Jim Field

Magpie illustrations

Magpie Joe Sparrow

Q & A with Joe Sparrow

Q1: How did you get the Nobrow 17 x 23 gig?

It was pretty sudden – I was tabling at ELCAF 2013 and I ended up
chatting a bit to Alex Spiro, one of the two guys that founded the
company. Then a few months later I got an email pretty much out of the
blue from Alex talking about how they wanted to do some more books in
the 17×23 series and asking me to pitch a few story ideas. Prior to this
I’d been selling my own self-published stuff at conventions for a couple
of years beforehand, so I already had a few finished stories under my
belt. Also, if I was ever at a convention where nobrow had a stand I’d
make a point of going over and saying hi! I have no idea if that
actually contributed to them wanting to collaborate with me though.

Q2: Which comics from the 17 x 23 series do you own?

Do you have a favourite?

I owned a few of the original bunch and I’ve been buying all the new
ones as they come out. It’s really cool to see the diversity of styles,
both in the art and the narrative! I’d really struggle to pick an
absolute favourite… I dig Jen Lee’s stuff a lot; I really admire her
use of colour in particular. Plus as an animator I can really see that
capability in her drawings – I mean it’s always amazing to see her
characters in motion, but even in her static work I like the way she
constructs them out of these really simple, readable shapes but they
still have tons of character. I’d love to be able to draw like that.

Q3: I love the pixelated artwork in your comic The Hunter

– why did you choose this approach?

I started getting into pixelart a few years ago during a period
where I was really frustrated with my art in general and I wanted to get
back into a way of working that I actually enjoyed. Working at a
pixel-level is very satisfying for me because it’s pretty much the
highest degree of control you can have over a 2d image that’s on a
screen, and I like having a lot of control over the way stuff looks.
There’s also something really paradoxical about seeing it in print, but I
quite like that. Sometimes people mistake it for a printing error, which
is understandable!

I decided to use the pixelart method for The Hunter partially because I
wanted it to be a fun thing to work on, something I’d enjoy. It also
struck a weird, videogamey chord with the story – it made me think of
games like Pokemon or Monster Hunter where some players obsessively task
themselves with “100% completion” – meticulously achieving every goal
possible, often investing hundreds of hours. It felt like the story was
about a similar kind of obsession, like this guy equates the goal of
living a fulfilled life with completing a bunch of videogame quests.

If anyone’s interested, style-wise my two main influences with the
pixelart are Paul Robertson and the anonymous Japanese game dev who
calls himself “Pixel” (maker of the game Cave Story, which I’d highly
recommend).

Q4: I stumbled across your blog Dungeons and Drawings,

can you tell us about it and how it came about?

I played D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) with some friends once or twice
when I was a kid – it’s a real eye-opener of a game, like you just start
playing it and you realise you can do pretty much whatever you want. It
really blew my mind at the time! I picked it up again with some friends
at uni, getting into it on a more creative level, writing stories,
designing characters etc. When we finished uni in 2010, Blanca
(Martinez, my girlfriend & the blog’s co-creator) and I started coming
up with ideas for personal art projects that we could work on (since we
were finding it hard to find freelance work at the time and we wanted
something to do). We’re both super into RPGs (she even more so than I)
and we came up with the idea to start this art blog where we post our
own redesigns of classic fantasy RPG monsters. I think she came up with
the name and it stuck! The inspiration came from our memories of looking
at the Monster Manual as kids, and the fun of endlessly leafing through,
comparing power levels and picking favourites. We published a book last
year and our currently working on a follow-up, so hopefully people can
get the same sort of satisfaction from our stuff!

Q5: Which illustrators inspire you?

Quite a few at the moment. At random: Rebecca Sugar, Jonathan Djob
Nkondo, Thomas Wellmann, Matthieu Cousin, Valentin Seiche, Masaaki
Yuasa, Boulet, Jillian Tamaki, Josceline Fenton, Ben Sears, Kim Sloane,
Jack Cunningham.

Q6: What’s next for Joe Sparrow?

Right now I’m actually directing an animated short, a little cartoon
bio of Mozart, that should be out later this year. It’s been a lot of
fun to research, and music is probably a pretty close second to art in
my life in terms of interests so I’m really looking forward to seeing
what I can do. After that I want to get back to comics and do something
a little larger-scale. I’d like to write a story that’s more about the
characters than anything else (I feel like a lot of my stories are just
“stuff happening”, there isn’t much of a character element to them).
Anyway, lots of plans!

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Illustrated by Jim Kay

An extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss.

The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel of coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.

Walker Books

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Max by Marc Martin

I love this book, the front cover is brilliant, the typography, colours, layout and illustrations are very satisfying to look at. Open the book and Marc Martin amazes on every page with views of the town and funfair, with graphic map-like quality imagery and birds-eye view scenes of the town.

Max and Bob are old friends. Max helps out in Bob’s shop, and in the evenings they go fishing together. Until one summer, when everything changes …From the winner of the 2013 Crichton Award for Australia’s best new illustrator comes this heart warming story of enduring friendship …and chips.

by Marc Martin

Published by Templar

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Toby and the Ice Giants by Joe Lillington

There are two topics that are sure to grab a child’s attention, Dinosaurs and The Ice Age.

In this picture book we meet Toby the bison. Toby sets off on an adventure where he meets some of the ice giants that roam the world in this prehistoric time; wooly mammoth, wooly rhinoceros, magatherium, glyptodon, teratorn are just some of the ice giants he encounters. Each time Toby introduces himself and in return he learns something new about these great animals.

Gorgeous illustrations and a charming narrative run through the book with factual sidebars that run vertically up the pages, informing us of their diet, habitat and more. This book will inspire awe and wonder in your curious reader.

Another triumph by Flying Eye Books.

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Where My Wellies Take Me by Michael and Clare Morpurgo, illustrated by Olivia Gill

A highly-illustrated book, a collection of 40 poems, a celebration of childhood, exploration and discovery, presented exquisitely as a child’s scrapbook.

In the book we follow Pippa, who is visiting her Aunty Peggy, as she takes a long walk through the countryside, going where ever her Wellies take her. As the journey unfolds we experience the idyllic surroundings, rolling hills, village churches, farm animals grazing. We see the rich variety of wildlife and the different people Pippa encounters along the way.

Each poem in the book has been carefully chosen by Clare and Michael Morpurgo to complement each part of the story.

The book is a treasure trove of inspiration; it truly is a work of art. It is filled with maps, cuttings, pull out pages, observational drawings, landscapes, portraits and tracing paper pages that mask and reveal glorious illustrations alongside beautifully written poetry.

The possibilities and potential for using this book as a teaching and learning resource are boundless. My wife is a secondary school art teacher and wants to use the book to model how to use sketchbooks.

As a primary school teacher, I see it as a tool to instil an early love of poetry in the children I teach. It think it will be a great stimulus for whole units of work. I am inspired by this book! Ideas are rushing through my head about how I am going to use it to teach across the curriculum: Discovery walks around the local area, map reading, sketch book work, drawing with charcoals and pastels, using mixed media, photography, collage, flower pressing, poetry reading, diary entries, local history, living things and their habitats, figurative language, observational studies, life cycles and all presented in their very own personal scrapbooks.

Published by Templar

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Black Dog Levi Pinfold

Facing our fears can be difficult. But the more we avoid them the more they take control of us.

In this visually stunning picture book Levi Pinfold conveys this message through clever metaphor.

One day a black dog appears outside the hope family home. Each member of the family sees it and then  they proceed to hide away from it. Each time this happens the black dog gets bigger and bigger until it towers over them.

The only member of the family not afraid of the big black dog is the youngest member of the house ‘Small’.  The dog chases her through the forest, yet Small shows no fear towards the dog and as a result the dog gets smaller and smaller until the dog is back to its normal size.

The family grow to love the dog and it becomes a member of the family.

The illustrations in this book are incredible. Levi Pinfold plays with scale convincingly and creates atmospheric scenes that will pull your focus and grab you attention.

Published by Templar

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Never Ever by Jo Empson

Jo Empson smashed into the picture book world with her spectacular debut Rabbityness.

In her follow up Never Ever, we follow a little girl, as shew wanders through the countryside. Nothing ever happens to her, never ever (or so she thinks). We, the reader, see all the things she is oblivious to… a giant gorilla, a big scary crocodile like beast, flying pigs.

Jo‘s loose illustration technique creates movement and fluidity on the page. It feels dreamlike and playful.

It’s a great stimulus for children to create their own stories.

Published by Child’s Play.

Check out the magpie Jo did for me a while back. (So good)

Rabbity Magpie

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Ladybird by Design by Lawrence Zeegen

Ladybird By Design is a fascinating look at the social and design history of the well-known publisher Ladybird Books, released to celebrate 100 years since the familiar ladybird was first registered as a logo in 1915.Ladybird by Design charts the rise of the company that was initially known as Wills & Hepworth, from its origin as a small Loughborough printer through to its growth into a global publisher beloved by millions of children, teachers and parents. It delves into the stories behind the beautiful art and design of the iconic mini hardback books that have adorned children’s bookshelves for generations, and includes sections on favourite series such as Well-Loved Tales, Nature, How it Works, Key Words, Junior Science, People at Work and Adventures from History. Written by Professor Lawrence Zeegen, a well-known illustrator and Dean of the School Design at the London College of Communication.

Ladybird