Interview with Steven Lenton

In 2015 I was chosen to interview author and illustrator Steven Lenton for the Bath Children’s Literature Festival.

In the run up to the 2015  Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival which starts tomorrow, Monkton Combe Prep School in Bath, held a workshop with Steven Lenton, who is famous for illustrating the Shifty McGifty books and lots of other stories.

By Lois Edwards (Age 9)

The workshop started with him reading a few stories to us and then he taught us how to draw some of the dog characters from the stories.

I thought it was very good because he showed us a really easy way to draw the characters and I have been drawing them at home on my own too. Afterwards I was lucky enough to be able to spend some time with Steven and ask him some questions about his illustrations.

Lois: Was art your favourite subject in school?

Steven: It was. I really liked writing and drawing at primary school and secondary school, so yes art was definitely always my favourite.

Lois: Are you working on a book at the moment?

Steven: Yes, we’ve just finished Shifty McGifty 3 and we’ve just started on Shifty McGifty 4

Lois: Do you keep an ideas book for doodling in?

Steven: I do. I keep a small sketch book on me at all times, because I might wake up at midnight with a really good idea or I might be on the bus or the train or in the car (not driving of course!) and come up with another idea and want to write it down quickly. So having a book with you all the time to make notes is a really good idea.

Lois: What other illustrators do you admire?

Steven: When I was growing up I loved Quentin Blake who does all the Roald Dahl book illustrations like the BFG. There’s also a lady who I really like, who designs a lot of Disney books called Mary Blair. I also really like Judith Kerr who did the Tiger who came to tea, she’s going to be at the Bath Literature Festival this year. That’s probably enough isn’t it. I could go on all day! (On Thursday 1 October Bath Festivals is auctioning over 60 original, unique, illustrations by Bath Children’s Literature Festival illustrators including Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo) and Chris Riddell (Goth Girl) click here for more information)

Lois: Did anyone inspire you to become an illustrator?

Steven: My teachers at primary school did. Mrs Wood who was my very first teacher was very good at art and I’ve had really good teachers all through my life. So yes teachers really are the main influence. And then I like to read up about other artists in the library and I used to enjoy watching animations on tv, and I knew I wanted to create my own characters so anything that involved characters I liked.

Lois: Do you prefer to draw with a pencil and paper or on a computer?

Steven:  Well I use both. It’s funny you should ask that because I always start off with a sketch book with pencil and paper and then I scan it into the computer and then I colour everything in. So everything you see in colour in my work is all done in photoshop on the computer. So I use a really good mixture of both

Lois: Do you just illustrate books or do you draw other things too?

Steven: I do draw other things too. I still do bits of animation and I design characters for TV commercials as well , I also design greeting cards and advent calendars. So yes lots of other different things that i try and do in between doing the books.

Lois: If you were writing a book would you start with the story or the drawings?

Steven: I would say neither, I start with the idea. So if you get an idea and it’s easier to explain it and write it down first then it would be the words but if you come up with a really good idea for a character it might be quicker to draw the character first. So it depends on the idea but the idea comes first.

Lois: If you could illustrate any book in the whole world, which would you pick?

Steven: Hmmm, well there’s a book with lots of dotty dogs in it and that would be my dream job. I think I’d like to design a really nice big book like Peter Pan, a real classic. I love the Far Away Tree books too by Enid Blyton, I’d love to illustrate those, or Alice in Wonderland as well would be really nice.

Lois: I can see you like drawing dogs, do you have a pet dog?

Steven: I do have a pet dog, she’s a Jack Russel and she’s a rescue dog called Holly. She’s getting on a bit, she’s 11 or 12 now and she can be quite grump