Heidi Deedman, illustrator of Too Many Toys!
How do you feel to have been shortlisted for the inaugural Klaus Flugge Prize?
It is absolutely wonderful. It is just wonderful to have been long listed, and then shortlisted by such an amazing team of judges and to think that they have seen the book. Even though you have been working on the book with a team of people, and it's a first book and you are learning great deal, you do work a lot in isolation. So somehow being shortlisted is the ultimate feedback; people have seen your book. It has gone out into the world and people are responding to it.
What do you like about creating and illustrating picture books?
I love drawing. I have always done masses of drawing and I love telling stories. I think humour has always been important to me. And though it has taken me quite a round-about route to do illustration and to do picture books, I have realised it is a fantastic vehicle for all those things I love. There is such an enormous pleasure in trying to piece things together, to make a text work and to make the pictures work. Then sometimes just surprising yourself about where a story takes you. I do like doing quite obsessive drawing. I really enjoy of drawing lots and lots of things so there is enormous pleasure in just doing the work - repeating images and masses of detail.
How did you come to illustration?
I think I always wanted to write stories and do illustration. But I studied sculpture at art college. I spent a lot of years making things - still an enormous pleasure. I feel there is a lot of humour in my work. Looking back I sometimes think that humour is not always acknowledged; that humour precludes seriousness. Now that I am doing illustration and have made this book, I feel as if I have finally found a pair of shoes that fit. But it has taken me quite a while to get there.
With this background, do you make models to draw from?
I used to make a lot of puppets. And even working on something like this book about Lulu and Jupiter, you suddenly realise that things you have made, maybe several years ago, have all fed into your arriving at that point. A long time ago I used to make my own toys. In fact Lulu is me and Jupiter my bear, and though I wasn't conscious of that at the time I now realise I have written a book about myself.
What comes first? The illustration or the text?
I think they come together. Too many toys came as a response to the familiar adult complaint. I thought it was a great starting point ; also from working in the Pollock Toy Museum where I was doing a whole series of drawings. I love drawing lots of things. It became a story about me and my relationship with toys as well as a more general story with a gentle moral.
Was it a challenge creating your own text?
I have learnt a lot from doing this book and realised how easy it is to put too much in. I like the books where the text is very minimal and you can work out the story from the pictures. You have to be quite strict - less is more.
Who has inspired you as an illustrator?
There are fantastic illustrators working today. I have always enjoyed artists who use humour - David McKee and John Burningham when I was younger, now David Mackintosh and Oliver Jeffers - artists who have a wry adult humour that children appreciate. As a child I loved the Giles' annuals. His graphic ability is just inspiring. I loved the detail in them, you could go back again and again and see something different. I always try to make pictures with a lot going on.
Did you think about the audience for your book?
I do think about a child audience but not any specific age; children respond to books in such different ways Sometimes I draw something that makes me laugh and I feel that is a really good starting point. But adults as well as children respond to toys. That is what I like - you have a close emotional relationship to your toys which you don't forget. I like that as a vehicle for telling stories.
Would you like to work with another author?
It is something I haven't done so I would definitely like to take the challenge of working with a given text or another author. It is a great game making pictures and then making them work with words and I do enjoy that.
Too Many Toys is published by Walker Books, £11.99 hardback
Thanks to Klaus Flugge Prize judge Ferelith Hordon for posing the questions.
The Klaus Flugge Prize is funded personally by Klaus Flugge and run independently of Andersen Press.