This week, on Meet An Illustrator, we are featuring an artist currently shortlisted for the 2021 Klaus Flugge Prize. This highly important children’s book award, named after the founder of Andersen Press, is presented annually to the most promising and exciting newcomer to children’s picture book illustration.
John has been shortlisted for his illustrations to Booker Prize-shortlisted Mick Jackson’s While You’re Sleeping, an ACHUKA Book of the Day in October 2020. Jill Bennett said of this title, on her superb review blog RedReadingHub, “To open this book is like opening a gorgeous box full of jewels – each page is stunning – so too are the endpapers, the cover: the entire production in fact and to read it is like being shown around a gallery by a wise, gently spoken curator eager to open our eyes to how the world works.”
John may be a newcomer to children’s picture books but he is hardly a newcomer to illustration. Since 1996 he has produced limited editions of hand-made books, with print runs ranging from 5 to 80. In 2010 an edition of all his work to date was published as John Broadley’s Books by Jonathan Cape Graphic Novels.
In 2018 he published ‘Early Struggles’, a signed and numbered 64-page edition of 102 copies. It came hand-bound in a choice of four colours with each copy including a hand-drawn original insert of a drawing of a budgie.
In 2012 John became the in-house illustrator for the London restaurant Quo Vadis where his drawings appear on dozens of daily changing menus, tablecloths, vouchers (see below) and online. His client list includes Fortnum & Mason, Liberty London, Berry Bros & Rudd, Phaidon, The Fine Cheese Co, New York Times, and Zuni Cafe San Francisco.
John’s second children’s book collaboration with Mick Jackson, We’re Going Places, is published in September this year.
Jump to the end of the Q&A for a video of John explaining how he worked on While You’re Sleeping and a link to a Pavilion Books blog page giving more details of how the book was compiled and some of the challenges faced.
As a child, what were the first illustrations you remember admiring?
Who/what inspired you when you were young?
The Tolkein drawings in the Hobbit. I probably didn’t think the drawings were very good but they had a weirdness which was different to anything else that I would have seen at that time.
Who inspires you today?
When I’m producing my own, self-published books, which are not led by a commission, I sometimes put a David Lynch interview on and get motivated by his thoughts on generating ideas.
Did you study art/illustration?
I studied illustration at Liverpool Polytechnic in the late 80s/early 90s. Before that, a Foundation Course at Huddersfield Technical College [now Kirklees College], which was one of the best years of my life.
What is your favourite artist tool/product?
A dip pen and a bottle of ink.
Where do you buy your art supplies?
As I work almost exclusively in black and white, before adding colour digitally, my supplies are basic. I get pads of A4 lined paper which I glue together to make larger sheets to draw on. I buy Chinese ink and Rotring ink online and decant them 50/50 into a smaller bottle. All of my pens and rulers that I use, as well as old ledger books etc, come from second hand dealers. I also have a lot of Letraset sheets which I scan in and use as collage elements, these are hard to find and can be quite expensive but you occasionally find a job lot on ebay that’s affordable.
What software/apps do you use?
Only Photoshop. I taught myself how to use it as at the time I was at college there was only one computer for the whole department. I only know how to perform the tasks which I need for my work, which are quite basic ones.
What was your first commission?
In 1991 I was a winner in a competition run by Elle magazine and Paperchase to design a horoscope image. I had two designs chosen to be made into cards and then got a commission to do the horoscope page for the magazine itself. I gave up illustrating in 1996 as it wasn’t going well. I came back into it after a collection of the self-published books was published by Jonathan Cape in 2010, called “John Broadley’s Books”.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m coming to the end of a long-running project to illustrate for the restaurant in a soon-to-be-opened redeveloped hotel in Oxford. The restaurant is named ‘The Alice’ after Oxford University tutor Lewis Carroll’s famous book, and also incorporated into the drawings are nods to a famous resident of the hotel, Osbert Lancaster, as well as the architecture and character of Oxford itself.
Twitter or Instagram? Instagram
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Dog or cat? Dog
Grape or grain? Cider!
Sunrise or sunset? Both
What do you listen to when you are working? I’m trying to restrict music for when I’m not working, so when I am at the desk it’s often a stream of voices. I have a cache of radio plays which I listen to again and again, such as adaptations of all the Raymond Chandler Philip Marlowe novels, Vincent Price’s ‘Price of Fear’ programme, Sherlock Holmes radio plays from the 40s etc.
Where can we follow you on social media?
My instagram is @john.broadley.77
This is a regular weekend feature, publishing every Saturday.