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Phillip Webb is a children’s book illustrator. Born in England, Webb spent his early years in Hong Kong, Kenya and Waihi. He has illustrated a large number of chapter books, story collections and educational publications, and his first picture book was Salmagundi (1985), written by Joy Cowley. Pat Quinn’s Dragor, illustrated by Webb, won a NZ Post Honour Award in 2000. Phillip Webb has also published a series of Christmas-themed books for London-based Usborne Publishing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
WEBB, Philip (1952 - ) is a children’s book illustrator. He was born in England and spent his childhood in Hong Kong and Kenya, later moving to New Zealand and attending Waihi College. He worked for television as a graphic designer, contributing to such programmes as Play School and Join In. He worked for a time as a freelance commercial illustrator before becoming a fulltime children’s book illustrator.
Webb has illustrated numerous chapter books, short story anthologies and educational publications. His first picture book was Salmagundi (1985), written by Joy Cowley. Pat Quinn’s Dragor, illustrated by Webb, won a NZ Post Honour Award in 2000. He has also published a series of Christmas-themed books for London-based Usborne Publishing in 2007, including Stories of Santa, Stories of Snowmen, and Christmas Stories.
In his Scholastic Author Profile, Webb talks about the inspiration behind his illustrations in Piggity-Wiggity Jiggity Jig (Scholastic, 2008), written by Diana Neild. He says, ‘Unlike Piggity, my name is short, and I never had problems fitting it onto artwork… I enjoyed illustrating Diana’s ‘family’. Being pigs, they were allowed to be a bit messy and clumsy.’ Scholastic has also published A Haunting Tale (1997), The Great Bamboozle (1997), and Hillhoppers Away (1995), each illustrated by Webb.
His illustration work for Piggity-Wiggity Jiggity Jig is praised, ‘It is illustrated by Philip Webb who manages to show many different emotions on the faces of Piggity-Wiggity Jiggity Jig’s eight siblings and on the faces of Mum Jig…and Dad who is a chef at a busy downtown café.’(Around the Bookshops, May 2008) Piggity-Wiggity Jiggity Jig (Scholastic, 2008) won an Honour Award at the 2009 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and was listed as as 2009 Storylines Notable Picture Book.
Webb’s numerous publications include Weird & Wonderful (2003), Claws and Jaws (2004), Mischief and Mayhem (2005), Hideous & Hilarious (2006), Dare and Double Dare (2007), and Showtime (2008), all published by Random House NZ. Saving Mr Spender (2006) and Quin Majik and the Marvelous Machine (2008) were published by Mallinson Rendel, while The Little Penguin Who Wouldn’t Eat his Dinner (2006) was published by Reed. Other titles include Prof. Ponsonby, McIntosh and the Wool Bug (Harper Collins 1994), The Dragon Feather (Shortlands, 1984) and The Lucky Feather (Shortlands, 1986).
Piggity-Wiggity Jiggity Jig Goes to Dad’s Café (Scholastic, 2009), written by Diana Neild, is a follow-up to Piggity-Wiggity Jiggity Jig. ‘Complemented beautifully by Webb’s humours illustrations, Neild’s faultless rhyme and imaginative text just trip off the tongue and begs to be read aloud to ages 3-7.’(The Children’s Bookshop, March 2009, Kilbirnie). The work has been recently listed as a finalist in the picture book category of the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Results will be announced in May.
Fly Pie, written by Joy Cowley and illustrated by Philip Webb, was published by Scholastic in 2010.
WRITERS IN SCHOOLS INFORMATION
KAPAI: Kids' Authors Pictures and Information
Where do you live?
Wellington, on a hill overlooking the harbour.
What books do you read?
All sorts but mainly novels. I enjoy page turners, and particularly enjoyed The Poisonwood Bible. I also enjoy going back and reading children’s classics, my favourite being, Wind in the Willows.
Who is your favourite writer and why?
I enjoy Joy Cowley’s writing. I enjoy illustrating the characters she writes about and I also enjoy her adult writing which I find thought provoking.
How do you think up your ideas?
Well, being and illustrator, my ideas come first from the author’s writing. It is my job to interpret the story. The characters develop according to how the author describes them and by what they are doing. Then they usually have to be put in a setting like actors on a stage. Mostly my ideas come from images of real people and places that have been stored away in my memory. My imagination brings them to life in an exaggerated, often humorous way.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
As an illustrator I live with colour, shape, and line, which I find very inspiring, though it can sometimes be hard work. Coming up with new characters for a book is fun.
Primary School students
What sort of pets do you have?
I have a cocker spaniel called Abbey and a little black cat.
What is your favourite colour?
I like neutral colours around me in my house and in my clothes, but in my illustrations I like all colours.
What is your favourite food – why?
I enjoy food from different countries, because the taste is all so different. I particularly like Indonesian and Indian food. I like the smell and taste of the spices.
What is your favourite movie?
Amelie. My favourite film when I was younger was The Red Balloon.
How do you make books?
As an illustrator I am just one part in the making of a book. I interpret the stories and put them into picture form, first with pencil roughs then finished art. I send this art to the publisher which then goes to the printer.
Where do you go for your holidays?
Sometimes I go to visit my parents in the Bay of Plenty. They live by a beautiful beach and I enjoy taking their dog and my dog for long walks. If I can afford it I like to travel to other countries, but there is always a lot to see in other parts of New Zealand as well.
What is the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
In between my time in Hong Kong and Kenya, I had to go to school for six months in England. I don’t think the principal liked me and I didn’t like her either. One day I had to go to the principal’s office to explain why I had not done something I’d been asked to do. I really couldn’t remember. While she turned her back to give me time to remember I poked my tongue out.
Secondary School students
How did you get started?
I started with drawing at a very early stage. Design School taught me to appreciate the more abstract side of drawing an object i.e. observing an object for its hidden design of shape and tone, line and texture.
Who inspired you when you were getting started?
My parents always encouraged me. I was inspired by Eric Lee-Johnson who was an artist who lived in Waihi. Joy Cowley was also my starting point for illustrating children’s books. Illustrators who have inspired me include Edward Ardizionne, John Burningham and Quentin Blake. I like their loose style, which includes all the detail but leaves the reader to use their own imagination.
What advice would you give an aspiring young writer?
I can only speak as an illustrator to an aspiring illustrator. You firstly need to know how to draw, so draw every day. You also really have to want to illustrate with a passion and consider that your whole future will be a learning process, where you are constantly striving to do better. I would advise most people to illustrate part time and have another full time job to pay the bills.
Is it difficult to make a living writing in New Zealand?
Yes, see above.
What were you like as a teenager? Tell us a story!
I was a bit of loner with a vivid imagination which all started from my time in Kenya. Sometimes I would go for a ride on my scooter. Part of the road went round a corner into some dense bush and trees.
I used to scoot really fast through this area as there might have been wild animals and snakes. Was it for real or just in my imagination?
As a teenager and adult in New Zealand, I’m still not too keen on walking through dark bush and trees by myself, though I know deep down that there is nothing to be frightened of.
MEDIA LINKS AND CLIPS
- Philip Webb's website
Updated January 2017.