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Colin West

As a child

I spent a 1950s childhood in the village of Coopersale, in Essex. I remember Teddy boys and rock ’n’ roll, school trips to London museums, motorbikes with sidecars, and cars without seat belts. I enjoyed drawing, copying bird pictures into notebooks, dressing up and riding my tricycle (which had solid rubber tyres, so no punctures!). As the ’50s turned into the ’60s, and rollerskates gave way to hula hoops, I became even more interested in drawing. I loved the (then) new TV cartoon The Flintstones and a film about the Vikings called The Long Ships.

As an adult

I left school as soon as I could, to go to art college. It was a wonderful chance to experiment with different styles and media. I gravitated towards graphic art, and loved print-making, especially etching. The staff at Wolverhampton Polytechnic were very good in letting me go my own way. At twenty-one, I realized how exciting the world of children’s illustration was. At the Royal College of Art, I started writing my own texts and poems to illustrate. My first book was published the year after I graduated and since then I have kept busy with a variety of work.

As an artist

I like to write different types of book – rhymes, stories and short texts for picture books. I always like the words to come naturally, and the best ones are those which practically “write themselves”. I also enjoy variety when it comes to illustration – working in both colour, and black and white. I try to give my drawings a spontaneous feel, often redrawing them many times until I’m happy. Although I’ve been illustrating for thirty years, I still consider myself a student – I’m still learning and discovering exciting work by new illustrators.

Things you didn't know about Colin West

  1. I collect the little stickers you find on fresh fruit.
  2. At junior school I won a certificate for athletic skills, although I’m hopeless at sport.
  3. I live in a house that was once a laundry.
  4. I’m distantly related to music hall star, Harry Champion, who had a famous song, “Boiled Beef and Carrots”.
  5. When I was young, I wanted to be an artist, magician, or an actor in Westerns.
  6. I’ve got three sheds and am thinking of getting another one
  7. I prefer writing to illustrating, as it’s something you can do in bed.
  8. In the early 1970s I had shoulder-length hair and wore loon pants.
  9. I never have hot drinks and, even in winter, I like ice cubes.
  10. I like watching old Fred Astaire movies.

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