Anthony Browne interview

Children's author and illustrator tells us about his work


Anyone with sprogs of a certain age will, most likely, have an Anthony Browne book somewhere on their bookshelves. Originally from Yorkshire, Browne, who is the UK’s current Children’s Laureate, has had
a colourful career to say the least. Indeed, he even once worked as a medical artist, where he documented all sorts of gory operations in water colour.

It was this rather macabre experience (which often saw him eating his packed lunch in the mortuary) that inspired Browne to become an illustrator. Operations taught him to tell a tale in pictures, but eventually, they became quite boring. ‘If you’ve seen one stomach operation, you’ve seen ‘em all!’ he laughs. We caught up with the man himself for a chat and an art lesson in drawing Willy the Chimp.

What’s so cool about doodling and illustrating?
When I was a small boy I loved to draw and tell stories. Now it’s my job! For me it’s the best job in the world – I’m being paid to do what I loved as a kid!

How long have you been doing it?
A long time. My first book, Through the Magic Mirror, was published in 1976.

What do you like drawing most and why?
Primates: Gorillas, chimpanzees and people. It’s always a good idea to draw things that interest you and primates – particularly humans – interest me.

Do you find anything difficult to draw?
Yes, horses, dancers and anything mechanical.

Can anyone draw or do you have to have a special talent?

We can all draw when we’re young – up to the age of about six – but then most people lose confidence and start to think they can’t draw.

Things you didn’t know about Anthony Browne
• When he was a boy he wanted to be a journalist, a cartoonist or a boxer.

• He was once asked to present a programme on children’s books, in a cage with some gorillas – but one gorilla bit him badly on the leg. It didn’t put him off them, but, he says ‘you wouldn’t catch me going into a cage with one again!’

• He wore short trousers until he was 15 years old.

• He thinks the character, Willy, is based on his own childhood.

• When he was a boy he wanted a real trumpet for his birthday but he got a toy plastic one instead. He says his book, Gorilla, was partly based on that experience.

• He loves rugby and played as a scrum-half for 18 years.

• His book The Tunnel was inspired by a very frightening tunnel he and his brother used to go down when they were boys.

• He says he has never found the perfect pair of swimming shorts!

Anthony Browne will be making an appearance at the 2011 Emirates Airline Lit Fest, March 8-12. Visit www.emirates for more information.

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