We had the privilege of meeting one of our favourite childrens’ authors and illustrators a few weeks ago. Most well known for Lily and the Blue Kangaroo series, Plum Dog and also for illustrating the classic Three Little Monkeys, written by her former tutor Quentin Blake, Chichester Clark sat down with us at The Langham Hotel after doing a book reading (for more details about The Daunts Childrens Tea, read about it here).
What was your favourite children’s book growing up?
Madeline. I loved the drawings, the rhyming language and she was such a feisty heroine. Plus they were genuinely dramatic stories which you just don’t get as much these days. My most recent book, The Rescue of Bunny Bunny, for example is rather anti spoilt children and it’s not really a happy ending for the child.
Who are your favourite artists?
Goya, Picasso and Balthus, although he isn’t so popular now.
Francisco de Goya, Spanish, 1746 – 1828, Señora Sabasa Garcia, c. 1806/1811, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection
What advice would you give to illustrators/authors just starting their careers?
To be true to yourself. What is most personal to you is what is going to most interesting to others. There is a lot of peer pressure to do what your peers are doing but I think it is honesty that always wins through. I spent my whole life trying to work out my illustrating style and then I discovered that it is the one that is closest to my handwriting. It is what comes most naturally and what is closest to your heart.
Which is your favourite bookshop in London?
I’m lucky enough to live in West London with a brilliant Daunts Bookshop around the corner. They have such a great selection of books, I always love going there.
Lily and the Blue Kangaroo are such a popular series. Why do you think that is?
I base quite a lot of my books on my own childhood injustices. I haven’t had children, only step children but I was the eldest child and lived through all my siblings coming along. I think children feel these things quite strongly.
Can you tell us what you are working on next?
Three Little Monkeys Go On Holiday. They go and stay with Hilda’s mother in the country and wreck it but they also save her. Quentin has also written a third book too. He wrote the original book way back about 30 years for me when he was my tutor but I was already working on a series about monkeys and so the books got shelved. In a way I’m glad that I illustrated them a little later in my career though as I don’t think I would have done a very good job earlier on!