Sunday 13 March 2011

It's a Sheena Dempsey Kind of Day

Whilst pondering the Pug sized wax jackets in Harrods yesterday I was lucky enough to meet the delectable Sheena Dempsey a brand-new-hot-off- the-press-picture-book-maestro.
Sheena was all a quiver with excitement at the prospect of her very first picture book going to the Bologna Book Fair so I invited her back to the dog basket to tell us all about it. 

(Sheena is not a big fan of Boney'o's so she brought her own Jammie Dodgers...)

Introducing Ms Sheena Dempsey....

As you can see Mouse and I are masterful artists in our own right but where did you master the delicate art of Childrens' Illustration Sheena?
Mouse - The David Hockney of Cats...

I studied Fine Art in Dublin and graduated in 2006. I was a bit luke-warm on the Fine Art scene, to be honest. To me it felt a little bit disingenuous although that was just my own experience of it - I wasn’t very suited to it.
Then about three years ago, I started to develop an interest in children’s books. I suddenly noticed that picture books were these incredibly beautiful works of art, where so much consideration goes into every character and detail. I really fell in love with the genre and have been madly in love with it ever since.  I decided to study for an MA in Illustration at Kingston University in September 2009, which gave me the confidence to approach big publishers here in the UK.

Your new book "Ruby and Oliver" is going to Bologna this year (unlike myself *sob*) how did it feel when picture book guru's Walker Books picked it up?

It felt really wonderful, exciting, shocking and splendiferous. In fact I still need to pinch myself from time to time and it’s only now that I’m starting to allow myself believe it’s actually happening. A year and a half ago it was all just a pipe dream. They are lovely people to work with and I couldn’t be happier.

Ruby and Oliver...up to mischief?

Naturally we can't wait to sniff your book when it publishes but in the meantime can you tell us about a few of your most highly recommended picture books?
It’s very difficult to choose just three, my collection is ever expanding. Some day soon my shelf will collapse and they’ll find me buried underneath a colossal pile of picture books. Although I have to say, death by book-sniffing wouldn’t be such a bad way to go. I’d have to list Mini  Grey and Oliver Jeffers among my favourite author/illustrators, their story-telling and illustration are just sublime. They are very innovative and all their books are brilliant but if I had to choose, I would say The Great Paper Caper (O.J.) and Biscuit Bear (M.G.).
 I’m also a massive David Roberts fan and I think Tyrannosaurus Drip (brilliantly written by Julia Donaldson) is my favourite of his, the colours and picture compositions are flawless. Little Red (written by Lynn Roberts) is a close second.

What would your super power be?
I often fantasise about being able to stop time and gain extra days, weeks and years. Being a very selfish person, it would only be me that would benefit of course. Everyone else would be frozen still while I would be carrying on, robbing banks, stealing from sweet-shops and reading people’s diaries (I’m extremely nosey, Book Sniffer). It would also be very handy for gaining extra work hours as well as staving off old-age.

One finds inspiration in the finer things in life, Liberty print cravats, Gentleman's Relish eaten straight from the tin, Mouse's iPad paint creations but what inspires you? 
It’s hard to say what inspires me. Naturally, looking at illustration of all kinds is very stimulating and I find Twitter a great window into discovering new work being made by artists, illustrators and animators all over the world.
A good yarn is always inspiring, whether it is a book, animation or film.
A brisk walk in the nearby dog park can really clear out the cobwebs too, although I recently had a run-in with a kleptomaniac Labrador who I stopped to have a chat with. He stole a five-pound note from me. True Story.

What are you working on at the moment? Anything for us to sniff?
Right now, I am mostly focusing on final artwork and text for my first book, “Ruby and Oliver”. I’d like to get that finished as soon as I can, hopefully in about a month’s time. When I do, I’ll start on the second book with Walker, while keeping my eyes peeled for other exciting projects.

Thank you muchly for stopping by Sheena and showing us some of your beautiful work - best of luck with the book and pop  by again soon!
Images (c) Sheena Dempsey

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful interview! Thanks Book Sniffer for giving us a peek into Sheena’s world.


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