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Literacy Learnings Léargais Litríochta


Illustrator name:  Brian Fitzgerald

Title of shortlisted book:  Amuigh Faoin Spéir

1. What was your earliest memory of reading/being read to?

I remember my mother sitting in an armchair in the kitchen with a book. Four of us stood and leaned in to listen. Not long into the story half a dozen tiny mice marched out from the log box and up along the chair to the highest point as if to get the best position to listen to the rest of the story. My mum kept her calm and we were ushered out of the kitchen but not before my youngest sister had picked one up and had hoped to keep it. I forget the story but my mum was reading.


2. When did you first begin to illustrate for an audience?

In Dublin and U Magazine were my first illustration commissions. There was a payphone in the corridor of flats and luckily there was always someone around to take messages. I would illustrate a review of a café where I would draw while sampling the coffee and cake.


 3. What book inspired you most as a young illustrator? why?

‘There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly’, illustrated by Simms Taback. Simms style was a lot looser and more playful than some of the picture books from our closest neighbour the UK. I loved how he would sometimes glue pieces to the artwork. Anything goes as long as your work is engaging. That’s what I like about his work.


4. What is the best thing about illustrating for a contemporary audience?

I’ve been illustrating children’s picture books for fourteen years now and I love it. Despite the attraction of the digital world, kids still like to hold a picture book. I also love that kids are also the ones who decide which books deserve the attention.


5.  What is the most challenging thing about illustrating for a contemporary audience?

There are so many books out there and unless you’re very fortunate, lucky, or brilliant at social media your chances of being noticed are low. I used to visit bookshops to see how my books looked and was often disappointed to see them hidden away on a shelf five feet from the ground.


6. What inspired you to illustrate Amuigh Faoin Spéir?

I had started to take regular walks up Killiney hill to take time from my studio work.  It is perfect for family walks. I remember walking there when it snowed, rained, foggy and sunny. I would avoid the path to imagine being in a bigger wooded place. Ten one day the manuscript arrived and I immediately knew It had to be about the walk in Killiney Hill.


7. What have you learned from the process of illustrating this book?

The book before it was ‘Be Thankful For Trees’, and that’s where I finally settled on a style. ‘Amuigh Faoin Spéir’, was the opportunity to really make this way of illustrating pop!.

I did a lot of on site drawing which is what we all want to do but end up sitting at our desks. I have learned to live the story a little by doing those things the characters do and that helps to find a richer way of visually telling the story.


8. What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?

Don’t isolate yourself, try meeting up with others on a regular basis to share your work and get feedback. Enter competitions online so you can see that your best work this year will not be your best work next year when you enter again. This helps to see that you are improving.

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