3rd September 2019

Q&A with Dominic Harman

Artist Dominic Harman has been working in the field of fantasy, science fiction and horror for over 20 years. With a host of impressive book title illustrations to his name, including Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials collection, he is no stranger to the world of children's fiction.

Most recently, Dominic worked on Willow Tree's latest tween read, School of Alyxa. Here he talks about the inspiration behind his work, his early memories of drawing, and what it was like taking a new artistic direction for the School of Alyxa cover.

1. What is the inspiration behind your illustration style?

The style I employed for this cover is actually a new direction for me. I created the looks for the characters with more of a pastel approach, with each one having a very illustrative, drawn look. For this cover I wanted to move away from the hard, photographic look which I have used before, and I am thrilled with the way it has turned out. The subtle textured rocks and sky, plus the waves having a feeling of spontaneity to them, all add to that atmospheric feeling of illustration.


2. School of Alyxa is out now! What was it like working on this book?

It was fantastic and I am so pleased I was chosen for this commission! Sue (Managing Editor of Willow Tree) and Ben (Lead Designer) were fab to work with! I hope we can get the chance to work on another project soon! 🙂


3. What techniques did you use to capture the sense of mystery and adventure in the cover art?

This was digital, but I wanted to utilise a pastel type approach which I felt best conveyed that softer feel – so not too hard and crisp, as that look tends to lend itself to an older age group.


4. Which character illustration from the book is your favourite and why?

I think it’s Zoe (front right on the cover). She has a relaxed pose but her power is obvious so she doesn’t need to show it off. She is too cool to brag! 🙂


5. In School of Alyxa, each character has a super-sensory power. If you could have any super power, what would it be?

The same character with the power through her eyes (Zoe again!), so much is expressed though the eyes.


6. What is your earliest memory of drawing as a child?

Drawing on the walls in my parents bedroom with my mum’s lipstick! Also drawing dinosaurs at baby school. Lovely memories.


7. What made you want to become an illustrator?

Starting out, an early influence was the work of Derek Riggs, who created the album covers for the British rock band Iron Maiden. I remember studying the details of the record covers, being so impressed by the dynamism and energy of his style.  I had an exciting chance meeting with him when I worked in an art shop in Brighton, England, many years ago. After showing him my work he was very encouraging and thought I had potential. We’ve remained friends ever since. Other inspirations and influences also include the works of the classical painters, Velazquez, Rubens, Caravaggio, and Rembrandt, amongst others.

8. What is your favourite children’s book of all time?

Tough one. I read and heard (through tapes when I was young) the Story Teller series, which some may remember. I wasn’t an avid reader as a child – I was more visual, but the Story Teller series had a magazine where you could look at the art and read along to the tape, which was very enjoyable. Another story I enjoyed, which I can’t remember the name of off the top of my head, was about a wolf and a boy. You’ve got me thinking about that now so I will try and find it!

9. Where is your favourite place to sit and draw?

I used to sit by the window and draw when I first started out, but now I am not as fussed, just as long as there is adequate lighting I am good to go!

10. If you could only choose three items to have beside you as you work, what would they be?

A nice cup of tea! Some 85% dark chocolate and a lovely soundtrack playing (The Shawshank Redemption, for example) in the background.


School of Alyxa is out now and available to buy here.

For more information about Dominic and his work, be sure to check out his website and follow him on Instagram – @dominicharmanartist