The Bright Agency (Children's Illustration blog), The Bright Emporium (STS & Book Launches)

Behind the Book with Daniel Duncan

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Fresh, new author/illustrator, Daniel Duncan’s debut picture book, SOUTH, was warmly received at the recent book launch with US based children’s publishing house, Abrams — held at The Bright Emporium. The story is calm and gentle, the illustrations full of depth and emotion. Already proving to be a hit, and with fantastic reviews, we thought it might be an idea to ask Dan to join us for a Storytime Sunday. So before the event, which will be on Sunday 2nd July, here’s a little more about the talented Daniel Duncan…
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Self portrait by the artist himself.

Where did you study, and what made you want to be an illustrator?

After leaving school and wanting to do something creative, I took on an art foundation at Bucks New University. Not really knowing what illustration was, I was shown lots of children’s books. One of which really stood out to me was Varmints, written by Helen Ward and illustrated by Marc Craste [published by Templar]. I then went on to study Illustration at Middlesex University. I loved my time there, and definitely feel as though they played a massive part in me becoming an illustrator.

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Your style is quirky and so unique – I like how it can be quite dark sometimes, kind of modern fairytale meets Ronald Searle – that kind of edge. Who influenced you?

I have lots of books and reference in my studio that I’m constantly using for inspiration. As I develop as an illustrator these reference points often change. However one artist I’ve constantly admired is Sylvain Chomet. The visuals of his films are mind blowing to me. I love all the little details in the backgrounds, the muddy palettes and the range of characters in his films. I wish he worked on more books! Some of the other artists and illustrators that influence me are Ken AndersonBritt SpencerEmily Hughes and Rich Kelly.

Ken Anderson

Artwork by Ken Anderson, for Walt Disney’s 101 Dalmations.

Emily Hughes

From WILD, by Emily Hughes.


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The book launch for SOUTH, held at The Bright Emporium.

Where did the idea for South come from?

I made up this lonely fisherman character in my head. He was just sat at sea all on his own (I’m pretty sure some of the melancholy came from listening to lots of Bon Iver at the time). I wanted to try and find him a friend. Then the story just grew and developed from there.

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Do you have a favourite picture book?

I don’t actually remember reading all that much as a child, my memories are either of being outside playing, or being inside drawing. However, now I’m constantly buying new and old picture books. Some of my current favourites are Wild, by Emily Hughes [Walker Books], Mr Tiger Goes Wild, by Peter Brown [Pan Macmillan], Zarafa By Judith St.George, and with illustrations by Britt Spencer [Penguin USA], Grandad’s Island, by Benji Davies [Simon and Schuster] and Varmints, by Helen Ward, with illustrations by Marc Craste [Templar]

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What’s your creative process? Do you work very traditionally, or do you use digital tools?

I’ll usually draw out a bunch of thumbnails, in a small sketchbook. When I’ve got a better idea of how the piece is going to look, I’ll develop this into a more detailed rough, digitally. Finally drawing and colouring with textured brushes.

When I first started out, I would draw artwork in pencil, scan it in and colour digitally. But I changed to a completely digital process, as I feel a lot more comfortable and experimental working with the safety of working digitally. However I am now starting to miss certain aspects of a more traditional approach, and have started experimenting with “real” materials again.

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What is next on the horizon for you?

Over the last 6 months or so I’ve been illustrating a few other picture books, one of which is with Candlewick Press — due to be published over the next year, which is exciting!  I’m also spending my spare time writing and developing more of my own picture book ideas, which I’m hoping will be ready to pitch later on in the year.

With big thanks to Dan, and we look forward to seeing him very soon!

If you’d like to work with Daniel Duncan, you can contact him via his agent, Anne Moore Armstrong here.

You can also follow Dan on Twitter and Instagram.