November 13, 2008

MAGIC INK - Mr. Gumpy

John Burningham is one of Britain's most prominent illustrators. Best known for his books, Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car, Mr Gumpy's Outing, Granpa and Courtney, he has twice won the Kate Greenaway medal for distinguished illustration in children's books.

John Burningham was born in 1936. Although his parents took his education very seriously, young John attended at least 10 schools because they were constantly on the move.

To avoid military service he became what is called "a conscientious objector", one who for moral or religious reasons, opposes war and refuses to serve in the armed forces. John joined the Friends Ambulance Unit instead.

He was also employed in forestry, farming, school building in Southern Italy and demolition work in Israel.

After graduating from the Central School of Art in London in 1959 he returned to Israel where he worked on models and puppets for a film company.

When he returned to England in 1960 his life as an illustrator began. He created posters for London Transport, drew cartoons for magazines and designed Christmas cards until the publication of his first book in 1963, Borka: the Adventures of a Goose with No Feathers.

John Burningham's magic word of advice is
"practice". "Drawing is like playing the piano;" he said, " it's not a mechanical skill like bricklaying and you have to practice constantly to keep it fluent. Even after 40 years it doesn't get any easier"

He is married to Helen Oxenbury, another popular children's illustrator. For over twenty years they lived in France, but now live in Hampstead, England. Although John Burningham is a quiet man who chooses his words carefully, his sense of humour simmers constantly under the surface.

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