Joel Stewart grew up in Sheffield after spending his earliest years in a commune in the wilds somewhere near Barnsley. His grandfather was an illustrator and drawing was seen as a normal thing to do in his family. He always had an obsession for picture books and especially comics. He can’t remember a specific point when he decided to become an illustrator; it was just assumed all along that that was what he was.
Joel Stewart began his career with the picture book The Adventures of a Nose, which he conceived with author/illustrator Viviane Schwarz. Joel says, “It’s really great that I got started with such a bizarre concept, as it’s allowed me to be quite free with my ideas subsequently. Bizarreness is not the point, however. I see the core of what I do as emotional narrative. It just takes some strange ideas to put this across sometimes.” Joel has written his own self-authored picture book and hopes to do more writing in the future. He would especially like to create comics for children.
Engagingly eccentric from The Adventures of a Nose by Joel Stewart. Image: Walker Books
Still only 27, he has illustrated nine books, including the engagingly eccentric Adventure of a Nose, by Viviane Schwarz, Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” and two picture books that he wrote himself.
He’s always been interested in black and white line illustration, and for this reason Quentin Blake has been an inspiration since childhood. “His work quite simply tells you what drawing is for – he communicates the joy of drawing, both mentally and physically. And Tony Ross too, and the illustrator/cartoonist Chris Riddell – I love the way they all work so fast and fluently.”
I think that Joel is very creative with a huge imagination. These two qualities I feel are a must for children’s illustration and I feel very inspired by his work.