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

Tuesday 17 October 2023

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Bex Parkin

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you
I failed my Art A level and got a U, which is basically unmarkable. I was the only one studying the subject at school and had a terrible time with an awful art teacher. I did, however, go on to re-sit it at a different school and got a B.

2. What is your nickname?
I don’t really have one although Bex is a bit of a nickname I suppose and a lot of my friends also call me Becca. My kids call me Madre - I have no idea why as none of them speak Spanish.

3. What is your greatest fear?
I think my greatest fear is not being able to fulfil my potential. I started my illustration career in my late forties having not picked up a paintbrush since school, so I now have an underlining panic that I won’t be able to explore my creativity to the maximum. Oh, and stick insects, which luckily, I don’t encounter every day!

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words.
Wondrous worlds of nature and colour filled with curiosity and fun.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Quirky, heartfelt, whimsical, inquisitive, disciplined.

6. What book character would you be and why?
I was never a Jo in Little Women kind of person and have always been much more interested in characters such as Daphne De Maurier's Rebecca. Her glamour, power and drama is bewitching. I’ve always been drawn to complex female characters such as Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina - they’re usually rule breakers too.

7. If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why?
For the glamour and fashion, it would be the late 1920s to the early thirties. Specifically, the avant-garde, bohemian world of art and dance. I would have been a dancer in Diaghilevs' Ballet Russes

8. What would your 10-year-old self say to you now?
My 10-year-old self would be very happy to see I had made a career out of my creativity and hopefully would be saying: 'Wow! You wrote a book!' As a child, I loved all things artistic - music, dance, writing, painting but as I became a teenager, I didn’t know how to make a living out of it. I hope these days it is easier for young people to find opportunities to live a happy creative life.

9. Who is your greatest influence?
In terms of artistic influences, I have been drawn to the Pre-Raphaelites since I was a child, as well as being fascinated by the work of the botanical illustrators Marianne North (1830-1890) and Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717). These days, I wouldn’t say I am particularly influenced by any one person but more of a constant stream of art, design, music and culture. I have a very visually absorbent mind and see inspiration literally everywhere. One day, it’s the silk work of Spitalfields in the 18th Century, the next day its 1990s club culture. On a personal note, I am influenced by the positive energy of those around me - my friends , my partner and my children. My kids are young adults now and watching them carve their path in life inspires me every day, which is why my book is dedicated to them.

10. Who/what made you start writing?
It was a happy accident really! Years ago, I did a painting of a tiger swimming in the jungle, which is still one of my most popular prints. From that design grew the idea of a tiger floating on his back in the jungle instead and this became the starting point to the story. When my agent Jehane suggested creating a synopsis based on this one image I came up with the story of Bertie and The Ginger Cat. That spread can now be seen in the book.

11. What is your favourite word and why?
The first one that came to mind was brave, which is also the underlying theme of my book. It takes a real strength of character to be courageous and admire those who are enormously.

12. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I can’t pick one. Can I have three? Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and a giant anthology of poetry please!

Bex Parkin is an artist and author based in the UK. Working mostly in gouache and watercolour, Bex is known for her love of colourful wildlife and botanicals with a vibrant colour palette and playful details. She has collaborated on many exciting illustration projects with clients all over the world. For more information, see www.bexparkin.co.uk.