There can be no better pairing for a book written about sheep than with an illustrator who lives in the heart of the British countryside surrounded by them! Danny’s illustrations for ‘Counting Sheep’, written by Pippa Chorley, are not only alive with humour but full of expression that only someone who knows their subject well could master.
We sent debut picture book author Pippa Chorley the task of dragging Danny away from his beautiful and inspiring country setting to find out a little bit more about the artistic mind of this wonderful and distinct children’s illustrator.
Pippa: I know you particularly love to draw animals Danny, what is your favourite animal to draw and why?
Danny: Tough question. I would have to say a tiger. A Siberian Tiger if I'm allowed to be specific. I've been obsessed with tigers since I was little. They're just beautiful. A dream of mine is to see and draw a tiger in the wild, but the odds of that happening are unfortunately slim due to their decline in numbers and isolation in small areas away from people.
Pippa: Dare I tell you Danny, that I have actually seen tigers in the wild, in India? We were lucky enough to live there for 3 years and go on safari a number of times. It was truly a wondrous moment and I hope you get to realise your dream very soon too.
I am sure you thought that I was pretty crazy when I first approached you with theidea of drawing a whole book full of sheep. What is the most bizarre thing you haveever been asked to draw by someone (besides lots and lots of sheep!)?
Danny: Ha! With a book titled ‘Counting Sheep’ I had a pretty good idea it wasn't going to be based on just one sheep. I dunno, those sheep do get up to some crazy things! However, my son did ask me to draw a digger with shoes on the other day. I tried to decline the job but was forced into doing it by his tears. I did it. It was rubbish.
Pippa: It sounds like your son has a great imagination. There is a children’s book in that idea for sure!
When you are not drawing for writers like me, what do you like to draw for yourselfin your free time? Do you have other hobbies too?
Danny: I like to go on long walks, preferably amongst forests and alongside rivers and usually have a sketchbook with me. When I find a nice spot where the scenery is inspiring I'll get the inks and watercolours out and see where it takes me. It's a great way to practice. I find if the drawing is not for anything or anyone in particular, then I take more risks and make mistakes that a lot of the time tend to make for a more interesting image. Other hobbies include listening to music/going to gigs - I'm a big fan of 60's garage rock, folk rock and blues music. I'm in to my sports too, especially football.
Pippa: Living in the British countryside sounds pretty inspiring. Does it influence yourwork? If you could work anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
Danny: Definitely. I tend to use a lot of natural colours in my work and there's no doubt a large variety of contrasting colours can be found in the unpredictability of British weather. I'd love to work in many parts of the world. Freelancing whilst travelling through Africa would be at the top of the list.
Pippa:I know illustrating ‘Counting Sheep’ was pretty great (ha, ha) but what would be your ultimate dream project?
Danny: It was pretty great. However, drawing that many sheep did keep me awake at night. Bit ironic that, right?! My dream job... if David Attenborough wrote a book and wanted me to illustrate it, or, even better, needed an artist to accompany him to visually document his/our travels together. I know, I'm a dreamer.
Pippa: Dreaming is what made our book come to life Danny – never stop dreaming!
What is the most useful piece of advice you could give to a budding artist out there?
Danny: It can be really tough starting out as an artist, it was for me anyway. But if you create art that gives you a buzz feeling, then there's a chance others will experience it too.
Pippa: That’s great advice! What is your all-time favourite children’s book you didn’t illustrate and why do youlove it so much?
Danny: This is a tough question as I could give you a whole list! If I was to narrow it down....
‘The Enormous Crocodile’, written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake. Iwas fascinated by this book as a kid. The croc was frightening yet humorous andloved how this came across in Blakes illustrations. This was the first bookDahl and Blake worked on together and as most know was the start of a magicalpartnership in children’s literature.
‘The Giving Tree’, written and illustrated by Shel Silverstine. Even though first published in 1964, it's definitely more relevant today than ever before. So much truth in this story that's sensitively written for both children and adults to understand.
‘The Gruffalo’, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. I just love the trickery of the tale, the way the words dance of the tongue and characterful illustrations.
Pippa: Some real treasures in there! Would you ever like to write your own children’s book as well as illustrate them?What would it be about?
Danny: Oh, yes! Watch out.....oh, and that would be telling.
Pippa: O wow! That would be amazing! You heard it first here #OntheScenein19 folks!
For more information about the wonderful wild world of Danny Deeptown, please visit his Instagram site @dannydeeptown or his official website.