Get to Know

Artist Interview: PJ Lynch

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To what do you owe your love of storytelling?

I think we are all hard-wired to enjoy a good story, but it’s true that the Irish have a particularly strong tradition of storytelling. I certainly remember my parents reading bedtime stories to us when we were little, but the stories that had an even stronger effect on me were  the ones handed down from grandparents or retold with embellishments from a friend’s or cousin’s telling. The stories, sometimes outlandish ghost or fairy stories, always had a grain of truth to them that made them really believable to me.

Why do you create for young people?

The picture book is a very special art-form where words and pictures come together to tell a story in a wonderful way. I fell in love with that art form  many years ago, and it is the ideal medium for me to express myself in. I’m also very, very fond of young people - more than ever now that I have my own children - and I so love the magic that happens when a child interacts with a really great picture book.

What were your all-time favourite childhood books or stories?

I adored the Narnia series of books. I love them so much that I stopped reading for a while after I finished them, because I couldn’t imagine any books being as good as that. Luckily I got over that reaction and got back into reading fiction. Beatrix Potter’s little books were the picture books I remember loving when I was very little, and I was very fond of Edward Ardizzone’s illustrations which were in so many of the books I read back then, but the illustrator I loved most was someone who is not very well known today: Joan Kiddell-Monroe illustrated my favourite books of myths and legends with the most sinuous and dynamic line drawings I have ever seen.

As an illustrator, what would you choose as your mascot or avatar?

I think a shire horse might be appropriate for me.

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

The longest and most rewarding literary pilgrimage I have made was when I travelled with my wife,Barbara, to visit the house of the artist Carl Larsson  in the north of Sweden. He died 100 years ago, but his home and studio are preserved just as they were then and they are full of the wonderful art and craftworks that he and his family created.

If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?

I would tell that young scamp to get on and produce a lot more books and to spend a lot less time fretting about the process. I would also give him a bunch of winning lottery numbers.

What do you think most characterises your work?

I work hard to try to make a connection between the reader and the characters in the book. I think I can best make that happen by bringing the figures in my illustrations convincingly to life, and then I try to show their inner thoughts and feelings through their expressions and their body language. Beyond that, I’m always working to achieve a kind of authenticity in my pictures. An awful lot of research goes into every book I do.

What do you do when you are not creating?

Our kids are still quite young so when I’m not working on children’s books I am hanging out with the children.

Where do you find your ideas?

As an illustrator my ideas always spring initially from the story I’m illustrating. But since I’ve been writing my own stories in recent years I’ve been looking for inspiration from all sources. I do you love reading about history, and I find that that leads to ideas for books. It’s that grain of truth again!

How do you know when a story is finished?

I’ve only written a few stories and I have found that to be the most difficult aspect of the writing process. Working with a great editor helps a lot, but I am very bad at ending a project. It’s much easier to know when you’ve done all the illustrations that a book needs. Pressing deadlines also help with that problem.


You can catch PJ Lynch, along with other panellists at our For The Grown-Ups event.