Tom Gauld illustrated the version of the Iron Man by Ted Hughes that year 3 have been learning about as their topic this half term.

Tom wrote to year 3 answering some questions on his inspiration for his Iron Man illustrations, and what it is like to work as an illustrator today:

Q1: There are lots of different versions of the Iron Man character in previous editions of the book, how did you begin to create yours?

I read the book carefully and noted down all the places where Hughes describes the Iron Man then I began making sketches. I looked at the older illustrations and was inspired by them in different ways, but then I took things in my own direction.

Q2: Were you familiar with the story before you were asked to illustrate it?

Yes. When I was a child it was read on the television story programme ‘Jackanory’ by Tom Baker (Doctor Who at the time) and I remember it being very atmospheric. I read the book later.

Q3: What materials did you use when illustrating? Do you normally use those materials?

I used a pencil for sketches then a ballpen called a Uniball Eye Micro for the actual drawings. Then I scanned them into the computer and cleaned them up in Photoshop before sending them to the publisher. This is my normal process except that I usually add colour on the computer.

Q4: How long did it take to illustrate the book? How long did each illustration take?

I can’t remember exactly. I read the book and made the notes, then I let it all marinade in my mind for a while before starting the sketches. Once the pencil sketches were all approved by the publisher and the Hughes Estate I made the ink drawings. These probably took half a day or less for a small one and a day for a big one.

Q5: What do you do when you are not happy with how an illustration is going? How do you work through problems?

I have most difficulty at the early stages where I’m thinking up ideas or beginning to sketch out images. I like to take a walk and/or go out for a coffee if I get stuck. I often find the problem solves itself on the walk back to my studio. If I hit problems later in the process it can be harder as it’s difficult to change my work once I’ve started down a certain path. Sometimes I just need to throw away a drawing and start again, which feels like a waste but is better than putting more time in to something which isn’t working.

Q6: Do you have any advice for aspiring illustrators?

It really just comes down to drawing a lot. And reading too, as most illustrations accompany text of some sort. I always carry a notebook which I doodle in when I have time and note down ideas whenever they come.

Thank you for taking the time to write to year 3 Tom, your illustrations are fantastic and we really enjoyed exploring the story further through your work.