To kick-off the Christmas season, we’ve gone behind-the-scenes of Fred Blunt’s new author illustrated picture book ‘Santa Claus vs The Easter Bunny’, published by Andersen Press. A fun, festive revenge tale — of the chocolatey kind — which pits the scheming Easter Bunny against the jovial, and completely unaware, Santa Claus with mounting hilarity.
Fred tells us about his creative process, how he created the two loveable characters at the heart of the tale, and how he builds humour into his artwork through fun narrative details.
‘Santa Claus Vs The Easter Bunny’ is a brilliantly fun, festive tale, what first sparked the idea for your story?
It was a simple drawing of the Easter Bunny picking up a milk bottle from his doorstep, with Santa saying hello to him next door. No idea why I drew it, but funnily enough that scene ended up being the opening spread of the book. After that the story told itself.
Can you tell us about how you created your artwork for ‘Santa Claus vs The Easter Bunny’? Does your creative process ever differ from book to book?
The art for this book was created digitally, by scanning in line work and coloured areas, arranging them over rough guides on screen. It’s a bit like creating a silk screen print, but on screen (monitor screen). It was quite a laborious process to be honest, but I wanted to get a hand drawn feel, but with the kind of zing you only get with digital colour. I try to approach each book differently, depending on the story, feel and characters. Some books are more line orientated, where this book was more about limited flat colour, and reduced line work — in the hope of a bright fun feel. I always try hard to keep the personality and spontaneity of the initial sketches, through to final artwork, no matter what approach I take.
What is your favourite spread in the book, and why?
I quite like the spread where Bunny is filling the Merry Manufacturing machines with warm liquid chocolate! It was fun drawing the ridiculous factory machines and challenging to create the night time atmosphere with the limited palette. Also, Bunny is so fun to draw when he is being wicked!
Comedy is a key component of a Fred Blunt book, how do you create humour in your artwork?
There are lots of ways of injecting humour, from little details that hopefully get noticed by the kids — like the chocolate coming out of the machine, looking like a dog poo! Also details that parents reading might enjoy, like having Sir Trevor McDonald make a cameo! But most of the humour comes from the interaction between the characters. I like to think of the characters as actors and they hopefully tell the story in a humorous way with their expressions and body language.
Santa Claus and The Easter Bunny are both well-known fictitious characters, how did you go about putting your own spin on them?
Fictitious! What do you mean? I’m not sure really . . . the very first Bunny I drew was wearing a roll neck sweater, which seemed right somehow. As the story developed he started wearing paisley smoking jackets and he would sit in 1960’s style egg chairs, for no other reason than it felt right. I also didn’t feel that he should be a normal bunny, so he became more of a bunny man for some reason. With Santa I wanted to make him the most roly-poly Santa imaginable and I think he could be a contender for most rotund Santa to feature in a picture book? In my head Santa talks like Brian Blessed, all over the top shouty exuberance, which becomes apparent in his body language and expressions. The Nordic pattern on the suit was an attempt to make him stand out from all the other Santas out there. The characters didn’t really change that much from the very first scribbles. I think first instincts can be the best ones.
What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring picture book author / illustrator?
Be true to yourself. Tell stories that come from you — don’t try to make generic books that fit in, because ultimately they will be dull.
Fred brings ‘Santa Claus Vs The Easter Bunny’ to Seven Stories for a live-reading and drawing event
What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about your next upcoming title?
I’m poised, ready to start work on a picture book, written by a really great author — really exciting stuff, that I can’t mention for the moment. My next author illustrated book will be called Gnome and published by the amazing Andersen Press again. Oh, and I’m working on some animation development at the moment too, with my friend and collaborator Michelle Robinson, which fingers crossed will see the light of day at some point.
You can view more of Fred’s artwork here.
Get in touch with Fred’s agent Arabella.