Tuesday, May 26, 2009

First Impressions

I often go to schools to talk about my career path, my lifelong obsession with drawing, writing and creating things, and the first book I show is the one I got as a child and was the first book I could read 'all by myself'. The Silver Thimble Storybook published by Blackie arrived to me via either the post or my older sister. We were living in Ghana, West Africa at the time, and I was six. Our big sister was at boarding school back in Devon (there being no secondary schools for her in Takoradi) and it was her duty at age twelve to buy supplies of things from Boots the Chemist and other luxuries hard to come by before she boarded the Lollipop Express- the plane the air force kids came home on for the 'hols'. So possibly it was she that bought me this book at the request of our mother.

That book became my personal benchmark for illustration success. I had no idea who Rie Cramer, the artist was or even that she was a woman. Or that she wrote under the pseudonym Marc Holman (and we still have to pretend we are men at times to get the book buying audience), or that she was born in Java and moved to the Netherlands at nine years of age, or that she designed stage sets, costumes and ceramics. All I knew was that if I could draw 'as good as that' when I grew up, I would be a happy girl. I copied the pictures faithfully, read and re-read The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina and the other treasures within. I wrote my own versions of the stories as you do when too young to think of anything much yourself. After all it is said that there are only five stories in the world and everything else is a variation of one of those themes...

So here I am forty something years later, with my very battered and well loved book- still trying to draw as well as Rie Cramer (her real name was Marie) a
nd come up with new stories. It pleases me that my first artistic inspiration in life was a woman who lent her hand to many creative pursuits and lived a fully expressed life because of that. And I am eternally grateful that my parents saw the value of flying precious books across continents to their children. We grew up reading- what a gift.

To all my fellow writers and illustrators out there and the publishers that deliver our work to children; may the arts continue to inspire generations. You just don't know whose future you will create.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Never stuck for ideas...

I had a busy few days last week with children and books.

On my Good Morning show spot I featured ‘Duck’s Stuck’, the hilariously simple finalist in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. Written by the very humorous Kyle Mewburn and illustrated by the awesomely talented duo Ali Teo and John O’Reilly, I wondered what on earth I could bring to the book that wasn’t there already. I opted, as you can see for interactivity. Nice little clippie beasts that serve very well as bookmarks, school notice pegs or hangers onto your little sister’s plaits (when she isn’t looking).

I tried these out with year 4&5 kids the next day at Mt Cook School with the G&T’s (gifted and talenteds) during a festival workshop. They LOVED them. They also loved the book as I read it out- genuine delight, so good to hear.

Many thanks to Ali and John for letting me rip off their great illustrations for this craft project, and may you and Kyle break literary legs on Wednesday night at the awards.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Gotta love those gals!

In lieu of a long observation on anything, here’s an advert for Dr Sketchy’s anti art school at Mighty Mighty this Saturday. I’ll be there, paper and pastels in hand. Last time I won a prize for the best drawing on a hard boiled egg! It was an Easter theme and tested everyone’s creative abilities on a smooth oval surface. The fabulous model for these drawings was the very cute Ponie Ryder- some 2 minute gestural drawings and a longer study in pastels below.

Afterword: Went to Dr Sketchy's yesterday and was greatly entertained by 'The One Night Stands' who sang and danced and were cheeky as, in their great retro outfits. These gals are fabulous and wow, can they sing! Thrillingly I won model's choice for my pastel portrait- not pictured here as I gave it to the lovely Emmy who posed for it. This got me a $50 for Chow where I intend to spend it on their delicious food sometime soon!