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David Doran on Orchestra

We sat down with award winning illustrator David Doran, who we recently had the delight of working with on Orchestra, a beautiful large format book which is the perfect introduction for budding musicians and those with a passion for the orchestra.

From atmospheric film soundtracks to exhilarating live performances, the dazzling sound of the orchestra is unmistakable. Within Orchestra you can meet the performers who bring the music to life, the instruments that take centre stage and discover the beauty behind each and every note.

We picked David’s brains on everything from his own passion for music to how he puts together his elegant and inspiring illustrations. Read on below for more!

Whilst your drawings for the book are very clean and digital, they also feel very vibrant and full of life. Do you immediately draw onto a tablet or iPad, or do your illustrations start life in a sketchbook?

My process has gradually become more digital over the years, through working on projects and finding the most efficient ways to work. Though, I always do my best to maintain the handmade quality…I love seeing slightly wobbly lines and the artists hand in work!

Is this illustrative process the same when working on editorial work as well as on books?

Editorial timings can involve such quick turnarounds, sometimes a week, sometimes a matter of hours. I enjoy the challenge of thinking fast, working up concepts and speeding towards a quick deadline.

With this book, I spent nearly 3.5yrs with the idea, working with the team at Flying Eye, gradually developing the concept and working hard to make the book the best book it can be.

Orchestra has a beautiful colour palette full of complimentary peaches and blues, how did you come to settle on the colour choices for the book?

l wanted the colours in this book to be striking, warm, engaging and joyful. I have very specific memories of certain books I had as a child, vivid colours and lines;  I loved Orlando the Marmalade Cat the drawings were beautiful. I can picture my favourite spreads, and how the colours always stood out. With the more traditional printing process of these books being so clear to see, often using 3 or 4 main colours that overlap to create the full palette, I wanted to reference this directly in Orchestra, by using only 4 grounding colours in the palette myself. The difficult part was to find 4 colours that gave the book enough variety from each page to page.

The subjects of your illustrations seem to always be lovely and varied, from landscapes to people, full colour spreads to spot illustrations. You utilise this whole wide range of skills in Orchestra – did you have a favourite part of the book to illustrate?

I think that the variation from page to page is what makes a book so special to have. There’s a lovely transition as you turn the page and the opportunity to show the variety and surprise the reader with each turn is something that I wanted to make the most of.

My favourite part of the book was illustrating all the different characters on each page and including small details for readers to gradually find (birds stealing breadcrumbs, mice hiding on stairwells…). As a child, I loved pouring over the details and I’m hoping children can have the same experience of finding something new on each page with Orchestra.

And was there a most challenging part?

There’s a lot of detail and intricate information in the book that needs to be shown correctly. The most challenging part was creating and designing the layouts of each page that show the information both accurately and also engagingly.

Some of the illustrations of instruments are quite technical, how was this to work on?

Yes, there’s so much detail to capture on the instruments, and it’s very important to get it right when creating something educational. I had a lot of input from the team at Flying Eye who checked all the details with a professional.

What’s your own relationship with music like?

I love music! We have music playing in the studio almost all day (with a few podcast exceptions). I’ll often listen to Orchestral music when I’m reading briefs or emailing, as I find it great to concentrate too and often get a little distracted from reading when there is singing.

And finally, do you have any advice for any new illustrators who are interested in book illustration?

Enjoy what you’re making and find ways to make it personal to you!