We are back with another brilliant FCBGAsks! This new feature aims to get to know some of the best authors and illustrators in the UK. We are so excited to share our recent interview with Joe Todd-Stanton.
When did you first start sketching or drawing?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I was very lucky because my mum draws a lot (she’s an illustrator herself) and so we always used to draw together when I was growing up. I was particularly obsessed with Batman so I just had sketchbooks full of batmen. Then as I got older I got obsessed with the art work in the instruction manuals you get for video games. I would buy videos games just for the art and then study the instruction manuals and try draw them myself. I also loved the art of Chris Riddell and would try and draw things in his style. I guess it all progressed from there.
How has your style and technique changed over time?
I think it’s that classic thing of when you’re young you want to be old. So when I drew growing up I always wanted everything to be dark and “mature” looking. I wanted to draw gruesome monsters and dystopian futures. I wanted to make stuff like Ralph Steadman or H.R. Giger. But as I’ve got older my tastes have hopefully widened. I don’t think everything needs to black and white and overly deep (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I still love it). I’ve just tried to learn how to use brighter colours and use different intensities of line in my work.
Did you have a favourite illustrator growing up?
Chris Riddell! I was obsessed with his illustrations in The Edge Chronicles books and I’m sure they had a big effect on the way I draw, even now. I was lucky enough to go to school with his son and I once went round to his after to school and got a glimpse into a room which I’m assuming was Chris’s studio. I remember how in awe I was and thinking how much I would love to have a room like that of my own one day.
Are there other illustrators whose work you admire or are inspired by?
So many. Maurice Sendak, Gabrielle Vincent, Hayao Miyazaki, Quentin Blake, Júlia Sardà, Isabelle Arsenault, Luke Pearson, Tom Gauld, Jon McNaught and many many more.
How long do you spend creating your books?
Hopefully not too long is all I can say. My first book Arthur and the Golden Rope took about two years because I completely finished a version and then me and my publisher decided it wasn’t up to scratch and started again. But then my second picture book A Mouse Called Julian only took a few months. I think things just take as long as they take and you know inside when you’ve got it right and when you need to keep working at it.
Where do you find your inspiration?
It’s not a great answer but I think it can be anything. I think just being genuinely curious about the world is the best thing you can possibly be if you want to try and write stories. I just try and keep an open mind and keep looking until I find something that sparks my imagination. I think normally the best places for this are the classic things like museums or long walks. Also I find Wikipedia an amazing place for inspiration because after clicking through a couple of hyperlinks you can end up on a page reading about something you never could have predicted.
Are you working on anything new at the moment? Are you able to share anything from this work?
I have just finished my next picture book called The Comet which will hopefully be published next March! I’m very excited but sadly I don’t think I can share anything yet. I can say it’s about a father and daughter who have to move from their countryside home by the sea to a big city and how they deal with that. It was very inspired by lockdown. I wanted to make a hopeful story about being able to find happiness and comfort despite hard circumstances. I can’t wait to share it.
Are you a neat and tidy worker or messy and chaotic?
I would say I’m a fairly messy chaotic person but actually when it comes to my work I am neat because of the things I work with. My desk is A3 paper, 2B pencils, a drawing board and my laptop so there isn’t anything to really mess up. I’m sure it would be an absolute nightmare if I painted, which is probably why I don’t.
Who would you love to work with one day?
Hmm that’s difficult question as I really enjoy working on my own projects at the moment but I would love to get the chance to illustrate a classic text, like Peter Pan or Wind in the Willows. I guess my biggest dream is work alongside a big team and try and direct an animation one day.
What are your thoughts on endpapers?
I love them. I think they are such a good opportunity to set the atmosphere of a book, like the opening credits of a movie (something I’m sad has died out). I think they are especially important with picture books because you have so little space it’s really important to use every opportunity to show the reader your world and endpapers are such a great place to do that. I love books as objects and along with maps, family trees and world histories endpapers are such an important part of this.