When studying zoology didn’t pan out for Alan – he found himself drawing instead – he switched to illustration, and took a degree at what is now the University of Brighton. He graduated in 1976 and has been an illustrator ever since.
Some of Alan’s earliest memories involve colour, and how different shades react to the lighting conditions. Today, he works up his compositions on screen using Photoshop, then hand paints the various elements of the image, layering them together digitally at the end of the process.
Though his subject matter is often fantastical, there’s a canny realism and high level of detail in Alan’s work. Skin, hair, fur and feathers are all deftly recreated whether they belong to a dragon or a dormouse.
Whitbread Award 1979
Benson & Hedges Illustration Awards Gold 1984
Creative Circle Awards 1990 Gold and Silver in Press Advertising
YES Award of Excellence 1992
Children's Choices Award 1995
Children's Choices Award 1996
Question: What drew you to illustration/design? Alan: I started out on the sensible road of science, then in 1970 with £35, I hitch-hiked to Afghanistan and back. I ended up stuck out there, very ill and pennyless. It was a life changing experience. I had always loved art, and came home filled with the energy and drive needed to really focus everything into doing what I loved most in the world. It was the best decision I ever made. Question: Do you have any formal design training? Alan: I went to Croydon college of art [foundation] which I loved. Then on to Brighton to do illustration. However I didn't connect well at college, [I worked by myself at home] so found my own way. I was grateful to be given that time and a grant. I later taught part-time there. On my first week, I was asked to set a project and later do a crit. Having never been to one, I didn't know what a crit was. Question: Where do you live now & what drew you there? Alan: Just outside Telscombe village, near Brighton, high up on the south downs overlooking the sea. It's peaceful, windy and beautiful. Question: You live & work in an unusual house & towers, please tell me about it. Alan: I bought it about 25 years ago. The original part was built in the late 1920s, so not that old. It was relatively small then. I then added extensions and towers. When the first tower was built, I remember standing inside looking up - this was before the floorboards and ceiling had been put in, so it was a hollow shell. It looked fantastic. So about 2 years ago I built the end tower [furthest away in the ariel photo]. This has a 35ft high ceiling, it's got hundreds of small plaster cast patterns stuck on it, and looks quite like the inside of a mosque. It took 6 months to build. I have since bought more land around the house and planted several thousand trees.
Question: Describe the view from your studio window? Alan: A garden full of rabbits, and open downland running downhill to the sea. Sometimes in the evening, a view of the Isle of Wight. Question: Who or What is your biggest inspiration? Alan: Mostly contemporary music from the 1960s to now, and looking out of the window. Question: How do you get your ideas? Alan: You seem to just pull them out of the air, but I guess really we are unconsciously stealing from around us. Is this where the word zeitgeist comes in? Question: Do you collect anything? Alan: Lots of things, toy busses, old letterbox money boxes, tin toys, old tins and packaging, old and foreign polo packets, puncture repair outfit tins, records, all kinds of ephemera. Question: Do you keep a scrapbook? Alan: No, but I keep files of reference. Like a badger file and a hands file, and one hundred more. Question: What are your interests outside of illustration? Alan: Recording music and travelling. Question: Tell us about a favourite project you’ve recently completed. Alan: I managed to re-sell the rights to one of my children's books, 'Two Tiny Mice'. Question: Who is/are your art hero/es? Alan: No one thing in particular, but I like a lot of conceptual art [Fluxus, Brit Art etc]. A lot of it is great fun. Question: Who is/are your musical hero/es? Alan: Kinks, Nick Drake, Beatles, Stones, Nirvana, Elbow. Question: If you were not an illustrator, what would you be? Alan: A musician, or maybe a postman with a country round. Question: Have you any hidden talents? Alan: I can have really bad dreams. Question: If you could live anywhere, where would you go? Alan: To the world in the animated Lloyds bank adverts with that funny music. Question: If you won the lottery what would you do with the money? Alan: Buy lots of land and let it grow wild as a sanctuary for plants and animals, no people would be allowed there. Question: Would you continue to illustrate? Alan: Yes, but for myself only. Question: If you could travel back in time, who would be the one person you would want to meet? Alan: My dead father. I didn't like him and he frightened me. I would like to understand him, and therefore myself.
Guardian, Wundermans, BBC, macmillan/kingfisher books, Greys, OUP, Radio Times, Sunday TimesFavourites
: The Saltdean Beach Cafe
: (youtube) Extreme Shepherds
: The Conservatory Hove
: Staedtler mars-lumochrom black pencil crayon
: Anywhere that I haven't been yet