Author-Illustrator Peter Carnavas

Peter Carnavas is one New Frontier‘s most celebrated author/illustrators – and rightly so.  His quirky illustrations and touching story lines warm the hearts of children and parents alike.  Four of his much-loved picture books have been re-released as Little Treasures.  These mini books come complete with an envelope ready for posting, and you can purchase them for $9.95 each, or all four for only $29.95! What a gorgeous gift to send to a child this Christmas.

To celebrate the launch of New Frontier’s Little Treasures Collection, I am delighted to have been able to interview Pete himself.

Cath:  Last Tree in the City is my favourite of your published works. Do you have a favourite?

Peter:  It is always difficult to pick a favourite book as there are things I like about all of them (and some things I think I could have done better but I won’t mention those).  My sentimental favourite is Sarah’s Heavy Heart because it’s a different, dreamy sort of story.  It is the only story that really started with an image (of a girl carrying a big heart on her back) rather than the text or idea.  I’m quite happy with all of the illustrations and I am proud of the layers of meaning I put into that story.  Also, it’s dedicated to my wife so, really, it’s the most romantic of my tales.

Cath – Which of your characters is most like you and why?

Peter – I’ve always thought the tortoise in Sarah’s Heavy Heart was a bit of a self-portrait.  I identify a lot with Sarah and the tortoise because I feel like I do things quite slowly and quietly and sometimes envy the spontaneity of others.  Without really meaning to, I’ve created most of my characters so they are a bit like me – quiet, generally keep to themselves, big noses.

Cath – So as an author/illustrator, which comes first for you – the words or the pictures?

Peter – I think of an idea for a story first then pictures start popping into my head, though I don’t tend to draw anything until I’ve written the text.  As I write, I have the images in mind the whole time so it’s difficult to work out what comes first.  My goal is to make both elements interdependent in the finished story so it’s the same for the process.  The words and pictures bounce off each other the whole time, whether it’s in my head or on the page.

Cath – And how long does the process of developing a picture book take?

Pete – It generally takes somewhere between three and six months, inbetween doing everything else in my life.  I spend a few months drawing roughs, then a few months painting the final illustrations.  Once all of my work is done, the design, printing and distribution will take another six months so it can be around a year from the moment I start on a book to the moment I’m reading it to children at schools.

Cath – Finally Pete, what are your “tools of the trade” as an author/illustrator?

As an author, I like a pencil and notepad.  My stories are quite lean on words so it’s not too demanding for me to write them out with a pencil.  When I’ve finished the text, I’ll type it out and it’s done.  As an illustrator, I draft everything using an A2 sketchpad and have recently enjoyed drawing with very light pencils, H or 2H.  When it comes time to paint, I have traditionally used Arches medium watercolour paper, though I’m currently having a go using Saunders – thick enough, with a little less grain, making it easier for my ink outlines.  I only use about three or four brushes, with tubes of watercolour paint.  To finish off, I ink the outines with a few different nibs dipped into a jar of ink (the jar used to hold poppy seeds).



Thanks so much Peter.  I look forward to your next picture book Mr Darcy being released shortly too!  Oh, and if you are thinking of creating a curly-haired, big nosed character any time soon… let me know ;-)

4 thoughts on “Author-Illustrator Peter Carnavas

  1. Hey Cath, do you know if there’s anywhere in Brisbane (aside from online which is everywhere :-)) that you can get those books?

  2. i loved that interview! Sarah’s heavy heart has been a favourite of mine for a while, but I didn’t know it was dedicated to his wife… Makes it even more beautiful!

Comments are closed.