Is Greenling based on a true story?
It's fictional, but you could see it as a jigsaw of things that I did and saw in real life during the time it took me to complete the book, as well as motifs and stories from throughout history. Which are all true, in a way.
How did you think of the idea/ theme?
A couple of things came together at once. I was renting a house with a back yard in at the time, and decided to grow some tomatoes from seed, just out of interest. If I were to make them grow and deliver fruit I had to take care of them as if they were babies, and it got me thinking about how people relate to plants. Whilst I was becoming sentimental about nurturing my seed trays, my unattended back yard was becoming a monstrous jungle of grass and weeds. I soon burnt out an electric mower, a strimmer and even managed to break an old fashioned reel mower trying to tame the 6 metre square patch! It's powerful stuff when left to it's own devices and can overwhelm you very quickly. These two events started me thinking of a powerful green baby, who gets picked and brought into a home, despite not being fully understood.
There are lots of similar stories throughout history, like the infant Bacchus in Ovid or some of the themes in the song John Barleycorn Must Die. I tried to let go and work from my subconscious when planning the book, but working in this manner means you find things you have enjoyed in the past creeping in to the story. I thought I'd give a nod to these sources with names and imagery, but hopefully the story is different enough that it can be entertaining in it's own right.
Were you born an artist or did you pick it up from people around you?
I don't come from a particularly artistic family. I think I picked up the desire to draw from liking comics when I was a boy. Drawing is something I have always enjoyed. I'm not sure about being a born artist, though! I think a true artist is hard to define! Perhaps they're hard workers, who will find a way to make something they think is good whatever their circumstances are.
Do you think that the art fully captures the essence of the book?
I can only hope that the pictures do their job by telling the story. Further than that, I really can't say.
How long did the book take to create?
Longer than it should have taken! About a year. The illustrations are quite complex, so they can take some time to plan and render. Hopefully they're enjoyable to look at once they're done, and the extra effort gives someone reading the book a richer experience.
What is your favourite part of the book/s and why?
Like most curious people I gravitate towards mysteries, so beginnings appeal to me. The landscape with the train-line and house is my favourite page. When I look at that picture on it's own, I feel like any number of potential scenarios could spring from it.
How did you keep a balance between work and life?
I try to take one day off a week in order to spend time with the people I care about. Going for a walk or a swim when I can breaks up the week, but there's really no easy balance to be had when you have a large workload. Luckily enough I find what I do for work stimulating, so it always feels like living to me.
Were there any difficulties around your family or the book that you faced?
I was trying to paint the whole book in egg tempera, which is a time-consuming technique. Originally I had thought it was the only way of getting the effect I was after. Understandably, however, there was a great deal of pressure to finish. Each painting was taking 2 or 3 weeks of very long days. 6 months in, I was fraught with anxiety over lack of time. One night I was lying awake, worrying, when I had a miniature epiphany over how to mix a few digital and traditional techniques together. I was so excited that I jumped out of bed and worked for 2 days without sleeping. Eventually I collapsed, but in that time I had more or less painted a whole picture from start to finish. It might seem like the whole episode was a funny example of someone taking things too seriously, but it got the job done.
Thankyou for the questions, Abby Mumford!
Greenling (Templar Publishing) is out September 2015
You can find out more abour Levi here at www.levipinfold.com