Chloe Inkpen: Chloe and Mick
Chloe Inkpen grew up surrounded by picture books and has a natural gift for storytelling. A love of language and art saw her swap an English Literature course for a degree in Visual Communication at Glasgow School of Art. She spent her final year specialising in children's book illustration and was awarded second place in the Macmillan Prize for Children's Book Illustrations in 2008.
Chloe collaborated with her father Mick Inkpen on their new picture book series Zoe and Beans which they wrote together and Chloe illustrated.
Are Zoe and Beans based on anyone?
Zoe was partly inspired by a little girl called Amie who is the brilliantly feisty three-year-old daughter of family friends. When I first met Amie she commanded me to sit on the floor while she sat in a huge grown-ups chair and read me a story. She was less than two at the time and not yet speaking but she wasn't about to let that stop her! There are definitely elements of me in Zoe too but I was a shy child so I think to some extent Zoe is the feisty alter ego of my four-year-old self.
The parameters for Beans were that he should be big (in comparison to Zoe's dinkiness) and scruffy (because I like drawing scruffy things). I've always loved drawing dogs so he sort of just popped out of my pencil.
Tell us about your illustration technique
I tend to work in real media to begin with. The line work is done in pencil and I colour in watercolour paints and coloured pencils. I scan the illustrations into my computer and use Photoshop to enhance and embellish them and to design the page layouts. Zoe can be quite tricky to draw and I'll often tweak her into better shape in Photoshop by cutting out a dodgy arm or head and splicing on a new one.
Who are your favourite illustrators and who inspires you?
My favourite illustrator is Quentin Blake. I've always been inspired by his illustrations. I love the freeness of his drawing and the fact that he can achieve so much character with so few pen strokes. He's a brilliant draughtsmen. Some of my favourite contemporary illustrators are: Emily Gravett, Oliver Jeffers, Catherine Rayner, Alexis Deacon and Neal Layton.
Tell us about your favourite children's books growing up
It's very difficult to say which were my absolute favourite kids books growing up. The list is rather long! A few that spring to mind immediately are Sandra Bointon's But Not the Hippapotamus, I Want My Potty by Tony Ross, Would You Rather by John Burningham, Burglar Bill by Janet and Allan Ahlberg and Mrs Armatage on Wheels by Quentin Blake.
There are many reasons why I like reading. I enjoy the experience of getting completely lost in an engaging story and find really good writing can be incredibly moving. I like to know what's going on in the world. I enjoy learning about new things, people and places. My brother and I were lucky to grow up with parents who read to us all the time. We had a great collection of kids books at home.
The relationship between the pictures and the words in children's books is quite unique I think. I love the way in which children's books can be shared between readers. There's something really lovely about the simple experience of reading to or with a child (very different from the more private experience of getting lost in a novel).
What's it like to have a famous illustrator father?
People sometimes come up to me and say 'I can't believe your dad is kipper!' as if they imagine that my dad is actually an illustrated dog! It goes to show that it's the characters who are really famous I think. It's always nice to hear how much people respond to his characters. Generally speaking I don't really think of my dad as being famous. He's just my dad! It's certainly been great to have grown up in such a creative environment surrounded by writing and drawing and I feel very lucky to have benefited from his experience and to be able to work with him in a professional capacity now. It's a lovely position to be in.
What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators wanting to break in to the picture book market?
Entering the Macmillan Prize for Children's book Illustration was one of the best moves I made as it enabled me to establish a relationship with a really good publisher before I graduated. It's a brilliant prize and a very successful means of harnessing new talent. I would very much recommend it as a starting point.
As a general point I would say that presentation is extremely important. A confident and well thought through presentation can make a huge difference to how your work is received. Great work doesn't always speak for itself especially if it's viewed in the wrong format on a tiny laptop somewhere in a dingy office for example.
The relationship between the words and pictures is crucial I think. The pictures bring the words to life and vice versa. I'm lucky because I write and illustrate so I have control over both processes. But whether you tackle both aspects yourself or team up with a writer and work collaboratively it's really important to get the two elements working successfully together.
Chloë Inkpen grew up surrounded by picture books and has a natural gift for storytelling. A love of language and art saw her swap an English Literature course for a degree in Visual Communication at Glasgow School of Art. She spent her final year specializing in children's book illustration and was awarded second place in the Macmillan Prize for Illustration in 2008.