Jane Hissey, author and illustrator
Richly illustrated in coloured pencils, Jane’s books feature soft-toy characters and everyday objects that belong to her or her family. ‘Old Bear’ himself was given to her by her grandmother when she was born. He has travelled with Jane throughout the world; to schools, libraries and literary events, becoming increasingly worn and threadbare but recognisable to millions of Jane’s readers. She began drawing other household favourites, including Bramwell Brown, a large bear with a handsome brown coat who had been made for her newly born son by a former teaching colleague; Rabbit, who had been snapped up at a bargain price in an Oxfam shop on Brighton’s London Road, and Little Bear, who was discovered by her grandmother in an old wool bag. It wasn’t long before they were quickly joined by Duck, Hoot the Owl and Jolly Tall the Giraffe.
Publishers vied to secure the international rights to her first book and Jane went on to sell seven million copies worldwide, topping the public lending rights list for more than a decade.
The 40 episode television series of ‘Old Bear Stories’ won many international awards including a BAFTA and a NY Film Festival Gold Award.
Jane has a meticulous drawing style, beginning every illustration by mapping out the outline of her composition on layout paper, then copying the image using a tracing-down paper onto soft watercolour board. She discovered her favoured medium of coloured pencil while at art school. Jane said: “I remember breathing a huge sigh of relief. I’d always struggled with paint, and coloured pencils worked really well for me. I loved their immediacy. No need to stretch paper, prime a surface or mix colours. And unlike watercolour, I could pick them up and put them down, which suited my working patterns at home with a young family.”
Jane has three grown-up children and lives in East Sussex with her husband, Ivan, who is also an illustrator who trained at Brighton with Jane and went on to the RCA.
The University of Brighton gallery held an exhibition of her work in 2015.