If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Max before now, you really *must*.’Max and Bird‘ is the third in this utterly captivating series and just look at those big, wide eyes.
Max is one of many engaging creations from author/illustrator Ed Vere and we were lucky enough to grab a few minutes of his time to bombard him with a few (hopefully not too repetitive) questions:
PBB: We just love Max, those big wide eyes are so expressive, do you prefer the writing or illustrating process?
EV: Thank you! I always try to make my drawings as expressive as possible. Max as I draw him has no mouth, so I only have his eyes and his body posture to tell you how he’s feeling. Bird was great fun to draw, with that great big eye he’s super expressive. I like how they work together, it’s always fun to get a dynamic going between two characters.
Writing & drawing come together, I love both sides. I used to prefer the illustration process, but things have changed over the years. Now drawing and writing both work together to tell the story. I can’t think of one without the other, and I love them both, or hate them both, depending on how it’s going. There are different stages in each that I enjoy. Initial sketches are a lot of fun to work on, when I’m getting a feel for the character, especially when a character first emerges. There’s a flowing energy at this stage (if I’m lucky), which is good to be in the middle of. I really enjoy the finishing stages of the writing, not just because I’m near the end. Subtle edits can change the tone entirely. Endless fiddling with words at this stage is completely satisfying. To be honest it’s probably the part I prefer most of all.
PBB: If you could collaborate with anyone on a picture book, who would it be and why?
EV: I used to think about whose words I’d like to illustrate, but at the moment I’d like to write with illustrators in mind. There are two ideas I have bubbling away that I see for other illustrators. I know who they are, but I can’t possibly tell you. I haven’t asked them yet!
One of them has such a beauty and delicacy to the way they work, it’s very different to what I do, it can sometimes have a fablesque quality that I love. The other has a playful wild energy but with lovely detail and an amazing sense of colour.
PBB: Which illustrators, past or present, do you admire?
EV: So many! I’ve been very lucky that Jan Pieńkowski has been a good family friend my entire life, I was almost born in his house. Going to his studio when I was growing up was completely inspirational and gave me a sense of the kind of life I wanted to live, there is always a feeling of freedom in there. Jan is constantly inventive, giving himself new challenges, changing his way of working, keeping his work alive. He was probably the first person who made me realise the importance of drawing. Satoshi Kitamura and David Mackintosh, illustrators I really admire, also used to attend. It was a real privilege to see how they drew. Satoshi is great at outrageous caricatures, he’d draw us as we were drawing the models.
E H Shepard is a great favourite, he gets such life and character into his drawings. Tomi Ungerer I’ve always loved for his anarchic quality. Quentin Blake is someone I admire hugely, he gets character and feeling across so well, and seemingly simply. Of course nothing that appears simple ever is. I absolutely love The Enormous Crocodile by him and Roald Dahl, it still makes me laugh now, The expressions are SO good, and so dark.
PBB: Where do you find inspiration for your picture books?
EV: Everywhere. Literature. I read a lot. But really most comes from observing the world, and then contemplating it. Essentially being a dreamer. I was the child at school looking up at the sky out of the window letting my thoughts drift as double maths burbled on in the background.
I look at the world around me a lot. I feel like a lot of people can hurry past life, on their way somewhere, but it’s those small bits in-between that contain so much theatre, if you look out for them. Sitting outside a cafe with a strong coffee watching the world go by is highly productive… at least that’s what I keep telling my editor.
PBB: So, what’s next for Max?
EV: Funnily enough I was wondering about that today. It’s going to have something to do with snow yes, the weather is inspiringly crap at the moment isn’t it!
PBB: Now for some highly pertinent quick fire questions:
Cheese or dessert? Crème brûlée is the best of desserts. But if it’s a choice cheese wins every time, especially if it’s strong, creamy and blue.
Inside or outside? Outside, lashing rain or sun, I don’t mind. Well, erring towards sun, but I’m English, so a realist
Pen or pencil? Inky dip pen
Jam or marmalade? Marmalade, on hot buttered toast straight after two boiled eggs & bagels
Spots or stripes? Stripes, of course!
Tea or coffee? At the risk of offending 98% of Britain… coffee, strong
Huge thanks to Ed for taking the time to answer our questions. A great insight indeed and I’m dying to know who those 2 potential collaborators might be! Thanks too to Jasmine at Puffin books for co-ordinating.
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