To celebrate the launch of ‘Sleeping Beauty‘, the latest offering of the reinvented classic from sibling duo Lynn Maloney-Roberts and David Roberts, we got the chance to speak to David about his processes, his muse and what’s next.
PBB: As a former milliner, do you follow any similar creative/design processes?
DR: I suppose so, I would always plan how to make a hat, what materials I would use, what shape, dimensions and style, all of which you can apply to illustration. I often find in illustration that I’m inspired by music, art, nature, furniture and patterns and this was the same when I worked as a milliner. The main difference is working in three dimensions as a milliner and two dimensions as an illustrator.
PBB: If you could collaborate with anyone on a book, who would it be and why?
DR: I’d like to do more with my sister because we collaborate well together. I’ve been lucky to work with many authors who I was already a big fan of. I’ve always wanted to work with Jeanne Willis and I hope that will happen soon. I would love to do more YA fiction, I’d love to illustrate one of David Levithan’s books.
PBB: Which illustrators, past or present, do you admire most?
DR: I’ve been hugely inspired by many illustrators such as Edward Gorey, Charles Keeping, Gustave Dore. Their fine line, tone and atmosphere have inspired me to try and capture those elements in my own work. Other illustrators like Anthony Browne, John Burningham, Lisbeth Zwerger, Errol le Cain and Maurice Sendak have encouraged me to find humour, use colour in an interesting way, explore pattern and medium. I always say that John Burningham‘s work in particular has made me less afraid of the white space when starting a piece of work. His images feel so spontaneous, joyful and almost haphazard. I continue to be inspired by my contemporary illustrators such as Chris Riddell, Sarah McIntyre, Alexis Deacon, Jim Field and Benji Davis. Looking at these illustrators’ work is hugely exciting.
PBB: Where do you find inspiration for your illustrations and where do you start?
DR: Inspiration comes from the story. Because I work with an author, reading their text is the first thing that unlocks my imagination and gets my brain ticking on how to approach the story. I’ll then do any research if needed or just let my imagination take over. The starting point is always the story and if it’s an open text I start thinking about my approach and if it will be set in a specific time period, how the characters will look and what they will wear and the illustration evolves from this.
PBB: Can you tell us what you’re currently working on, or share a peek of your sketchbook?
DR: I’ve just finished a picture book called King Baby by Sally Lloyd-Jones for Walker books. I had so much fun thinking up King Baby’s family and what they should all look like and wear.
PBB: If you had a choice of which fairytale to attack next, what would it be and which era would you choose to style it in?
DR: I would really love to do The Wild Swans which I’d set in ancient Japan on the island of Hokkaido in the winter. I’ve read about a species of swan that stays there over winter, skating about on the frozen lakes.
PBB: Now for some very pertinent quick fire questions:
Cheese or dessert – dessert
Inside or outside – outside
Pen or pencil – pencil
Jam or marmalade – no
Spots or stripes – stripes
Tea or coffee – coffee
Hats or shoes – shoes
Many thanks to David Roberts, Catherine Ward and Pavilion for arranging this interview and make sure you check out ‘Sleeping Beauty‘ the latest revamped classic by the Roberts pair.