The Riddle of the Sea – Interview with Illustrator Karl James Mountford

I have had the incredible opportunity to interview Karl J Mountford, illustrator of The Riddle of the Sea, a book originally published in Dutch through the beautiful storytelling of author Jonne Kramer, and now translated into English by Laura Watkinson. I have been admiring Karl’s stunning illustrations since The Uncommoners : The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell back in 2016, and admire his illustrations in Sophie Green’s Potkin and Stubbs trilogy, and so many more too. The illustrative aspect to The Riddle of the Sea brings this incredible sea adventure to life, perfectly complimenting the story, and the cover design is just WOW! I am delighted to be hosting Karl J Mountford on my blog today.

Could you summarise The Riddle of the Sea for those that have yet to have the pleasure of reading it
Since the book was first published across the water, I couldn’t read the script as I can’t read Dutch (yet) so I’m yet to read it for myself as well but from what I was told the story is about deep friendship, love and adventure. Which is why I really wanted to be a part of this book.

The cover design is utterly stunning. Where did you get the inspiration from?
It was a while back now but I think the designer may be suggested to have this ‘double exposure’ type of illustration for the cover which is very fitting for the plot and general theme of the book.

Inside the book there are double page spread illustrations that are breath taking to enjoy. I have stopped and stared at them at length, and loved all the amazing detail featured. Do you have a favourite, and if so why?
I like the beach scene with the dancing and the general vibe. I think it’s probably my favourite as I’d quite like to be sat on that beach.

Can you tell us about the process you went through when creating the illustrations for this book, does it differ from other books you have illustrated?
This one did as the language barrier meant that I was relying on the designer to give me the general idea of the scene depicted. It made for an interesting making of the art as I couldn’t rely on my interpretation from the text as usual. It was pretty freeing in some aspects.

The black and white format of your illustrations inside the book make them so much more immersive, what was the reasoning for the colour choice?
Funnily enough, they all started out as full colour illustrations. I think the only reason they were switched to black and white was purely a printing cost issue. Either way I hope they still convey the atmosphere of each scene.

What would be your biggest piece of advice you could offer to budding young illustrators?
I’m not sure. I guess something like ‘Make the work you want to get’, you’ve got to keep yourself interested in what you’re doing in this industry as much as possible otherwise it just becomes a job.

Could you tell us what you are working on at present ?
Yeah, I’m currently working on ten books, classic stories .Which is cool but a very chunky project. I’m also working on tarot deck based on tv show… think that’s all I’m allowed to say on that. I’m also writing my second picture book. 

I would like to extend a huge thank you to Karl his participation in this feature for BookBound’s stop on the blog tour for The Riddle of the Sea. If you would like more insight into this must read middle grade adventure be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour via the banner below.

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