Behind the Book : Keith Robinson Discovers Modern Magic

June 17, 2015 9:54 am

This is a transcript of a blog interview by my lovely agents at The Bright Group. Special thanks to K.M Sharp for the word-smithery.


Keith Robinson‘s diverse & distinguishable Bright portfolio has been a fiction favourite amongst clients for the past 3 years. His strong style and considered line work gained him the opportunity to work with up-and-coming Irish author Nigel Quinlan on his debut novel, The Maloney’s Magical Weatherbox (Orion).

STORY OVERVIEW: Neil and Liz Maloney’s dad is a Weatherman – but not the normal kind. He’s the person who makes sure the seasons change every year. This year, though, the Autumn hasn’t arrived and the weather is spiraling out of control. Witchcraft is at work, but can Neil and Liz stop the chaos before it’s literally the end of the world? 

 Here’s what Keith had to say about the intriguing project – 
Nigel’s vivid characters and fantastic situations, infused with Celtic magic, were wonderful to draw.
The illustrations were commissioned by editor Amber Caraveo at Orion Children’s Books. The brief was for 4 full-page illustrations for the start of each section of the book. The story is told in alternating chapters by the main protagonists, Neil and Liz. So for each part of the book I also drew a chapter heading vignette for Neil and one for Liz (eight in total), featuring a key moment in that section of the story.
I was sent the manuscript, which I read while on holiday last year and really fell in love with the characters and the strange world of the Weathermen, so when I came to start drawing I already had a very clear image in my mind.
This is absolutely my favourite kind of subject: ancient magic colliding with the everyday modern world. The illustrations were mainly drawn using a brush and ink, with dip pen and fine-liners for detail. I wanted to create strong contrasts of black and white with dynamic compositions to convey the drama and magic of the story. I also drew a lot of character sketches to get in touch with the strong personalities of Neil and Liz.
Neil and Liz are very modern kids but the book is in the classic tradition of children’s fantasy, bringing to mind Susan Cooper, Alan Garner and Neil Gaiman. So I wanted the illustrations to be contemporary but to also feel like part of the tradition of children’s fantasy book illustration, drawing on the influences of some of my own illustration heroes such as  Arthur Rackham, Paulline Baynes and Charles Vess.