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I was born on August 9th, 1962 in Bexleyheath, Greater London. I grew up in Suffolk, Nottinghamshire and Greater Manchester and I'm the oldest of four. My dad worked in breweries making beer and my mum was a teacher and then a social worker.

I've loved drawing for as long as I can remember and my parents always gave me lots of encouragement as well as plenty of art materials and masses of drawing paper!

When I was nine I drew a picture of a market square and took it into school to show my teacher. She thought it was good enough to be pinned up in the school hall and from then on I was determined that I was going to be a professional artist one day. I really enjoyed art at school and spent all my spare time at home drawing pictures, mostly from imagination.

After primary school I went to a comprehensive for a couple of years where I had an excellent time decorating all my work with illustrations and then I moved to a grammar school where I hardly got to do any art at all. In the end I was allowed to go and work alone in the art room store cupboard instead of doing games lessons. That way I managed to get my art O' and A' levels.

Me aged 10

When I left school I went on an art foundation course at Manchester Polytechnic ( now called Manchester Metropolitan University ) where I spent a very happy year learning to draw people and places from real life.

I then got a place at St Martin's School of Art (now Central St Martins) in London to study graphic design for three years. There I learned about design and typography as well as developing my illustration skills. We students also had the opportunity of meeting and working with leading illustrators and designers who came into the school as visiting lecturers.

I left St Martin's in 1984, set about going to all the publishers with my folio of drawings to find work and was lucky enough to be given small commissions almost straight away. I have been working as a freelance illustrator ever since.

To begin with most of my work involved drawing for magazines. I illustrated for a wide range of publications that were about all sorts of things: homes, business, cars, parenting, computers, gardening, fitness, cooking, fashion, puzzles, teenagers... I also designed packaging for cakes and confectionery which included creating Easter egg wrappers and even coming up with ideas for lollipops.

Not long out of college

The first books I drew pictures for were educational textbooks and after a couple of years I was asked to illustrate my first picture book Noisy Poems which was published in 1987.

I gradually did more and more book illustration and began writing my own books too but it wasn't until the mid 1990s that I decided to stop the other kinds of illustration and concentrate solely on children's books.

I've now illustrated close to 300 books. They range from board books for babies to novels for young teenagers. I've worked with authors including Julia Donaldson, Jeremy Strong, Michael Rosen, Giles Andreae, Kaye Umansky, Kes Gray and most notably Dame Jacqueline Wilson and I've also written around 40 of my own books. I'm delighted to say that quite a few of the books have won prizes. I was the official illustrator for World Book Day in 2006 and I have a fellowship from Hereford College of Art. I'm also a proud recipient of a gold Blue Peter badge.

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