Category Archives: inspiring interviews

Interview with children’s book illustrator John Shelley – Japanese influence

Meet illustrator John Shelley and learn about his experience drawing for children’s books and advertising both in the UK, USA and Japan and learn how his love of Japanese culture and art has inspired his work.

John Shelley studied at Bournville School of Art, in the UK, amidst the aroma of chocolate from the nearby Cadbury’s works, then in Manchester under Tony Ross, before debuting as a children’s book illustrator in London. A fascination with Japanese art then took him to Tokyo, where he lived for many years, seeking the connection between Ukiyo-e and Ultraman.

In Japan, John illustrated for a wide variety of clients from advertising to editorial, and children’s books for publishers in East and West.

He now divided his time between Japan and the UK, writing, drawing, and annoying his cat.

John talks about his career as an illustrator, his influences and the lure of Japan which has influenced his style in a way that Japanese art has been influencing British art for a couple of hundred years, The influence then returning to Japan in a regular cycle. Being island nations, the British and the Japanese actually have quite a lot in common and hold a mutual fascination for each others cultures and arts.

John is on instagram @studionibs and Twitter @studioNIB

In this video:
00:00 introduction
00:36 Background and training
02:03 The lure of Japan
06:03 making posters in Japan
11:29 self promotion
13:02 Manga and Anime
17:53 Manga covers
20:44 Arthur Rackham influence
22:58 One Inch Drawings
28:00 Talking about Sketchbooks
33:00 More about one inch drawings

Meet Sue Hendra – Author of Supertato

Meet the wonderful Sue Hendra, who writes and illustrates the amazing Supertato books with her partner, Paul Linnet. I had the chance to ask her a few questions when were both working in Netley Marsh School on Empathy Day – 12th June.

We both had a great day telling stories to the children and talking about empathy and how to understand other points of view by reading books and inhabiting the characters

Get the hilarious book, Supertato here in the UK 

Here in the USA

And here in Canada


How I became an illustrator

Mandy wrote to me and asked: Please!!
Dear Mr Rayner, You are busy so I will be brief.
I am a mature student at Birmingham City University Yr 2. We have been asked to construct an artist profile.
I love your work and it relates to the project I am currently working on. I am currently working towards becoming a Children’s illustrator.
If you don’t have time I understand but I would be so grateful if you could answer some questions (or a couple of them).

1. What is your education background, were you self-taught as an artist or did you attend Uni?

2. If you attended uni did you find the transition from uni to having a working practice difficult?

3. Do you have an Agent? (why/why not)

4. Where do you work from ie, an agency, own studio/home and why?

5. What would you cite as the most important ways to promote yourself and your work?

6. Do you feel it is important to have a ‘style’? When did you find yours? Was it gradual or was that style apparent in your earlier work?

Thank you so much for your time. Any questions you could answer would be very much appreciated as I am a great fan of your work and it would give me a much better understanding of working practice. If you can send any reply I would be grateful. Thank you so much and I apologise for intruding on your time. Kind regards, Mandy

Watch the video and you will get all the answers!