Thursday 17 September 2020

Norse Tales by Kevin Crossley-Holland & Jeffrey Alan Love - Guest Illustrator Post

 It is an absolute treat to invite the brilliantly talented Jeffrey Alan Love back onto the Picture Book Party blog to tell us all about the making of his new book, Norse Tales: Stories from Across the Rainbow Bridge. You can now read the full post below!

Guest Illustrator Post - Jeffrey Alan Love

Tell us a little bit more about your artistic process?

I live in Northern California and have an office that looks out on Mt. Tam. In the mornings I can watch the fog rolling in from Point Reyes heading towards San Francisco. Before the pandemic I worked like anyone else - drop the children off at school and work until it was time to pick them up, Monday through Friday, with weekends off. Now I work in stolen moments, naptime, late at night or early in the morning, as much as I can on weekends. Six months in and this feels normal now, and I wonder what it will feel like when my children are able to go back to school safely. This has been incredibly hard, as I know it has been for everyone, but I also feel lucky to have gotten to spend so much time with my children at such a young age.

As for my working method, I like to print the manuscript so that I can doodle in the margins as I read through it, little scribbled visual notes when something strikes me. If there's a moment that evokes an emotional reaction I underline it and try to evoke that emotion in my artwork. The sketches I send to Ben are done in photoshop, generally just black and white, trying to get the design and composition right. The sketches are never about drawing, or details - only whether the composition is working. If the composition is working then I can get away with just having fun making the finished artwork, trying different techniques and tools to get interesting marks and effects. As long as I have the composition and value structure worked out I know I have a safety net and can only fall so far, so I feel free to take risks and make mistakes and discover new ways of working. All of the paintings for this book were done with acrylic and ink on illustration board.

What was your favourite spread to illustrate?

My goal is always to make every spread my favourite, to give 100% to each painting. I want the reader to be propelled through the book by the words and images, and each image needs to have an impact. 

Which of the tales is your favourite and why?

I think Kevin did something wonderful with this book, in that each tale builds subtly one upon the next until we reach the end and he brings them all together with the final tale. When I read the manuscript the first time I got teary-eyed at the end. So if I had to pick just one, The Gift of Poetry. As a father now I often think of what I want my books to pass on to my children, and what was given to me by books in my childhood and in my life. The Gift of Poetry speaks to that history, that heritage, all of us are links in a chain reaching back through the years and that, we hope, will extend far into the future.

What is your favourite thing to draw? 

I am drawn to knights and arrows and swords and King Arthur and Robin Hood because, as a young child growing up in Germany, I spent my days running through dark woods, up the hill from our village to a small castle. On weekends we would go visit other castles, or walled cities, or ruins. I was surrounded by the landscape of the tales my parents told me, of the picture books they would buy me.

What was your favourite picture book when you were a child?

Tales of King Arthur by James Riordan, illustrated by the magnificent Victor Ambrus. My parents went to England and came back with that book and I was hooked. I knew I wanted to write and draw as soon as I saw the cover. 

 - Jeffrey Alan Love

A special thanks to our guest illustrator this week, Jeffrey Alan Love!

Norse Tales: Stories from Across the Rainbow Bridge is now available to buy from all good booksellers.