I may be in Germany right now, but it's business as usual here on POP and today I'm more than a little bit pleased to share an interview with the lovely Victoria Turnbull, author-illustrator of The Sea Tiger.
Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for me, Victoria! First off, I wanted to ask you about winning the Association of Illustrators New Talent Award for Picture Books in 2013 – was this key to raising your profile?
I think it certainly helped generate some interest in my work. To be honest, it was just lovely to win something! I’d only recently finished my MA, so I was talking to publishers for the first time and dealing with the inevitable rejection that this entails. It gave me hope!
Your road to publication is unique - is it true that you wrote and illustrated The Sea Tiger as part of your MA? It must have felt amazing when Templar commissioned it?
Yes, The Sea Tiger was the final project of my MA. The course was a brilliantly creative environment, and one I feel very lucky to have been a part of.
It was at my graduation show that Mike Jolley from Templar approached me. It took a few months from then, but I was over the moon when Templar commissioned it. They produce such beautiful books, I was delighted to work with them.
Your artwork is beautifully atmospheric. Which techniques do you use to achieve this look?
Thank you. I really want my artwork to capture the imaginary worlds my characters inhabit. And to begin with, I found it very frustrating because my painting skills, watercolour and so on, were not really up to the job! Searching for a suitable technique made me experiment much more and opened me up to different possibilities.
In the end, I developed my own way of working for The Sea Tiger - whereby I printed my pencil drawings out onto watercolour paper and coloured them with a combination of pastel, coloured pencil and linseed oil.
What do you enjoy most about the book-making process?
I think it’s the opportunity to tell a story that I find so fascinating, stories that are important and personal to me. Trying to convey emotion and meaning with every word and every image is an incredibly difficult process. And by the end of that process, you wonder if you should have done things differently. But it’s wonderful when people understand and relate to the story I’m trying to tell.
If you could meet any authors or illustrators, alive or dead, who would they be?
Maurice Sendak. He was such an influential figure and he really pushed the boundaries of what’s possible in picture books. Sadly I won’t get to meet him now but happily I have lots of his books.
What are your views on the picture book market right now?
I think there are some really exciting artists working in picture books at the moment, both here and in other countries. But I worry not enough of these books get into the hands of your average consumer. The UK market is dominated by a small number of well-established authors and titles.
If you could change one thing in the world of picture books, what would it be?
I’d love to see some of the assumptions about what is suitable for children being challenged, both in terms of the illustration and the subject matter. I think publishers at the moment are too risk averse.
Describe yourself in five words