Friday, 19 April 2013

Interview #18: Craig McCann

My latest interviewee is Craig McCann, a designer of textiles and stationery, and an aspiring children's picture book illustrator. He lives in Manchester. He has a wonderful website, and blog, This latter site is a beautifully put-together commentary on artists who have clearly influenced the talented Mr McCann.
My thanks to him for agreeing to be interviewed for Bookengine.

Your background is in textiles, illustration and photography – how did you become interested in children’s books and how have your skills influenced your work?

Craig McCann
I was a textile designer for over 20 years, after completing a textile degree back in 1989 and setting up a textile printing business in Nottingham in the early 90s. I have since established my own business, creating ranges of greeting cards and notebooks ( and a blog on which I look at many designers, illustrators and creative peeps ( and discuss their merits and qualities. I have become interested in children's book illustration over the last couple of years after working on the blog and drawing more and more characters in sketchbooks. Ideas for stories and scenarios for the characters I'm creating then pop into my head and I let them roam and stew for a while before they start to formulate into a book.

What books have you written/illustrated? Can you talk about them and what prompted you to create them?

I've written two books to date, both are still in the early stages of reaching a publisher so I'm not going to give everything away in terms of the ideas, but one is about a dog in space and the other is about a lion who is searching for something. They are both very different in style, the former was created largely from hand-drawn images which were later coloured on the Mac. The latter was also using drawn figures as a starting point but the images were then collaged and assembled in Photoshop and as a result have a very different feel to the earlier book illustrations. You can see some examples of my work here

Do you feel you have a theme or themes running through your work? If so, what are they?

Most of my characters are 'born' quirky, colourful and usually striving to induce a smile or two, I believe humour to be one of the greatest elements to interweave into my work and I try to include it whenever possible.

Craig's website

What difficulties have you encountered trying to get your work published?

From meeting other published authors and illustrators and reading so much online, I realise that getting that initial break into publishing is the hardest part of all. There are so many people who want to write children's picture books that publishers are inundated and find it difficult to cope with the quantities of material they receive as submissions. I'm told that many publishing houses only ever create a few new books every year, the rest of their publications are reprints. It's a hard journey for the new illustrators to get into the bookshops.

What advice would you offer new writers and illustrators?

Get your work out there, be seen and don't be afraid to try different styles. Not everyone illustrates in one style all the time. By experimenting you may find whatever the next big style will look like.

Which authors and illustrators have inspired you and why?

I'm inspired by so many wonderful people, mid-century artists like Alain Gree, Miroslav Sasek, Charley Harper, Helen Borten, Bernice Myers who were drawing crazy amounts of beautiful work in the fifties and sixties. They are now becoming more sought after and in the last five years have been seen by a new generation of fascinated illustrators. I feel that European publishers tend to take more chances with different styles of illustrators and sometimes 'darker' or more unusual books are given the chance to be published than many I see in the U.K. I hope the trend is changing and the likes of Chris Haughton, Oliver Jeffers, John Burningham, Quentin Blake.

Artwork by Craig in his Mr Perkins' Travels card range

What would you like to achieve with your work in the future?

As with most illustrators, I'd love my work to be seen and appreciated by a wide audience. I'm also wishing to eventually develop a local group or illustrative class in Manchester where like-minded creatives can come together to help one another and play with ideas and possibly collaborate on ideas and projects. That will be something for later in the year. In the meantime, I'm busy with stationery, ceramics and children's books, plenty to keep me occupied.

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