IN THE SHOES OF… Paul Morton


What's life like in someone else's shoes? This month, Françoise Price invites illustrator/author and SCBWI volunteer Paul Morton to tell us about his day.

Paul Morton

Like so many freelance illustrator/authors the rolling out of the day depends on what work is in, waiting to be completed, and particularly the deadline.


I’m not an early riser as I much prefer to burn the midnight oil, and beyond. Once in that happy groove you really don’t want it to end. But when you fall asleep over a drawing or in front of the screen, you know it’s time to stop. The rings under my eyes clearly show how many late nights I’ve put in, which thankfully have been less and less recently.


I used to produce lots of commercial work, artwork for children’s games, posters, food packaging and such like, but since I’ve concentrated on my own books, my working day feels very different. If I don’t have a book under contract, then there isn’t any one else’s deadline spurring me along. In that instance it’s important to create your own framework of deadlines and delivery times to instill discipline.


So typically, I get up around 8-8.30am. My wife will have already brought me a tea to encourage consciousness. She’ll have already been up and out in the garden for an hour or so. Breakfast is almost always in front of the TV watching something vaguely educational. At the moment I’m working on a graphic novel set in the Antarctic, so I’m watching as many polar David Attenborough series as possible. I love a good list. So crossing off one or two items as early in the morning as possible is always a good way start.

'I’m working on a graphic novel set in the Antarctic' 

With a deadline, like with my first two books about Bug Belly the Frog, I would typically do a couple of warm up sketches after breakfast. This preliminary flexing of the drawing and observing muscles is essential to then create something decent. Bizarrely though, I don’t do this in my studio. Once I step in there I fall foul of many distractions, answering emails, chasing up SCBWI matters, checking social media and online marketing and so on. Over the past three years I’ve produced hundreds of kid’s activity sheets and craft resources for Bug Belly. These include videos ‘How to draw baddies’ etc. Really fun, necessary and satisfying to create but it’s very easy to get waylaid from the ‘real work’.

'I’ve produced hundreds of kid’s activity sheets and craft resources for Bug Belly'

I have a wonderful large table in a downstairs extension, overlooking the garden and I can lay out dozens of drawings on that to get a great overview of the planning of a book.


I would sketch out two or three spreads, in my favourite 2B automatic pencil, erasing and changing as I wrestle the image into shape.


'To the light box' 

Then to the light box and now a different pencil, my favourite rich black, slightly waxy (and therefore non-erasable) Faber Castell Polychromos. Once happy with a batch of drawings, they DO then go back to my studio and get scanned ready for colouring and ‘post processing’ in Photoshop. This will be either at my desk, or in Procreate, on my iPad which can go anywhere with me.


So for the past three years or so, either side of the pandemic, I’ve taken myself off to a small selection of favourite coffee shops where I can work anonymously, uninterrupted, for say, a maximum of two and a half hours. In that time it feels good to get a few sketches or a couple of artwork spreads, or a few hundred words in the bag.


In decent weather, mid afternoon, and earlier in winter, it’s time to think about getting out on the bike. I’ve always been a keen mountain biker and recently I’ve also been swimming maybe two or three times a week.

Around Barnsley there are numerous bike tracks, old resurfaced train lines, and these are excellent fast exits to local woods with good downhill single track. These are the fun adrenalin sections, and cycling to them gives my mind space to wander, and I’ve solved many a plot conundrum whilst pedalling.


If I have the muse and mojo, which I’ve written about before for Words & Pictures, then I can also do some work in the evenings. I love that feeling when the tricky bits are all worked out and it’s a pleasurable downhill task to illustrate the scenes I’ve lived with, sometimes for months. If a long series of illustrations are needed then I’ll listen to an audio book or radio play, to help keep me ‘chained’ to my desk.


I’m still trying to crack getting a picture book accepted and in between the ‘current’ WIP I probably have three or four other book ideas that periodically leapfrog each other towards completion.


I find this approach to working on them helps keeps them fresh as I switch from my Young Fiction story about zombie bears to a tender friendship picture book idea, and I can re-approach each with some objectivity.


My reading pile is mostly junior or teen fiction, or at the moment as many young graphic novels as I can devour. I am so impressed by the amount of humour that the skilled experts manage to pack into their story line. I’m trying to write, and collect, jokes about fish at the moment for my own graphic novel. For example…


What is a giant octopus’s favourite snack?


Fish and ships!


*Header image: Ell Rose and Tita Berredo; 
all other images courtesy of Paul Morton



Paul Morton is illustrator and author of two early readers, Bug Belly Babysitting Trouble and Bug Belly Froggy Rescue published by Five Quills. He is organiser of the annual SCBWI-BI Picture Book Retreat and works on SCBWI's illustration committee as well as organising the Christmas Advent illustration competition. He lives with his wife in Barnsley. No pets, but a garden full of wild frogs.
And he is currently seeking representation.
Twitter: @paulhotfrog



Françoise Price is Deputy Editor of Words & Pictures magazine. Contact


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures. Contact

Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. Contact

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