This week should have marked the launch of my debut picturebook ‘My Dad is a Grizzly Bear‘, illustrated by Dapo Adeola.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the book will now be published in May 2021 instead. Don’t worry, you can still preorder the book but in the meantime I am posting my interview with Dapo so you can get to know him ahead of our beartastic launch next year.
S: Hi, Dapo! Thank you so much for joining me here on my blog. Tell us a bit about how you got into children’s book illustration?
D: My journey here was a bit of a long winded one but I’ll try and sum it up for this in a few sentences. After failing a graphic design degree at uni and working in retail and sales for a bit I decided to take a chance and go part time at work and dedicate my spare time to teaching myself illustration and character design. Ten years, several online courses, art fairs, low paying commissions and social media posts later I found myself in an agent’s office pitching some designs I’d done for a picture book my friend Nathan and I were putting together. I signed with the agency, our book got taken to the Bologna Book Fair and everything went bananas and that’s the short version of how my career began. I had no intention of being at this point so soon but I decided to rise to the challenge and see how far this road takes me. So far, so good.
S: How did you get involved in the My Dad is Grizzly Bear project?
D: After deciding to go with Penguin/Puffin on my first picture book series it meant that several of the other publishers who’d made us an offer still wanted to work with me, so early the following year I found myself flooded with various texts from publishers for picture books they wanted me to illustrate. Amongst these were two texts from you! Let’s just say it was a wrap the minute I started reading them! Your texts were so witty and fun and warm at the same time, it was an absolute no brainer to me that this was the text I wanted to illustrate next.
S: I’m so pleased you enjoyed the Grizzly Bear series. I’m thrilled with how the first book is looking and I can’t wait to see what you do with the second. What do you love illustrating the most?
D: My fave things to draw are children and (large) animals; I love the contrast in size when they’re both on a page together. Which also makes My Dad is a Grizzly Bear the perfect book for me. I’m a huge fan of imaginative texts too, texts that allow room for fantasy and inventiveness when drawing. I’m not so keen on very domestic stories to be honest.
S: As an illustrator who has worked with several writers now, do you have any advice for writers working with illustrators?
D: Writers need to try and understand the illustration process and the parallels it has with their own process because illustrators are storytellers too. I’ve only been a professional illustrator for a short while, but I’ve been a storyteller all my adult life. And, as such, one of the first things I picked up on in this industry is that despite the evidence put forward in their work (especially when it comes to picture books), illustrators almost aren’t seen as storytellers in their own right. There’s a weird sort of space we’re supposed to occupy that lies somewhere between “magician” and “pencil for hire” as we’re expected to create almost on a whim and draw what we’re given text wise. This isn’t how it works in reality as a picture book takes 6-8 months on average for an illustrator to do, and longer if the text is a tricky one. Truly understanding that it’s a collaborative process involving two storytellers and being open to all the change that might come with that goes a long way towards getting the best work from your illustrators and ultimately the best book out of both of you.
Thank you so much to Dapo for joining me on my blog. We can’t wait for you to meet our grizzly bear and his family next year.
Dapo Adeola is an illustrator and designer who creates characters and images that challenge gender norms in a fun and upbeat way. He is the co-creator and illustrator of the upcoming Penguin Random House picture book series Look Up and illustrator of The Last Last Day of Summer. London born and bred but of Nigerian heritage, when he’s not busy cooking up new characters and adventures you can find him running illustration and character design workshops in and out of schools, to help highlight the possibilities of a career in illustration to inner-city children. You can follow Dapo Adeola’s work on Instagram.