Behind the Book | Richard Jones
last updated 14 May 2020
Perdu is the debut author-illustrated picture book by Richard Jones — illustrator of the international bestseller The Snow Lion. Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK this spring, it is a poignant tale about a little lost dog alone in the city, beautifully brought to life in Richard’s stunning, heartfelt artwork. The Guardian celebrated it by describing how its ‘delicate pathos and warmth imbue it with a salutary sense of reassurance’.
We asked Richard where Perdu came from, about his work as an illustrator and his advice to aspiring artists.
During the lockdown, Richard did an online reading of his book on Simon & Schuster’s Youtube channel.
Where did the inspiration for Perdu come from?
The story of Perdu came about after an inspiring conversation with Helen, my editor at Simon & Schuster. We’d been talking through possible story ideas and both came to the conclusion that a story about a little dog could be wonderful.
I always try and squeeze a dog or two into my work, and more often than not they’re wearing scarves. From early on I decided Perdu would have a red scarf of his own and that it would play an important part in his story.
What was your creative process for writing and illustrating the book?
When I’m illustrating another’s story I always begin in my sketch book, filling the pages with character studies. I think of it as getting to know the people in the story. For Perdu , it was a little different. Although the story was prompted by a little drawing of a dog, the story came first. Over a week or two, I used a notebook to jot down phrases, sentences and thoughts that might be useful. Perdu’s story was kind of stitched together from these fragments.
Where do you do your best creative work?
I always try and carry a sketchbook around with me, just in case something pricks my imagination. However, I always need the comfort and quiet of my workroom to make sense of what I’ve scribbled down.
How do your surroundings impact your creative work?
I think I’m fortunate that I can work through pretty much any distraction. Some of the most successful things I’ve made have been created at difficult and complicated times. I’m also lucky that I have a warm, safe and welcoming room to come home to.
Who or what inspired you to be an illustrator?
I wasn’t particularly confident or outgoing as a child and I often used to draw or paint my way through difficult school projects! After graduating, I worked in a city library for many years. Of all the departments, I enjoyed the children’s library the most, and saw first-hand how much a good book could inspire a child. After a few years of shelving other illustrator’s books, I started to think ‘perhaps I should have a go myself!’
What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?
I love the freedom and time this job offers to work an idea up from a momentary thought to a real and tangible book. It’s a fabulously privileged position to be in and I’m incredibly grateful. I can also listen to music whenever I want to!
Richard shows you how to draw your very own Perdu at home!
What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
I try not to give advice because my route into the business was rather unorthodox! But I would say it’s important to listen - to listen to editors, art directors, agents and publishers. It can sometime be tough to hear what they have to say, but they’re almost always right! Illustration is a craft, and a craft has to be learned.
What are you currently working on? Can you tell us what to expect next?
I have a few interesting projects coming up. I’ve just finished two lovely stories, one with Walker Books in the UK and another with Schwartz & Wade in the States. I think they’ll both be available at the end of the year.
More books illustrated by Richard
How has Bright made a difference to your career?
I wouldn’t be where I am today, were it not for Bright. My agents have always been there when I need them, and I’m aware they’re always working behind the scenes on my behalf. They do all the complicated bits, so I don’t have to and I’m forever grateful!
You can see more of Richard’s work in his portfolio.