I spent my childhood writing and illustrating stories - often making family and friends pay to read them. I never thought of having any career other than that, even though I ended up going to university rather than to art school. The illustrators who influenced me then were Arthur Rackham, Gustave Doré and Edmund Dulac.
I was lucky. It was the early 1970s when I embarked on my career. My first book The Emperor’s Singing Bird was accepted by Andre Deutsch with not much trouble at all as they were starting a new children’s list and Pam Royds became my editor for two decades, publishing all eight of my books.
|A page from the The Emperor’s Singing Bird dummy I submitted to Andre Deutsch written in the Initial Teaching Alphabet.|
Pam died recently and I wrote a piece about those years with her in my blog – telling of how I was nurtured and allowed to develop. During this period, I moved from my early experimental ink-splattering to acrylics and a finely worked style. In 1985 Tog the Ribber was Highly Commended in the Kate Greenaway medal and shortlisted for the Smarties Award.
|Inside spread from Tog the Ribber, poem by Paul Coltman.|
There were massive changes occurring in children’s publishing in the 1990s, as a global mass market came into force. This became clear with hindsight but I did not see or feel it immediately due to work still in the pipeline and a cushioning as a result of what I’d achieved up until then during my years with Andre Deutsch. The impact was going to hit me ten years later. Scholastic published three of my books including Tinker Jim in 1992 which was shortlisted for the Smarties Award.
|Illustration from, Tinker Jim, poem by Paul Coltman.|
|Illustration from, The Norse Myths.|
|Inside spread from, Selkie.|
|Inside spread from, Tom Finger.|
|Inside spread from, Mario’s Angels, a story about Giotto.|
|Inside illustration from, The Land of the Dragon King, Korean Tales.|
It was time to do something different. In 2010 I started Plaister Press, bringing back into print one back list title and publishing five new ones over the next six years. I returned to the freedom of those early Andre Deutsch days, waxing and splattering ink in Flood, 2014, experimenting with a graphic format for very young readers in Zoe’s Boat, 2012, enjoying typography as a component of the narrative in We’re Going to Build a Dam, 2013, and exploring every part of the physical book. Two of my Plaister Press titles were longlisted in the UKLA Book Awards.
|Inside spread from, Flood.|
|Graphic novel style spread from, Zoe’s Boat.|
|Cover for, We’re Going to Build a Dam.|
|Front and back cover with flaps for, We’re Going to Build a Dam.|
However, as self-publishing started to mushroom, I became increasingly sensitive to stigma and barriers that created an uneven playing field in the route to market. So I decided to return to traditional publishing and in 2016 closed down Plaister Press. Troika Books will publish my next book, Dog on Wheels, early in 2017. I’m hoping, for the first time, to develop this doggy character into a series.
|Dog on Wheels jacket image.|
|Inside illustration for Dog on Wheels, Todd.|
|Cover for, Mouse in the House.|
See more of Gillian's work in her Featured Illustrator Gallery.
Her portfolio website is here, and publishing website here. She's represented by Curtis Brown Agents