Derry illustrator among shortlist for Irish Language Book of the Year

FALLING . . . One of John's enchanting illustrations from 'An B�al Bocht'. (291013JC3)
FALLING . . . One of John's enchanting illustrations from 'An B�al Bocht'. (291013JC3)

A Creggan-born illustrator has made the shortlist for the Irish language ‘Book of the Year’ for the illustrations in his first graphic novel, ‘An Béal Bocht’.

John McCloskey, originally from Circular Road in Creggan and now living in Derry’s Glen area, has been working as an animator for more than twenty years and is based in the Nerve Centre.

�/Lorcan Doherty Photography -  22nd October 2013. ''Photo Lorcan Doherty Photography

�/Lorcan Doherty Photography - 22nd October 2013. ''Photo Lorcan Doherty Photography

His first graphic novel is one of five shortlisted in the adult category for Irish language ‘Book of the Year’, with a further five shortlisted in the category for younger people. The two overall winners will be announced at an event in Dublin on Wednesday, November 13.

49 year-old John is delighted that the book has been shortlisted.

“It is a privilege and honour to be shortlisted for this award,” he says.

“It was such an enjoyable project and there is definitely something satisfying about producing a published and printed book, as much of my work tends to exist solely in the digital domain.

“Having read the original novel, I wanted to keep a rough, loose feel to the illustration work. I worked almost exclusively from imagination rather than from real life reference.

“A lot of the drawings were quite spontaneous and off the cuff – I tried to capture gesture, texture and feel rather than worrying about surface polish.

“I felt this approach would best reflect the anarchic tone and surreal humour of the original text.”

John studied Graphic Design and Illustration at York Street Art College in Belfast before discovering animation.

“A few years later, I discovered that you could do animation in Ireland, because up until then there was nothing really happening here. So that’s how it started, and I’ve been working in animation ever since.

“It all stems from drawing anyway, because back in the day you had no option. You had to be able to draw before you could animate,” he says.

John said working with illustrations was a breath of fresh air.

“I’ve been working as an animator and so I never get the chance to really draw anymore as everything is digital these days. So it’s been really nice to have something I can actually hold in my hand and enjoy.

“This was the first time I’d ever done a graphic novel too, which is brilliant. It was just refreshing to be able to concentrate on one drawing at a time and not worry about it moving!” he laughed.

With the awards ceremony just weeks away, let’s hope one of our own creatives brings the prize home to the City of Culture.

“There is a mysterious ‘meitheal’ that brings together writer, editor, publisher, designer or artist and the wider production team that eventually gives life to a book,” according to Liam Ó Maolaodha, Director of the Oireachtas that organises the annual Irish language ‘Book of the Year’ awards.

“Every book on the shortlist is in itself a work of art and each book is a credit to the creative ‘meitheal’ behind it,” he went on.

“I congratulate everyone on the shortlist and I’m delighted that the shortlisted books are receiving due recognition for their creativity.”

Seán Ó Coinn, Deputy CEO of Foras na Gaeilge, added: “The standard of Irish language publishing gets better each year and this year is no exception.

“We’re backing these awards with an €80,000 marketing campaign to help publicise both the quality and quantity of Irish language books that are available to the public and the range and high production standards are due directly to the tremendous efforts by a small but dedicated band of Irish language publishers.

“Like them I hope that this will be their best year ever for sales and that our marketing campaign will help to highlight books in Irish as being the perfect gift for Christmas 2013.”

The glittering awards ceremony will take place in Dublin on Wednesday, November 13.