Already painting by numbers... 1953

"I was born in Sheffield and moved to a pub near Bradford when I was one. As I got older I apparently used to stand on a table in the bar and tell stories to customers about a character called Big Dumb Tackle (whoever he was). I spent much of my childhood playing sport, fighting and drawing with my older brother.

My family (I'm the little boy on the left), 1951

 

I went to a grammar school in Cleckheaton,  then studied graphic design at art college in Leeds. My father died suddenly and horrifically in front of me while I was there and this had a huge effect on me. I went through a rather dark period which didn’t sit very happily with the world of graphic design. After leaving college I heard about a job as a medical artist and thought that it sounded interesting - it was. I worked at Manchester Royal Infirmary for 3 years painting delicate watercolours of grotesque operations. It taught me a lot more about drawing than I ever learned at art college, and I believe it taught me how to tell stories in pictures. I thought that it was probably time to move on when strange little figures started appearing in these paintings, and so I began a career designing greetings cards. I continued to do this for many years working for the Gordon Fraser Gallery. 

Greetings card design for Gordon Fraser

Greetings card design for Gordon Fraser

Greetings card design for Gordon Fraser

Greetings card design for Gordon Fraser

Gordon Fraser became a close friend and taught me a lot about card design which was to prove very useful when I came to do children’s books. I experimented with many styles and many subjects from snowmen to dogs with big eyes to gorillas. I sent some of my designs to various children’s book publishers and it was through one of these that I met Julia MacRae who was to become my editor for the next 20 years. She taught me much of what I know about writing and illustrating children’s books.

 

In 1976 I produced Through the Magic Mirror, a strange kind of book in which I painted many of the pictures before I wrote the story. I followed this with A Walk in the Park, a story I was to revisit 20 years later with Voices in the Park.

 

Probably my most successful book is Gorilla, published in 1983, and it was during this period that I was badly bitten by a gorilla whilst being filmed for television at my local zoo.

 

I have published 49 books, and amongst the awards that my books have won are the Kate Greenaway medal twice, and the Kurt Maschler ‘Emil” three times. In 2000 I was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, an international award given to an illustrator for their body of work. I was the first British illustrator to receive the award. My books are translated into 26 languages and my illustrations have been exhibited in many countries - U.S.A., Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, France, Korea, Italy, Germany, Holland, Japan, and Taiwan, and I’ve had the pleasure of visiting these places and working with local children and meeting other illustrators.

In 2001-2002 I took a job as writer and illustrator at Tate Britain working with children using art as a stimulus to inspire visual literacy and creative writing activities. It was during this time that I conceived and produced The Shape Game.

From 2009-2011 I was the Children’s Laureate."

Early drawing, age 6

Art college project Man is an Animal Series, 1967

Liver operation, 1970

An illustration from The Elephant Book, 1974 (unpublished)

An illustration from Gorilla, 1983

If you want to learn more about Anthony, why not read his biography?