I’m a big fan of the ‘kill two birds with one stone’ philosophy. (Only metaphorically, obviously. I’m not suggesting anyone should go out and start murdering birds. That wouldn’t be nice.) So I thought I’d turn this month’s blog post into the second stop on the blog tour for THE CASE OF THE EXPLODING BRAINS, which launched yesterday – cue fireworks and much woot wooting. I also wanted to celebrate illustrators because, in an increasingly visual world, illustrators rule.
I am happy to admit my favourite bits of my own books are the pictures. When I got my first copy of The Case of the Exploding Brains (and The Case of the Exploding Loo before that) I flicked straight to the illustrations and I’ve seen kids do the same thing. I can’t imagine this series without the images. I completely agree with Sarah MacIntyre when she says both writers and illustrators should be referred to as ‘authors’ of creative work – ‘one author writes and the other author illustrates’.
The illustrator of the Exploding series, The Boy Fitz Hammond, is my hero. And if I was the boss of my own book cover, you wouldn’t have to peer so hard to find his name on it – it would be in a HUGE STARBURST. Illustrators are often the silent heroes of kids’ books and I thought you might be interested to hear a bit more about The Boy Fitz Hammond, so I dragged him away from his drawing board to ask him a few questions:
Hello, The Boy Fitz Hammond, have you always been brilliant at art and drawing? What were your favourite subjects at school?
My favourite subjects were art, PE/Games and French. I didn’t particularly enjoy French (nor was I any good at it) but we got to wear little headsets (for translations) which were great for pretending to be a helicopter pilot
Nice. Air Wolf style! I’m glad you paid attention in your art lessons because your illustrations are brilliant. What’s your favourite thing you’ve drawn?
Hmm… Other than the Exploding books of course… I think it’d be a big poster I drew for Nickelodeon a few years ago. It was very big, very busy, very orange and very rude (with lots of bum/burp/trump references and general nonsense). Heres a link to it… http://www.tbfh.com/site/popup_nickTowers_1104.htm
What was your favourite image you drew for The Case of the Exploding Brains?
I think it has to be the cover. It was great fun squeezing all the different elements into the space. It was good to be working in colour too (the inside illustrations needed to be black & white).
You’re my favourite illustrator. Who’s yours?
Joint first place goes to Charles M Schulz (Peanuts, Charlie Brown, Snoopy et al) and William Hanna & Joseph Barbera (Hanna-Barbera) who made most of the cartoons I loved to watch when I was little (Catch the Pigeon, Hong Kong Fuey to name but two). I even had Hanna-Barbera wallpaper and loved drawing all their characters over and over again.
What would you recommend people should do if they want to improve their drawing skills?
Hmm not sure I’m qualified enough to give scientific advice, but I would say ‘draw what you enjoy and enjoy what you draw’. And draw lots… its fun!
Are there any books or websites you’d recommend to keen young illustrators?
Nothing specific but I would say there is inspiration everywhere. From books, to tv to just walking down the street. Draw people you see on the bus. Draw your teachers (although don’t let them see if they look gruesome!). As I said before, draw lots… it’s fun!
Rachel Hamilton is a graduate of both Oxford University and Cambridge University and has put her education to good use by working in an ad agency, a comprehensive school, a building site and a men’s prison. Her interests are books, films, stand-up comedy and cake, and she loves to make people laugh, especially when it’s intentional rather than accidental.
She is the author of The Case of the Exploding Brains (Simon & Schuster, 2015) and The Case of the Exploding Loo (Simon & Schuster, 2014), which won second prize in the Montegrappa First Fiction Competition at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and has been nominated for the Redbridge Children’s Award, Leeds Book Award and Worcestershire Awesomest Book Award.