Illustrator Korky Paul heads for Scottish schools

Illustrator Korky Paul heads for Scottish schools

Credit: Korky Paul

Winnie the Witch co-creator talks about the art of illustration

With precious few words on each page, your average picture book could be done and dusted in seconds. But something keeps little ones and their big readers lingering time and again – the illustration.

Not only does it bring the author’s story to life, but adds extra layers of information, witticisms and characterisation words alone can’t depict. Often the unsung heroes of children’s literature, some illustrators manage to burst out from the book covers and make a well-deserved name for themselves – such as the brilliantly monikered Korky Paul.

Born in Zimbabwe but now based in Oxfordshire, Paul has long-standing relationships with a number of authors, including Valerie Thomas (Winnie the Witch), Jonathan Long (A Cat Called Scratch) and Giles Andreae (Sir Scallywag). Each book is different, but one thing remains the same – his way of working.

‘I get the story from the author but I don’t get a brief,’ says Paul. ‘Because I don’t want them to tell me what the characters look like or the environment. All I want is the manuscript – and there should be enough information in that for me to glean everything from it.’

Having worked in advertising early in his career, Paul learned how to communicate quickly and simply – something he took into his work as an illustrator, and now passes on to others. Soon to visit a number of schools as part of the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour, Paul regularly teaches workshops and classes, sharing tips of the trade.

‘There’s a certain visual grammar you’ve got to stick in,’ he explains. ‘For example, if a character has just woken up, draw him in his pyjamas with the bed a bit rumpled. Or if he’s ill, draw little bottles with red crosses on that immediately communicate medicine, and a box of tissues. You need those little clues, because you’re not only illustrating, you’re telling the story through your pictures.’

Paul talks animatedly about meeting primary school pupils during his travels, and the enthusiasm they show about drawing. But not everyone feels at home with a book in their hand, and it’s those children Paul is most keen to inspire.

‘When I visit schools, I try to reach kids who perhaps don’t have books at home or aren’t that keen on reading,’ he says. ‘Somehow you draw them in with the pictures and then perhaps they’ll want to learn more about it. I use a lot of audience participation and find kids who aren’t really part of it and try to include them – to draw in those reluctant readers.’

Korky Paul will be visiting schools in Fife and Clackmannanshire between 24 and 27 March as part of the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour