Twenty nine years ago, I illustrated a book for an up and coming author called Michael Morpurgo. He’s done quite well for himself since!
The book was Mossop’s last Chance, a sad story about a farm cat that was past his expiry date. Fiona Kenshole, my editor at A&C Black, had a vision that she manifested in the groundbreaking Jets series.
Jets were such anew idea. Fiona had seen what “desktop publishing” could achieve. Computer artwork and typography was very new and had released type from boring straight lines. Why not let the illustration flow around the text and include the text in ways that were appearing in trendy print?
We didn’t have a computer! In fact I got a computer capable of doing interesting things before my publishers did!
So in the beginning we faked it. if the text needs to be on a curve, then we cut up each word or even letter and pasted it down – the origin of the phrase cut and paste. I say we… I did t the book layout and pate up and drew around the text to get it to fit nice and tight. Integrated text, we called it.
I received the fearfully expensive typesetting in a long roll and had to cut Michael’s story up with scissors to paste down on the pages. Speech bubbles I drew with hand-lettering.
Inadvertently, Michael taught me how to write while I was doing this. Being so intimate with his text, I “saw” how he constructed his stories. Fiona then taught me how to edit and I was away.
Mossop’s last chance was one of the first Jets. The series was huge success. I went to to write and illustrate my own Jets books, Grandad’s concrete garden and We won the Lottery.
We made six books books together in the Mudpuddle farm series. Being a farmer himself, I always felt that Mudpuddle Farm was close to Michael’s heart.
In 2012 9 million copies of Mudpuddle farm were given away in a McDonald’s Happy Meal promotion!
There was life in the old series yet.
Harper Collins had always done the paper backs. A&C Black had meanwhile been bought up by Bloomsbury.
HC Have now taken over the Mudpuddle series and we are starting again.
Michael has written two new stories which I am illustrating at the moment. They will be bound together in a two story book called Hee-Haw Hooray! It should be out this summer, if all goes to plan, along with new versions of the previous six, all ion their new-style, brightly coloured jackets.
It’s both thrilling and weird to be doing the books again. Weird because I’m copying my drawing style of so long ago. I started out thinking I would draw things so differently now, but now I’m in the swing of it, Im really enjoying going back to the naiveté of my younger self, but with added experience. I’m certainly a lot faster than before – and I remember I used to get blisters on my fingers from using the old rOtring isograph pens!
I’ll keep you up too date with the project as it proceeds. I’f wished the first story, now on to books two!