Dean Jones has a background in psychology, music and IT – but what he really loves to do is draw. He started his career in illustration by winning the student category of the inaugural Australian and New Zealand Illustration Awards in 2004.
Dean has collaborated twice with Carole Wilkinson – the most recent of which was The Dragon Companion. The recent release, All Through The Night, is Dean’s first picture book.
What materials did you use to create your pictures?
For All Through The Night I used a magical brush that can transform into endless different shapes and can paint millions of different colours. It does whatever I ask it to do and I always get really excited when I use it. It also has an eraser on the other end for when I make a mistake or want to make a colour disappear.
I always do rough drawings first to layout out compositional elements. Most artists call these thumbnail sketches because they are usually small, and while I sometimes do these on paper, I usually use a drawing tablet in something like Photoshop. This is handy as it allows me to resize, move, and rotate the basic shapes quickly into a composition that works. Following the compositional work for All Through The Night I first drew the main characters and I usually do this in pencil on tracing paper and then scan these into the computer for digital painting. I like to draw on tracing paper with pencil because it is abrasive and the pencil loves it – it is very forgiving and easy to smudge and erase. I find it great for working on something as complex as a face, that needs just the right character. For the landscapes and backgrounds, I paint directly on the computer based on the rough thumbnail sketches. This book was painted entirely in Photoshop with only a few brushes, some of which I made myself.
Is the little boy in All Through the Night based upon someone you know? If so, who?
Fortunately I found an excellent model named James who is the son of a friend of a friend I work with! One Saturday afternoon early this year we all got together and asked James to hold himself in various positions and make funny faces that I could base my drawings on. After that we sat around a table and had cups of tea and ate biscuits that were decorated like mice, and cup cakes with icing. It was a grand afternoon. It was his first time as a model and he did a fantastic job and his Mum was a great director…I just worry that the paparazzi are getting to him now that he is famous and all.
What inspired the vivid dreamscape and characters in the story?
I wanted to create a book that was about the amazing thing that happens to us every night when we go to sleep. No matter who we are, or what we are going through, every night we might get to go somewhere amazing. And altho ugh the experience is sometimes fun, sometimes silly and sometimes scary, it doesn’t matter, because we are always going to be ok, and a new day full of possibilities will always be there to receive us when we wake up.
The dreamscape and characters were somewhat inspired by a folk song from the 60s that I learnt to play on the guitar when I was a little kid in the 70s. I guess it has stuck in my mind over the years and it tied in with the concept for the book. The song is essentially a lullaby and if you can work out what it is, it may give you a whole new way of seeing the pictures. I won’t tell you what the song is but if you work it out be sure to write to me and tell me your ideas.
Were there any other aspects of the journey that didn’t make it into the finished book?
Yes there were lots of ideas that were dis carded just because I couldn’t fit them all in, in an elegant way. I even almost completed some drawings that I eventually dropped, like a zoom to life inside the Breakfast town on the last page, that had lots of fun stuff going on, like Italian guys steering coffee cups and saucers like gondolas down a canal of hot chocolate. So many ideas, so few pages!
Were any of the images in the book inspired by your own childhood dreams? eg. bat air balloons, sandman, train.
Not really. I wanted to the book to also be about things that go on at night that as kids we don’t get to see because we are asleep! So that’s why I have things like the fishing trawlers heading out to sea, and bats and hot air balloons and snails getting up to mischief.
The Sandman was a very important character in the book because he is essentially a provider of safety and protection. Dreams aren’t always fun, and sometimes they can be a bit scary, but the great thing is we are always going to be OK, knowing that we are always going to get to the morning. In All through The Night, and in folklore, the Sandman is the guy that makes sure that everything is going to be OK, even though when we first encounter him, it is difficult to know exactly what is going on. We all have bad dreams occasionally and I really hope this is a comforting thought for children who have them occasionally too.
What do you dream about?
I dream about things that I’m thinking about that day or week mostly. I tend to dream about fish a bit also. The other night I dreamt I walked into a pole.
Which is your favourite spread and why?
Hmmm that is tough. I think it is the page with the snails and the alarm clocks. I like it because it is a simple composition but there’s some fun concepts happening on that page.
Visit here to read part 2 of Dean’s interview.