For this blog post, author and illustrator Conor Busuttil tells us all about creating his latest book, Billy Conker’s Nature-Spotting Adventure.
From a young age, I was absolutely fascinated with nature and the wildlife around me. Growing up in the countryside near Strangford Lough in County Down, there were plenty of opportunities to explore and learn about nature. So, when given the nudge to write my own book, it simply had to be about animals and the issues they currently face.
It was my lovely agent Gill McLay who suggested that I should do some sort of hide-and-seek book – she knows I love drawing in intricate detail and hiding little things within the page. I will admit, butterflies came to my tummy at the thought of the task ahead, but once The O’Brien Press, and the late publisher Michael O’Brien in particular, gave their instant support – we were off!
I draw in quite a traditional way – pencil, pen and ink, then watercolour – so any faults could be fatal. However, with the awesome team of designer Emma and editor Nicola there to assess everything and be my support on certain days, I sincerely enjoyed every stage of the process.
Here is one of my favourite pieces to work on: the Ocean spread. I loved researching all the diverse creatures, as well as the challenge of drawing an underwater scene.
Everything would begin in very rough pencils. I was confident enough in my animal knowledge, but I soon found there was so much more I had to learn. Although the book doesn’t mention specific locations, I still needed to make sure that the animals on each spread could co-exist and possibly bump into each other at some stage.
It was a joy to draw some of these wonderful, interesting creatures – every time I did an internet search or pulled out my wildlife books for reference, I would learn something new.
One of my favourites to create from the Ocean scene had to be the humpback. Whale-watching is a dream I have yet to check off my bucket list!
I am also a big fan of the snow leopard, who appears in the Mountain scene. Even to this day, they remain so mysterious and elusive. It was important for me to get it just right (my wife often tells me I am my harshest critic!) and thankfully it turned out to be one of my favourites to draw.
And finally, the red fox, who appears in the Woodland scene. Even growing up in the Northern Irish countryside, they were a rare sight. But I have very fond memories of seeing that flash of red slinking through the reedy fields behind my house. So I’ll always have a soft spot for this creature, and I thoroughly enjoyed drawing it.
Conor Busuttil, December 2022
Billy Conker’s Nature-Spotting Adventure is out now and available from your local bookshop or here.
Billy Conker’s Nature-Spotting Adventure
Hi, I’m Billy Conker!
I love to explore our natural world and discover all the amazing creatures living there, from snails and bees in my back garden to polar bears and great blue whales on the other side of the planet.
Now I need your help! We’re on a mission to find wild animals in their natural habitats. It won’t be easy: some are already struggling – or even endangered – and these are the hardest to spot.
Are you ready? Come on, then! Follow me and let’s get started …
Billy Conker is a young conservationist. He loves visiting different places around the world, discovering all the amazing animals and plants there and finding out how he can help them. Join Billy as he explores ponds and forests, oceans and coral reefs, deserts, prairies, cities and more!