Axel Scheffler - illustrator of The Gruffalo - enchants a full house at the Wessex Children's Book Festival (From Basingstoke Gazette)
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Axel Scheffler - illustrator of The Gruffalo - enchants a full house at the Wessex Children's Book Festival
CELEBRATED illustrator Axel Scheffler delighted a packed audience at the Wessex Children’s Book Festival yesterday.
In Winchester’s Discovery Centre, he read several of his most famous collaborative works aloud and drew their famous protagonists – including The Gruffalo – on a computerised overhead projector. He also answered the questions of the children and afterwards spent many hours individually signing and dedicating the books of those who queued to meet him.
The famed German arrived on these shores in 1982 to study at the Bath Academy of Art. He said: “I just always liked drawing. At some point, after I went to art school, I thought being an illustrator would be a good thing to do. I do everything by hand. I found doing the stormy skies for Room on the Broom very hard. But that was a long time ago so maybe now I would find it easier.”
In a 25 year career as an illustrator he estimates that he has been involved with “80 books – quite a lot” – but his most successful collaborations have come with Julia Donaldson. After she approached publishers with the poem A Squash and A Squeeze (written for the BBC) which someone had suggested would make an excellent children’s picture book, they went looking for an illustrator.
Axel reflected: “Two other illustrators said no. I was very lucky to be the third choice. That brought us together and it’s almost 20 years ago now. Next year there will be a new edition and a little story by me and a little story by Julia about how we made the book. She can’t be here today because she’s very busy being children’s laureate.”
The duo were to score a mssive hit with 1999’s The Gruffalo, which has gone on to sell in its millions, to win awards and to be adapted for television and the theatre. Axel revealed the exciting news that their story Room on the Broom, made by the same company who produced The Gruffalo for TV, will be broadcast on BBC over the Christmas period. He also gave the audience a sneaky peek at a still from the show.
When asked what he likes to draw, he replied: “I don’t really have a favourite but I do like the tales of Acorn Wood and I’m liking Highway Rat at the moment. I like to draw rodents and squirrels and mice.”
And he revealed that it can take several months to create the work for one book, adding: “If I am lucky, I can do a double spread in two day. It depends on how much detail. And it can go wrong, and I can spill coffee on the drawing...It takes two to five months to do a picture book.”
The delighted children gasped in recognition as he drew the characters which have become so real to them and one little boy behind me whispered to his mum, “Isn’t that clever?”
It was indeed – deceptively simple, but completely fantastic.
*The festival continues until Friday, with appearances by Steve Cole, Georgina Hall, Judith Kerr, Nick Arnold and Jacqueline Wilson, plus countless events and film screenings in a tent in WDC including The Muppets, Happy Feet and Snow White. Find out more online at wessexbookfest.co.uk.