Tim Wesson - New Artist
We are delighted to welcome Tim Wesson to Kids Corner. To celebrate the launch of Tim's portfolio, we have spoken to him about his inspirations, his colourful characters and how he turned his much loved past time into his profession.
Could you tell us a little bit about your influences?
I have lots of different influences, I like Keith Harring and Jean Michel Basquat. Miro was probably the first artist that I looked at and really appreciated. His work is very doodleesque and free flowing, which appeals to me, it's definitely had an influence, I suppose it shares a similar chaos. I also appreciate my contemporaries; I like Benji Davies, his work is very atmospheric and Oliver Jeffers, I admire his talent for storytelling. I'm also a big fan of the mural artist Jeremyville. I have lots of different influences, but the thing that they all have in common is the drawing. Good old fashioned print making.
You have a particular brand of humour, where do you think this comes from and how would you describe it?
I like to try and introduce a sense of mischief and for my characters to be a bit cheeky, which I guess comes from my own childhood. I like the idea of not having any constraints or rules or thinking that things should be a certain way. I love to experiment and make things up a bit, it's all a bit anarchic. Kids have a sense of the ridiculous and they appreciate that kind of thing.
The Mega Mash Ups series won the National Literacy Trust Top Summer Book award when it was first published, what do you think it is about these books that appeals to children?
The series is in the fiction format but essentially they are activity books, so it's a hybrid. We had originally intended them to be more factual but the facts ended up being quite haphazardly placed around the chaos. This combination really appealed to reluctant readers. We didn't plan for the books to take this form, it was quite by accident, but it was great how much appeal that held. It seems there is a real appetite for new formats at the moment, both within the industry and with young readers.
When we were promoting the series we did lots of school events and I was always quite surprised at how in tune the pupils were with the illustrations, they have such a good eye for detail. My favourite part of events is to chat with the kids afterwards, we always seem to find the same parts of the books funny. They love the approach where you can mix things up, these days we really live in a world of mash ups, it's ok to mix and match and just try things out.
You produced the mega mash ups with Nikalas Catlow, how did you work as a team?
As the books were based around a set of characters we would each be a different character. So for example one of us would be a Roman and the other be a Dinosaur and we would just play things out and draw lots of different ideas. We would draw sketches and scenes and slowly put together a story that way.
I work in a similar way on my solo projects, I spend a lot of time doodling and playing around. I do a little bit of drawing, a little comic scene or something in my sketchbook, I build it up and then review the character. Very often as I'm drawing I know the character's story already - it's just kind of there and it emerges as I'm drawing them.
You've created some madcap worlds in the books you've worked on, what environment do you work in to get into that space?
I work from my studio at home. I put all of my favourite drawings on the wall, blue tacked from floor to ceiling. Often a character will just come to mind and if I just jot it down on a scrappy bit of paper, it can easily get lost. So I carefully cut them out and put them all up on the walls. I really enjoy being surrounded by my drawings.
Working from home and having my children around me also helps. My six year old daughter will remind me of being free and not being constrained, I'll be like 'you're right that character can have those things on their heads. I wasn't sure at first but of course they can.'
I'm developing a picture book at the minute, and when she looks at the artwork she doesn't see the composition she sees the character; 'Who's he? What's he doing? Is it interesting? Do I like him?' Sometimes, I get so bogged down with the concept and layout that my characters aren't doing an awful lot, so I then bump them up quite considerably. They can't just look great they need to look alive and my daughter reminds me of that.
What are the biggest challenges you face as an illustrator?
I think all illustrators strive to have a recognisable style of drawing, consistency is important and you need to establish that as an illustrator to be able to work professionally. However you also need to keep developing, which is a challenge when you are working. Clients have expectations for you to deliver a certain style when you are working on a project, and I love doing that, but experimenting and trying something new is important too. So I keep doing that in my sketch books, I'm always drawing and trying to push myself further.
You've authored, illustrated and designed your own books as well as creating illustrations for young fiction titles. What's next?
I would like to do something more factual, something with an oblique reference to it. I'm really interested in space and I have a bank of knowledge that I could use to do a good space book. Obviously space is quite difficult to draw if you are doing straight non fiction, because it's full of a lot of nothing! I think I'd need to introduce some aliens and weird stuff! I really would like to do a picture book too.
I'm also really loving the young fiction series that I'm working on called, Spy Toys.Young fiction titles seem to be more about the action, publishers like a lot of movement in the drawing with lots of things going on and I like that too, so it's a great fit for me.
To see Tim's full portfolio, click here.