Published on January 8th, 2010 | by Christian Cawley1
Andy Walker might not be a name that roles of the tongue of most Doctor Who fans, but his work is very recognizable – if you’ve received a copy of The Doctor Who Storybook for Christmas, you’ve got a copy of his work right under your roof.
He’s the illustrator that provides the striking images that accompany the Doctor’s adventures in the storybooks, and recently Andy Walker took the time out to chat with us about illustration and Doctor Who.
With a range of influences and favourite artists – among them his wife Diane Fawcett (“who is currently working on some paintings based on Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga”), comedian and artist Vic Reeves (“I love those cut-up photographic portraits he does!”) and 2000AD legends Clint Langley, Simon Davis, Henry Flint and Frazer Irving – Andy Walker is a sought after illustrator with a huge love of Doctor Who.
After spotting in Doctor Who Magazine that an annual was planned to coincide with the 2005 series, Andy saw this as a chance to get involved.
“I quickly sent an email [to then-editor Clayton Hickman] with examples of my work and was delighted to land the commission of illustrating Gareth Roberts’ contribution to said tome “DOCTOR vs. DOCTOR”. The following year I think the BBC wanted to assume production of the official annual, so Clayton and the guys at Panini came up with the excellent concept of the Storybook which has proven to be a huge success.”
Evidently, Gareth and Clayton were pleased with Andy’s contribution – he’s since been involved with each subsequent book, “the highlight of which has been the painting of the 2010 frontispiece/endpapers illustration featuring David Tennant’s Doctor (for the last time) and the return of [1960s aliens] the Voord!”
Andy’s path into illustration was a long and winding one – despite an interest in comics, art and striking visual images, he almost missed his calling.
“I spent an unhealthy amount of my youth reading lots of mainly UK produced comics (such as Countdown, TV Century 21, Look-In etc.) that were resplendent with the most amazing, talented artists churning out staggering amounts of work every week of the year.
“Gerry Haylock was an artist who worked on the Doctor Who comic strip for several years in the early 70′s and throughout the 1972 editions of TV Action & Countdown you would get, every week, a fully painted front page full colour panel as part of the comic strip such an inspiration, and they were all superb.
“Later, I had hankerings to become a fine artist and began producing what I can only describe as metaphysical paintings of the Leicestershire countryside I grew up in. These often involved a sense of unease mainly conveyed by lighting or unusual composition – I was also very paranoid about the threat of nuclear war at the time (the early 1980′s and hence the height of the Cold War)”
The 1980s weren’t really a time of “career path enlightenment”, were they? How easy was it for you to find a suitable course?
“Having been told to avoid a career in art by a misguided Careers Advisor I promptly did a u-turn on my science and enrolled on a one-year Art Foundation Course at Loughborough College of Art & Design. It was a year of intense drawing and soul-searching by the end of which I came full circle and realised I was more cut out to be a joyous illustrator than a feverish, angst-ridden painter of personal woes.”
With a degree course in Graphic Design at Wolverhampton Art College following this (where Andy not only met his future wife and fellow illustrator Diane Fawcett but also made connections with London-based illustration agency Artist Partners Ltd.) and this lead to regular work, although Andy’s first professional job was while still a student.
“In the village I grew up in there was a guy named Keith Bird who ran his own printing business called Birdprint – see what he did there? He asked me to do a range of cards featuring hunting dogs (had to wrestle with my conscience there a little) which he went on to sell very successfully at Country Shows and Fairs before falling foul of the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001 and losing his business in the process.
“He now smokes and sells herrings in the middle of rural Leicestershire; good old Keith and his entrepreneurial spirit!”
Some interest in Doctor Who is obviously required to do the job of illustrating the main character – we’ve already established that Andy read Doctor Who Magazine, but it turns out he wasn’t the only fan in the family…
“My Dad was already a bit of a fan (apparently he famously missed a friend’s wedding to catch the last part of the first Hartnell Dalek story). My first memory of the programme itself is the end of The Evil of the Daleks – it seemed very shadowy, dark, mysterious and utterly compelling; Patrick Troughton was the perfect actor to enchant young children with his mixture of mischief and buffoonery coupled with an underlying edginess; I was well and truly hooked!”
Andy doesn’t recall being too upset when the Second Doctor regenerated, however. “Of course, along came Jon Pertwee. My grandparents were already fans thanks to his variety work and so their excitement about the new Doctor rubbed off on me, coupled with the publicity stills of him, arms outstretched and cape unfurled, so commanding and yes, still very mysterious.
“From the moment he fell out of the TARDIS the show hit a new stride, I was completely sold on the new earth-based format and the reality of threat given to the new Doctor’s adversaries: Autons, Axons, Daemons and Silurians!!”
If anyone is in any doubt as to how popular Doctor Who was in the 1970s – well, put it this way, Jon Pertwee was easily as recognizable as David Tennant, and regularly made public appearances. The Third Doctor actor was also a fan of fast cars, a fact that leads Andy to recall a tale featuring Pertwee himself.
“For years my Grandad drove a milk tanker all over the country and early one morning nearly crashed into the verge whilst being overtaken by a very fast, very sleek saucer-shaped vehicle driven by a familiar white-haired occupant; Pertwee in his “Whomobile” on his way to Nottingham to have the engine tweaked quite probably.”
Throughout the 1970s, Doctor Who was huge, reaching its height in the middle of the decade, coinciding with Tom Baker’s popular interpretation as the Fouth Doctor and producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes’ “gothic” era (in fact not gothic at all, simply more serious and darker than much of the previous era). Then a young fan, Andy’s artwork got him a trip to the studio recordings for 1977′s The Sun Makers…
“A teacher who lived in the village had contacts at the Beeb and when my Dad took my latest Who-based scrawls and drawings into the local pub, they caught his eye and he very kindly arranged the visit. I went with a mixture of rapture and nervousness, the latter getting the better of me when I was offered the chance to be introduced to TomÂ himself in between takes; I was just too self-conscious and the hideous Seventies tartan suit I’d been forced to wear wasn’t helping matters. Still, I came away with a camera script feeling very, very lucky though strangely little ill at ease – teenage hormones I guess!”
For many fans – particularly those that grew up in the 1970s – Tom Baker is the most popular Doctor. Of course, growing up can throw a few spanners in the works of watching your favourite show.
“Well, Peter Davison was great; calm, unflappable, the perfect antidote to Tom’s manic ebullience; but by late 1983 college beckoned and the basic problem of getting to watch television on shared sets stunted my regular viewing and by the time Colin came along I threw in the towel…”
Thankfully it wasn’t a permanent surrender – the Sylvester McCoy era caught Andy’s imagination once more!
“I was wooed back by Sylvester McCoy’s tenure; the show seemed to be trying to recapture old gloriesÂ – seasons 25 and 26 inspired me enough to send some artwork to Gary Leigh, editor of the legendary fanzine DWB and later top-selling genre magazine Dreamwatch. I contributed numerous black and white illustrations, a full colour cover based on the Troughton classic The Moonbase, a large colour illustration for Horror of Fang Rock and finally the Pertwee section of DWB’s Doctor Who 30th Anniversary Special cover.”
Illustrating the Storybooks has made Andy’s work a part of the new era of Doctor Who – his David Tennant is spot on, but I wonder, has he tried Matt Smith yet?
“I’ve already done a comic strip sample of him meeting some old “friends” from the Pertwee era (quite interesting in relation to some of the rumours circulating at the moment!). This secured me a commission in Doctor Who Magazine: an illustration of Colin and some of the creatures from the original “lost” Season 23. I’ve also sent off a rough for next year’s Storybook frontispiece featuring the Eleventh Doc and Amy in an epic confrontation!
“Matt has a very distinctive face and although we’ve yet to see him in action he cuts a very Doctorish figure doesn’t he?”
While there’s no chance of getting Andy to express a preference, he describes David Tennant as “an absolute gift to artists.”
“Such an expressive face… great bone structure with a very distinctive profile especially combined with that quiff and those sideburns! He’s also such a dynamic and animated actor that I had no problem, for example, imagining him perched precariously on a boulder scrutinising an alien jewel with an outsized magnifying glass; you just know how David would look in that situation.”
The style of illustration we see in use in the Storybooks is evocative of the old 1970s World Distributors annuals, and certainly seems to be at home in that medium – it would be interesting to see Andy illustrate a comic strip in this way.
“I’d like to think that there’s plenty of room for a more detailed, realistic approach; I think the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip is in its healthiest state for years ; Dan McDaid has written a spellbinding run of stories with excellent artworkÂ ranging from innovators like Rob Davis to the consistent high quality of regulars Martin Geraghty and Mike Collins.”
Andy’s illustrations in the Storybooks are based on the style of Paul Crompton, the artist who worked on the majority of the Tom Baker era annuals.
“If you look at the endpapers for the 1976 annual there’s something timeless, iconic and strange about the composition and the elements in his painting – huge, crumbling columns and statues, the remains of a perhaps once proud civilisation; something indefinable that had been missing from the previous artists who had worked on those annuals.
“In subsequent Storybooks I’ve tried to calm that style down and make it more my own; these Doctor Who stories (unlike the Seventies annuals) are very much aligned with those we’ve seen on TV over the past 4 – 5 years and require faithful, very illustrative pieces of artwork to accompany them.”
Andy is a big fan of the revived Doctor Who – which is hardly a surprise.
“Russell T Davies’ has given us an ingenious and phenomenally successful reboot of the show. I’m finally enjoying having some mainstream published Doctor Who artwork ; we all owe so much to Russell for making a once magnificent show that became tired and jaded more magnificent than ever!”
Very many thanks to Andy Walker for taking part in this interview – see his work online at www.andywalkerillustrator.com