It’s not every day that you see a picture book about a baby on a skateboard!
Jack Noel is an author, book-designer, and illustrator who lives in London. He works mainly on books for kids. As an author he loves making funny books with loads of pictures. As a designer he has worked in-house at Walker Books, Simon & Schuster and Andersen Press, though he is currently at Little Tiger. You can learn more about him at his website or follow him on Twitter or Instagram.
SKATER BABY is his picture book debut as both author and illustrator due to be released in the US next week. It’s a hilarious cumulative tale where the baby escapes its stroller, grabs a skateboard, and starts grabbing all sorts of things in a joyous romp from a myriad of people who are in the park. Both objects in the baby’s hands and people in pursuit of said objects stack up. I suspect that this is a book that young readers are going to want to read over and over again. It’s the ultimate in chase scenes, as well as the young protagonist making fools of every adult on the scene. What kid doesn’t love a book where the adults seem foolish?
Me: Can you share about your artistic journey? When did you start creating art? How did that bring you to where you are now as an illustrator?
Jack: I started drawing when I was young, like most kids do – endlessly felt-tip scribbling on any paper or card I could find. I copied pictures from everywhere – books and comics and cereal boxes. I loved the process. Then at some point I got distracted by other things – including, briefly, skateboarding (or at least, wearing baggy jeans and watching skateboard videos). I was about twenty when I suddenly got the urge to draw again, and since then I haven’t stopped. I draw every day now – and I still copy things from cereal boxes.
Me: “Skater Baby” is your author-illustrator debut. Yay! Congratulations! What is it that draws you to creating picture books?
Jack: I’ve always wanted to make a picture book. If you like the words and the pictures and how they work together, it’s the holy grail. I’ve been trying to make one for almost ten years now. They are like babies: they seem simple, but they are complicated. They take a lot of work. The good ones are wonderful!
Me: That’s a brilliant analogy. I don’t think I’ve seen a picture book about a baby on a skateboard (which seems like an obvious gap in the market!), let alone one that is told in a cumulative style. What gave you the idea for this story?
Jack: I was thinking about how popular various modes of transport are with kids. They’re always biking or scooting or skating or unicycling or … something. For the book I tried other modes of transport (a scooter) and other characters (a dog) but when I drew a silly skateboarding baby it just seemed right, somehow.
Me: Which was harder: writing or illustrating “Skater Baby”?
Jack: Illustrating takes longer, but at least it’s simply a case of simply putting in hours at the desk. Plus you can listen to music whilst you do it. Writing is harder. Even if you sit there all day – in complete silence, staring at a blank screen as a cursor blinks away in expectation – it’s possible you still get absolutely nothing done! It can feel like standing knee-deep in the sea and trying to catch a fish with your bare hands. (Then, one day, hopefully: a fish!)
Me: That is so true. What did your illustration process for this book look like? Are you a traditional or a digital artist? Or do you use a blend of both?
Jack: I love drawing with pen on paper, but for book illustrations I use Procreate, which is a great iPad app. The feeling is pretty close to traditional media but you have the ‘undo’ function, which I use about a five million times a day.
Me: LOL! Me too! What is one thing that surprised you in creating this story?
Jack: I wanted to make a zany romp – and I hope I have – but I didn’t expect to go for a journey into my own past. There’s so many little details to design and I kept finding myself thinking back through my own life for inspiration. The artwork on the walls of the baby’s home all came from my childhood home. The clown is based on a sign in my childhood playground. When the ice-cream van needed a crudely-drawn cartoon character I used an old Homer Simpson doodle that my mum did years ago!
Me: Any advice for other new picture book writers and/or illustrators?
Jack: Just to read, read and re-read picture books, draw every day and share your work with the world.
Great advice. Thank you for stopping by my blog Jack.
Dear readers, keep an eye out for this one. It’s a fun twist on the cumulative format, hijinks that make adults look foolish, and it incorporates a skateboard! I couldn’t have imagined all of that mashed together, but I’m glad Jack did. It totally works!