Photo: Steve Langan
P.J. Lynch has worked as a children's book illustrator since leaving Brighton College of Art in England in 1984. He has won many awards including the Mother Goose Award, the Christopher Medal three times, and the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal on two occasions: first for
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
by Susan Wojciechowski, and again for
When Jessie Came Across the Sea
by Amy Hest. He has twice been nominated by the Ireland Section of the International Board on Books for Young People for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
has sold more than a million copies in the United States alone, and has recently been made into a motion picture.
P.J. has lectured on his own work and on art and illustration at the National Gallery of Ireland, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the National Library of Ireland and at the National Print Museum of Ireland, as well as at numerous conferences and colleges across Europe and the USA. Two large collections of his work have been acquired by the National Library of Ireland, and the National Print Museum of Ireland. In 2014, P.J. Lynch was awarded an Arts Council bursary for literature to assist him in completion of his book
The Boy Who Fell Off The Mayflower. P.J. Lynch lives with his wife and their three young children in Dublin.
What first inspired you to become an illustrator?
I was always drawing as a child and it was always assumed that I would do something arty when I grew up, but I must say I had very little idea of what illustrators did at that time. At Art College I very quickly realised that the good drawing was going on in the design and illustration departments so that is where I gravitated to. I was lucky that when I went to college in Brighton, a number of well-known book illustrators were on the teaching staff there. Raymond Briggs who created The Snowman was the best known of them, and several Brighton students from that era went on to do very well in children's books.
How would you describe your daily working routine?
Like a lot of illustrators and writers I try to stick to a set working schedule. In my case I get into the studio at about 9 am and can work till 5.45 pm. Unfortunately, if the work isn't flowing well, I can spend most of that time faffing around doing bits and pieces of business that need to be done. Usually in the afternoon I get stuck into some real painting or drawing so that at the end of the day it's hard to tear myself away from it. For me there is nothing like a looming deadline to help me to be more decisive and productive.
Writing my book about the Mayflower and the Pilgrims was pretty difficult for me and a very different discipline from my drawing and painting. I found that I only really accomplished anything when I took myself off away from the family and the internet, and illustration deadlines.
What has receiving a bursary award meant to you as a writer/illustrator?
I had already been working on my idea for a book about the Mayflower for several years and I was delighted that my publishers liked the first draft of the story that I showed them. However it was still a long slog to edit the text down into a compelling story. After all that I found I had to create more than forty extremely detailed paintings - a process that would take about two years. Whilst my publishers have always been more than generous and indulgent with me, receiving the bursary award from the Arts Council gave me that extra bit of time to finish the work on the book up to the standard that I felt it deserved.
Also, for me as a career illustrator, to receive a Literature Award was a tremendous boost to my confidence as a writer.
What is the best piece of advice you received early on in your career?
Do your very best on every job irrespective of
the money involved.
Which illustrators have influenced your work the most?
Arthur Rackham and Edmond Dulac were the artists I was most influenced by as a young illustrator. I soon became a fan of Golden age American illustrators like Maxfield Parrish and NC Wyeth as well as Norman Rockwell. Alan Lee is a contemporary illustrator whose work I admire very much.