Adam Stower has been charming children and adults with his beautifully drawn characters and stories for over twenty years, we asked him about his career as an artist, author and illustrator…
You are renowned for doing fantastic illustration events, what’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked by a child?
My favourite part of my events is drawing a character designed by suggestions from the audience. The strangest requests I have received have been a helicopter head, water ears, and tyres for hands. One boy once asked to me add “ten te*ticles” to a character. To save the blushes of his parents, I assumed he had fumbled his words, and drew ten tentacles instead. The boy seemed satisfied.
What’s on your drawing board at the moment?
Given a tiny tin pencil case which three tools of your trade would you put inside?
My Pentel Brush Pen, a sharp 2B pencil and a Lemon Sherbet ( I have a sweet tooth)
How has your style and technique changed since you first graduated from Art School?
I have a love of drawing and a preference for figurative subjects that has remained constant since college. As such, the foundations of my style haven’t really changed. Mostly, I still work traditionally despite the progress of digital alternatives, so my techniques haven’t changed vastly either.
My style often fluctuates, and I can lean one way or the other depending on the requirements of each commission. I think this is a necessary skill when working as an illustrator.
The main difference between now and those early days is a greater confidence, which develops naturally with practice and experience.
How often do you sketch in a sketch book? And can you show us your favourite page in your current sketch book?
If you could choose a classic to illustrate which would you choose and why?
I love books full of adventure and larger-than-life characters, so I would choose The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Wind in the Willows or anything by Roald Dahl.
Is there one specific character which you have created which you are particularly fond of and why?
The Bear in Silly Doggy. The story is about a little girl who finds a bear in her garden but thinks it is a dog. It was important that the bear looked and acted like a bear, with the potential to do harm, but without being either malevolent or overly cute. It was a challenge to tread the line of the bear’s character as he is lead through the book by Lily. He is at first bemused, and then grows fond of Lily. As an illustrator it is a wonderful feeling when you get the expression of a character just right. The relationship also reflects in some small way the experience I had of being a single dad to my young daughter ( I am the bear in this instance).
What would you consider to be your career highlight thus far and what would you still like to achieve?
As an artist I am constantly looking ahead so it’s hard to look back and pick a career highlight. My greatest achievement has been to maintain a career as an illustrator for all these years, working across a wide spectrum of commissions for a large and varied audience. I like to push myself out of my comfort zone, and stretch myself artistically. I am proud to be an author now as well as purely an illustrator. Besides picture books, I am currently working on a chapter book for older children. New challenges are exciting and keep me on my toes. Of course I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’d enjoy picking up a further award or two along the way, and have a book of mine on everyone’s shelf to be enjoyed by all and generations to come, but who wouldn’t? Aim high, I say.
Have you read any good books lately?
I have just finished The Farm, a wonderfully compelling thriller by Tom Rob Smith. I buy many picture books too, the latest being Shh, We Have A Plan by Chris Haughton, Max The Brave by Ed Vere and The Storm Whale by Benji Davies, all of which are lovely books.
As someone who creates physical pieces of work have you ever had a disaster and ruined a piece of illustration work at the last minute?
No. Not yet. I have however been stuck a couple of times on a piece of work. It once took me about 17 attempts to get a painting right. It drove me quite bonkers. It’s at times like those when I am most tempted to GO DIGITAL!
Have you ever managed to secretly sneak something into an illustration for a book without anyone noticing?
Yes. I always like those moments in Alfred Hitchcock films when he appears in the background of a scene as a passer-by. It’s the ultimate selfie. I have managed to sneak tiny self portraits into some of my books. I’m not going to say where though. You’ll just have to look for yourselves (hint: I have a beard and glasses)