Q & A

Taking a line for a walk with Peter Lubach

• Q – Could you tell me about your route into illustration?
• A – I did Foundation in Norwich first of all and didn’t even consider illustration. I did painting, very bad painting. That was a wasted year really, but I always used to draw cartoons and never really considered that something to do at Art School. Towards the end of that year someone saw my work and said we should move you to the graphics block out of the painting block. Then I had a big gap and lived in Scotland and then I thought about applying for Brighton. I got into Brighton and loved it and worked really hard.

• Q – And you kept working in illustration, working for yourself?
• A – Yes, there were lots of things, in those days, there was the Enterprise Allowance Scheme for when you left college. I don’t know how much they gave you. It was something small.

• Q – To set up?
• A – Yes. You’d go to a meeting and they’d teach you how to keep your books. So you’d get the Enterprise Allowance for a year and that was a good spring board. I don’t know what it’s like now, but I think we started getting work straight away. I was very lucky because when I was at college I entered the Macmillan Picture Book thing, don’t know if it’s still run. It was a competition for students for a picture book and the winner gets their book published. It’s how I got Donald The Singing Fish published.

• Q – And since then you’ve continued to do illustrations for books? And you also do your own work?
• A – Yes.

• Q- Could you tell me about your process? For example, how does a screen print evolve?
• A – I just fill up books with sketches then I take out the pictures from the books by scanning them and then might do a bit of editing, like cleaning up or replacing bits or adding things on. The idea is to keep the freshness and the vitality of the original line. I’ve found when I haven’t done that, when I’ve redrawn things, it’s like the difference between illustration and screen printing. With illustration it’s like you’re doing a job, forcing the lines to fit this brief or idea. With the screen printing there’s a little bit of freedom and I’m letting things happen in a more organic way. Playing.

• Q – Taking a line for a walk?
• A – Yes, I love that Paul Klee quote.

• Q – I think I know what you mean. If you do a little doodle here and then repeated it fifty times none of them will ever be as good as the first one.
• A – Absolutely.

• Q – The first one had something you can’t reproduce even if you trace it, the first one has a kind of spark or magic.
• A – Yes, that’s exactly it. I think it’s because the first time when you’re doing a drawing it’s process. For instance, with illustration the first drawing you do is a pencil rough, that’s the first drawing you do and that’s alive in a way, it’s an exploration, it’s putting the idea down on paper. So you do that pencil rough and they come back a few weeks later after they’ve dissected it and said ‘do it this way’ and you have to redo the drawing. So whatever you’re doing you’re copying something else.

• Q – So you don’t send an inked drawing for a commission?
• A – Initially you send a pencil rough so they can take it apart. I would never do a pen and ink ‘rough’.

• Q – Do you enjoy screenprinting?
• A – (laughs) I love it! I sometimes get frustrated with the process because I’m not very good at it. I like the finished result.

• Q – How did you find out about Print to the People?
• A – A friend was going for an induction and I went along with her. For me that ability to just take a drawing out of here [his sketch book] and it becomes a finished product. As opposed to lino cutting something where you have to take something and then re-cut it and make it again, screenprinting is a good process.

• Q – What materials do you use? So you start with a pencil?
• A – Yeah but I draw straight with pen and ink. I never draw in pencil draw over it in ink and rub out the pencil.

• Q - And that goes into the computer and gets cleaned up?
• A – Yes.

part of the Year in Print
with Print to the People

• Q – Where do you find inspiration?
• A – Most of my work is not directly observed, it’s from the imagination. What I like to do is start off not knowing what I’m doing and just see what appears. Ideally I’d like to just draw something, not really know where it came from and be surprised by it. It very rarely happens, you don’t surprise yourself very often.

• Q – Do you collect anything?
• A – I only collect vintage nibs...

• Q – How do you get past creative blocks?
• A – Just keep drawing. Do you know Lynda Barry? She’s a cartoonist but she also teaches creativity and she says just keep the hand moving when you don’t know what you’re doing even if it’s just spirals.

• Q – What are you working on now?
• A – Nothing very glamorous, a couple of educational publishing jobs and for my own work I’ve got other screen prints.

• Q – What new medium would you like to try?
• A – Big sculptures out of concrete! And I want to do Riso books with a screen printed cover and a Riso interior.

• Q – Where do you sell your work?
• A – Mainly at Open Studios. I don’t have an online store yet.

• Q – Which Artists do you admire?
• A – I like people who make drawing look fun so you want to draw. Like Picasso, Steinberg, early George Grosz, Tomi Ungerer, Andre Francois. Anyone who makes line drawings and makes me want to draw.

• Q – Where do you stand on Quentin Blake?
• A – Yeah, I love Quentin Blake. He’s fun.

• Q – Final question, what is your favourite David Bowie song?
• A – Something off Young Americans? This week anyway.

Macmillan Picture Book Prize is in it’s 31st year! 

Questions: Paul McNeill  Editor: Yasmin Keyani