I have always been very interested in art and wanted to be an artist in my own right and was lucky to start my working life as a graphic artist which means training as a commercial artist. Pre computer days meant that images the clients required had to be painted or illustrated which in turn meant you had to learn to draw and paint in various mediums including water colour, pencil, charcoal, gouache, acrylic, pastel and oil paint. The training as you can imagine was special and I was fortunate to learn from very talented people both in art and photography.

Kimmy The Koala

Kimmy The Koala

When I had finished my apprenticeship I moved to live and work in Edinburgh, working for a leading print company. Edinburgh was and still is a vibrant place to live especially if like me you are involved in the creative side of life with great art galleries to see and the Edinburgh festival and so on. I was still drawing and painting and selling work in local cafe’s that were artist friendly and included hanging work from the railings outside the RSA gallery during the festival.

With my father getting sick I decided to move back to Fife and I was lucky to meet a likeminded soul at work Paul who had an ambition to set up on his own, so we set up a partnership and a design agency called Logomotives. All this was very enjoyable for a number of years especially when we designed our last studio together which was a lot of hard work but we had an amazing sense of achievement and I am still very proud to this day. Then my world ended with a divorce which I did not foresee.

I had to leave the agency as a consequence of the divorce. At the time a hobby of mine was scuba diving and this gave me a focus in my life, It gave me so much focus that I turned it in to a career as a PADI diving instructor. I went off to the USA to take the course and sit exams over a number of weeks to qualify. I looked for work and although there was plenty of it you could not get a green card for permanent residence so I had to go back to the UK and finished up working in the Mediterranean.

Jan my partner of the last twenty years is a wonderful lady and we met on Corfu where I was working as a diving instructor. She has always been encouraging regarding my creative side and so I picked up the brushes again and started to paint.

I had not realised how much I had missed my art. So much so I have created a web site www.grahamswan.co.uk which is great and the positive feedback you get from people is wonderful.

Teaching at our local college has been a revelation. I use the books I design as teaching aids for storyboard design with the students.Handing on your experience to the next generations of designers is rewarding. The great boost you get is seeing students gainfully employed and having a life based on their hard work and learning. Students come back to see you or keep in touch through social media and let you know how they are getting on from all points of the compass. 

The inspiration for the books of course comes from my grandchildren Dan, Leah, Max and Naomi. I also have two great nephews Taylor and Ethan who are four and two years old who are also a source of inspiration. All the kids in the family have a love of animals as I did and still do. On reflection children are generally born with a love of animals and no bias and as AA Milne discovered they totally understand a bear walking hand in hand with a boy or a tiger. 

So my characters started from my past. When I was small there was a Guerrilla in London zoo that I loved called Guy and this was the first character I came up with. Guy to my mind as a child looked sad as he lived in a concrete and metal cage affair not like today with zoos having large compounds with animals having space to move around. So the thought of living free in a wood came to me and the other characters started to come along. 

The books are simple stories, some have educational elements like the Kimmy story helping the bees, others are just stories that celebrate the first day of spring, or a boat race or a character needs a new home so everyone helps out. All the stories have a sense of caring about and helping each other as a group of friends and I try to involve as many characters in the stories as I can.

The visual style of the books is very important to me. The hand drawn style of the books is very deliberate. The characters are all hand drawn and I wanted the books to be different from other publications and have a fresh, colourful hand drawn style with plenty of interest on the page that can be included in the story telling when mum or dad are reading them to their children. I wanted the children to engage with the characters in the books so I had the idea of adding colouring pages at the end so when the story finishes they can color in their favourite characters in any color they like and have a bit of fun. Generally I think the books are universal as most children in this world have a fascination or love of animals and I hope they enjoy my stories as much as my family do.

About the author: Graham Swan has worked as a graphic designer in the UK and is currently a college lecturer in Fife, Scotland. He currently lives in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland. This is his first published book. Kimmy the Koala Helps the Honey Bees by Graham Swan (published by Clink Street Publishing August 1st 2017 in paperback and ebook) is available to purchase from online retailers including Amazon and to order from all good bookstores.