Wilkinson, the illustrator of the beautiful Historium, tells us more about how books and drawing were part of his childhood.
What kind of child were you?
I think I was a bit troublesome. I was the only boy with 3 sisters so I spent most of my time either railing against a perceived pro-girl bias and acting boisterously as a reaction (my poor mother!) or hiding somewhere quiet where I could draw or read comics or just get lost in imagined adventure.
What are your most vivid childhood memories?
My father was a headmaster at our primary school so my sisters and I would have to wait for him to finish after school. I soon found that the school library was the perfect spot to pass the time quickly and without getting into trouble. Another memory that I can recall vividly is sitting in the front room at home in the dark with just the sound of a super8 projector as my dad showed films of the family. The memory of those whirring reels, the smell of warm dust from the bulb and the silent laughing apparitions is a very rich and comforting one.
How did you discover reading and which books have stayed with you?
My father and mother used to read to us all a lot and were both passionate readers so books were omnipresent throughout my childhood. One that particularly fired my imagination was a huge book about the art and culture of North American Indians from the school library which I hid so it could never be borrowed by anyone but myself. It was full of beautiful illustrations of all aspects of their history and culture and I spent many many hours lost in reverie, wishing myself to South Dakota in the 1800s as a Sioux or Cheyenne or whichever I had become obsessed with that month.
How did you start illustrating - do you remember the first things you were inspired by?
Throughout childhood, drawing was a way of reliving and celebrating the things I loved (and still can be, in fact) so after seeing an exciting film or reading a great story I would spend hours filling sketchbooks with characters and scenarios from them.
What do you find difficult to draw?
People and animals are the most difficult and also the most rewarding and enjoyable. The thing I used to find hardest was hair! I worked and worked at finding a solution and now it’s one of the things I’m pretty confident with. Similarly, I was intimidated by reproducing the many textures and materials in Historium but had to push myself and explore and find a way to recreate each item.
Do you draw on your own childhood in your work?
Whenever I have the opportunity. Childhood is a big part of what informs all of us and there’s something very visceral about working with subjects we would have loved as children. It often means we can more immediately access our emotional response to a subject instead of overthinking it. And it’s heart-warming to me to produce something I would have loved as a child.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m re-reading Grapes Of Wrath because on first reading it completely changed my creative mind. It was such a work of genius and so full of striking images and ideas that it was like pressing a reset button or shaking my mind and all the pieces of my creativity fell in new and more interesting places. I want to see if it works again!