3 Word Wisdom

I ask established illustrators to encapsulate what they feel they have learned throughout their time as an illustrator, limiting them to just 3 words. Here is what they say:

Mark Chambers  is a fabulous illustrator who was short listed for the 2017 AOI World Illustration Awards.  He has illustrated an extensive range of Children’s books for different authors, a couple of my favorites being:  Pirate Pete and his Smelly Feet and the My Hamster… series.

try new things

‘I am always squishing, squashing and stretching my styles to see where they will take me. Some work and some don’t but trying new ways and techniques keeps my mind fresh’



I’ve always loved Lizz Lunney since someone bought me Big Cat Parade for my Birthday.  Sadly it  no longer appears to be available but there’s loads more you can buy right here.  Lizz combines fantastically expressive drawings with her brilliantly surreal humour. She is one of my favourite artists around at the moment.

Drink Green Tea

“You can’t create things when you are dead so the most important thing to do is to try to stay alive as long as possible. I drink green tea which creates the illusion of good health but you need to find the tea that suits you best. It might not be tea, it might be something else like protein shakes, meditation or lying on a beach crying into a conch. But whatever it might be that makes you feel healthier it will certainly result in a healthier mind and a healthier body and a healthier reproduction of yourself (babies or art, whichever takes your fancy, I prefer art)”

Liz Lunney


Marking 2 years of the Three Word Wisdom I ask the past Children’s Laureate for his 3 words.

Chirs Riddell is an amazingly prolific author and illustrator.  He has been showered with wonderful awards for his brilliant work including the Kate Greenaway Medal, twice!  His work includes collaborations with Russell Brand, Neil Gaiman and Paul Stewart as well as producing his own writing for children.  He is also a renowned political cartoonist whose work appears in The Observer, The Literary Review and The New Statesman.


Chris is the first contributor to send his three word in the form of a picture.:


I met Jack Teagle at the first ever Brighton Illustration Fair at the end of May.  I have been a fan of his work for some time, especially his wrestlers, so took the opportunity, after his talk, to ask him for his 3 words of wisdom. The also signed the zine of his I bought.  What a lovely man.

Persistence, noise, honesty.

He went on to tell me he could have as easily said Draw, Draw, Draw.  He strongly advocates the idea of keep going with what you find of yours is popular.  Be honest to yourself but keep evaluating and pushing with the ideas that your audience enjoy.  Keep creative your own brand of noise and don’t wait for people to ask for it.

jack teagle

Jorge Martin is a wonderful Spanish London-based illustrator and has been illustrating since 2010. He has a great Instagram account. His first book came out in August of 2014 in France, published by Sarbacane, called “J’sais pas quoi faire”, which was more mundanely entitled in the original English version “Bored”. He has since illustrated three more books since and is currently working on a book as the writer and illustrator for Penguin Random House.

Follow Your Instinct.

“Listen to what other people have to say but your gut is very wise too. Don’t ignore your gut.”

jorge martins yeti

Andy Riley is a fabulous multi-talent.  His cartoon work includes the best selling and incredibly funny Bunny Suicides and he has also co-written some of my favourite comedy shows along with Kevin Cecil including Black Books and the highly underrated Hyperdrive as well as clocking up many more wonderful credits on TV and Film.

Learn Your Body.

“I don’t mean this in the sense of learn how to draw it: I mean learn how to look after it. Drawing is great for the soul but the human frame is not designed to make marks with a pen, many hours a day, for a lifetime. So if you’re going to draw a lot for years, learn how to help your body out. Yoga, pilates, weight training, drawing in different positions (not hunched over, if possible), different kinds of massage, Alexander technique – whatever it takes to keep your system up and running. Your back and your shoulders will thank you for it.”

Andy Riley

David Lucas describes himself as a romantic.  He has a belief that the world is alive with gods and spirits and magic.  This certainly comes across in his work.  I particular love Whale and The Skeleton Pirate. You can read more about him here.

God is Real.

“This is the first enigmatic answer I have received since the beginning of the project some 18 months ago.  It comes with no explanation, nor is it duty bound to do so.  (I will publish any three word contribution as it comes, as long as it’s not overly profane or abusive) And, although David does not say how God being real has helped him with his illustrative career it seems implicit in everything he produces as an artist.  There is a tacit magic and interconnected spirituality that shines through the work, so perhaps that’s what he means by his words.  Or perhaps it isn’t what he means at all.  Discuss.”  AP x    


Ed Vere is the writer and drawer of one of my favourite Children’s books (Ed’s third massively successful book): Mr Big. His first picture book, ‘The Getaway‘, won the Highland Children’s Book Award in 2007. His second, `Banana‘, was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway prize in 2008.

His book ‘Bedtime for Monsters‘ was shortlisted for the 2011 Roald Dahl Funny Prize.

Ed’s latest book ‘Max the Brave‘ was published with Puffin Books.
It was The Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week, for June 8th 2014.

Draw, draw, draw.

Ed Vere

Chris Haughton is a fine purveyor of children’s books, amongst other things. His first book A BIT LOST has been translated into 20 languages and has won awards in 7 countries including the Dutch Picture Book of the Year.  My favourite of his OH NO GEORGE! won the Junior Magazine Picturebook of the year award in 2012 and SHH! We have a plan won the AOI award for children’s books in 2014.  Long may he reign I say!

Make it Better.

“No matter how happy you are with an image, it can always be better. If you dont try to push a little further each time your work won’t improve. Listen to art directors and clients, even ones you don’t agree with, and try to understand what it is they don’t like. I don’t think it’s all just a matter of a difference in taste, if an image is really good, maybe not everyone likes it, but I think everyone can recognise that it is good.”


Jim Field won this years Sainbury’s Children’s Book Award in the picture book category for his illustrations in ‘There’s a Lion in my Cornflakes’  along with Michelle Robinson who wrote it.  And deservedly so in my opinion.  I love Jim’s illustration with ‘Oi Frog’ being my particular favourite. (written by Kes Gray).

Be constructive, Enjoy.


Laura Skilbeck makes the most wonderful cards . My particular favourite amongst many others being Cake Bear. She also does loads of great original art installations and illustrations.

Make what you Love.

Yes I know it isn’t 3 words but both Laura and I couldn’t work out how to shorten it and I felt the sentiment of the words out weigh the need to follow the “rules” of the 3 word wisdom blog.

laura skilbeck

Holly Swain is a wonderful illustrator who lives in Hove.  Hove is about 2 miles away from me.  Like lone wolf illustrators we have never met.

I love her illustrations.  Some of them remind me a little of David McKee’s work, especially King Rollo.

My favourites of hers are: Dotty Inventions, A New Home for a Pirate and There’s no such thing as a Ghostie. Her greetings cards are also divine.

Draw, Play, Persevere.


David O’Connell creator of the fabulous Monster and Chips picture books and more recently, in collaboration with past  3 Word Wisdom contributor Sarah McIntyre, the frighteningly exquisite JAMPIRES.

Have A Plan

“It’s very easy to lose focus and allow time to drift, especially if you’re working on your own. I’ve found that planning my work, my week, my year (within reason) helps to keep my mind focused on what it is I want to do, and how much of it I can actually achieve in the time I have.”
david O'Connell

Introducing Alex Millway. I first came across his work in the wonderful adventure Pigsticks and Harold. It’s a marvelous romp of a book and now, I’m please to say, a forth coming animation too.

His work also  includes the Mousehunter trilogy and the Mythical 9th Division series of books.

He is also the founder of the Crystal Palace Children’s Book Festival, and regularly runs school events and workshops around the country.

“I reckon if I learnt anything – and learnt it the hard way – it was”:

Just be Honest.

“And that relates to style, and what you can achieve, what you like working on, and also how you should present stuff to the reader.”


Gary Northfield, creator of the fantastic Gary’s Garden in the Phoenix Comic including many other things: Derek The Sheep amongst my favourites.

“In all my 12 years experience, getting ahead in the business definitely relies upon:”

Friendliness, Tardiness, Consistency.

gary northfield

Jamie Littler, creator of the swashbuckling, treasure trawling,  boy and Hippo duo “Cogg and Sprokit” for the wonderful Phoenix Comic. He has illustrated the beautifully heart warming children’s book “Mums the Word” as well as reimagining the front covers of the world best selling Famous 5 series for younger readers.

Keep on Pushing.

“I suppose this is in terms of perseverance in the job, submitting work etc etc, but ALSO during deadline hell the likes of which I’m experiencing, AND to keep developing your work to keep it creative and inspiring. It’s just so important to keep pushing the boundaries of everything you so.”


Thomas James, fabulous conceptual illustrator for many, many big and posh clients, editor of Illustration Age ,director of ILLO Confidential, man and New Yorker.

Consume. Create. Repeat.

Thomas James

James Turner, illustrator, cartoonist and gentleman, writes and draws the brilliantly fun Super Animal Adventure Squad for the marvelous Phoenix Comic. He is also the inventor of the wonderfully anarchic Beaver and Steve Comics.

Never give up.

“I almost picked “perseverance, perseverance, perseverance”, but that doesn’t sound as good when shouted from on top of a pile of skulls with a sword held in the air.”
James Turner

Sarah McIntyre adores raspberry jam. She also loves wild hats, enormous wigs and making silly comics with her friends. She first studied Russian literature but ten years later, went to Camberwell College of the Arts and learned how to write and illustrate books. She has illustrated and written some fabulously books, my favourite being Vern and Lettuce.

Make bad books.

“We all have to start somewhere. I see so many talented friends getting angry with themselves because they don’t make the perfect book just as they’re getting started, and quitting, or feeling depressed. It’s okay to make bad things! I tell this to kids all the time: if you make bad books, lots of them, eventually your books will start to become less bad, and possibly even good. Be kind to yourself, get used to finishing projects and keep moving on to the next thing. Sometimes when I try to draw intentionally badly, I learn a new way of drawing that’s actually quite funny, and I adopt it into my set of good drawing skills.”
sarah Mcintyre

Tor Freeman has been illustrating children’s books since graduating university in 1999. She was born in London but lived for five years in California as a child, and has spent time in her mother’s home country of South Africa. She makes fantastic books laden with comic animals such as The Toucan Brothers  and my particular favourite Olive and the Big Secret.

Remember to concentrate.

“Because it can be so pleasant just to draw and let things happen, I can forget to concentrate and make my brain work to think of new things, or really think about how to push an idea, or even come up with a proper idea in the first place! So concentrating on what you’re doing is obvious but certainly something I often forget to do!”


Viviane Schwarz was born in Germany. She studied English at university while writing fantasy stories to practice, then she moved to Cornwall and got a master’s degree in Illustration. She loves living by the sea, and most of her books feature at least one underwater scene and lots of fish my favourite being ‘Shark and Lobster’s Amazing Undersea Adventure’.

After moving to London Viviane started illustrating as well as writing books. Her books include There are Cats in this Book and There are No Cats in this Book.

She was chosen for a Booktrust Best New Illustrators Award in 2011.

Do The Obvious!


Gwen Millward, the self confessed friendly scatter brain, has been putting illustration to words for a job since her graduation from Edinburgh University in 2002.

She draws for others, and to great success, but my favourite book of hers is the self penned ‘Bear and Bird’  a wonderful tale of the 2 best friends and their adventures in the forest.

Always have fun

“When I’m having fun it really comes across in the way I draw, and vice versa.”


Marc Johns, is a bit of a illustration hero of mine.  He creates whimsical drawings filled with dry wit and humour. You can find him all over the web:

Marc’s Shop (original drawings and signed prints)
Society6 shop (iphone cases, tote bags, framed prints and more)
Follow Marc on TypePad

He also has a couple of books: Serious Drawings and I Made These Drawings for You.

Always Be Yourself.

“Sounds corny but goddamn it it’s true. It’s so easy to borrow other people’s styles and follow trends and try to do what everyone else is doing.
I am easily tempted to adopt themes and ideas from others, we all are. And no one creates in a vacuum, and we are the sum of all our influences. But in the end your work has to be from YOU, it has to be YOUR voice, because that’s what’ll make it stand out. Your perspective is unique and fascinating, if you let it come out.”

Jonathan Edwards, the amazingly talented illustrator and character designer.

His work first appeared in 1993 in Deadline and Tank Girl Magazine with strips such as Dandy Dilemma, Simon Creem, The Squabbling Dandies (with Richard Holland) and one pagers about, amongst others, Scott Walker, Sly Stone, Nancy Sinatra, Kraftwerk and The Beach Boys. Since then he’s worked for the Guardian, Mojo, Q, Mad, The Black Eyed Peas, A Skillz & Krafty Kuts, The Jungle Brothers and The Glastonbury Festival.

Comics include Aunt Connie & The Plague of BeardsA Bag Of Anteaters (with Ian Carney) and Two Coats McWhinnie (also with Carney). He’s also been a regular contributor to the Guardian since 1999 and illustrated the Hard Sell weekly column in the Guide from 2002 to 2011.

Keep it interesting.

“I remember seeing a beautiful Ben Shahn drawing of shopping trollies and thinking if that can make a great subject for an illustration then anything can. There’s always a way!”


 David Mackintosh has excelled in his field as a graphic designer, art director and illustrator, and his innovative book designs have won him numerous design awards in Britain and internationally. He has published three critically acclaimed children’s books for HarperCollins, Marshall Armstrong is New to our School, The Frank Show and the most recent Standing in for Lincoln Green.  Funnily, in a reverse situation to Oliver Jeffers, David was born in Northern Ireland and brought up in Australia.  But, now lives in London, not New York.

Patience. Perseverance. Curiosity. 

david mackintosh

Oliver Jeffer’s picture books have been translated into over 30 languages, including Lost & Found, The Hueys, The Incredible Book Eating Boy, The Great Paper Caper and most recently the New York Times bestsellers Stuck, This Moose Belongs to Me and The Day Crayons Quit.   Oliver was born in Australia, brought up in Northern Ireland and now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Be more curious.

oliver jeffers 2

Sam Garton, aka Otter Keeper (shh don’t tell everyone) is to be found drawing lots of Otters and generally making a mess (his words not mine).  His first book ‘I am Otter- The unheard ramblings of a modern day domestic Otter’ is out early next year.

Always draw horses.

 ”I’ve always found drawing horses a real challenge. I was forced to confront this fear when a client requested (lots of) horses for a job. With enough practice/patience I managed to pull it off, and realized; if I can learn to draw horses, I can draw anything!”

sam garton

Steve Tillotson, runner up of the Cape Graphic Short Story Prize 2012, man behind the gloriously perverse Banal Pig comics including ‘Christopher Wren – In search of excitement’ out now.

Make yourself laugh.

 “If I don’t even make myself laugh or smile, then I can’t really expect other people to enjoy my work.”


Anke Weckmann, a freelance illustrator originally from a little town near Hanover in Germany, now working for a wealth of magazine and newspaper clients, amongst  other things, in London.  Also co-curator of the We Say Meow blog of cats.

Persistence. Patience. Consistency

Anke Weckmann

Gemma Correll, a freelance illustrator and comic-making person.  Author of, amongst other things, the wonderful A Pug’s Guide to Etiquette:

Don’t over-think it.

“Something I’m guilty of- I need to take my own advice!”
Dan Berry, senior lecturer at the North Wales School of Art and Design, author of The Suitcase and broadcaster of the Make it and Tell Everybody podcast where illustrators talk about what they do and how they do it.  It’s well worth a listen:

Have Some Aims.

“This can be as easy as ‘get better at drawing’ or ‘draw a book’ but if you don’t know where you are headed, how will you know when you get there?”

Dan Berry

Stephen Collins, winner of the Jonathan Cape/Observer Graphic Short Story Prize 2010 and author of The Gigantic Beard that was Evil:

Reassess Your Work.


Mike Smith winner of the Macmillan Prize for children’s book illustration for Edward Hopper and the Carrot Crunch and author of The Hundred Decker Bus:

Look. Daydream. Draw.

“Although I expect just Draw Draw Draw would do the job!”


Being an illustrator can feel lonely at times. Even when we are in sunny studios the nature of our work means we usually have to get down to business by ourselves (ooh err), as no one else is going to do the drawing, colouring and finishing for us.

Every now and then we may loose focus and once in a while confidence can waiver, especially if we are earlier on in our careers. For this reason I am asking more established illustrators to contribute their 3 words of wisdom so I can share them here. Just 3 key words that they feel encapsulates what they have learned throughout their time as an illustrator. Some may submit drawings but it is the 3 words of advice that count and give us all, newer to the business, food for thought and inspiration.

If you are an established illustrator reading this and would like to contribute your 3 words please email me at appottingjr@gmail.com

In the future I would also like to include short interviews with some of the contributors about the early years of their careers and what they feel where their break-through moments.

Thanks to all who contribute.