When he won in 2015 he was, at the age of 25, the youngest winner for more than 50 years. He is shortlisted again this year for his new book
The Wolves of Currumpaw
How did you create the distinctive style of The Wolves of Currumpaw?
I work in just one or two colours for preliminary sketches, and try to work as quickly as I can, but usually redraw the same spread several times before I’m happy. I use Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils and keep the colour palette as limited as posible. I work on everything at once: colour, storyboard, design, text and characterisation.
You make your loose and flowing illustrations look easy. What’s your tip for achieving a similar effect?
Work quickly. The best drawings are usually done under pressure. And draw from life – don’t sit behind a desk. With The Wolves of Currumpaw, I was lucky enough to travel to New Mexico and did a lot of drawing and research. This made the drawings far richer.
When did you find the style that you were comfortable with?
Falmouth University was hugely formative. Being encouraged to draw in sketchbooks every day helped enormously, and this is where my style emerged. It sounds counterintuitive, but the limitation of using a few coloured pencils on the go made me feel more free and confident.
You work for major clients such as The New York Times. How did you break into editorial and commercial illustration?
With a bit of luck! My work must have a broad appeal. Putting examples of book jackets, editorial work and so on, on your website is the best way of showing what you could do.
Your books feature everything from figures to landscapes. Do you approach these subjects differently?
Everything is the same apart from that I usually hold the pencils differently [for the backgrounds]. I tend to use the side of the pencils to create more sweeping strokes. Sometimes, I layer colours and even use a rubber to smudge subtler colours together.
Which artists do you admire?
Influences change all the time but a few consistent people would be some of the Fauvist painters, Saul Steinberg, Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden – their work has a particular charm. I think it’s important to look outside your own profession for inspiration as well. For me, film is a big one. I love the documentaries of Werner Herzog and the poetic, all-encompassing style of Terrence Malick.
What’s your top tip for getting into the world of illustration?
Firstly, and most importantly, draw every day. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, let your interests feed into your work
– and be patient.
See more of William’s art at www. williamgrill.co.uk. The Wolves of Currumpaw is published by Flying Eye Books, £14.99. www.flyingeyebooks.com