Cartoonist Gary Northfield joins Leeds Arts University MA students

26 November 2020

Gary Northfield joined MA Illustration, MA Graphic Novel and MA Animation students on Friday 20 November 2020 for a talk on his life and his work as a cartoonist, creator and author of children’s books. 

Image: Two of Gary Northfield’s books, Derek The Sheep: Let’s Bee Friends and Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans. Courtesy Gary Northfield.

Gary was invited to present online as a part of the University’s successful Visiting Professionals programme that sees industry professionals deliver masterclasses to groups of students across all subjects. Recent guests have included filmmaker Ken Loach and writer, critic and broadcaster Paul Gravett. 

During his talk to MA students, Gary spoke about the importance of finding your own style as an illustrator. For Gary this was when his tutor pointed out that he was trying too hard to draw ‘like a cartoonist’, the comment made him readdress the work he was making: “crossing that line of not really worrying about what people think was my big break really”, he said. Gary’s advice to the students was to “always take on something that you really love, rather than something that you think you should be doing”.

Image: Gary Northfield 

MA Graphic Novel, Subject Specialist Leader, Ben Simpson, RCA said: "Like me, Gary has worked hard to create a child-like element to his work. As a fellow cartoonist and educator, we can see the culmination of this effort in his animal characterisations such as Julius Zebra and Derek The Sheep. For students returning to study later in life, Gary's experience shows that if you work at it, in time it's possible to get the breaks you need and to achieve your childhood dreams."

Gary Northfield has been writing and drawing comics since 2002. He has regularly worked for esteemed magazines such as The Beano, The Phoenix, National Geographic Kids and The Dandy. He has also had  books published, including The Terrible Tales of The Teenytinysaurs (Walker 2013), Gary’s Garden (David Fickling 2014), Julius Zebra: Rumble With The Romans (Walker 2015), Julius Zebra: Bundle With  The Britons (Walker 2016), Julius Zebra: Entangled With the Egyptians (Walker 2017), Julius Zebra: Grapple with The Greeks (Walker 2018) and Julius Zebra: Joke Book Jamboree!  (Walker 2019). The first two Derek The Sheep Collections - Derek the sheep: Let’s Bee Friends & Derek the sheep: First Sheep in Space are available from Bog Eyed Books.