picture book illustrator is to embellish the written story, to take the reader further into another world. So the wolf making an appearance again later in the book in an illustrated speech bubble (where he is seen in a mash up with the Mad Hatter). The wolf is holding a cup of tea - and one of Alice’s legs! It has also begun to snow. I’d like to think that this image will promote all sorts of discussion and storytelling between kids, parents and librarians: whatever has happened to Alice? Did the wolf gate crash the Mad Tea Party or was he invited? Is the Mad Hatter running to safety - or to get more sandwiches? Has the Dormouse fallen into a deep sleep because of the snow?!…
Books are one of life’s great pleasures to me. I often still read a picture book to myself at bedtime, so I have a lot on my shelves. I also like to see what other people are coming up with.
So, what can you learn about me from these particular shelves? Well for starters there’s several volumes of The Complete Peanuts. Schulz has been an influence on me since childhood, both his art and writing. These particular editions have the most gorgeous design by the cartoonist, Seth. I appreciate great design! There are bird field guides and a book on Charley Harper (I am passionate about wildlife, in particular birds); and treasured books from my childhood, including The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie-the-Pooh and Goodnight, Moon (I am sentimental); I also have an alarming number of books on my to read list, including the kids’ book, Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah MacIntyre. There are also some children’s chapter books that I’ve greatly enjoyed - The Silver Donkey by Sonya Hartnett, The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan, The Red Pony by John Steinbeck and Moomin Summer Madness by Tove Jansen (these all reflect my slightly wistful, melancholic nature).
The shelf below is packed with glorious picture books! I couldn’t pick out a favourite, but certainly illustrators that I greatly admire in the world of kids’ books include Mo Willems, Lane Smith, Benji Davies, Quentin Blake, Posy Simmonds, Ian Falconer, Lauren Child, Chris Haughton, Oliver Jeffers and Holly Hobbie.
The shelf below that tells you some more about me - I am curious about other people’s creative processes. I love ‘the making of’ type books, and getting to go behind the scenes and learning what makes other creators tick. So here I have a Studio Ghibli book, The Art of Ponyo; Disney’s Bambi - the Story and the Film; Quentin Blake - Words and Pictures, Beyond the Page and The Laureate’s Progress; a Richard Scarry biography and Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the Street. I LOVE Jim Henson and his muppets!