'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 22 October 2020

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL Meet The Illustrator: James Foley

Name: James Foley

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Cartoony, comedic, cinematic, occasionally creepy, detailed, funny

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Wacom Cintiq, ipad, laptop, lemon-ginger tea, snacks, natural light, noise-cancelling headphones, music/news/podcasts

What is your favourite Halloween costume?
One time when I was in scouts we had to make a mask for a craft project. I made a Dracula mask, because, you know, it’s Dracula! I misread the instructions though and thought we had to dress up too. So the other kids were all wearing these basic paper-plate masks of animals etc, still in their scouts uniform, and I rocked up a couple of minutes late in a full vampire costume wearing my vampire mask. Talk about making an entrance. I’ve done that a bunch of times in different situations – I’ve accidentally worn costumes that didn’t quite fit with the status quo. Very embarrassing. 

Tell us a bit about ...Weird Lena. Do you have a weird side as well?
Lena is the new kid in class. She loves pulling pranks, even on the teachers. She’s rough and unapologetic and a bit feral … I think we’ve all been to school with a Lena at some point. 

Do you celebrate a specific Halloween tradition at your place?
No, surprisingly, considering how much I like spooky stories. Maybe when my son is a bit older we might do some trick or treating. This year for Halloween I’ll be hosting a triple book launch with Paper Bird Books in Fremantle, WA! The three books are There’s Something Weird About Lena, my new graphic novel Chickensaurus, and a new picture book written by Sigi Cohen (the author of ...Lena and My Dead Bunny) and illustrated by Matty Mitchell called Zombie School Teachers. It’ll be a fun Halloween party for families. I can’t wait.

Have you ever been visiting a cemetery at night?
Never at night, no, my imagination would definitely get the better of me. But I visited a cemetery during the day last month, when I had a break in between school visits. I needed some inspiration for another project I’m working on. Plus Neil Gaiman says he gets good ideas when he goes for walks in cemeteries, so if it’s good enough for Gaiman, it’s good enough for me (but only during the day). 

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it.
I share a workspace in the back of a children’s bookshop with my friend and fellow author/illustrator, Briony Stewart. It faces onto a children’s play area and is next to a cafĂ©. It’s nice to have a space that is a mix of secluded and also in the middle of things; some days it’s quiet and other days it’s noisy and busy. We have plenty of light, and also lots of space to work and dream and muck around with ideas for stories. 

Have you ever taken part in the Inktober Challenge? Could you please show us your favourite piece?
I have not, unfortunately. I’m usually busy with school visits and/or deadlines in October, so I’ve never gotten around to it. I really do love working with old dip pens and ink though, and I used digital ‘ink’ for My Dead Bunny and There’s Something Weird About Lena.

What would you do if your dead bunny came to life?
That depends on if it were a slow, shuffling zombie or a fast, aggressive zombie! If it were the former, I’d trap it so scientists could study it. If it were the latter, I’d run as fast as I could. 

James Foley makes children’s books for children who read books. If you’re a child and you’re eating his books, you’re doing it wrong. James writes and draws; he gives talks and runs workshops. He tells dad jokes. Legends say James can grow a beard in an afternoon. He lives in Perth with his wife, son and labrador. He is a massive Marvel movie nerd and comes from a long line of queuing enthusiasts.

For more information, please visit James' website or follow him on instagram and facebook.

Photos of James by Jessica Wyld, Halloween Art by Marie Dreiling