Renowned author illustrator, Petr Horácek, has recently joined The Bright Agency bringing his numinous style and creativity.
Petr’s distinctive look has been published to great acclaim internationally, enchanting readers young and old, and his artistic background is as rich as the beautiful books he creates. His most popular children’s titles include Puffin Peter, Suzy Goose, and The Mouse Who Ate the Moon.
His vivid artwork creates a striking backdrop for his warm-hearted stories and lovable characters that readers return to again and again. Here Petr shares where his creativity all began and how he continues to find ideas for new stories after achieving such success.
“I studied fine art and I used to paint rather large, abstract paintings. I like colour, texture and I get inspired by different materials. I think I bring all this to my illustrations.
“In my illustrations I use mixed media. Watercolours, acrylic paint, wax crayons, colour pencils, graphite … I use collage a lot. Usually I draw the main characters first, cut them out and then collage them onto the printed and painted background. For the background I use painted and textured papers that I prepare earlier.”
The award-winning results of this unique style have been a lifetime in the making, with Petr expressing his creative flair through art from an early age, long before his career as a professional illustrator began.
“I have been telling, making up stories and drawing comics since I was at primary school. Later on, I used to write illustrated letters to my friends, but the big break happened when my first daughter Tereza was born. That was the time when I became an illustrator. Tereza is now 22 years old.”
The work that spans these years is rich with the natural world – from the bright landscapes and starry skies that fill the spreads to the animals that so often star in Petr’s stories. His connection with nature clearly has an impact on the books he creates.
“I love being outside. I used to paint in the landscape when I was fifteen and I still do it when I have some time. In fact, everything I know about colour and paint I learnt from painting outside.
“I love walking through the woods. Walking on my own is the time when I get ideas for my books and pictures.”
But he isn’t limited to the great outdoors for inspiration.
“Inspiration is everywhere. It could be a sentence you overhear on the train, a photograph in the newspapers, or an abstract painting hanging in the gallery, but it is mostly something visual.”
Petr’s books have received international accolades and recognition, including Best Picture Book of the Year in Holland for A New House for Mouse and twice being shortlisted for the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal.
But when it comes to pride, Petr’s biggest sense of achievement lies in having so few regrets.
“Over the years I have published almost forty picture books and board books. The other day I was thinking “how many of them would I like to do again and make better?” I could think about two of them which is not too bad. Of course, that number would be much higher if it weren’t for the great team of editors I work with at Walker Books.
“Illustrating books could be a lonely job and, of course, it is nice when your work gets noticed. Being twice shortlisted for The Kate Greenaway Medal was lovely.”
The key to this success, it seems, could be to take less notice of what everyone else is doing and follow your own instincts.
“I am trying not to look too much at other people’s work. It is a kind of self-defence. It is easy to get an idea for a book and realise only a couple of weeks later, that one has already seen it somewhere. However, I can’t stop noticing how many new and clever illustrators are around.”
Petr is known for often being on the move to promote his work and speak to fans all over the world.
“Every year I visit quite a few schools and literary festivals too. One of my favourite festivals is the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Edinburgh is a beautiful city and the festival itself is very well organised. It is always a great opportunity to see friends and fellow authors and illustrators. I will also be travelling with my books to the Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, China and Hong Kong later in the year.”
And with such a busy schedule, does he have time to squeeze in any goals for the year? Yes, is the answer!
“My goal is to finish the illustrations for the books I have on my table. Also, for the first time in my life, I have an agent. It was really nice to meet Arabella from The Bright Agency. She is very enthusiastic and has great plans for what we can do, so I am looking forward to seeing what the future will bring, including all the new challenges.”