peter uttonI am an author and illustrator of children’s picture books and comic novels. I’ve written and illustrated seven of my own books and illustrated over forty books by other authors.

My main inspiration for writing for children is, I think, a shared sense of mischief, a curiosity in all things and a sense of the ridiculous. I write for children aged two up to around eleven. I have great respect for a child’s capacity to enjoy stories on many levels and with humour and gentle irony I hope to provide enjoyment to the parent reader as well.

 

Early Years

I was born in 1944 in Southend-on-Sea in the UK and I’m still the youngest of three children. My
earliest memory of needing to draw is aPeter Utton as young boy constant pestering of my mother with the imperative demand “What can I draw now?” Subjects drawn varied from birds of paradise, to jam tarts to cowboys, lots of cowboys.

I enrolled at Southend Art School aged fifteen, or rather I didn’t actually enrol. I just turned up one day and started going to classes. After about a month I was approached one day by the Head who cheerfully asked “Who the hell are you?” Leo Hardy was one of the nicest people on the planet and after I had explained how I came to be attending classes in his art school Leo pondered for a few moments, suddenly upended several chairs, tied them in a knot, and said ‘Draw that’. After ten minutes he returned and grinned at the mass of lines on my paper. “Okay” he said. “You can stay.”

After leaving art school I worked in London at several advertising agencies and studios as a graphic designer. At the age of twenty five I decided to train as a teacher and then worked for seven years with children with multiple disabilities.

Sometime Later

In the early 1980’s I began work as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator creating mostly posters, prints and greetings cards.

One evening my five year old son George crept into my studio and gazed at a ‘horrible brown crinkly thing’ (a once beautiful autumn leaf) pinned to the wall above my desk. “Urgh!” said George. “What’s that?” I then invented a pretty scary and gruesome story involving a witch, which I subsequently wrote down, tossed into a drawer and forgot about it until several months later.

Deciding to expand my artistic horizons I invested hundreds of pounds in a page
in the ‘Contact Illustrators Annual’ a self promotional Peter Utton witchshowcase for illustrators. The late and hastily executed piece of art ‘Nude and Filing Cabinet’ that I submitted for the Annual attracted the attention of just one small publisher in London.

The publisher, thumbing rapidly through my portfolio, paused at a drawing I had made inspired by my witch’s tale. She asked “What’s the story behind this?” I was able to reply with a much rehearsed “I just happen to have the story here…”and after fumbling in my pockets I was able to produce, with a theatrical flourish, the crumpled manuscript.

A few weeks later at the Frankfurt Book Fair advance orders of 40,000 copies for ‘The Witch’s Hand’ were placed with the publisher. I often wonder, if my 5 year old son hadn’t said “Urgh! What’s that?” that evening in my studio…

Nominations and awards

‘The Witch’s Hand’ went on to win the Austrian Children’s Book Prize, was runner-up for The Mother Goose Award and was shortlisted for The Kate Greenaway Medal. “Shhh!” written by Sally Grindley won The Children’s Book prize and was runner-up for The Smartie Prize.

 

Exhibitions

E-books

In addition to print books my partner and I have started producing e-books. The first one, “Duncan and the Pirates or Good, Occasionally Poor”, published in 2012 is available for the iPad.