We are super-bonkers-over-the-moon to be able to welcome FANTASTIC illustrator Nikki Dyson to the Book Sniffer blog today ahead of the publication of her picture book collaboration with Kes Gray 'Zippo the Super Hippo' which officially publishes on the 16th.
Here is our interview with her! Enjoy.
1- What is your most favourite part of the process of creating a picture book?
My favourite part of picture book making would have to be the roughing out stage. When I first started illustrating books I enjoyed the colouring in part the most. Don’t get me wrong I love this part still - it’s always fun to colour in, especially trying out different colour roughs for a spread and combinations that bring a drawing to life. But as I did more projects, I soon discovered that the most exciting bit for me was the visual development and planning stage. This is where your imagination starts buzzing and deciding on how your characters look and feel and interact, where the flow and pace of the story develops and where you can create a setting for your characters to play out their story in.
2- Tell us about three things, which inspire you and your work?
Lots of things inspire my work and its process. My peers today are an amazing source of inspiration, I’m always in wonderment on seeing a new picture book from a fellow creative and seeing the exciting ways in which they tackle a story and push boundaries. It’s a very exciting time for picture books and it’s such an amazing feeling to have a little part to play in it. I frequently have to pinch myself - not too hard though, I bruise quite easily! Travel would also be another. I was very lucky to have a bit of time last year to do some travelling in the US and I found that this really ‘topped up’ my creative bank and gave tremendous amounts of inspiration to integrate into my work on my return. I think it’s important to have these little breaks from work to refuel but you don’t necessarily have to go around the world to find inspiration. It could be just popping out to get a coffee and overhearing a funny conversation, or a short stroll in the park and seeing something that could potentially spark a story or character idea. My family would be another, last year I became an auntie for the first time and my little niece Juliet is a constant form of inspiration! She is such a funny character and has really brought so much joy into our family. She really inspires me to make the best books I can and I would really like for her to grow up with a real love for books like I did as a child.
3- Which one piece of advice would you give to a recent graduate trying to break into publishing?
I’d say keep on pushing your boundaries as an artist and really dedicate your time to do this to develop your skills. Always approach a new piece of work with passion, enthusiasm and originality. Lastly, keep on trying! It took me a long while to get my first illustration job and there were times of self-doubt and rejection but don’t give up, stick to what you love to do and be true to yourself. It may take a little time but you will get there and it will definitely be worth the wait!
4- Which is your favourite spread in your new picture book and why?
One of my favourites would be the spread where Zippo tries his hand at flying. I purposely made this into a comic layout and thoroughly enjoyed creating the step-by-step scene of each stage of Zippo’s brave attempt! I love creating funny facial expressions and strong interactions with my characters as I feel these things are vitally important to give grounding and believability to them. So when the croc sees an 8,000 lb hippo falling from the sky, I wanted to create a look of sheer terror on his face! I’m really pleased on how this looked in the end. I’d quite like to think of myself as a ‘method artist’ not that I dress up as a hippo in a cape or anything - that’s only for the weekends. But I sometimes pull faces when I’m drawing to try and feel and capture a moment that a character is experiencing.
5- Which children's classic would you most like to illustrate?
Without a doubt, it would have to be A Bear called Paddington By Michael Bond. This was one of my favourite books as a child and I would absolutely love to draw the endearing small bear from deepest Darkest Peru. For me, I’m always drawn to kind, humorous characters in stories and I love the fact that Paddington gives a hard stare to people who incur his disapproval and gets into a right pickle although he tries so hard to get things right! In a way the character of Zippo has very similar qualities to him! Penny Fortnum, David Mckee and Fred Banbery are some of my favourite illustrators to have interpreted Paddington, so to have an opportunity to follow in their footsteps and illustrate this classic character in my own way would be an absolute dream.
6- What has been your career highlight so far?
I could list a thousand highlights but really just being able to draw for a living, creating books for children to enjoy and doing what I love to do is the best highlight for me by far.