Wednesday, 27 August 2014

We chat to Rob Biddulph ahead of his fantastic new children's picture book "Blown Away"

Who works in a studio like this? 
We are lucky enough to have Rob Biddulph dropping by the blog today to let us in on some of his creative secrets ahead of the publication of his new children's picture book "Blown Away". Rob kindly submitted himself to the ReadItDaddy spotlight, so here goes!

ReadItDaddy: Hi Rob, thanks for stopping by ReadItDaddy for a chat. Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hi guys. Well, I am also a daddy. I have three daughters called Ella, Kitty and Poppy. My wife's name is Ally and we all live London. I'm the only boy in the house (even our big fat cat, Catface, is a girl) so I'm properly outnumbered!

Jobwise, I am the art director of the Observer Magazine. It's a really good gig. I get to work with very nice, very clever people and I also get to design a very nice magazine for my favourite newspaper. Lucky, huh? What's even luckier is the fact that I also write and draw stories for kids that, and I still can't quite believe this, HarperCollins are going to publish! My first book is out this week and is called Blown Away. I think you might have read it already. What did you think?

ReadItDaddy: We were blown away by blown away (you probably get that a lot!) What was the inspiration for the story?

Well, for those that don't know, it's a story about a penguin (called Penguin Blue) who takes his brand new kite out for a fly on a windy day. Unfortunately, it's so breezy that both him and the kite get carried off by the wind. Despite his friends' best attempts to help him they are all blown away across the sea. We follow their adventures as they try to figure out a way to get back home. Funnily enough, the story was originally about two children who were blown away with their kite. It went like this:

A windy day. A brand new kite. On Hilltop Way a maiden flight.

A sudden squall. A gusty blow. We're in it's thrall. Away we go!

Above the trees, above the town, we ride the breeze, we don't look down…"

etc etc

I changed it when a couple of publishers said that they really liked a penguin sketch in my portfolio and suggested that I write a story about them. It suddenly hit me that penguins are one of the few types of bird that can't fly, so it would be really fun to get them airborne. It all seemed to fit together really beautifully so I very quickly adapted my original story to be about Blue and the gang. It seemed to work really well.
Fantastic character and scenery items from Rob's sketchbook. 

ReadItDaddy: Your artwork is fantastic! Having a sneaky look at the gallery on your website, we definitely see a good dose of 70s coolness there (Love that Raleigh Chopper! That’s the same colour as the one I had as a kid!) Tell us a little bit about your favourite techniques / processes for drawing / painting

Ha! I like that Chopper too. I didn't have one but Andrew Porter in my road did and I was very jealous of it!

My drawings all start out as pencil sketches in my sketchbook. Sometimes I'll add a bit of water colour too. It takes quite a bit of sketching to perfect a character, and it's not until I can draw them in any position and from any angle that I'm ready to get them onto the computer. To do that, I scan them in and redraw them using a very clever program which simulates paint digitally. It's amazing. You can mix and blend colour just like real paint - except without the mess! I use a digital paintbrush on a Wacom pad. I could go into more detail but it's so geeky that you might fall asleep reading it (Believe me, I wouldn't! - ReadItDaddy)

Rob's workspace and a sneaky peek at some of his work

ReadItDaddy: Your stories are instantly appealing to kids (and adults who read to them). What’s the one good piece of advice you’d give a budding writer who wants to write for children?

It sounds obvious, but try and write in the same voice that you would use if you were talking to a child. Generally, in life, I find that children like to be treated by adults as equals. They don't like being talked down to. After all, they're not stupid, they're just younger than you.

Also, it's very important that you like reading what you've written too. So write stuff that makes you smile. Always a good start.

Questions from Charlotte

 Charlotte: Penguins are cool. Are they your favourite animal?

Hi Charlotte. I do love penguins, yes. They were always my favourite animals at the zoo. I think it's probably because they make me laugh so much. I love that they're pretty clumsy on land but amazing in the water.

Meerkats are pretty ace too. Always on the lookout for danger, climbing on top of each other to get a better view...

I also like dolphins and tigers.

And bears.

Storyboarding "Blown Away" 

 Charlotte: What was your favourite book when you were a kid?”

I absolutely LOVED anything by Richard Scarry. I particularly remember reading Storybook Dictionary and What Do People Do All Day? again and again, hunting for Bugdozer on every page. Dingo Dog was my favourite character. I also loved Dogger by Shirley Hughes, The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr and, of course, Roger Hargreaves' Mr Men books. We have all of these on our bookshelf at home plus about a ton more - I can't stop buying them for my daughters!

- Huge thanks to Rob for such a brilliant and informative post, and thanks for showing us a bit of your work - and where you work!