Find out more about Colin Thompson

Celebrate everything weird and whacky

Have you discovered the curious world of Colin Thompson?

Arguably one of the world’s most famous puzzle artists, Colin Thompson’s illustrations of his weird, whacky and wonderful world have been favourites in our range since 2009.

Colin has had a successful career as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. His bizarre illustrations are perfect for puzzling and at Ravensburger we love seeing what strange world he has imagined for our puzzlers. Each illustration is packed with colourful details and quirky humour. For example, the titles within Bizarre Bookshop – Tizer with Rosie, Gone with the Wine and Lord of the Pies.

Celebrate Colin Thompson by puzzling one of his creations from the Bizarre Bookshop, Amazing Alphabet to Flying Home. Be fascinated by his secret details and engrossed by the hidden worlds in each of his puzzles.

Who is the man behind the whacky?

Born in London in 1942, Colin has lived in a variety of locations, including Mallorca, Great Bernera (in The Outer Hebrides), and for more than 25 years in a 300-year old farmhouse near Hadrian’s Wall. In 1995 he moved to Australia where he now lives with his wife, two dogs and three ducks in a beautiful valley called The Promised Land.

Best known as a writer and illustrator of children’s books, Colin’s first book was published in 1991, and he has had over 70 books published across the world since then. Colin’s illustrations are full of fun, intrigue and parody, and are packed with objects and events, designed to keep you interested as you search through the puzzle pieces!

Meet the Jigsaw Goddess

For every adult puzzle developed at our British Ravensburger HQ there is one person who is responsible for this process; our Product Manager for adult puzzles is Sarah Stevens. Sarah has been working at Ravensburger for 35 years and her wealth of knowledge and expertise in the industry is incredible. Sarah must consider what makes a puzzle interesting for puzzlers and she is always on the lookout for something unusual and different.

Our Jigsaw Goddess, as named by Colin himself, works with Colin on every illustration for Ravensburger to develop the perfect image to puzzle. The first of Colin’s designs to be added to our range was ‘The Bizarre Bookshop’ in 2009, so next year Sarah would have been working with him for 10 years!

Sarah explains that each of Colin’s designs has ‘a unique style that works for puzzles – and they make me smile’. It would be difficult not to smile at the curiosities included in his fabulous illustrations. When Bizarre Bookshop was introduced to our range it was so different to anything puzzle manufacturers had done before, it remains a Colin Thompson classic, almost ten years later.

Colin’s illustrations continue to offer puzzlers escapism to a bizarre and wonderful world. He is constantly creating different concepts which fascinate us. One of Sarah’s favourite puzzles to work with Colin on was the Shaped Lighthouse. This needed to be designed to fit an existing puzzle cutter; ‘That might have restricted some artists, but not Colin. He loved the challenge and produced a wonderful design’.

Asking Sarah what her favourite Colin Thompson design is she explains it is the Awesome Alphabet; ‘amazing detail and Colin’s written introductions to each design are brilliant’. So far in the range we have Awesome Alphabet ‘A’ and Awesome Alphabet ‘B’, for next year we have Amazing Alphabet ‘C,D’; these puzzles are packed full of illustrations beginning with the retrospective letters.

Have you ever noticed the glimpses of different worlds in Colin’s puzzles?

What hidden details can you spot?

Interview with the author and illustrator Colin Thompson

You are working as a writer and as an illustrator. What do you love more? Writing or drawing?

This is a very difficult question because both of them are the best. Although I did not start writing until I was over forty-five and I have drawn pictures since before I started school when I was four, I think of myself as an author who also does pictures. They both use completely different parts of your brain. So one day I want to write and the next day I want to draw all day. Some days I jump backwards and forwards a lot and do both.

When did you start drawing? Did your studies have an impact on your remarkable way to draw? And if yes, how?

I think almost my earliest memory is drawing pictures when I was very young. I did not enjoy school or any formal studies and I think most of my education was a complete waste of time and money. Here I am in July 1947 being an artist!

Where do you get your ideas from? Does your everyday life also influence your work as an artist?

Anywhere and everywhere. The smallest little thing can end up being a whole book.

Your career as a writer and illustrator began quite late in your life. How did you feel when you suddenly became famous for your work and received awards? And how do you feel today making so many happy with your work?

Naturally I am very happy that a lot of people like my writing and illustrating and I suppose if they didn’t, I would have to do something else to make a living. So many people spend their lives having to do work they hate and I feel very lucky that my work is something that I really want to do.

Your illustrations are drawn with lots of attention to detail. How long do you work on an average illustration? Are there illustrations that are easier and quicker to draw and others that are troubling you from time to time?

I work on lots of things at the same time. For example right now I am working on five jigsaw pictures, two picture books which I am writing and illustrating, one picture book I am writing, but someone else will illustrate and I am writing the first of a series of three children’s novels. On top of all these things which will all be completed and published, I have other projects that I may never finish or which I might take bits of to use in something else. My ‘bookshelf’ picture took about six weeks with very few other things going on at the same time. That picture was originally a double page spread in a picture book called How To Live Forever Since then I have written a novel with the same title based on the picture book story. Also, I am working with a young filmmaker who wants to turn it into a movie. I have written a series of 13 children’s novels called The Floods which is about witches and wizards, but different from all the other books about witches and wizards because mine is FUNNY!! This as also being made into a movie. In my 20’s I studies film-making in London and won two awards. I worked in Television for a while, but then ran away to Mallorca. I went back to England with my very pregnant second wife and we moved to the Outer Hebrides for seven years and learnt how to make ceramics.

When do you realise that your piece of art is finished? And how? With so many details I could imagine that you can go on forever.

Yes, it can be difficult to stop sometimes!!

The Bookshelf“ is one of your most popular puzzle illustrations, it even was published as an 18.000 pieces puzzle. In the bookshelf filled with many books you can find well- known book titles that you funnily re-named.“Gone with the wind“ has become „Gone with the wine“ and „Lord of the flies“ is now „Lord of the pies“. How did you choose the book titles and why? And what's it all about?

When I was doing that illustration for my picture book How To Live Forever, my youngest daughter Alice who was a teenager at the time ( she now has 2 children) and I sat down one afternoon and wrote down all the famous books we could think of, then we worked out all the puns we could think of including some very rude ones that I couldn’t use, but were very funny.

Also some other illustrations such as „The Craft Cupboard“ or „The Gardener's Cupboard“ take place in a shelf where people can find exciting things that are painted in every detail. Are shelves fascinating you? And why? How did you get the idea of creating many different shelves with different subjects?

Shelves are a great way of putting lots of things into one picture with lots of fine detail.

In January 2018 one of your latest works “Too loud“ will be published, also taking place in a shelf. What is the idea behind this illustration? How can we imagine a shelf that is too loud? What are the basic elements of a shelf being too loud?

I actually drew this picture in 1998 for my picture book The Paradise Garden (also published in Germany by Altberliner as Paradiesgarten. So although it is my latest puzzle the picture was drawn before a lot of my other puzzles

Which of your many works do you like most? Why? Retrospective, which motif did you enjoy most working on?

My favourite and most successful picture book is How To Live Forever and my favourite novel is also How To Live Forever, thought the book I am most proud of my autobiography Fitting In. It is NOT a children’s book, but is the best thing I have ever written

You are colour-blind. What are the symptoms of your illness? Does it affect your work? And if yes, how?

I also have Asperger's and like colour-blindness it is NOT an illness. They are both just a different way of seeing things. Apparently I am red-green colourblind. My daughter Hannah is also colour-blind in the same way which is quite rare in women AND she has TWO university degrees in graphic design. it has NEVER been a problem for me, thought it does mean I could never have been a policeman or a pilot both of which are careers where you can get killed.

Follow Joe & Charlotte's Puzzle Journey

An exclusive insight!

On our Puzzle Club Blog this month you will find a detailed and personal account of a couple who spent more than 18 months completing the Colin Thompson 18,000 piece puzzle together.

Click to find out more about Joe & Charlotte's experience of completing the Colin Thompson 18,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. This in-depth and exclusive account reveals the motivation and determination it took to complete this enormous puzzle.

Congratulations Joe and Charlotte!
excl. tax, excl. Shipping Cost