JIM FIELD is a British-born illustrator who lives in Paris with his wife Sandy and their three-and-a-half-year-old daughter Lola. A shy child who spent his spare time drawing, Jim says it’s “a dream to spend my days drawing, bringing stories to life”. His characters – loved by millions of children worldwide – include pirate cats, savvy squirrels and uncomfortable frogs. They’re joined by Monsieur Roscoe, the star of Jim’s first self-authored book, inspired by bringing his daughter up bilingually.
‘Monsieur Roscoe on Holiday’ is published by Hodder Children’s Books
There’s no right or wrong in art Letting children be free and creative is a fantastic way to let them express themselves. They aren’t overly conscious of what they’re drawing, they’re lost in the moment and enjoying it. Many adults lose that and simply say, “I can’t draw”.
I found my voice in art I was a quiet, shy child. I spent most evenings drawing my favourite characters, or copying books borrowed from the library. My dad would often sit and draw with me, and sometimes we’d make books together. In my first year of school my drawing was chosen to be the cover of the flyer for the school summer fair – it was my first commission!
Teachers don’t always know best Although I was known to be “good at drawing’” I had a report that said, “James is no academic
and he’s wasting his time with art.” Fortunately, I didn’t listen.
My dream was to make cartoons I studied animation at university. It was at a time when technology was totally changing the animation industry. I teamed up with a friend making animated commercials, music videos and short films and film credits. It was going really well, and then it wasn’t.
I thought about giving up many times. I didn’t plan to illustrate children’s books. An illustrated postcard based on the proverb ‘Fish and guests smell after three days’ was spotted by an art director at Kingfisher publishers. This lead to me illustrating my first picture book, Cats Ahoy! written by Peter Bently, which won the BookTrust Roald Dahl Funny Prize. And just like that, my career took a new direction. Luckily Jodie Hodges became my agent and helped steer me on this new path.
Illustrating books is a bit like filmmaking The illustrator is the casting director, set and costume designer, art director and director of photography. We have to think about how to best tell the story visually. I start by finding the right character. You have to break it down to what they are trying to do in the story.
I read to my daughter There is nothing more special than reading your child a bedtime story that you’ve had a part in creating. She’s at the age now where she understands I’ve illustrated some of her picture books and I ask her opinion on character design.
She’s inspired my next book When our daughter was a baby, my wife and I were searching the shelves in a local bookshop for English/French bilingual books – there weren’t that many. We thought we could create a bilingual picture book introducing children to a foreign language in a fun and engaging way. Monsieur Roscoe is an imperfect character: he makes mistakes, but his charm and friendliness make him a lot of friends from around the world. Communication is the foundation of friendship.
The arts are being pushed out of UK schools Instead, schools are trying to put children’s abilities into categories. It’s archaic. The UK was always a forward-thinking, creative country, leading the way in music, art and fashion. If we close the doors on creativity, we lose part of what is great to be British.