We are a nation of cat lovers, and dog lovers, or like me, both! But what about a shark dog? It’s an unusual pet for sure! Just the title had me chuckling! You can find out right here what it’s like to own a mix of fish and canine in the book Shark Dog, written and illustrated by Ged Adamson and published by Harper Collins.
This tells the story of a little girl, who goes adventuring with her explorer Dad. Their boat is hijacked by a shark dog, who fascinates the girl, and so she brings him home with her as a pet. Poor shark dog suffers slightly from his split personality, never quite fitting in. But soon enough, shark dog learns how to fit in and what’s important, and he is finally happy.
This is a gorgeous book. My favourite aspect has to be Ged’s stunning illustrations. They are bright, bold and really show off his cartoonist background, as they have a fun feel to them. They always make me smile and Shark Dog is no exception. The characterisation is absolutely wonderful and I love that the lead character, shark dog’s adopter is gender neutral. This is a very rare thing in children’s books, but great to see. Whether the character is a boy or a girl really just doesn’t comes into this and doesn’t matter at all, the focus is on the lovely story. And the story itself really is adorably sweet and funny. I love the concept of a mixed up pet, there’s a lot of places you could take an idea like this. In schools and libraries getting children to come up with their own mixed up pet could result in some fantastic artwork and writing!
And I’d like to welcome, with huge thanks, the lovely Ged Adamson onto the blog with answers to some important questions.
1. A shark dog as a pet is a most unusual (and wonderfully creative) idea for a children’s picture book. Where did this idea come from and where do you get your ideas generally
A: The idea came from a drawing I did. I wasn’t trying to come up with a book idea or a weird animal. It was just one of those things that come out when you’re doodling. Sort of subconsciously. As soon as I saw it I thought this could be something I could develop into a story. I immediately showed it to friends and they said I should do something with him.
My ideas can come from lots of places. A doodle or a conversation; something I might see just walking down the street. Anything really. Often I’m thinking about how animals and people behave and what would happen if I put some obstacle or unusual event into a situation. If there can be humour in that, even better!
2. Your illustrations are so full of character and colour. What methods and mediums do you use for your illustration work?
A: Thanks! Over the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve changed my methods quite a bit. In the beginning, I’d use an ink pen and colour mostly in photoshop. Then I moved on to pencil drawings and coloured inks. Right now I use watercolours for colour and pencil for the actual drawing. I’ll add coloured pencil in some areas. Then I’ll scan these parts in. The computer is were I fix stuff and play around with composition etc.
3. You were originally a cartoonist, did you find it carried across easily to children’s publishing, and how has this influenced your work?
A: I was a cartoonist but only an intermittent one. I occasionally got things published. My main focus in those days was music and getting a career going in that. Weirdly the cartooning was partly a hinderance to me developing a style for children’s books. I remember I tried to get a job doing picture book style illustrations for an environmental ad/ info film. I was told my art was too ‘editorial’. As in it looked very ‘newspaper cartoon’ which it did. You can still see that in my first book. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to develop my style through the books I’ve done.
4. You have illustrated and written several picture books now, but, the big question … which do you prefer and why?
A: I don’t know really. I love the challenge of trying to improve my art, so the long process of illustrating a book is a great thing for that. But I recently came up with an idea for a collaboration with another illustrator. It was the first time I’ve written something and thought it sounded confident and like I had my own style as a picture book writer. I was more pleased with this piece of writing than I’d been with anything I’d written before. Previously I’ve always let the idea and the illustrations dictate what happens with the words. But the thing I love the most is coming up with the initial idea for a story and thinking “this could be good!”
5. Name three things that inspire you.
A: Aah that’s a nice question!
Films definitely inspire me a lot. Going to the cinema is one of the best things in the world. I usually go on my own. There’s a great cinema down the road where I live. It’s not that I get ideas directly from movies but they kind of seep into what I do. For instance, Shark Dog certainly has a Wes Anderson influence in the way things look.
London inspires me. I never get bored of it. It has beauty and history everywhere and feel like there’s always exciting things happening. What makes me sad though is the thought that a lot of interesting people and ideas are being forced away from here because of greedy landlords and developers. It’s crazy how expensive it’s become. But somehow, artists, musicians and writers still manage to hang on in there.
I had no idea how big an inspiration Instagram would be for me. Just seeing loads of super talented illustrators and artists really spurs you on. You get competitive in the nicest way. Often I’ll see other people’s work and think “I need to up my game!” I’m seeing beautiful, funny, clever work every day. It’s a great thing.
6. What is your #1 top tip for aspiring illustrators or artists.
A: Oh god that’s a hard one!
This kind of relates to the previous thing about Instagram but, as an artist or creative person, you have to be aware of what other people are doing. It’s so important. The knock-on effect of looking at a wide range of other art is so far reaching. Of course you should always strive to have your own style but you tend to achieve this by filtering other stuff that you see (or hear if you’re a musician). I think that’s what creative people are particularly good at here in the uk. Taking lots of disparate influences and making something new.
Be a creative sponge and use other influences to forge your own thing. Getting bored with stuff you used to like is essential to this process!
7. And finally, the most important question of all … shark or dog?
A: I’m sorry sharkies but it has to be a dog! But hey, why not both?
Thank you so much Ged for your brilliant and comprehensive answers. What a fascinating Q & A!
There’s really nothing to not like about Shar Dog!. It’s pure entertainment from start to finish. Lovely illustrations, quirky characters, sweet story line and giggles galore. A perfect picture book. Shark Dog is available now from all good bookshops and libraries.
Shark Dog and the School Trip is due out very soo and looks equally brilliant so keep your eyes open for that. Here’s a sneaky peek from Ged!!
Don’t forget to follow the Shark Dog tour as it stops at these brilliant book blogging locations over the week.