My name is Philip Webb and I am an illustrator. I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. I was born in England, but when I was two, my parents moved to Hong Kong and then to Kenya where we lived in the country at the top end of the Nairobi National Park. We saw lots of wild animals in our garden!
We came to NZ from Kenya. I played my first game of rugby and scored a try. I was so proud of myself and I ran so fast. I only found out later that I had scored the try at the wrong end! The boys were very kind and understanding. I’m not very good at sport.
Art was my best subject at school. My biology teacher always got me to draw on the blackboard. I enjoyed drawing wetas! I went for three years to Wellington Polytechnic School of Design (Massey University). My first job was at TVNZ working in the graphics department. Most of my illustrations were to promote the programmes. The illustrations were put in front of a studio camera. I also illustrated animated openings to programmes. I worked with a cameraman who filmed my artwork frame by frame, with an overhead animation camera.
Eventually we used computers to do the same thing. My main job turned to illustrating for a children’s programme. I had to work very quickly producing illustrations to tell a story. For speed I worked with black pen line and coloured chalk pastels. Often I had to run to the studio three floors down where the illustrations were put in front of a studio camera and recorded.
One day I was introduced to Joy Cowley, who put me in touch with Bruce Wallace, Sunshine’s art director. The first published book I ever illustrated was in the Story Box series by Joy Cowley and June Melser. It was called ‘Help Me’, about a lion and a little mouse. I illustrated some other books in that series, all written by Joy Cowley.
I left TVNZ and began freelancing. Some of my work was for advertising agencies, but I felt more at home illustrating children’s books. For my first books I used chalk pastels and coloured pencil, but I moved to watercolour paint on watercolour paper. While I still illustrate this way, I have had to teach myself how to produce illustrations on the computer. I still hand draw the line then scan the line into Photoshop where I complete the illustration with colour and half tone.
Everything is very different now to when I first started. I always supply pencil roughs. I used to photocopy these and send them to Sunshine Books with the overnight courier. I did the same with the finished artwork. Now I can email the scanned pencil roughs as well as the finished artwork. I always use reference – either drawing from life or looking at my library of reference books, or visiting Google images!
I work from my little house on the hill overlooking Wellington harbour and the interisland ferries. I enjoy watching the ships and planes, wishing I was on one! I love to travel.
My two cocker spaniels always tell me when it’s time to stop work so that they can take me for a walk, which keeps me fit!