Hello Everybody. Today we are delighted to be able to share the fantastic interview with Thalamus Plank - what a great name by the way. Thalmus is a very talented author/illustrator who has a fantastic creative style that might be new to you. He is always dreaming of an opportunity to demonstrate his creative talents. So we asked him some in-depth questions to find out more about his work and hopefully fuel his dream for bigger things to come. If you want to find out more about him or check out his other work then visit his website: https://www.thalamusplank.co.uk or have a chat with him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThalamusPlank
- ‘Help, My Granny is a Smuggler!’ is a book you are really proud of so what can you tell us about it, and will or has it been published?
I’m proud of this book because it was ‘Highly Commended’ by the judges at the Faber and Andlyn BAME, (FAB) Prize – which made it the first piece that I’d written that was acknowledged by people in the publishing industry as being of a standard. That is both an incredible confidence boost and a relief to a writer and an acknowledgment that you’re on the right path! It hasn’t yet been published… so if the publishing world feels that it is missing a humorous story about a granny that goes smuggling in secret with ‘the fearsome four’, and that involves a spot of detective work by her brave grandson, Barrie, then they know where to come!
- They say that a picture paints a thousand words, what do your illustrations say about you?
I suppose that the things you write and draw do reflect something of your character… I don’t want to sound like I don’t take life seriously, but I do always seem to see beauty and light in even the darkest moments, and always find something that can bring a smile to my face. Whilst I don’t bury my head in the sand concerning the more troublesome aspects of the world we live in; I feel that they are currently more than abundant right now so don’t really have the desire to invent any more. That said, I wouldn’t shy away from depicting moments of sadness, as long as strands of hope can be drawn from the narrative.
- What kind of projects do you like working on?
I do enjoy animal portraits - as you know, I’m involved in animal rescue and house several ‘un-releasables’ as well as a handful of dogs, so I get to observe their incredible beauty close up on a daily basis – you can’t help but be inspired! I've been trying my hand at book covers and am really enjoying the challenge of that, both the summing up of the book with the art and designing the layout. I particularly enjoy black and white illustrations (for chapter books and upwards) and am currently working on some for a chapter book that I have recently penned.
- Have you always enjoyed drawing and writing? Is this something you wanted to focus on as a career from an early age?
I was brought up in a creative household with a blend of cultures, my English mother is an incredible artist and my Guyanese father is a passionate lover of words and literature, - (His letters are eloquent and descriptive and reading his postcards is like delving into an excerpt from a travel guide!) and my siblings are artistic too. I learned pretty much all I know about drawing and painting from watching my mother at work. My grandmother also used to paint, and between them, they taught me so much. Whilst I was not formally trained, I could never claim to be ‘self-taught’, I had the very best teachers. My grandfather (a fellow Yorkshire man!) wrote poetry and my father was always reading and educated us in the classics, he used to write short stories and had several published in his work magazine. He has recently taken up painting too! So yes, drawing and writing were a big part of my childhood - I still have the very first story I wrote, written in a Postman Pat notebook. I must have been five or six (I hope – very embarrassing if it turned out I was much older!!) it’s about a magic man in a grocery shop buying potatoes – riveting stuff! But, no, although making art and crafts, and writing, have been a serious past-time, it was never something I really considered as a career; it’s only in recent years that I have become focused on pursuing this path with vigour!
- How do you capture your ideas as they come to you and when are you at your best creatively?
I discovered a few years ago that I have Aphantasia, meaning that I have no ‘mind’s eye’. (Obviously, this was how I experienced life, I just never knew that it was a thing) Like many who have it, I always thought that picturing things in your mind was just something people said, and didn’t realise that most people can see actual images in their minds! Apparently, some people can see moving images, like watching a film – in your head!! I can only imagine how amazing that be! I, on the other hand, see nothing, so when it comes to capturing ideas, I rely a lot on taking photos (my phone storage is always at capacity!) and I recall feelings and try to capture them in the images that I draw. Feelings are also important in writing too - when I read a book, clearly, I won’t be picturing the story in my mind, but I will very much feel what I read. To that end, I’m actually quite selective about what I read. So, yes, lots of photos (I even keep the blurry ones as they still invoke how I was feeling at the time it was taken) and jotting down comments and quick sketches– usually on kitchen roll!
I’m a night person, so from about 10 pm - 4 am (ish) would be my hours of choice, but the reality of life is that you take any and every minute you can grab, whenever, wherever and just be grateful!
- If you could pick two book covers illustrated by other illustrators which would you select? What is it about these two covers that particularly appeals to you?
Edward Bettison is a wonderful designer and his cover of ‘Stone’ by Finbar Hawkins is a joy to look at, the same goes for his cover of ‘Witch’, also by Finbar Hawkins. Whilst I haven’t yet read this book, so can’t say whether or not it captures the story (although I’m sure it does), I’m so taken by the artwork. I love the silhouette style art with a limited colour palette – less really is more!
My second choice is the beautiful cover of ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse’, written and illustrated by the very talented Charlie Mackesy. I love the simplicity of a few lines that manage to convey so much, both as a picture and in the feelings it evokes. So very powerful and yet so minimal, so simple and yet so deep.
Both are very different in style, but each one is beautiful!
- Could you draw your favourite superhero/book character/famous person in a style that relates to you and share it with us?
I’ve had to draw you three! The first two are fanart from the world of The Moomins that were created in the amazing mind of Tove Jansson. Snufkin is who I aspire to be like. Snufkin is a free spirit, connected to nature, surrounded by music, and loves the sea – all very strong passions of mine, however, my actual day-to-day reality is more that of the dear Hemulen, who is a bit eccentric, studies fauna with his magnifying glass (I do have a microscope!) and likes to drink tea. I’m probably a mixture of them both, so the third picture is my Moomin mash-up – a ‘Snufulen’ maybe or perhaps a ‘Hemkin’!
- What one thing would you like people to know about you?
Other than, ‘I’m available for representation!', I’d like them to know just how grateful I am to every single person who has inspired and encouraged me in any way in both my writing and my illustration, from those that are closest to me and encourage me on a daily basis and allow me the time and space to create (In particular, Mr. Slid, my family and SeaDogBobL), to those on social media who I have never met, and probably never will in person, (like your good self and like Zillah Bethell who continue to be so supportive!) and everyone in between – every kind comment is appreciated from the heart as is the creative work that they all share too. I’ve learned so much from looking at other peoples’ output. There’s an incredible world of creativity out there!!