Last week I got an email from the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) announcing that they were going to have a an open studio day with Alex Latimer. I can’t honestly say that I knew who Alex was before that email. After meeting him, seeing his studio and his work, I am so glad that I now do.
I will admit that in the rush to get to Alex’s studio in the morning, I actually forgot his name (this is a common thing that happens – especially if I haven’t met a person, so it didn’t even bother me that I was going to a person’s house whose name I had forgotten). I was five minutes late when I arrived and had to yell around his house until eventually I found his wife who guided me up the stairs to his studio. I still hadn’t remembered what his name was, as I quickly nodded and did mini waves to everyone apologetically, as I made my way to the back of the room. I had missed the introduction to the open day and just decided that I was going to have to check my emails on my phone at some point to get this guy’s name. As I was standing there my eyes began to wonder to the shelving on the wall.
There were all these books that were written and illustrated by some person called ‘Alex Latimer.’ I thought to myself ‘I need to Google that when I get home – maybe it’s up-coming illustrator or something that this guy is drawing inspiration from.’
Celeste: Hi Paddy! Thank you for taking time out to answer our questions. Before we start, can you just tell us a little about yourself?
Paddy: I always wanted to be an illustrator without having any idea how to go about it! So I studied Fine Art at UCT and was fortunate enough to win a bursary to study in Paris afterwards. While I was there, out of the blue I was asked by a SA publisher to illustrate my first book, in black and white. It was set in France, which is why they asked me, I suppose… Unfortunately it ended up so badly printed that I was put off illustration, I thought, forever!
Back in SA, I taught Printmaking at the Art School of Stellenbosch University. But my first love of picture books reasserted itself and in the late 70’s I wrote and illustrated my first picture book in colour. It lay on the shelf for 4 years before it was published…
Celeste: I think I’ve counted over twenty books that you were involved in, as either an illustrator or a writer, since 1984 (which was the year I was born in). Does anyone of those projects stood the test of time for you, and still remains your favorite?
Paddy: I think that would be the Bertie series (about a badly-behaved toy hippo) that I wrote and illustrated for the Bodley Head in London the 80’s. I was recently asked to do a book reading at our granddaughter’s school in Dubai. Confronted by a class of very bright 4-5 year olds, my old favourite came out! The stories seem as popular now as they were then – the teacher commented that she had never known the class to sit still for so long! Read more