Bruce Ingman

Picture books are a joy to read but how are they put together? We asked Bruce Ingman, illustrator of The Pencil to give us the inside information...

The Pencil
was originally going to be a book with very few words. Allan sent me a few lines (now the first page) to see what it would inspire. I played around doing some small dummies and I sent Allan some of my ideas. We had a chat on the phone and then I sent some more drawings. Allan likened it to a game of long-distance ping pong! But then I served the ball into the net. A little while later this most fantastic story with lots of words arrived in the post!

I read it and for a couple of weeks I just thought about it when travelling about, on the train or walking along the street. Then I had to go to New York for a week. When I had the chance, I went on a cultural blitz of the galleries and museums that was inspiring. The day after my return I went out to a café instead of going to my studio. I just wanted to go somewhere different. I still hadn’t put pencil to paper apart from the early drawings I had sent Allan. I took the story on A4 paper, a blank dummy, sellotape, scissors, and, of course, a pencil and a rubber. I ordered a coffee and did the whole book there and then in one surge of frantic energy. The final images/layout didn’t change that much from this initial version.

This was then photocopied and sent to Allan. He looked at it for a few days and made a few notes (much more taxing than it sounds). Then we had a meeting – Allan, David Lloyd our editor, Daniel Devlin the designer and myself – at Walker Books. We had an hour long meeting going through each spread before slopping off to the pub across the road from Walker for lunch (this would happen a couple more times in the course of making the book). I went back to my studio and made the few changes that had arisen from our meeting. As is usual, I had a few phone conversations with Allan. Then when the dummy of the book had been agreed, I did the final artwork. It took roughly two months. I tend to work in very quick bursts with a lot of biscuit-eating in between!

The whole book happened very naturally. I enjoyed every minute of it. Working with Allan is a real pleasure. As well as his obvious talent he’s got such a good eye visually I’m lucky he doesn’t fancy doing the illustrations as well.