Spotlight On: Petr Horáček

Animal Opposites by Petr Horáček
Category: Bookbug

'Spotlight On' gives you the chance to learn more about the work of Bookbug Co-ordinators, publishers and illustrators connected to the Bookbug programme.This month, award-winning childrens author and illustrator Petr Horáček answers some questions about his work.





Tell us a little bit about your work

I studied painting at the Academy of Fine Art in Prague, so I see myself more as a painter than an illustrator. The materials and colours I use are an important part of my books. I always start the book with a picture. I use mixed media and collage, I paint with acrylics and watercolours and I use wax crayons, coloured pencils, pencils and pastels.

What is your earliest reading memory?

I grew up in the Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia then), so the books I was surrounded by were different from the books you may know. I had beautiful pop up books by Vojtech Kubasta. I loved books about a robber called Rumcajs. I mustn’t forget probably the most important Czech illustrator, puppet maker, animator and writer Jiri Trnka.

Who or what is your biggest influence?

I get inspired quite easily by anything I see around. It could be an abstract painting in a gallery, a funny photo in a magazine, or a drawing done by a child. The first book which inspired me to do my own books was The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. The first time I saw it was when Tereza, my first daughter was born. I knew I wanted to do something as good as this.

Are there any contemporary picture books you wish you’d written or illustrated?

I try not to look too much at other people’s work. There is only a limited number of subjects you can write about and It's very easy for someone else’s ideas to creep up in to your head. There are lots of beautiful books around, but let’s say that Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back is one of the latest classics. The book is beautifully illustrated, really clever and very funny.

Aside from the wonderful world of picture books, which genres or authors do you like to read?

My favourite book is The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. My dream is to illustrate this book one day. Other authors I like to read are for example Richard Brautigan, John Irving, Jachym Topol, or Bohumil Hrabal.

Briefly describe your typical working day

If I’m not too busy catching up with a deadline I start the day slowly. I go out in the morning. I like cycling, game of tennis or going to the gym. I deal with emails and with the boring stuff when I get home before I start doing what I like the best – painting and drawing. I go downstairs when the children come home from school. We have dinner together and I then work usually until nine or ten. It sounds boring, but not every day is the same.

Petr Horacek
How do you get out of a creative rut?

I get distracted these days quite easily, mainly due to emails! At the moment I’m planning to go away from the computer for two weeks on my own, surrounded by the woods and beautiful Czech landscape to sketch some new ideas.

What is your top tip for budding authors or illustrators?

If you have an idea, write it down and start sketching. It doesn’t matter if it turns out to be a bad idea, or if you don’t finish it. It is the practice which counts and your brain is learning to think and to be creative.

Can you give us an insight into what you’re currently working on?

I have a new pop up book coming out any day now called Animal Opposites. I also recently finished The Mouse Who Ate The Moon which is the sequel to A New House For Mouse. I’m starting to work on two board books for very little ones. One is about a snail and the other will have a little mouse running around.

Finally, tell us a random or surprising fact about yourself.

As a student I slept in the college for three weeks on the top of the lockers. It was in the Academy of Fine Art in Prague during the revolution in 1989. We students were occupying the colleges. I could choose to sleep on the dirty floor in the studio, or on the lockers, so I chose the lockers. It was fine. We didn’t sleep much at the time anyway!


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