Collaboration Spotlight: Funmbi and Michael
With the Collaboration Spotlight Series, we create a positive image for young girls to refer to by having conversations with different writers and illustrators. This month we have been doing Q&As with various writers, to get to know more about them and their work. Here, we are showcasing all the questions we have asked Funmbi Omotayo and Michael Kennedy , the author and illustrator of Halloween Dance, part of the Joyful, Joyful collection of stories.
A glorious colour-illustrated anthology for 11+ celebrating joy, showcasing over 40 talented Black writers and artists from across the world. Curated by British Book Awards Illustrator of the Year, Dapo Adeola, with a foreword by the award-winning Patrice Lawrence. Joyful, Joyful is a book to sing about!
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Halloween Dance is your latest collaboration. What was the inspiration behind this story? What discussions did you have on how to bring the story to life with the illustrations?
F: It was based on a true event. I was attending a Halloween party at school. I didn’t go as Dracula, but I was practising dance moves to Bobby Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel” as this was a popular song. (at the time) So I assumed they would play it at the dance, boy was I wrong, they played a Halloween-themed soundtrack from a movie I had never heard of, but like the story I just did all my moves to the song and ended up winning. In terms of the illustrations, the magic was all Michael. We had zero discussions about how the characters should look but he absolutely nailed it, and delivered way more than I expected.
M: All I needed in this case was Funmbi’s great story to work from. Everything was clear and entertaining because of the references to the group, Backstreet Boys. At some point I discovered Funmbi is a comedian, and it made total sense. The man is a great storyteller. After reading the story, I pulled up the music video for Everybody - one of Backstreet Boys' hit songs on YouTube and it instantly reminded me of my childhood.
When did you discover your love for art /comedy? What was that like?
F: It’s hard to say when I discovered the love for comedy, as it is not something I ever thought I'd end up doing. But once I started and had that first taste of an audience laughing from the thoughts and ideas I’d created, it was quite fulfilling.
M: Well, I’m fortunate enough to have started from a young age and also fortunate enough to have people in my family and at school tell me I should stick with drawing and making comic books. It is always something I could rely on through complicated times in my life. The older I get, the more I realise my ideas and what I like now most appeals to my inner kid!
What mediums do you create your work in?
M: Joyful, Joyful is actually the first children's book I’ve ever worked on. Most of my life, I’ve made comic books for adults and for the past couple of years, I’ve drawn illustrations for magazines and news websites. At university, I studied animation, but that's really, really complicated. Even though I make work for adults, all my influences and people I look up to are cartoonists and illustrators and artists for children and teenagers, really. I work a lot on the computer but I love using crayons and bright coloured paints. I make comics on inexpensive printer paper with felt-tip pens and brushes.
Who really makes you laugh?
F: Many people really make me laugh, but none other than probably Richard Pryor for stand up and Eddie Murphy Movies.
M: My family does, my parents, nan, brother, nan and girlfriend. They are like cartoon characters themselves, full of life, and are naturally hilarious people. I became an uncle two years ago and my niece is funny too. She would make a good picture book character.
Who were your favourite writers /illustrators growing up?
F: I would say Roald Dahl was probably my favourite writer growing up.
M: That's a big list! One book I still have is “Charlie, Queen of the Desert” written by Lenny Henry and illustrated by Chris Burke. It is about a little girl that goes to the beach in England and digs through to Australia.
Describe your creative space. And why is it special to you?
M: At the minute, I’m working from a table in our living room, surrounded by all our books, toys and art tools. I work in a comfy chair for computer work and when I make comics; I work on the sofa with a board on top of my legs. There's a cushion between the board and my knees, though! It’s special because I assumed I’d be happiest working far from home in a studio with a big drawing table, but I discovered working from our flat that it's much more comfortable like this. Funnily enough, it is how I worked as a kid, too.
Quick Fire Round
What is your most-used emoji?
F: 🤣 - definitely.
What are your funniest childhood memories?
F: My funniest childhood memories are with me and my siblings. We all moved to Nigeria when we were kids and often in the evenings on a hot night we would all sit on the balcony and reminisce about all our favourite TV shows from the UK and sing songs from Top of the Pops.
M: It was not funny for me but I was always going too fast on my bike or scooter so there's lots of memories and video footage of me falling or crashing at speed. It was always downhill, too. At least my dad tells me it was funny…
About the writer
Funmbi Omotayo started doing stand-up comedy in 2004. Since then he has performed in different countries, made a few TV appearances from Australia to Adu Dhabi.
About the illustrator
Micheal Kennedy is a cartoonist and illustrator who lives in Birmingham, UK. He mostly spends his time working on cartoons, reading cartoons, and walking around the local park.