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Q&A: Paper prophet

With the arrival of the recession, have you cut back on any spending?

The recession hit me hard last year, knocking out two of my main cartooning jobs, so times were very tough indeed! I was eating beans on toast, struggling to pay my rent and even considering a shelf-stacking job to tide me over. I lived in a grotty room on a horrible road in New Cross in South London (known as "murder half mile" yikes!). Fortunately work picked up earlier this year -- and now I live like a king in a much nicer area.

What three things would you not be able to do without if you were tightening your belt?

I love my comics, so I always have to buy them, even if I'm down to my last pennies. Mars Bars, which keep me going for quite a while (and they make me so happy). Plus the internet.

Do you shop in Lidl or Aldi?

I shopped in Aldi when I lived in New Cross. I got a month's worth of shopping for stg£30. Bargain.

What's your worst customer service experience?

I get quite grumpy with bad service, especially after working 13 years in an art shop, so I know it's not exactly hard to be polite and helpful. I was in an electrical store the other week and the gum-chewing staff were so disinterested in my query, that I thought, "Well, if you don't want my money, you won't get my money", and went and spent my cash elsewhere.

What car do you drive and how much does it cost to fill up the petrol tank?

Living in London with its brilliant public transport I don't need to drive, so I have no car!

What was your first job and salary?

I worked part-time in Tesco when I was at college, but that was so long ago I have no idea how much I earned.

What would you like to achieve in work this year?

I'm looking to move away from monthly comic strips and into children's books. The tight monthly deadlines are very stressful and working on a longer narrative with longer deadlines seems very appealing to me at the moment.

Do you have any family connection with business?

My dad ran his own kitchen furniture business a few years ago. He's very business minded and hard working, and he always tried to instill good work ethics into me and my sister as we grew up and entered the real world post-education. He always seems to be working 24 hours a day and I certainly feel like that side of things has rubbed off onto me.

Which businessman or woman do you most admire?

I admire the tenacity of fellow hard-working cartoonists / illustrators who seem to be very driven and work on multiple projects through the toughest deadlines. These include Jamie Smart, a fellow DC Thomson creator who works on The Dandy, and Sarah MacIntyre, my fellow studio-mate who knocks out best-selling children's books time after time.

What was your best investment?

The stg£1,300 on my Apple G5 back in 2005, plus the £400 for Photoshop. That computer blew up, so I bought a MacBook for £800 in December. I could never be without a computer or Photoshop.

What's the biggest financial mistake you ever made?

I'm not a great risk-taker financially. Separating from my wife cost me dearly though, as I had half a mortgage to pay on top of rent. It left me stg£6,000 in debt.

Do you know what interest rate you're paying on your mortgage?

When I had a mortgage six months ago, I know it was very low. But now I rent, so I'm mortgage free!

Have you switched your bank or moved your mortgage in the last couple of years?

Nope. Been with my bank for 25 years.

If you won the Euromillions jackpot, what would you do with the money?

Buy a lovely house in a posh part of London, give up my regular work and write and draw crazy books at my leisure.

What have you got in your wallet today?

£3.00 and receipts from restaurants and comic shops.

If you could design your own euro note, whose face would you put on it?

Stephen Fry. National treasure who talks with great intelligence and sense.

What would you spend more money on each year. Petrol or restaurants?

Deffo restaurants. Even if I drove.

Have you ever been overcharged by a bank?

Yep, and they paid me back! Woohoo! I didn't even ask, which made it sweeter.

Have you ever made an insurance claim?

Someone nicked my bike when I was at college. The hundred quid I got back in insurance went on food and drink (times were hard).

How much is a bag of chips?

£1.20. I know this too well...

Illustrator Gary Northfield, who draws the 'Derek the Sheep' strip in The Beano, and also does cartoons in Beanomax and National Geographic Kids, is currently taking part in the Children's Book Festival. The festival, which kicked off last Friday, runs until the end of the month. There's more info at www.childrensbooksireland.ie

Sunday Independent