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Benji Davies Children’s Illustrator and Bizzy Bear signed copy Competition

July 1, 2013

To coincide with the update of talented Illustrator Benji Davies’s new site, I’ve created a blog and competition today based around his work. Benji has not only given up some of his busy day to answer some questions, but he’s also sent me a Signed Copy of one of his Bizzy Bear books for one lucky reader to win in our very first Fishink Competition.

How very exciting !!!

First let us meet the man and peruse his work.

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Benji Davies has always loved creating images on the page and seeing his work in print. As a youngster, he was often to be found drawing and painting at the kitchen table, a scene which can still be seen to this day. I was lucky to catch up with the busy man and fire a few questions his way.

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Benji studied animation at university, and in his career so far has juggled illustrating children’s books alongside directing animated commercials, music promos and short films.

You have been involved in many different disciplines, from animating commercials, promos, short films and of course illustration. Is there an area you enjoy the most out of these or one that has naturally ‘taken over’ you’re available time ?
I was involved in a lot more animation until last year and now I’m focussing on my illustration and writing and coming up with new projects and different avenues for my work. I love both illustrating and animating but I think due to a few different factors I have been drawn more heavily into the children’s book world. Mainly though, because I love to draw and create characters which appeal to young children, and at the moment there is more capacity and consistency for that working in children’s publishing than in animation.  As a full time career, Animation can be quite dicey ! The thing I always loved the most in Animation, I still get to do in illustration, which is creating a character, environments, stories, using colour and composition.. drawing, planning things out. So for me the outcome is the same, especially as I am now getting the chance to write my own texts with Simon & Schuster.

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Like with many other illustrators, there is a slight retro feel to the style of some of your work. Is this something you’re conscious of and perhaps try to inject into your work or just your style and way of working that interests you ?

I don’t think I consciously push it in there, its just what I like and how that filters through. Its the influence of books and illustration in childhood, plus all the great illustrators that I have discovered in more recent years.  Its all a big melting pot and then hopefully something personal added, which makes the work come out the ways it does. I studied animation at university and when I graduated I went though a bit of an anti-Disney phase, too commercial and colourful I foolishly thought! But I appreciate it now, all the classic stuff particularly, and all the great artists who have been part of that. Gustaf Tenggren is a massive hero of mine.
What other illustrators or authors work do you most admire ?
Alexis Deacon’s books are amazing. Beautifully drawn and subtle, spare texts. I love Nicola Davies’ books, the subject matter she writes about, which always revolves around the natural world in some form or another. Jon Mcnaught; I am a big fan of his work and pretty much everything that they publish at NoBrow.

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He is the illustrator of Nosy Crows’ start-up list favourite Bizzy Bear. The series, which continues to expand, is now being rolled out as a series of apps to compliment the books.

Bizzy Bear has been tremendously well received, congratulations for that, what was the process behind the success of this clever character?
The Bizzy series was all devised in-house at Nosy Crow by the brilliant Camilla Reid – she knows what toddlers want! When she was setting up Nosy Crow with Kate Wilson I was very privileged to be asked to work on their start-up list. The look of Bizzy was collaborative, and they knew what they wanted, but I still got to give him enough of my own spin. Although we still battle over the length of his arms! Its difficult for a bear of baby proportions, sometimes when he’s painting a shed, or putting his knight’s helmet on, he just needs a bit more reach! We have published 6 books now and two apps. There is a large format building book coming in September and then another pair of board books early next year which I just finished last week.

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What advice could you offer new illustrators wanting to break into the children’s picture book market ? Any trade fairs or shows that you feel would be beneficial to attend etc ?
Keep working at it. Be mindful of being commercial or appealing but you have to show publishers what you like, the way you like to do it.  Graduates probably know more than ever now how to get their work out there.. amazing how it has changed in the ten years since I graduated. I was ill-equipped and quite naive to it all. But by social networking and with everything being integrated with the internet more readily, its much easier now to both seek stuff out and get exposure.

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You have worked on many titles and your latest book ‘The Storm Whale ‘ looks wonderful. What next, future plans and sneak previews can you share with us ?

I have my first self-penned picture book coming out this August 15th called The Storm Whale. I’ve created a special knitted whale, to celebrate the launch, that I am selling through my website along with a signed copy of the book. Its a Fair Trade producer in Nepal who are making them for me, based on a design that I developed in collaboration with my mum !

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I also have my first black & white fiction illustrations in a new series form Nosy Crow called ‘Space Pirates’. The first one, ‘ Stowaway ! ‘  is out on 4th July. It’s an older target audience than my other books and the first time I have done ink line-work, so it will be interesting to see how it goes down.
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Benjis’ work has been co-editioned in many languages and countries, across Europe and around the world. He presently lives in Hackney with his wife Nina and works from home.

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Benji also worked with Chris Haughton and designed a rug in Chris’s designer range.

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Funnily I did a blogpost on Benjis’ business partner Jim Field, a couple of years ago. You can read that here.

So competition time !! Here’s what you can win. It’s a lovely card page book created with those talented peeps over at Nosy Crow and it’s signed by Benji’s own fair hand, or perhaps it’s a dark hand if he’s been in the sun recently lol

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Not to give too much away but I’ve a feeling that …

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It all ends well.

To win this lovely prize all I need you to do is ….

1. Write a few words telling me why you like Fishink Blog

2. Write a few words telling me what you like about Benji’s work and

3. Tell your friends and neighbours and friends and neighbours’ cats and dogs about Fishink Blog, so that the more people who contact me to say that they’ve found out about this site through you, the more chance you have of winning this lovely book of Benji’s.

I’ll decide and post the lucky winner on here in a weeks time. Happy spreading the word. !

Superb work Benji, many thanks for your valuable time spent answering my questions exclusively for us at Fishink Blog. It’s most appreciated and the best of luck with The Storm Whale, don’t forget you can order a signed copy and get the fair trade knitted whale too here.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2013 12:10 pm

    1. Write a few words telling me why you like Fishink Blog

    I have always had a desire to write a children’s book. I have the idea, I just need to start working on it. I found you on twitter and am now reading your blog. You inspire me.

    2. Write a few words telling me what you like about Benji’s work.

    I relate. I see a person who took what they loved, illustrating and writing, and succeeded. I see a person who loves to make others, children, happy.

    3. Tell your friends and neighbours and friends and neighbours’ cats and dogs about Fishink Blog, so that the more people who contact me to say that they’ve found out about this site through you, the more chance you have of winning this lovely book of Benji’s.

    Tweeting… :). Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. July 1, 2013 2:00 pm

    Thanks for a great interview and great pics – look forward to reading in depth and meanwhile v happy to spread word!

  3. July 2, 2013 8:49 pm

    1. Write a few words telling me why you like Fishink Blog

    I enjoy your very visual posts exploring different aspects of illustration and design – it’s a nice contrast to the (usually!) more wordy book blogs I also read.

    2. Write a few words telling me what you like about Benji’s work.

    We really enjoy the Bizzy Bear apps he has created with Nosy Crow, they are real favourites. And I just love the look of The Storm Whale – it is so beautiful, with echoes of Tove Jansson and Oliver Jeffers. Can’t wait to see it!

    3. Tell your friends and neighbours and friends and neighbours’ cats and dogs about Fishink Blog…. I have tweeted about this blog post on Twitter – hope it finds you a few more readers.

    all the best, Helen

  4. July 3, 2013 8:21 am

    Benji is breathtakingly talented! The pic of the boy losing himself in a book up a tree is really moving. The Victorian houses backing onto the park remind me of every park I’ve ever been in (except the posh Royal parks in London, of course). Such lovely detail too, which take me back to my childhood.
    Great blog, thanks!

    • July 3, 2013 9:21 am

      Hi Colin, Thanks for your thoughts and comments. I agree with them too, the boy in the tree is a wonderful capture. Everyone should have a place like that to escape to and read their books.

  5. October 20, 2015 5:15 pm

    Greetings! I’ve been reading your blog for a long time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and
    give you a shout out from Porter Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the good job!

    • October 20, 2015 5:41 pm

      Many thanks and much appreciated. Doo keep reading and now you’ve got the bug, do comment away : )

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