Axel Scheffler is a multi-awarded winning illustrator best known for his work with author Julian Donaldson, in particular The Gruffalo. But that wasn’t how he was introduced by Sacha Joynathsing (pictured on Axel’s left, above).
Sacha took to the microphone with confidence and relish to tell a giggling packed house the real story. That Axel applied to study as a teacher but was turned down. (twice.) That he dropped out of college. And that he has a really very messy desk.
His brother Yan (on Axel’s right) followed up with a short and equally original bio of author and illustrator Judith Kerr, which no doubt she would have appreciated. Top among his little known facts was that Judith had studied yodelling.
Judith was sadly unable to attend the event. She has been unwell but is now back home in Barnes, resting.
With the boys having stolen the show, Axel inched his way back into the limelight by showing some of his earliest drawings. (A self-portrait aged 10, looking remarkably similar, and possibly wearing the same shirt.) Then a series of sketches illustrating his creative process and how he develops characters over time. “I find it easier to draw animals,” he admitted. “For a long time I wasn’t allowed to draw people because they all had big noses.”
His conversation with the brilliant Nicolette Jones, children’s book editor for the Sunday Times, covered everything from publishing trends to Brexit, until finally he put pen to paper and drew – whilst fielding questions from the audience – a perfectly delightful Stick Man. He then presented it to the festival to be auctioned off, with funds to be donated to local libraries.
The final question of the day: is there anything he doesn’t like to draw? Yup. Cars. And cows.