Mark Carthew & Mike Spoor – Author Illustrator Collaboration

I have been lucky enough to share a lot of time with Mark and Mike over the last week.  I was very keen on attending this session as I’ve noticed that they get along like a house on fire and work together as if they are 1 creator not 2.  They seem to be an exemplar of author and illustrator collaboration.


Mark and Mike met in Australia, but Mike soon had to return to the UK.  As they worked together before the days of Skype, their phone bills were huge.

Mark has worked with numerous illustrators, producing a massive amount of books.  Mark thoroughly enjoys working with illustrators and seeing his words come to life.  Mike has illustrated more than 350 books.

Mark used to be a school music teacher.  He received copies of “The Song Book” at school that were illustrated by Mike.  Mark contacted Mike and so began their creative relationship.  They have now been working together for 15 years.

Mike began speaking about creative identity.  He said it requires self knowledge.  You must know what stimulates you, and how it matches with your creativity.  Mike grew up in the Lakes District in England, and was deeply affected by the landscape.  He loved the sweeping motion and rhythm of the lines in the hills. This motion and rhythm is something he explored further in his work with ceramics.  Photography is a way that Mike holds onto images, and he uses the photos to enhance his illustrations.  He showed us an image of a dinosaur whose skin was created by taking a picture of gravel and turning it into a brush in Photoshop.

Mark shared some of the jokes from “Witches’ Britches, Itches and Twitches”, showing how Mike illustrated them.  Mark is more than happy with the way that Mike interprets his words.

Even during the presentation it was clear that these 2 have perfected the way they work together.  Switching from one to the other seamlessly.  Mark also complimented Mike on a number of occasions.

One question they addressed was “is the work of the author or illustrator diluted by the work of the other?”  Mike said it was in fact more like a liberation when you find the right person to work with.

Mark pointed out that with a background as a school teacher, there is a lot of literacy embedded in the literature of his work.  I think this is very important, and I’m glad that authors like Mark are consciously aware of this.

Mark read from “The Gobbling Tree”.  As Mike did not illustrate this book, he illustrated his own interpretation as Mark read.  Oh no I thought, yet another book to go on my shopping list.  I am a big fan of rhyming verse and aspire to have some of my own published.  I wish I could have more time picking Mark’s brains.

Finally Mike’s version of the Gobbling Tree was revealed, Mark really loved what Mike came up with.  What surprised me is how quickly Mike did this image


These 2 are going to try something different for one of their next projects.  Mike is going to draw the story first, and then Mark will come up with the words after that.  They are not sure if it will work, but I think it will be amazing to see what they come up with, I hope it gets published.

As an aspiring author I dream of having such a successful collaboration with an illustrator *** gazes wistfully into the distance ***


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