I was born on Hyde Park Corner, London, but grew up in the countryside in Ireland in an old white farmhouse surrounded by fields. I began to make books with sewn-up spines when I was about five. The first was called The Fox and the Rabit. (sic)
I went to boarding school in England – I begged to go, having read too much Enid Blyton, and then ran away, only to be captured by the Matron and forced to peel potatoes every weekend in the school kitchens till the end of term as a punishment. But it was at school- aged about 16, that I discovered a love of illustration. We had a new young art teacher who asked us to choose something to illustrate. I chose a poem by W.B.Yeats – The Song of Wandering Aengus.
I went to Bristol Polytechnic to do a Foundation course and then to Chelsea School of Art to study Graphic Design. There were very few Illustration courses in those days, but we had a wonderful life-drawing tutor – Susan Einzig, who had illustrated several children’s books, including Tom’s Midnight Garden. We learnt how to set type from wooden drawers full of little lead letters and we were taught about elegant design by Dennis Bailey.
At the end of the three-year course, I applied to the Royal College of Art to do another three years post-graduate study. I didn’t get in but I was determined to have another go! I spent two years doing peculiar jobs – selling shirts, delivering shirts, being a chambermaid, pasting up holiday brochures, and meanwhile working on my portfolio. I moved away from children’s book illustration towards more adult, narrative work using oil pastels and paint and when I reapplied to the RCA in 1981, I was accepted. There was a magnificent line up of tutors at that time - Quentin Blake, Michael Foreman, Dan Fern, Linda Kitson, Peter Brookes and Shelia Robinson.
After the RCA, I worked producing illustrations for magazines and numerous book covers. It was a few years later that an editor from Bodley Head asked me to bring in my portfolio because she was looking for someone to illustrate a collection of children’s stories called Listen To This! compiled by Laura Cecil. This became a collaboration that would continue for many years, resulting in seven picture books and Listen To This! won the Mother Goose award for Best Newcomer to Children’s Book Illustration.
I was also writing and illustrating my own picture books at the same time and still do so, including the series about Blue Kangaroo. I work with many other authors which I really enjoy, including Michael Morpurgo, Martin Waddell, Saviour Pirotta, Nanette Newman, Colin MacNaughton and Geraldine McCaughrean.
At home, in West London, I live with my lovely husband called Rupert and I have three strapping stepsons. A fairly recent arrival is Plum, a scruffy mixed up kind of a dog, who likes to be walked for miles and miles, twice a day. She has lots of doggy friends and she adores swimming. Luckily, we live close to the river.