Raymond Briggs is one of the foremost creators of illustrated books for adults and children, including the unforgettable The Snowman and Father Christmas.
Born: Wimbledon Park, January 18th 1934*
Jobs: Artist, Writer
First Book for Children: The Strange House, 1961
*Raymond shares his birthday with A A Milne and Arthur Ransome
Raymond Briggs' parents have proved an important source of inspiration to the author/artist. His father was a milkman; his mother a former lady's maid. Raymond's unique characterisation of Father Christmas is based on his father - "Father Christmas and the milkman both have wretched jobs: working in the cold, wet and dark." His parents also influenced the character of Jim and Hilda, the victims of nuclear fall-out, in When The Wind Blows.
Raymond left school aged 15 to study painting at Wimbledon School of Art. After completing a typography course at the Central School of Art, and two years of National Service, Raymond went on to the Slade School to study painting. His first work was in advertising, but before long he was winning acclaim as a children's book illustrator as well as teaching illustration at Brighton College of Art.
Raymond was awarded the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1966 for his fourth picture book, The Mother Goose Treasury, and again in 1973 for Father Christmas. Published in 1978, The Snowman is perhaps Raymond's best-loved creation. He says that the book was partly inspired by its predecessor, Fungus The Bogeyman - "For two years I worked on Fungus, buried amongst muck, slime and words, so... I wanted to do something which was clean, pleasant, fresh and wordless and quick."
WHAT HE SAYS...
"The essence of being able to draw from memory (is) to be a mini actor. If the figure is to walk jauntily with its nose in the air, you have to imagine what that feels like."
"I once kept a record of the time it took to do two pages. Pencilling - 20 hours, inking - 18 hours, colouring - 25 hours. And all that's after months of getting ideas, writing and planning."
"People often ask about the technique in (The Snowman)... it is done entirely with pencil crayons, with no line in pen or pencil and no washes of ink or watercolour."
"Most of my ideas seem to be based on a simple premise: let's assume that something imaginary - a snowman, a Bogeyman, a Father Christmas - is wholly real and then proceed logically from there."
"In Fungus the Bogeyman I wanted to show the petty nastiness of life - slime and snot and spit and dandruff, all this awful stuff which is slightly funny because it detracts from human dignity and our pretensions."
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT RAYMOND BRIGGS...
"In different ways Briggs has revolutionised the art of telling stories with pictures." Twentieth Century Children's Writers
"One of our foremost illustrators." Art Quarterly
"A picture book artist of unparalleled inventiveness." Books For Your Children
"The man who did for snowmen what Disney did for mice." TES
"Briggs does not write down to children." Daily Express
"It's a measure of Briggs' skill as a writer that he manages to balance (a) sense of loss with positive elements such as love, excitement and happiness." Kids Out
"Raymond Briggs touches some very human level that everyone can relate to." Yorkshire Post
"(Jim and the Beanstalk) is well on the way to becoming a children's classic." Nursery World
"The Mother Goose Treasury is one of the best rhyme books ever published - no home or school should be without a copy." The Scotsman
"The Snowman has become part of our traditional Christmas culture." Junior
The Kate Greenaway Medal 1966 for The Mother Goose Treasury
The Kate Greenaway Medal 19734 for Father Christmas
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award 1979
Victoria & Albert Museum Francis Williams Prize 1982 for The Snowman
Children's Rights Workshop Other Award 1982
Kurt Maschler Award 1992 for The Man
Children’s Author of the Year 1992
Illustrated Book of the Year 1998 for Ethel and Ernest
Silver Pen Award, Holland 1979
PLACE & DATE OF BIRTH:
Wimbledon Park, London, 18 January 1934
Bomber – Len Deighton
National Brotherhood Week – Tom Lehrer
MOST TREASURED POSSESSION:
When did you start illustrating?
In 1957 when I left Art School. I tried all the three fields of illustration: 1) Advertising, 2) Magazine & newspapers, 3) Books. I soon found I enjoyed book illustration the most, despite it being the poorest paid. But then I discovered that book illustration meant CHILDREN’S BOOKS! Ugh! And Yuk! However, I soon realised children’s books were wonderful to illustrate and so I have been at it for the last 44 years.
Where do you get your ideas?
I don’t know. Prefer not to think about it. I always tell interviewers not to ask this question.
Can you give you top 3 tips to becoming a successful illustrator?
1. Learn to draw! (From life and from memory)
2. Learn to paint! (From life and from memory)
3. Don’t fiddle about on computers. They are a useful tool when you know what you are doing, but they can make you feel clever when you are not.
Coming home after the Army. The warmth and comfort of our little kitchen. Seeing my mum and dad and girlfriend. Carpets on the floor! Curtains! The women in pretty clothes. A cloth on the table. China cups and saucers. A comfortable bed. Food you could eat and no one shouting at me.
Favourite place in the world and why?
My work room at home where I can read, write, draw and paint. It is quiet and peaceful as the house is on its own and is in a country lane with views over miles of fields.
What are your hobbies?
Fishing, walking in the country, going round second-hand bookshops, collecting and framing jigsaw puzzles of the Queen Mother and collecting LP covers of Mrs Mills.
If you hadn’t been an illustrator, what do you think you would have been?
Probably some sort of writer and journalist. Radio plays, stage plays, short stories, novels, I would have had a bash at all of these.