Hurrah! It’s time for another of our Spotlight On interviews. This time we are very excited to be chatting to the inimitable author-illustrator Maisie Paradise Shearring. Maisie’s spellbinding picture book adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince, first published in Spain by Grupo SM, is out in UK bookshops this week.
Maisie studied Illustration at Edinburgh College of Art, followed by an MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art, where she received the Ronald Searle Prize for Creativity. In 2015, Maisie won the International Award for Illustration at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. In 2016 she illustrated Va Jouer avec le Petit Garçon! by Clémentine Beauvais, published by Editions Sarbacane in France. She is represented at the agency by Helen Mackenzie Smith.
1) What inspired you to start drawing and writing picture books?
I don’t really remember a specific moment, I just know that I have always loved drawing, and reading and writing stories, so putting the two together to make books seemed like the perfect fit!
2) What comes first: The drawing, the character or the story?
I think it actually begins with people-watching and going out and looking around me. I then do lots of drawing and from this I find characters. Once I have a character, I draw them over and over and start to think about their personality – whether they are bossy, grumpy, kind etc. Thinking about their personality can then help a story begin to happen.
3) What artist’s tool could you not work without?
This is quite tricky because I use lots of materials when I work but I would really miss pencil crayons. I like using them to do observational drawings and although I mainly use ink/watercolour/paint for my more finished artwork, I always add some pencil crayon for extra texture.
4) If you weren’t an illustrator/author what would you like to be?
I really wanted to be a vet when I was child, but then my oldest brother Joe told me about animals dying and I decided it wasn’t for me!
5) If you could collaborate with any other picture book writer/illustrator, past or present who would it be and why?
John Burningham – because I think he is a genius.
6) Who is your favourite picture book character, and why?
I think Shirley Hughes’ Alfie. Mainly because of Bonting, the special stone he finds in the garden which he gets his mum to make some clothes for. As a child I related to this so much.
7) What’s your favourite word/colour?
My favourite word is block and my favourite colour is orange.
8) What was your favourite book when you were growing up?
There are too many to chose from really but I loved the Mennyms series by Sylvia Waugh. My mum read it to me and my brothers and although I was very young, it has stuck in my mind ever since.
9) What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I love peanut butter and marmite together on toast. If you like both peanut butter and marmite you should try this.
10) What has been your career highlight so far?
I think winning the International Award for Illustration at Bologna has been my highlight. It was indescribable happiness! Since then there is probably not a day that goes by where I don’t get a wave of excitement that I’m actually illustrating and making books as my job.