David Hughes is an illustrator.
He is very good at it. He has drawn for The New Yorker, Playboy Magazine, Esquire, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, The Observer and Time Magazine among others. Now and then - okay, twice now - he has also turned his hand to the graphic novel; firstly with Walking The Dog and now The Pillbox, which is all of the following: a ghost story; a sketch of the kind of seaside town "they forgot to bomb" (to quote somebody or other), an account of human damage and a scratchy, sometimes minimalist exercise in artistic bravura. Turns out he's very good at graphic novels too.
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All of which is a good excuse to ask him some questions (six rather than the usual five - what can I tell you? I can't count):
What were the origins of The Pillbox?
In 2011 I was visiting a deserted beach in search of a pillbox I had come across years earlier to research an idea about a boy and a mammoth. The eerie atmosphere of the place struck me. A dead tree bleached by the sun stood out of the water like a skeleton. I knew then that it was not going to be a children's picture book as planned but a "ghost" story. The interior of a deserted Second World War pillbox is not a pleasant experience. The pillbox I was looking for had been washed out to sea years ago.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Never met one.
Is the art of the illustrator a very different art to that of the graphic novelist?
YES. Well, I do not have the discipline of a true graphic novelist. My drawing is erratic, emotional, honest, raw even. I think I pursue the emotion of the moment and my characters distort and react in a certain way given the situation they find themselves in.
I would say about 95 per cent of The Pillbox is spontaneous, first go, in ink. There were no "roughs", no pencil sketches. I was led by my pen, I was attempting to tell a story and being taken for a ride, the story evolved through drawing. Drawing by the seat of my pants if you like; improvisation. I don't think a "proper" strip cartoonist would work like that. I wasn't interested in producing individual virtuoso works of art, it was the story that was important.
I love the minimalism of what you do.
So what is the least number of lines you need to sketch a person?
One probably - I've never counted them up.
And are you ever tempted by maximalism?
I assume you mean work that has every detail included, every colour filled in? When the moment warrants it, it can be effective. But I get bored, I get wooden, I get stiff, the drawing would be dead, 10ft under. But I can admire such technique in others.
When did you last go to the British seaside and where would you recommend
Last week I was on Whitesand Bay, Cornwall. The British seaside I would recommend might be Manorbier Beach, South Wales. Mind you I haven't been there for 30 years! What am I? A tourist guide ... I am a sucker for any "faded" traditional British seaside town, from Cromer to Llandudno.
The Pillbox by David Hughes is published by Jonathan Cape, priced £18.99.