An interview with illustrator and author, Ged Adamson
Meet Douglas, a dog with a big problem: he needs glasses. But Douglas doesn’t know it, and his bad eyesight tends to land him in some pretty hairy situations…
Readers will laugh along with Douglas as he chases a leaf that he mistakes for a squirrel, walks through wet cement because he can’t see the warning sign, and annoys the neighbour’s dog by mistakenly eating out of his bowl!
After an eye exam confirms that Douglas needs glasses, and Nancy helps him find the perfect pair, readers will rejoice with Douglas as he finally sees all the amazing things he’s been missing!
Hi Ged, thank you so much for agreeing to answer a few of my questions! I’ve long admired your work and it’s great to have the opportunity to speak to you.
That’s so nice of you, Rose! And thanks so much for having me on your blog. It’s great to be asked on here to talk about the things I’m doing and the stuff I like.
- Can you tell us in your own words what Douglas, You Need Glasses! is about?
It’s about a dog called Douglas who has terrible eyesight. His friend Nancy gets more and more exasperated with him because his poor vision causes lots of trouble – mainly for other people. There’s an incident involving a wasps’ nest that is really the final straw for Nancy. She takes him straight to the opticians.
- Where did the idea for this charming story come from?
The idea came from a doodle. My ideas often come like that. I drew a dog in glasses smoking a pipe. Then I thought this could be a story. The first version featured squirrels in a big way – Douglas gets his glasses and loses interest in chasing the squirrels in the park. The next version had Douglas getting hungry for knowledge. These were all nice but the final version of the story is hopefully the most effective and funny.
- What do you hope that little readers will take away from this book?
If the reader is a child who needs glasses but is uncomfortable with the idea of wearing them, I’d like this book to help them see spectacles as cool, fun things that open the world up in a big way. If the reader is a child with perfect vision, I just want them to like Douglas and find him and the story funny – and hopefully see their short sighted friends in a new light.
- My own experience writing picture books is just as the writer (not the illustrator) what is it like to be in control of both the writing and the images?
It’s fun! I see the images and words as almost a single thing. I never start a project with the manuscript in place. I’ll have a rough idea what the story is going to do, and where the humour and action is going to happen. As I go along putting the idea together, the words are suggested by each illustration I’m sketching out. It changes constantly. And I’ll often realise the text needs to do something that the spread I’ve just drawn can’t accommodate – so I’ll scrap that image and do something new that works better. I enjoy this process so much.
- It’s hard to portray a character in the short form of a picture book, but Douglas seems like such a character! Where did he come from?
It’s so great that you see a lot of character in him. It’s such a nice thing when people say they find him funny and likeable. I suppose his personality sort of comes partly from myself and partly from my observations of dogs. From me, he gets the bad eyesight denial I was in as a child. I didn’t want to wear glasses so I would be very Douglas like. I’d go about things without acknowledging the big drawback of not being able to see properly. I held off until I was a teenager then I had the big moment in the book where you see through Douglas’s glasses.
From dogs, he gets that lovable optimism and enthusiasm that a lot of dogs have. He’s happy all day long if he can play and eat – even if it happens to be the dog next door’s dinner!
- What are your favourite picture books? What writers and illustrators do you admire?
I love Nadia Shireen’s books. Her illustrations are so full of the most brilliant humour. Yeti And The Bird and The Bumblebear are current favourites. But I love all her stuff.
The same with Kevin Waldron. He’s an artist who you can tell is obsessed with old graphic design and fonts. His style and use of colour are unique in the current picture book world. In our house we absolutely love Pandamonium At Peek Zoo. His new one is great too – Harold’s Hungry Eyes.
Leigh Hodgkinson is another author whose books and art inspire me and make me laugh. Troll Swap by her is so great.
But if I had to single out one picture book author/illustrator, it would be Beatrice Alemagna. Her work is just stunning. It’s beautiful. Her stories have a timeless quality. And she’ll use all kinds of different media to do her art in one book.
I massively recommend The 5 Misfits and The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy by her.
Ronald Searle, Charles Schultz and Quentin Blake are other big heroes of mine.
- What comes first when you have an idea, the image or the text?
It can be either but as far as text goes, it’s never a written out thing. It will just be a vague idea in my head. I’ll always see images in my mind – never just words. My first picture book Elsie Clarke And The Vampire Hairdresser was inspired by a joke. I used to send one frame gags to magazines like Punch and Private Eye. Sometimes I’d get one published. I’d done a joke where a man was getting his hair cut by a vampire and the scissors were just floating in the mirror. So this was the inspiration for my first book. The story I’m working on at the moment came from a conversation with a friend. He mentioned rainbows and it gave me an idea – it’s top secret though!
- Do you have your own four-legged friend
No I don’t and I absolutely love dogs too. We live in London in a house with a tiny back yard space so we’ve always felt a dog wouldn’t have anywhere to run around in. But we so want to get a dog, I don’t think we can wait until we move. We’ll just have to make sure we go out for lots of walks every day! There are millions of nice dogs round here. Greenwich Park at the weekend is doggy central.
- What does a writing or working day look like for you?
Generally drawing, painting, scanning and sitting at the computer putting it all together in the process of finishing a book or coming up with a new one. I like to go and sit in a café down the road and sketch and work on ideas. It can be a solitary existence so it’s good to get outside amongst other people. Most days I’ll chat to my agent Isy over emails and texts and I’ll be in touch with the the publishers who I’m working with. I’m also picture book editor for the agency so I’ll often be looking at stuff related to that.
But if I go and have lunch with someone, I have to use all my willpower to come home again and get back to work!
- And finally, the most important questions of all, what’s your favourite cake?
A Battenberg. Or possibly an M&S Bakewell tart. A single one from the pastry section. I class that as a cake. A ring doughnut doesn’t count though does it? Because if I’m in Greggs, that’s always first choice.
Do you like the sound of Douglas, You Need Glasses! (because you really should)? Why not get it for the little reader in your life (or the little reader inside you, if you’re like me and love picture books anyway) – get it here!
Or if you want to find out more about Ged (who is awesome) then have a look at his website.