We are thrilled to welcome James Foley — our featured author-illustrator for May. You might remember our review of The Last Viking, which was the first book that James ever illustrated (written by Norman Jorgensen). Since then, James has also written and illustrated a picture book called In the Lion. Check out a cool book trailer for In the Lion:
Today we are talking to James about what it’s like to be an author and an illustrator.
Can you tell us something about where you live?
There are lots of picture books and comics in the bookshelves, and there are paintings hanging on most of the walls. I have some artwork made by Western Australian illustrators like Samantha Hughes, Karen Blair, Briony Stewart, Campbell Whyte and my favourite, Shaun Tan. And I have some original drawings by Batman comic artist Tim Sale!
Where do you get your ideas and inspiration?
Was it easy to get your first illustration contract?
I first sent my artwork off to publishers in 2000, when I was 17 years old. I had just finished high school. I didn’t get a contract until 10 years later, in early 2010. I spent the 10 years practising my drawing mostly, and doing a bit of writing in there too. I met Norman Jorgensen in 2009 and we started working on The Last Viking together — from that point things started to move a lot more quickly and I got two illustration contracts in two years. Once you have your first book published, it’s easier to get another one. But sometimes getting that first contract takes a long time.
Does the story influence your choice of materials for the artwork?
When you are illustrating a book written by someone else, do you like to discuss the story and illustrations with them?
What do you like to do when you are not writing or illustrating?
I like to watch movies, play video games, read books. I like cooking. I like walking the dog. I have a kayak that I like to paddle, which I haven’t done in ages …
Is your writing and/or illustrating influenced by another writer and/or illustrator in particular?
I’m not sure. I have some favourites and I suppose they influence me, whether it’s obvious to me or not — Shaun Tan, Graeme Base, Jan Ormerod, Maurice Sendak. I started writing a story the other day, set it aside, then came back to it and realised it the words were in a Maurice Sendak kind of style (just not as well written, obviously).
Did you have a favourite author or illustrator when you were growing up?
Are you working on something at the moment?
Yes, I’m working on a few projects this year — another book I’m writing and illustrating called Brobot; a sequel to The Last Viking that doesn’t have a title yet; and some black-and-white chapter book illustrations for some stories written by Jon Doust and Ken Spillman.
Do you have any advice for young writers and/or artists?
Do it lots, and do it because you love doing it. Don’t listen to anyone who says that it’s not good enough yet. Just keep doing it and loving it. Have fun with it. You’ll get better and better the more you do it and the longer you do it for. Read, read, read — read novels, read comics, read books about history and myths, read the newspaper. And look, look, look — go to art galleries, go to museums, watch movies. Write and draw about the things that interest you. Love doing it.