Friday 1 April 2011

His Masters Voice with Levi Pinfold!

"His Masters Voice" with Levi Pinfold
I have wrapped a shimmery scarf around my head in a Bo-ho chic fashion in order to greet my next guest (Book Trust Best New Illustrator) Levi Pinfold!
Here he is in conversation with me over a cup of mint tea and a choc bar or two...

Tell us about three things which inspire you "too cool for school" Levi Pinfold?

Good stories are probably the number one thing that inspires me, they're what makes everything tick ent they?   On a less high minded but more cheesy note – Laughing at stuff.  Animals and children are usually hilarious, and my girlfriend is a very funny individual, although I laugh with her, not at her.  Never.  

I try to pay attention to everyday details, and shoehorn them into my work when I can,  I think incidental stuff is  important and sometimes very telling – great to put in illustrations!   Also, being as  open-minded as possible with interests helps me for inspiration – I never know what will lead to an idea so I try to listen to and read things that are outside of my comfy bubble when I can. 

Is that more than three?

Someone once told me never to pee on my own doorstep..advice which I have found invaluable, What is the most valuable piece of advice anyone gave you?

Learn to count to three.

In all seriousness, I can't remember who told me this, or where, but the gist of it was to trust yourself.  If you work in a way that you like, someone somewhere will like it too.  Oh, and don't pull funny faces in case the wind changes.  If you can only be yourself, you don't want to be stuck with a mug like this:

What are you working on now and is it keeping you out of mischief?

I'm finishing off my next picture book, Black Dog, which should be out in Autumn this year.  It's about being scared of things you don't understand, and how that fear is often unfounded.  I'm working in a medium I haven't used before, tempera, so it has taken a little while to do – lots of layers and underpainting and concentration involved.  I made the paints myself for a small while but that kind of thing isn't helpful with deadlines, so I have switched to pre-mixed for the meat of the book.

Which 5 things would you take to a desert island?

1.     Snickers bar
2.     Mars bar
3.     Twix bar
4.     Boost bar
5.     Excalibur

I don't think I'd last long but I'd have a great time.

It's not a boney'o but I wouldn't say no!

How does it feel to have won two such prestigious awards so early on in your career?

Tremendous, but odd!  I wasn't expecting anything to happen with my first book.  It is reassuring that creatively I'm doing something that resonates with a few people.  It also gives me confidence that I might be able to do what I love as a job for a bit longer.  The other angle on this is the temptation to work in a way that has previously garnered some attention – hopefully I can keep moving forward and doing new things.

Trying to fit through doors with a massive head is tough, so its important to keep perspective and filter out anything that inflates the ego too much.  I think you can only work effectively if you are self critical.

It's exciting to see that organisations such as Booktrust aren't just looking at the work of more established names.  The recognition and welcoming of new illustrators into the picture book field is a huge help for anyone like me, who is just starting out.  

Taken from "Django" - Early Years Best New Illustrator Award Winner

Music appears to play a big part in your life and work, Can you recommend some good music that cool cad about town like myself should be listening to?

Too much to name!  I'm a big Scott Walker fan.  Slim Gaillard is great fun for gadding Taraf de Haidouks if you want a slightly frantic but jolly old time.  I think Vaughan Williams is pretty cool but my friends don't seem to agree with me!  I suppose cool is the wrong word... I'm enjoying Wye Oak and St. Vincent as I'm writing this.  I can be a bit of a bore about this stuff so I'm going to have to stop myself from gas-bagging any longer.

Moonshine Mouse

Do you have any thoughts on the digital future of the picture book?

I think that books stop being books as soon as they are viewed on screen.  This isn't a criticism, I just think digital media a very different experience to actually holding a book in your hands.  There's something about  physicality that is very hard to replicate; feeling the materials of the book and turning the page gives you more of a connection to any particular book.  Reading from an ipad at bedtime doesn't have quite the same appeal.  Perhaps its because it makes a story feel more disposable – you can very easily become distracted at the touch of a button, and not give the book the time it deserves.  Also, the nature of a book requires your imagination to bring the characters to life and so forth.  In my view, imagining movement in the gaps between the words and pictures helps to develop more of an attachment to the story, and is a more interactive experience than the various illusions of digital media.

However, I am not by any means a luddite. I think that interactive elements can be interesting in their own right – perhaps as a supplement to the book itself:  I can imagine exploring the fringes of a story in an ingenious app , inviting readers further into the fiction you are creating.  Hmmm... I think I feel an idea forming...

Concentrating VERY hard...
Can you recommend any good picture books for us to sniff? 
Grahame Baker-Smiths FArTHER is stunning - and he's just been shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal 

You simply MUST check out Levi's fabulous picture book Django at the soonest opportuity!
Published by Templar Publishing

"What makes the book special is its painterly qualities; take, for example, the picture of the caravan, standing in summer grass, next to a shed of stained corrugated iron. The caravan is hung with magic lanterns, the sky is smudged with pink clouds. It is a fully imagined work. I liked, too, the fierce, lived-in authenticity of the father’s face. It will be relished by sophisticated children and jazz-loving adults alike." Kate Kellaway, The Observer

Thanks for popping by Levi, Smashing to meet you !


  1. Enjoyable interview and magnificent illustrations. I just found this artist through the Book Trust, surprised no comments here (since April!). Everyone must be too busy turning their books into ebooks lol. It is always refreshing to see such excellent quality work. Congratulations.

  2. I've just discovered this guy through the BBC...........

    He's the second artist featured in the clip.

    Wonderful work! Someone should introduce him to Tim Burton!


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