Being able to share ideas has always given me a creative buzz! This desire to share began long, long ago when I first found a pencil squashed under the toe of an elephant which had been standing in the middle of the living room blocking my television viewing.
Once I set the pencil free, the elephant disappeared, the television was abandoned and the pencil and I set off on a lifelong adventure in thought. With my friend the pencil in hand I am amazed even today at the journeys we continue to embark upon together!
A personal journey exploring the nature of picture book creation
Since a very young age I can only remember wanting to copy images from books and objects from life, render them in whatever medium was at hand and then show the results to my parents in the hope that they would praise my efforts.
Today as I still attempt to master my art, nothing has changed except perhaps the extent of my audience. Over the years I have spent much of my life thinking practicing and going through the sheer hard work that is required in order to present my work. I do not see this work as illustration but rather an exploration of the most exciting way I can think of to present ideas in a book format. Now, with the introduction of new technologies which appear to be evolving at such a rapid rate, the skills required to complete this self imposed discipline are becoming multiplied.
As I begin to explore the possibilities of these new and exciting technological advances, itis no longer enough for me to just consider how images marry with text in a hard copy printed and bound volume. Instead I am required to think what medium I will be presenting my ideas through and in turn these decisions now inform my practice. This website is only an introduction to the work I create, but you are very welcome to have a glance through with the hope that there may be something here that interests you.
Andrew has illustrated books on various aspects of Irish mythology including The Creatures of Celtic Myth, The Field Guide to Irish Fairies and The Dark Spirit.
Since 2007, he has illustrated a series of popular children’s picture books: Gaiscíoch na Beilte Uaine (Bisto shortlist, Ibby Award and Réics Carló Award 2007); Balor (Réics Carló Award 2009); An Gréasaí Bróg agus na Sióga (Bisto & Réics Carló shortlists 2010, R.A.I winner 2011); Mac Rí Éireann (Réics Carló Award, Bisto illustration winner and R.A.I winner 2011); Ó Chrann go Crann (CBI shortlist, Réics Carló Award 2012 and R.A.I. award 2013); Pop! ( Réics Carló shortlist 2014) ; An tÉan Órga ( R.A.I..shortlist 2015)
In 2011, Andrew received the Bisto honorary award for book illustration.
In partnership with Caitríona Nic Sheáin, Andrew has co-written and illustrated three books of fiction for children, Cogito, Pop! and Cúraille i gCeannas.
Now for some other stuff
I was born in Belfast City and at the age of four was whisked off by my parents to Scotland. We lived in a little two bedroom gatehouse on the edge of a wood in a little Scottish hamlet called Hartwood. This is where I first remember beginning to draw. It was really all The Lone Ranger’s fault as he sat astride his white horse called Trigger on the cover of a jigsaw box. I can remember drawing him with his black face mask thinking how cool it was to be able to take a pencil and paper and create my own version of this photograph. All of my drawing at this time involved copying photographs and illustrations from books and other printed matter.
While at primary school, I soon found that being able to draw sharks and their sharp teeth afforded me a certain amount of classroom status. It was a regular occurrence to have other pupils ask me to draw sharks for them to take home to their older brothers and sisters!
While at primary school, I soon found that being able to draw sharks and their sharp teeth afforded me a certain amount of classroom status. Soon I was moving to Cardiff in South Wales where I soon discovered that my drawing skills really came in handy while trying to fit in with all the new faces that were around me in the new primary school. I can recall drawing gladiators in Roman Amphitheatres and being asked once again to do drawings for other children in the class. It wasn’t long before I moved twelve miles out of Cardiff to a small town called Caerphilly. It was a semi-rural location where I indulged in all the creativity I wanted. I built river dams which flooded the street, tree houses in which to hide and super swings from which to be super. I enjoyed making and decorating wide handlebar bicycles and most of all, drawing and painting.
Eventually, when I moved back to Belfast, I attended St. Mary’s Grammar School. During this time I was making a little money from my art through painting heavy metal album covers on the backs of denim jackets! I charged £10 for each one and nearly all were painted using Airfix model enamel paints as this was all I could afford at the time. I was regularly commissioned by friends and family to draw or paint relatives or landscapes from photographs. Along with achieving my A Levels, these commissions convinced me that I should attend the Belfast Art College AKA The University of Ulster. I achieved an Honours Degree in Design and had no sooner grasped my certificate than I was sitting on a plane bound for New York City! It was here that I began to consider my work more seriously and began to draw anything and everything at every opportunity in an effort to improve my drawing skills. I carried my sketchbook everywhere around New York and Hoboken where I worked as a labourer. It was in an old railroad house just purchased by a couple who had just got married and who wanted to move out of ‘The Village.’ The couple who employed me worked in the Guggenhiem Museum of Modern Art. I eventually decided to return home to Belfast where I earned a PGCE in Art with Commendation in1992 and later a PhD in Celtic Illustration in 2003.
My first book deal was with a Belfast publisher called Appletree Press. I had sent around a print of a fairy picture I had completed and within the week I received a letter offering me the job of illustrating‘A Field Guide to Irish Fairies.’ 1997. I completed a number of titles for Appletree Press and then Cassell in London before establishing my own publishing house called An tSnáthaid Mhór in 2005. The literal translation is ‘The Big Needle.’ This refers to the shape of a dragonfly and therefore in English the publishing house would be referred to as Dragonfly Press. Since this time I have published nine titles for children. They have won various awards both at home and abroad and more recently I have been selling rights to some of these titles through attendance at the Bologna Book Fair. I am keen to continue to explore the medium of picture books for the foreseeable future.