Illustrator interview: Danny Deeptown
Updated: Sep 14, 2018
Words can't begin to describe how thrilled I was when Danny agreed to illustrate Captain Green and the Plastic Scene. I knew he would bring the right amount of skill, humour and emotion to the story. He has achieved that, and so much more, and I couldn't be happier with how the book looks.
I asked Danny a few questions about the book and himself.
1. What were your first thoughts when you read the text for CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE. Did you immediately have character ideas for Captain Green?
My initial thoughts were, this is a good story with a strong message children need to be aware of. I also thought if I take this on it's going to be a tough job and will take some time to get it right. When reading the manuscript I could see that Captain Green was like your average, sweet kid with a connection to nature, like most children have. The only difference being that he was a superhero and not a confident one like most. Being young at heart with a sensitive soul, he had to learn fast to become more confident in helping those who needed saving. When designing his character I wanted to get an innocence across, like all children have, so they could easily relate to him, or even better, want to be like him. He's a normal boy really with a gift. That gift not being that he's a superhero, but rather a super person. That's what all children can grow up to be.
2. What appealed to you about illustrating this story?
Being a nature and wildlife enthusiast from such a young age, I've been aware of the effect plastic has had, and is increasingly having, on our oceans and the marine life within them. So when I first read the manuscript I felt that this is a big opportunity for me to illustrate a book with such a strong message that I'm very passionate about. I also felt that I hadn't read anything like this in children’s literature before. The story is both, in a way, factual and fictional; whilst letting readers know the sad truth, it's told in a clever, fun and engaging way. I knew that if I was to do the best I could with the pictures, it would have the best chance of getting under children’s noses and having some sort of impact.
3. What was the greatest challenge when illustrating it?
To get the message across that plastic is a massive problem. And to do that I needed to draw and paint a lot of plastic. Like loads of it.
4. What illustration(s) are you most proud of?
There's one in particular that I feel is not only the strongest illustration in the book but probably the strongest illustration I've ever done, and that is the scene with the whale coming up to surface blowing up a load of plastic with it's blow hole. I had the idea early on and needed to get it drawn onto paper as fast as I could. I think it was the first rough I did for the book. There is a lot more going on in the illustration as it's one of the more emotional scenes in the book, but I feel the picture of the whale alone sums up what these animals have to deal with. I'm hoping it pulls on some heart strings because in reality it's not far from the truth.
5. You've added some interesting details for the reader to discover as they read the story again and again. Do you think it's important for illustrators to add extra layers to the story in this way?
I think it's important as an illustrator to tell the story visually, to almost tell another story to what the words do, but at the same time building a partnership between the pictures and the words, whilst leaving some room for imagination. In Captain Green and the Plastic Scene I felt it was essential to put extra details in because, wherever there is plastic, there's an opportunity to draw out a problem. Although a lot of the scenes are very busy, I needed to focus on space to make them work. I think I did ok.
6. When did you start illustrating?
Well, I learned to pick up a pencil and wobble at paper with it from a very early age. I haven't been without one much since. Even as a nipper I was fascinated with wildlife and dinosaurs and would draw them for hours on end. Mum said she'd forget she even had me sometimes.
7. Who is your favourite illustrator and why?
It's too hard to pick out one. I'm a big fan of classic pen and ink illustrators like Ronald Searle, Quentin Blake and Ralph Steadman. Each seem to be able to just expressively chuck ink on a piece of paper and something magical happens. E. H. Shepard is another favourite. He really brought characters to life, just like he did with that silly old bear, Winnie the Pooh.
8. Just for fun, if you could be any animal from the book, which would you be?
This is a toughy. Umm, probably the Humpback Whale. I love whales.
Humpbacks, in particular, can sing and I can't, so that would be nice. Captain Green would be pretty good too (people forget we are also animals) as he can fly and he's a cool kid with his head screwed on. I don't know when he would have time to rest though and I'm someone who needs sleep.
Thanks to Danny for sharing his experiences so generously.
P.S. Danny, you'd make a great Captain Green. You are a true eco-warrior!
The book is available online and in stores in most parts of the world. Online options are here.
You can watch the 'green-tastic' book trailer below:
For more information on the world of Danny Deeptown, please visit his website.