Welcome to my new blog; where you'll be able to follow my journey being part of The Lightbox Gallery's, new children's book retrospective, Escape To Wonderland. 7 Aug-2 Jan '11. Please feel free to leave comments and ask questions. Prints of my work will be made available. And you can also book me for workshops and talks.
Those of you who are regular readers of my non-lightbox blog will know that several times a year, I get my sketchbook out on a train and attempt to be Lynne Chapman. So, far, no success!
Lynne's RIDICULOUSLY good at being a proper, grown-up artist. She doesn't only carry a sketch book at all times, but she actually uses it- to great effect. This is something I should do far more often. I tend to only remember sketch pads for train journeys, but there's something very unique about train journeys that inspires me, and I usually end up storyboarding new book ideas and doodling odd characters rather than actually sketching.
Anyway, I went by train to a very exciting meeting with Sarah and Marilyn from The Lightbox, to discuss the possibility of doing another project with them. This would be HUGELY thrilling. I would get to work long term with Woking schools on an area I love- children's books! I would get to show kids how books were made, show them how work came together in real time, and help them to create work too. What could be better?! However, it was quite nerve-wracking attempting to pitch something like this as I've never done anything like it, and I really want it to work out. I have plenty of ideas about what I'd like to do if I get the opportunity; loads of lovely workshops and competitions etc. for a start! However forming this mush of a plan into a coherant enough state to tell other people about was tricky. Therefore, after the meeting my brain was quite drained of potential half-stories and characters. On the train, on the way back, I decided to take outside influence for once.
So, here's the chap who was sat opposite me in the carriage. He was the most terrible fidget. I think it was because he was trying to read a hardback, and it looked horribly heavy. He kept swapping the book from one hand to another. I was tempted to ask the person next to him to hold it for him! Bad, bad, model!
I shall let you know how I get on with things at The Lightbox, and in the mean time; go book your place on my George and Ghost events, and pre-order the book! Yay!
I've been merrily bumbling about with this new book. Despite the fact I'm writing it, and theoretically have control of the thing, I seem to be having more problems being decisive than with the others. Perhaps it's BECAUSE I'm writing it, I'm having the difficulties.
It's been a very 'stoppy-starty' project, which hasn't helped focus my thoughts- I started working with my Pooshnoozle character whilst on my MA, but a veritable plethora of obstacles have meant it's only been recently that I've started working on it again seriously.
On one hand, I know the book will be a far more well-rounded project now than it would have been had I gone straight into working on it from my course. I think I understand picture books better now, and I think the story is more solid. On the other hand, I've built up my expectations of it and freaked myself out a little. I thought working with an outside author was stressful- you're always worried as to whether you're living up to their expectations. However I forgot what a terrible meanie I can be to work for! I beat myself up daily!
I don't expect the pieces here will look anything like the finished book- at least I hope not, since they're sort of all over the place... They're more an initial train of thought, really; A starting point. You can see the main thing I'm trying to solve is background versus foreground.
My natural instinct is to always create a mega detailed piece of work. With Ollie and Pooshnoozle, it's very important though that the characters aren't competed with too much. The story is very character-centric, and the emotional interaction between the two is the priority. BUT, I do want bits of intense detail... afterall, that's what I love drawing. Balancing the two issues perfectly is going to take some more work, I think.
Regardless of how successful (or unsuccessful) these pieces are, how much I mentally slap myself upside the head, and how far I've got to go, I'm loving every minute of these types of problem. It's quite rarely that I can allow myself the time to properly work through something, and I'm really, really up for this! Afterall, this is the most exciting stage of a project. It is pretty terrifying, but the possibilities as to what this book could be are completely open to me; even more so than with 'Lively Elizabeth', and 'George and Ghost' because it is completely mine... Cripes!
It's Banned Books Week; a week in aid of highlighting the ubiquitous and ignorant censorship of books.
These are books that contain; sex, drugs, weaponry, homosexuality, genitalia Etc.- even in an educational context. But the banned list also includes; Sausages, sandwiches, hedgehogs, double-decker buses (American children won't know what they are, so better not include them rather than arouse curiosity) nipples (even on a gorilla- see Lynne Chapman's blog) and facial expressions (it's prefered a picture book gives out unrealistic or mixed-messages than shows anyone angry, sad or scared), anything occult (Bye, bye, Harry!) danger (pots on stoves, children anywhere near stoves... in fact, we know it's a kitchen and the book's about cooking, but perhaps we could leave the stove out altogether...?!)
Some of you may have read about this in UK press. Articles such as this BBC report are well-meaning but completely misinformed when they say 'There is a battle being fought in America over books.' I see you all reading that and looking slightly smug. If I didn't know better, I would be too.
Here, Anne Rooney's brilliant article highlights how this oversea's battle affects UK authors/illustrators and every single UK child. We may not think we're censoring our children's reading over here, but by Golly we are. And the decision to censor has been made long before teachers or parents have even caught a whiff of the books.
As well as slowly maiming our authors and illustrators imagination, I believe this level of taboo limits a child's opportunities to imagine and question. As Albert Einstein said,
"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education."
He also said,
"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."
So, take a look here for Banned Book event idea's. You'll never know all the ways that the picture books on UK shelves have been altered/neutered (!) in order to be released, but to show your solidarity, simply have a read of some of the banned fiction texts. You can find a few of them here. 'James and the Giant Peach,' anyone?
The Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen Artists who've influenced you and will ALWAYS STICK WITH YOU. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what artists my friends choose..."
1. Egon Schiele 2. Stasys Eidrigevicius 3. Eric Fortune 4. Heath Robinson 5. Peter Cross... 6. Rackham 7. Tenniel 8. Ronald Searle 9. Chris Riddell 10. kathe kollwitz 11. Maurice Sendak 12. Egon Schiele (again!) The man was a genius. 13. Dave McKean
Ooh, surprisingly, getting really stuck now...
14. Brian Froud 15. Wayne Anderson
The picture I've used is a piece by William Heath Robinson. An exhibition of his work will run concurrently alongside Escape To Wonderland at The Lightbox, from December. His work was obviously made for print, however I've seen it in the flesh before, and it really is an experience not to be missed. There's a subtlety to his work that comes to life and starts to walk off the page. I can't wait.
Besides Heath Robinson, there are 5 other artists from my list exhibited at Escape To Wonderland. I'll let you find out which ones they are- I'm hoping The Lightbox might work it's way through my other 9 artists over time!!!