What do Caterpillars Dream of? Meet Bright Artist Clive McFarland
We chatted with Clive about his latest publication, Caterpillar Dreams, a beautiful tale of a caterpillar who dreams of seeing the world beyond his garden. Caterpillar Dreams was met with rave reviews!
This new book of yours is all about dreaming big! Did you always dream of becoming an illustrator?
It wasn’t until university that I realized being an illustrator is what I wanted to do. But an early love of reading books and drawing pictures is where it began!
Tell us about the journey of working on this book. How did your ideas and processes change at all throughout the path from your initial concept to publication?
The tone of the story remains true to my initial concept, but it has developed and changed along the way. I enjoy working with people who will question my ideas and take me in directions I might not have considered. My work is better when I’m collaborating with people whose vision I trust.
My editor on this book, David Linker, is a brilliant writer. We worked a lot on the story together. Then we worked closely with designer Rachel Zeger through the process of bringing the story to life in the art. I worked with David and Rachel on my first book too.
My agent Anne Armstrong helps nourish and tighten the initial concept and helps me develop any new story ideas I might have!
Your artwork is done in cut paper, can you explain how you work in that medium to create your artwork and was there any new technique you discovered as you created the art for Caterpillar Dreams?
It always starts with sketches in pencil and on paper/sketchbooks. Then I create hand painted textures, sometimes cutting paper by hand but often cutting the shapes in photoshop from the textures. The final illustrations were composed digitally. I hope to keep learning and developing my creative process and feel I’m only getting started.
A page from Clive’s sketchbook.
A glimpse into the cut paper process.
What is it like to grow up in Northern Ireland?
I grew up during a time of political progress in Northern Ireland. In some ways we remain a divided society but we are heading in the right direction. I think storytelling is ingrained in the Irish upbringing, especially in rural areas. There is a respect for books, stories and art and you are never too far from an inspiring natural landscape. The illustration scene in Belfast is really finding its feet at the moment so it’s a good time to be here.
What type of stories do you want to tell?
I try to create stories that are hopeful and honest. I don’t want to contribute anything overly cynical or negative in tone to a children’s bookshelf.
I’m putting the finishing touches to a counting book called “One Leaf, Two Leaves,” based on a poem by John Micklos Jr., which will be published by Penguin USA with Nancy Paulsen Books. I am also continuing to write my own stories.