HOW IT ALL STARTED
|Space Portrait (Comic Strip History of Space/Bloomsbury)|
My mother swam every day in the south Devon sea and apparently I was almost born in it. She was the black sheep grand-daughter of a Midlands beer baron, disinherited for her wild behaviour - she danced a lot, married an unsuitable and elusive Finn, and it didn’t go down well at the time. We moved back to the Midlands and that’s where I grew up, sometimes in my grandmother’s house, but mostly in a decaying Victorian Gothic apartment, both of them near Nottingham Castle.
|Galaxyspace (Comic Strip History of Space/Bloomsbury)|
After a Graphic Design degree, I got married to a man with a twirly mustache and came to London to make my fortune. I have a daughter called Emerald, my husband died young, and I’ve always worked as an illustrator, with occasional brief stints early on in my career as an artist’s model, and the world’s worst waitress (I’m partially deaf).
My first children’s book was called Tricky Tricks (Lutterworth Press). I approached Patrick Hardy, who’d just left Penguin/Kestrel Books and set up on his own. He asked me to demonstrate one of the tricks, called Tangle Torture, in his Soho office. It went slightly wrong, but Patrick loved my ideas and the drawings I showed him, and decided to publish me. Tangle Torture was left out in the end, for Health and Safety reasons.
I’ve written and illustrated about thirty children’s books as well as illustrating many more, and worked for all sorts of magazines and broadsheets. For a while I wrote and illustrated a column for the Independent on Saturday called What’s On This Weekend, and this led to my becoming a travel writer for a few years, with some unusual commissions, like going to Elf School in Iceland (it took two years for me to set this up with the grumpy Elf Headmaster), sailing to Lisbon on a Tall Ship, and taking part in a Haggis Hurling competition. Didn’t win, and my rogue haggis nearly knocked out the photographer. For many years I drew for the Guardian, illustrating Pyrgic Puzzles written by ‘The Puzzlemaster of the World’ – a somewhat tricky genius. I worked one day a week for the New Statesman for a year, illustrating copy as it came in, and had several commissions for my handwriting, once earning more handwriting two sentences about cider for a TV ad than the advance for a children’s book I’d just completed.
|Units of Astonishment (Guardian editorial)|
A few years ago I met up with author Tracey Turner and we decided to work together on a series of non-fiction comic strip books for children, including the Comic Strip History of Space (Bloomsbury). Great fun and a delight to work with Tracey – we’re hoping to collaborate again soon.
Currently I’m writing and illustrating my own series of children’s activity books called Draw It! for Bloomsbury, and have just finished the fourth one about one hundred wonders in London. There are several mini-interviews with people who have specialist jobs in London – including the Tower of London’s Ravenmaster, a female firefighter and a zookeeper who swims with penguins - as well as info about lady gladiators, tunnelling machines, mammoths roaming the Strand and the secrets of mummified cats. I’m also working on a kind of autobiographical graphic novel called Blink, and the next four Draw It! titles.
I love encouraging children and adults to come up with ideas and draw them, so run workshops all over the place, including China, Shetland, Cornwall, the Guardian’s Big Draw, Pentonville Prison, the National Space Centre and a Masterclass for SCBWI.
|Herschel Space (Comic Strip History of Space/Bloomsbury|
Be curious about everything, keep notebooks, be determined about what you want to do, go to lots of events and classes. Learning never stops.
See the Illustrators Showcase Gallery for more examples of Sally's work.
She can be contacted through her website and through her blog