What's life like in someone else's shoes? This month Françoise Price invites illustrator Korky Paul to tell us about his day.

BLITHERING BROOMSTICKS! My preferred shoes are flip-flops!

Hello, I am Korky Paul the illustrator of the Winnie and Wilbur series of picture books, written by Valerie Thomas. I was intrigued when Words & Pictures asked me to contribute to the column 'In the Shoes Of...'


I was born in Zimbabwe, educated in South Africa and on graduation from Durban Art School started working in advertising in Cape Town.


In 1976 I fled the apartheid regime for Europe. I bought a VW camper van and did the Grand Tour of Europe. Having studied fine arts, I had a mission to visit all the major and minor art galleries in Europe.


After six months the moolah ran out and I found work in an advertising agency in Athens Greece.


I had courted Greece with the Mina boys, a wonderful Greek family I was at high school with in South Africa. My love affair was now full blown!


My wife Suzie and I bought a pile of ruined barrel-vaulted buildings on a Greek island. My mother visited from Cape Town and nearly burst into tears when she saw what we had bought — "a pile of rocks and rubble".


But we experienced such an extraordinary adventure restoring the house with the local, charismatic artisans, who taught us Greek, how to build, and drink Ouzo with grilled octopus.


6.00am in the morning 

I wake up with the Greek sun streaming through a tiny window throwing a sharp yellow ray of light like a spotlight in the room.


Barefoot I go to the bathroom in the courtyard and feel the warm sun. I am anxious to do my 5km trek before it gets too hot.


I slip on my shorts, t-shirt, and a pair of tackies (rubber-soled canvas sports shoesand set off through the quiet village, along dusty roads through the Greek countryside and catch the last rays of the early morning sunrise.


By 7.30am I am back home…

very hot, very sweaty, and I jump under the cold shower.


With my wife Suzie may be at yoga some mornings, but if not, we sit in the courtyard under the shade of a vine and enjoy breakfast.


I go for the full Eastern Mediterranean Brekkers: glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, slice of feta cheese, oregano with olive oil, handful of black Kalamon olives, freshly cut tomato and cucumber, Greek rusks (paximadia) and pot of hot espresso coffee.


By 8.30am brekkers and chats and gossip are finished.


Now the worst time of day.


Time spent on the dreaded computer answering emails and doing odds and ends of admin. A truly loathsome task but must be done.


It is mostly organising school visits which I do in the winter and spring months. I try to limit it to two a month, but it often ends up as four or five.


I thoroughly enjoy school visits and have had the pleasure of working with dedicated staff and eager, curious, and engaging children.


The first part of the 40’ workshop I read a Winnie and Wilbur story with the aid of a PowerPoint Presentation ~ with lots from the children.


This is followed with me drawing Winnie and Wilbur and if there is time, a Winnikin too! Again, with lots of help from the children.


Each class gets the signed Korky Paul drawing from each session to display in their classroom.


9.00am I slip on my flip flops. 

I head for my centre of the universe — my studio which is about 500 metres' commute from our house.


Susan Moxley my wife goes to her studio which is in the house.


Suzie is an artist of many talents. Paints, draws, etches, makes stained glass windows, illustrated book covers and more.


But in the summer, she produces one off, bespoke, and exquisite items of jewellery, using pure silver and stones found on the island’s beaches.


My studio also a barrel-vaulted building which was once a stable, with an outside functioning pizza oven in the courtyard! We installed a bathroom and kitchen. This is an enchanting and magical place to draw, with a great view across the valley.


I open the studio and sit down to start drawing on often a variety of different projects. Pro Bono work for charities, like Macmillan Cancer Support, or paid work for other picture books, posters, jigsaw puzzles. Anything that needs my style of artwork and pays well — I will do.


But the big one is a new Winnie and Wilbur picture book.


I seldom get involved in the actual writing of the story. This is the work of the author Valerie Thomas, with the guidance of our editor.


Picture books must fit into 32 pages, with 24 pages (or 12 double page spreads) for text and illustration. Once the story is approved, we break it down into 12 spreads, ready to be illustrated.




I will do perhaps a first spread as finished art, or if there's some outfit or environment that Winnie will be wearing or visiting in the story, I will do a selection of preparatory sketches.


I work through a picture book in numerical/page order.


Each spread takes me about four, five maybe six, seven days to do, depending on the complexity or if ideas dry up, get page fright, or even feel grumpy.


After 40 Winnie and Wilbur books I never tire or get bored as each book continues to be magic moment for me, and hopefully for our two heroes’ fans too.


10:00am my neighbour Mena shouts:

” Κόρκυ, οι καφέδες είναι έτοιμοι!” – “The coffee is ready!”


I join Mena and his cronies for a cup of thick strong black Greek coffee, assorted biscuits and a shot of Tsipoura – a delicious hi-octane snifter.


11.00am I am back on the bench.

Each spread is worked out first in rough form on light-weight cartridge paper. The finished artwork is executed on a medium weight watercolour paper. All the artwork is done 25% larger than the printed size.


On the cartridge paper I draw in all the information I need to plan out and design the spread. Page size, illustration size and spine. On a separate piece of paper I have the typesetting of the text.


With a pencil I sketch in my ideas, moving the text around to fit in with the illustration. When I am satisfied with the pencil sketch and position of the typesetting, I redraw over the pencil lines in black Indian Ink using a dip-pen, making alterations where necessary. I now tape the completed rough onto a lightbox. (A lightbox is a drawing board with a clear plastic worktop and LED lights beneath.)


Over the rough I tape down the watercolour paper, flick on the lights and the rough sketch below shows through. With a very sharp HB pencil I lightly trace in the illustration, again making alterations where necessary.


I remove the watercolour paper from the lightbox and start drawing - not tracing! There's a great difference between the two.


I don't slavishly follow the pencil lines as this would produce a dull and lifeless work. They are there simply as a guide.


The trick is to recapture the spontaneity and freshness so often found in the rough drawings.


I draw mainly with a dip-pen using black or waterproof-coloured inks. The colour work is done with mostly watercolours.


By 1.00pm I am ready for a light lunch. 

I return to the house where we will make salads with tasty Greek tomatoes, feta cheese, sardines, thick slices of horiatiki bread all washed down with plenty of iced water.


By 2.00pm lunch and chats and gossip are finished.


Back on the drawing board to do more work on either the pencil roughs or finished art.


By 4.00pm I am ready for a swim.


I return home to change into my swimming gear. Suzie is ready for a swim too. We pass by the next village, collect our French friend Pat and head for the beach where Aphrodite is reputed to have been born.


I try and swim a kilometre a day.


NO, no, no! not in one solid batch. I try to do 100 strokes x 10, with short rests and deep breathing in at the end of each 100 strokes.


This is the best time of day to swim and enjoy the beach with the long sunsets accompanied by the gentle, soft light over the flat deep blue sea. “Like oil…” as The Greek say,” Όπως το λάδι…”


After the swim we may have an ice-cold draft beer with some mezedes.


Even nicer if our children Zoe and Oska with their friends are home for a visit from Athens.


About 8.30pm we are home 

...and I'm normally making a braai (grill over open fire) to cook lamb or goat chops, fish, vegetables. We entertain quite a lot and often have friends around to join us for a braai. We serve lots of fresh food, Ouzo, wine and good company.


Midnight: bedtime. 

If we are not entertaining, it's early to bed by 10.00pm and a catch up on reading or watching a movie.


Up again at six o'clock for my trek and back on the bench …or is it the beach?


Good night…..zzzzzzzzzzzz….

*Header image: Alex Crump;
All other images courtesy of Korky Paul.

The Zimbabwean-born artist Korky Paul is a successful children's book illustrator best known for the Winnie and Wilbur series of picture books written by Valerie Thomas, which have just celebrated 35 years in print, now in 44 languages and with sales of 10 million worldwide. His works can be recognised by his wonderfully anarchic, unconventional yet detailed and finely crafted scenes and figures.

Korky regularly visits schools promoting his passion for drawing. He is a patron of Pegasus Theatre, ARCH, Reading Quest and The Stratford Literary Festival. He is winner of Supporter of the Year for Summertown Stars Football Club. With his wife, the artist Susan Moxley, they divide their time between Oxford, England and Greece.


Alex Crump is an illustrator based in Wiltshire, with past careers as both a teacher and a zookeeper, as well as other current side-lines of storyteller and charity/museum educator.
Instagram: @alexcrumpillustration


Françoise Price is deputy editor of Words & Pictures magazine. Contact

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for selecting Kory Paul to lead us through a day in his shoes! Just as wonderful as I remember him to be. Can we club together to nominate him for a knighthood? He does so much for charity as well as his school visits and the books. Surely King Charles should do the arise Sir Korky!


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.