“If I were a book I’d be a children’s adventure story,” says Alice Ridley, illustrator of Lyra and the Adventure of the Flying Fish. And if I could be any character I’d be Mr Benn. I love the idea of putting on a different costume and walking through the door to new adventures every day.” Alice has always been a fan of adventure - the sort that happens in the real world with real people and real places. So in her quest to fill her life with excitement, she has trekked, climbed, skied, canoed and windsurfed her way around South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
When she was growing up in the Essex countryside, reading was never Alice Ridley’s favourite pastime. She preferred climbing trees and swimming in the river that flowed underneath the millhouse where her family had lived for generations. Books were a battle. She had a hard time keeping the words from swirling around on the page and turning into a meaningless jumble. Her older brothers and sister were away at boarding school so they couldn’t help; and her best friend was Bhang the Burmese cat, and his reading skills were minimal! But although reading was a struggle, drawing was a natural talent which came easily to her. “Pictures have always been my thing,” she says, “I draw for myself and use it as a way of writing down my thoughts and daydreams.”
Alice didn’t set out to be an illustrator despite her drawing talents. She trained as a theatre designer and has since used the skills she developed then to create imagined worlds, working in the Art Department of movies and TV dramas; as a stylist for interiors magazines; and, of course, illustrating Lyra’s world.
Although she uses computer technology in her design work and to market her own T-shirt company, she is happiest with a pencil and paper. “Pencil drawings rock!” she says. Ridley set up the T-shirt company, Bhang Design, while she was in New Zealand and the T-shirts feature Alice’s witty drawings.
At the moment Alice is busy sharpening her pencil and drawing designs for Bhingles, her new range of children’s clothes….and waiting for Peter to get on with writing Lyra’s next adventure, as well as planning some new adventures for herself.
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