Tony Flowers – Interview with CKT

Tony Flowers

Tell us five words that best describe you?

Silly, immature, fun, obsessive and ridiculous.

How did you get started illustrating?

I think drawing is a compulsion for me. I have always loved comics and picture books. So illustration seemed a to be a logical thing to do.

I started out as a Glass and Ceramics artist. I always practiced my drawing during this time but didn’t think I was very good at it. Then I realized that I was ok at drawing and fairly good at telling a story with my pictures.

This is what I have practiced ever since, always trying to improve my visual story telling.

Do you prefer to work with notes from the author when illustrating a book or do you like to work with your own ideas for the illustrations?

I like to have NO notes. With Nick (Falk) and my books. He only puts in notes that fill narrative gaps in his story. I have been very lucky since the first ‘Saurus Street’  book, Random House Australia have let me have free run to play with the illustrations for my books as I wish.

That’s not say we don’t discuss them, review and edit some. But generally I can do, as I like.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to catch the eye of a publisher?

I honed my skills and raised my profile through entering competitions when I first started. I would make special mention of the World Handmade Picture Book Competition, run by the Oshima Museum of Picture Books in Japan. It is a great one for beginners as you get to write and illustrate your own stories. I still like to enter competitions from time to time. Avoid ones that demand high entry fees!

For general advice I would suggest working on developing your own style. Also practice drawing children and animals in different situations. Show your work to as many people who can give honest feedback. Praise is wonderful for the ego, but not helpful when you are trying to improve your craft.

Finally, don’t just talk about submitting illustrations. You have to actually create a portfolio and send it to people.

What is a typical illustrating day for you?

I like to break my drawing process up into steps. I will start the day dropping my boys at school, then I head to a good café for an hour or two of sketching roughs and working on drawings. I like drawing with people around me. It feels a little less isolated than just working in my studio.

I head home after this to work away in the studio of a few hours. This is either at the drawing table or on the computer.

Next I pick kids up from school, do family stuff like shopping, cooking and helping with homework.

Then depending on deadlines, after my family goes to sleep. I stay up and keep working on my illustrations.

How did you celebrate your first book being published?

My family and I went out for a celebratory meal, at a wonderful Indian restaurant from memory.

What do you love most about your illustration presentations at schools?

The love the immediate reaction of the students, it is fantastic. I love hearing them laugh as Nick and I act the fool or draw something fun for them.

I normally do a session where I get kids to come up with story ideas, then I draw the ideas into a narrative illustration. It is always fun doing this.

Can you draw a little something for us?

I thought your readers might like to see some process work. I have attached a file that shows the steps of my rough sketch process. Along side finished artwork ready for use in a book and a digital coloured version as used on my book covers and promotional material for Samurai vs Ninja.

What’s next from Tony Flowers?

This year has seen a big change for me. I have moved from Sydney to Canberra. I have also started studying again. I will be working towards my Doctorate at the University of Canberra for the next few years to come. I also have loads of ideas for very silly books and illustrations that I will continue to do as long as I have ink in my pens.

Tony’s website:


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