Sunday, 5 October 2014

Chris Riddell, artist and author

On Wednesday afternoon, Charlie and I attended a talk by Chris Riddell, political cartoonist and award-winning artist and children's book author. My older son loved reading Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart's 'The Edge Chronicles' when he was about nine or ten and Charlie discovered Riddell through the 'Ottoline' series, which he borrowed from our local library. At the moment, he is reading 'Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse', which is about a girl called Ada Goth who lives in Ghastly-Gorm Hall with her father, Lord Goth, and a lot of servants and ghosts. One night, she meets a ghostly mouse called Ishmael and they work together to solve the mystery of the strange happenings in the hall. 

Arranged by the independent bookshop, Bags of Books, this event gave us the chance to meet Chris Riddell and to buy a copy of his latest book, 'Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death'.

There was still a general hum of conversation in the hall when Chris Riddell quietly stepped up on stage and started drawing a character from his latest book. I watched in awe as he created the picture in front of us, deftly drawing the lines and shading without a moment's hesitation. 


By the time he'd finished there was, as he rightly called it, an expectant hush. He was a relaxed and entertaining speaker. He told us that he had a compulsion to draw every day, so he carried sketchbooks with him everywhere. 

He even keeps his diary in the form of tiny sketchbooks, which he can keep in his pocket at all times. Thanks to his daughter telling him about Instagram, he now takes snapshots of these daily drawings and publishes them online. (You can follow them here). 

He told us about his recent meeting with Russell Brand, with whom he's been working on a new children's book called 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin', part of Russell Brand's 'Trickster Tales', which Chris Riddell has illustrated. Due for publication on 6th November, the new book is going to be turned into a 'theatrical spectacular' at the Royal Albert Hall for one night only on 14 November. Chris Riddell will be there.

Before reading from the new book, Riddell told us that the gorgeous colourful sprayed edges of the 'Goth Girl' books were the result of a happy accident, when the production manager assumed out loud that he'd want them and he, not wanting to appear ignorant, agreed. He was pleasantly surprised to unpack the first book and discover that sprayed edges meant that his book now had luxuriant purple edges. The second 'Goth Girl' book has 'blood red' sprayed edges to tie in with the vampire theme.

At the end of his talk, he asked if anyone had a question and eager little hands shot up all around the room. One girl asked him why he'd become an artist, to which he replied: "Wine gums." He told us that his father was a vicar, so he was obliged to sit through the long Sunday sermons in church from a young age. His mother used to give him a pencil and paper so he could keep himself occupied by drawing. However, there was also an elderly woman sitting nearby who always used to hand him wine gums and he made up his mind that there couldn't be anything better in life than drawing and eating wine gums.

Still, in spite of the entertaining stories about his life and his book reading, my favourite moment of the whole event was watching Riddell drawing that bear. I didn't video that, but here he is showing his fans how to draw Ishmael, the ghostly mouse: 

(Source: Macmillan Children's Books)


  1. Once again I'm really jealous! What a great event to attend and I bet it was wonderful to watch him draw in front of you. This such a great way to engage children with literature, I really need to keep my ear to the ground to find similar events for us to attend.

  2. He sounds like a wonderful speaker, and I'm interested to read about the books as I have a 7 year old with gothic tendencies :)

  3. I ditto feeling jealous, sounds like it was a great event to be part of!