Olaf Falafel – Q&A

Olaf Falafel

Olaf Falafel

A surrealist comedian, children’s book author/illustrator and winner of the Funniest Joke of The Edinburgh Festival. Olaf’s stand up shows include his award nominated debut hour ‘Olaf Falafel and The Cheese Of Truth’, ‘The Marmosets Of My Mind’, ‘Knitting With Maracas’ and the award winning ‘There’s no i in idiot’.

Olaf is the author and illustrator of several kids books including the flatulent ‘Old MacDonald Heard A Parp’ trilogy, ‘It’s One Giant Leek For Mankind’, ‘Blobfish’ and his first middle grade series for Puffin Books ‘Trixie Pickle Art Avenger’.

As well as finding comedic success onstage, Falafel has also enjoyed online fame with his short viral videos. These absurdist movies include slices of truth telling cheese being thrown onto newspapers, Opera singers mixed with modem dial up tones and the Bee Gees hiding in his beard.

The comedy website Chortle affectionately described Falafel as ‘an idiot’ and when he doesn’t have a microphone in his hand you’ll probably find him with a pencil and pad trying to draw something equally idiotic.

Olaf can be found at:
Website: www.olaffalafel.com
Twitter: @OFalafel
Instagram: @olaffalafel

When did you know you wanted to become an illustrator?

When i was around 8 or 9 I used to make my own comics, get my dad to photocopy them at work and sell them in the playground at school. That was probably the start of both my comedy and my illustration.

How long does it typically take to make a page or cover for a book?

It varies so much – I’ve just created a cover for a book proposal that took me four hours but I’ve got spreads in some of my picture books that have taken four days

What’s your favourite piece of art equipment?

I love the Pentel Brush pen, it gives a great line and it’s not to messy. I swear by it.

Do you have a favourite colour scheme, if so what and why?

Before I was a comedian/author/illustrator I worked in design and ad agencies. One designer nicknamed me Timmy Mallet because I always liked using bright and garish colour combinations. He still calls me it to this day.

Who were your inspirations when starting out?

Pete Fowler was and is the illustrator whose work I’ve always loved. I discovered him through the artwork he did for the Super Furry Animals, I love the characters he creates – a perfect blend of funny with stylish.

Do you have another job beside being an illustrator, if so what?

I’m a comedian! The two jobs really go hand in hand for me, especially as I like to try and make funny books. Also the onstage experience helps when I do school events, a room full of kids and a room full of drunk adults are surprisingly similar!

What do you do to overcome a creative block?

Go for a walk – I read something ages ago about kinetic thinking – how your brain fires up when the legs are going. Could be complete rubbish but my brain seems to enjoy a stroll.

Do you have a favourite piece in your portfolio, if so could you share it and talk about it?

I like the nap/dream illustration from Old MacDonald Heard A Parp. Partly for sentimental reasons because it was my first ever children’s book and also because it’s quite weird. There are floppy Dalí-esque clock, a farting unicorn and a couple of hidden jokes in there such as the planet Mercury looking like Freddie Mercury.

What was your first book related project?

It was Old MacDonald Heard A Parp which was originally called Old MacDonald Heard A Fart but the publishers felt it was too rude for UK audiences so I begrudgingly changed it. You can get hold of hardback Fart copies in Australia and New Zealand though!

What type of media do you prefer to work in and why?

Ink and watercolours or digitally drawing in Procreate.

Do you have a playlist you like working to? If so do you want to share it?

Lately I’ve been listening to Dave Brubek when I need to think – the upbeat scattergun jazz seems to help. If I’m drawing and don’t need to think too much I’ll have a movie playing in the background. Anything with Liam Neeson or Denzel Washington usually does the job.

Do you have any rituals when working?

Not really, I like to change things up in terms of where in the house I draw – I get bored if I’m in the same chair for too long.

Do you have a favourite artist outside of the world of books, if so who and why?

Peter Blake has always been a favourite since my college days. I like his deceptively simplistic style and the humour in his paintings.

Did the books you read as a child influence your work?

I loved Richard Scarry’s books when I was little, I was fascinated by all the small details and how all the different things were labelled. The running jokes that went through his books are definitely something I try and add to mine. When I was a bit older, around nine or ten I discovered The Ha Ha Bonk Book by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. It was filled with great jokes, surreal characters and loads of bonus humour within the illustrations.

Has your illustration/art style changed over time?

I have an instinctive way of drawing characters that has remained fairly consistent over the years – bendy limbs and a treble-yoo nose (like a double-you but with an extra u). I like to experiment with different mediums and styles but I like to try and keep it recognisable as something I’ve made.

How closely do you work with the author on developing the illustrations for a book?

Very closely as the author in most cases is me!

If you could illustrate any classic book which would it be and why?

I quite like the idea of illustrating A Midsummer Night’s Dream because of all the fairies, fools, queens and kings.

Which illustrated books in the last year have you loved?

I’m a big fan of Gustavo The Shy Ghost by Flavia Z Drago and also the follow up Leila The Perfect Witch.

If you can please tell us about your latest project and if not your last project.

Trixie Pickle Art Avenger is my latest book, it’s also my first foray into ‘middle grade’ chapter books. I was (and still am) what they call a ‘reluctant reader’ so I wanted to make something accessible to kids like me. It’s influenced by The Beano, Diary of a Wimpy kid, The Ha Ha Bonk Book and Viz. I’ve rammed it full of funny illustrations and because it features real facts on famous artists as well as farts it’s the perfect blend of high and low brow and actually quite educational. Also, the follow up book, Trixie Pickle Art Avenger Toxic Takedown is out on May 4th so that’s exciting!

Do you have any events on in the near future?

I’m at the Leicester Festival on February 19th where I’ll be doing a book event followed by a family friendly comedy event and then a ‘grown up’ comedy show. I’ll be up at the Edinburgh Festival again in August doing loads of funny stuff.


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Agency

William Gibson. Penguin. (416p) ISBN 9780241974575

Agency

Agency

I’m a huge fan of William Gibson (I’ve not got a collection of Neuromancer in different editions…) and am always waiting for his next book with great anticipation, waiting to see where he takes us next.

In Agency, he gives us a ‘prequel and sequel’ to The Peripheral.

Like The Peripheral the story of Agency switches between two different timelines, a 2017 where Verity lives in a world where Hilary Clinton won the 2016 elections, and the other is set in the 22nd century post-Jackpot world of Russian crime families and advanced technology.

Written in short punchy chapters switching between the two time frames, developing character depth and interaction which makes you invest very quickly and ensures that you don’t want to put the book down. The explanation of the technology in the book works on extrapolations from existing technology so never really seems that far fetched.

Though the way interaction with ‘stubs’ is achieved is the most ‘out there’ technology mentioned it still doesn’t jar and t hat’s what I’ve always enjoyed about Gibson’s writing, especially Blue Ant Trilogy and the Bridge Trilogy, the technology could be out there now, being developed and tested as it is never an outrageous use of ‘black box’ technologies.

Another great addition to William Gibson’s oeuvre, and I’m now back to anticipating his next work.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

La Belle Sauvage

Philip Pullman. Penguin. (592p) ISBN 9780241365854
La Belle Sauvage

La Belle Sauvage

I’ve had the special edition of La Belle Sauvage with the Lynx daemon sat on my shelves since it was released but never got around to reading it.

I found this on the RBDigital service whilst looking through for a fantasy or sci-fi book to listen to and thought walking was a great opportunity to listen to this.

Really pleased to report that Michael Sheen is a wonderful narrator and that the audiobook was wonderfully paced and was a complete pleasure to listen to.

Set twelve years before Lyra’s adventures in the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy, this helps explain some of the beginnings of that trilogy and how Lyra got to the college in Oxford, also the background to some of the main characters to come.

Malcolm Polstead, Alice, and La Belle Sauvage are the main characters in this adventure, building Malcolm’s strong moral character in the first part of the book and then their flight from danger in the second half of the book.

Well fleshed out characters and world help propel the story along at the speed of the flood that they are caught up in. Some really hard scenes, especially the ones with the hyena in it, sorrow and disgust mingle with a feeling of strangeness when compared to other daemons in Pullman’s world.

A world of strange and totalitarian religious groups which seek to control all, but also a world of magics and old gods, living cheek by jowl with a world of science and engineering.

A wonderful setup for ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy and then onto The Secret Commonwealth which I’ll have to listen to as soon as possible, and any book that mentions Danish oil is all right by me, that and spontaneous combustion always make for a good combination.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

The Power

Naomi Alderman. Penguin Books. (352p) ISBN 9780670919963

The Power

The Power

Naomi Alderman’s novel ‘The Power’ is a well-deserved winner of the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017. Naomi takes the idea of a change to which gender holds the reins of power and moves it along logical lines to a logical outcome, the end of the book gives this logical progression a wonderful twist.

One day young women wake a power which has been developing in them over a number of years which gives them the ability to channel electricity through them, storing it in an organ called a ‘skein’.

As this develops through the world, women start to control various power centres and men fight back at the gender inequalities raised by the change in their societal position.

One of the funniest, but most poignant changes is the change in gender positions of the newscasters throughout the book.

Written in an episodic fashion reminiscent of ‘World War Z’, the story develops at a cracking pace, in a horrifying but true way which I won’t spoil, but when the only model of holding power is that which has been developed in our patriarchal, capitalist society, the story’s outcomes ring sadly true.

A wonderful novel which should be read by men as well as women as a pointer to what is wrong in our current society, and as a well-written piece of speculative fiction.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.