Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler on creating Claudia Winkleman’s festive Stylist cover

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For someone who spends a large part of her life in front of the camera, Claudia Winkleman has a bit of an aversion to having her photo taken. Instead, the Christmas-loving Strictly host wanted to be brought to life on the cover of Stylist by someone whose books she associates with the festive period: Axel Scheffler.

If the illustrator’s name isn’t familiar, his drawings will be. Together with writer Julia Donaldson, they have created Stick Man, The Highway Rat and The Gruffalo – the film of which came out on Christmas Day 2009 and was watched by 9.8 million people. 

Here, Scheffler tells us how he transported Claudia Winkleman into his festive world.

Why did you want to design our cover for Claudia’s issue?

I once enjoyed being a guest on Claudia’s radio show and know she is a great fan of my books with Julia Donaldson. I also know that she loves Christmas portraits or likenesses – and I don’t feel I did one this time! Luckily, Claudia’s distinctive long black hair and fringe helped a lot. I felt, I can draw that. 

Can you talk us through who appears on the cover? 

All the characters are from my books with Julia. There is obviously the Gruffalo, the Mouse, Stick Man, the Snail (from The Snail And The Whale, which will be on TV this Christmas – no whale, as it would have been too big) and my newest characters. Bill and Janet, with their purple baby, are aliens from our latest book, The Smeds And The Smoos, and on this cover they are visiting planet Earth. As the Smeds and the Smoos don’t celebrate Christmas on their planet, they wanted their baby to see what it was like. And, of course, there is Claudia wrapped up in a coat. 

Alec Scheffler illustrations for claudia winkeman guest edit of stylist
A very festive scene of familiar faces from Axel Scheffler

Which character that you’ve drawn during your career means the most?

I don’t really have a favourite. There are so many. As Julia says, “It’s like having children and you (should) love them all equally.”

Are you a Strictly fan?

I don’t know, as I have never watched it. Maybe I would be. I don’t watch much television to be honest.

What do you want for Christmas?

Article 50 revoked. Or better still, the clocks turned back to 2015 – or even 1815 – so that global warming could have been avoided altogether (they’re not so realistic, my wishes).

Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson’s latest book, The Smeds And The Smoos (£12.99, Alison Green Books), is out now; The Snail And The Whale will be on BBC One on Christmas Day.

Image: The Times/ News Syndication

Artwork by Axel Scheffler. Characters copyright © Julia Donaldson and A. Scheffler Ltd 2019. Books published by Alison Green Books (AGB) and Macmillan Children’s Books (MCB). Clockwise: The Gruffalo (MCB), Stick Man (AGB), Zog (AGB), Janet and Bill The Smeds and the Smoos (AGB), The Snail The Snail and the Whale (MCB) and Mouse The Gruffalo (MCB).

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Tom Gormer

Photography and Specials Director, Tom Gormer loves a 'picky bits' dinner and thinks Gavin and Stacey is better than Friends. He has a whippet called Rex who is quite (very) needy.

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