Windows into illustration: Guy Parker-Rees

Guy Parker-Rees, the illustrator of many favourite picture books, from Giraffes Can’t Dance to Down by the Cool of the Pool, explains the thinking and technique behind his new series starring Dylan, an exuberant, stripy dog.

he Holy Grail for many illustrators is a free and fluid line. Maybe it’s always been the case: Hokusai talks of ‘keeping the line alive’ and Matisse says, ‘Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence’.


I like the exuberance of colour. I want to be slapped around the chops by strong colours when I open a picture book. But it’s like playing with fire, if you don’t handle strong colours carefully they knock each other out and the emotional meaning is lost.

For a book like Giraffes Can’t Dance, I used a dip pen and ink and let the pen bounce freely along the paper. But I was finding that in my own painting and drawing I was attracted to the emotional value of coloured pencil and oil pastel. I liked the expressive qualities of the crunchier, colourful line.

My Dylan books all evolved from one very loose sketch of a stripy dog character, created on a tablet many years ago. (pic 1)

He kept looking at me from the wall of my studio, demanding I tell his story. I knew that I wanted to use this pencil/oil pastel line to tell it. His story would be about the mini dramas of growing up and getting on with other people.

When I was talking to my genius editor, Alison Green, she suggested making a series of Dylan books. So I had to think of a gang of friends and a whole world that could exist beyond the one book. The characters dash between each other’s houses along a rolling

1 2

6 Books for Keeps No.225 July 2017

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36