Friday, 26 August 2016

Interview with Clive McFarland

Clive grew up in Northern Ireland before taking a ship to England to study at Liverpool School of Art and Design.  Discovering his love for children’s picture books he combined it with his love of nature. His art is inspired by the shapes and emotion he finds in landscape and natural imagery. His debut picture book A Bed for Bear and follow up The Fox and the Wild are available now. His third book Caterpillar Dreams will be released in early 2017.

BWB: A Bed For Bear was your debut picture book for HarperCollins. Can you tell us what inspired the story?

CM: I wanted to make a book about finding a place to belong. Originally the story was set in an urban town where bears lived. Even though town seemed the perfect place to live for many different types of bear (like brown bears, polar bears and pandas), it was a place where Bernard the Bear felt he didn’t belong. HarperCollins liked the main character but envisaged a bedtime story. That set Bernard on a different path and I started over with something simpler. I felt a book to be read at bedtime should be quiet. I wanted things to be understated and for the art not to be too cluttered or busy. Setting the story in a wood seemed a better fit. Bernard still feels that he isn’t in the right place and goes looking for the perfect place to sleep.

I owe a lot to my editor David Linker. We worked on A Bed for Bear for a long time. He helped me find the right voice and establish the kind of stories I want to tell.

BWB: Bears focus in a lot of your illustrations, is there a reason for this?

CM: Maybe I was drawing a lot of bears because I had a story in mind. I haven’t created any since I completed A Bed for Bear and decided not to work on a couple of bear books from other publishers after that. I had created a bear character I was fond of and wanted to do something different. I’d love to visit Bernard’s world again though.

BWB: Who is your favourite fictional bear?

CM: I grew up with and love the original Winnie-the-Pooh stories by AA Milne, illustrated by EH Shepard. Paddington Bear is a close second. Bernard’s yellow scarf is a little nod to Rupert Bear.

BWB: Your illustration process of collage is seen throughout your work. Has this process changed in any way to meet picture book deadlines?

CM: My process hasn’t changed much but I am working digitally more which means it’s easier to make changes to the art. I am able to make more polished work this way and it can be a bit faster. I allow myself to use only hand-painted textures and try to keep true to the limitations of traditional cut-out illustration.

BWB: Can you tell us what are you working on right now?

CM: My latest book Caterpillar Dreams is publishing with HarperCollins early next year. It’s a story about a caterpillar called Henri who dreams of exploring the world and sets off on a journey beyond the safety of his garden. I haven’t seen the final book yet but it's finished and I’m very excited for the book to be released. 

Right now I’m in the process of illustrating a counting book to be published by Nancy Paulsen Books, which is an honour. I’m also writing new stories and hoping they might be on a bookshelf in the not too distant future.

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