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.

Monday, August 9, 2010

We have lift off!

My dear, dear Lightbox blog. You have been neglected due to me working at the ACTUAL Lightbox. I shall appologise profusely, pull you up an armchair, pour you a cup of tea and bring you up to date pronto.

Well, as you well know, the 7th was the grand opening to 'Escape to Wonderland'. Of course, me being me, come the 7th, I was still plucking and tucking at my installation gone 10am (the doors opened at 10.30).

The weary curator’s moan of, 'Oh no, not more stuff!' as I’d arrived through the door was slightly disconcerting, but as time ticked on, I wasn’t quite so worried; mainly due to fact that he, Michael, and the lovely Lynne (of the non-Chapman variety) were also still frantically bashing away. It appeared they were punishing a new and misbehaving, self-build, Ikea table. It turned out that two of The Lightbox's finest, Sarah and Anthony, had popped out for a last minute sprint to buy the furniture the morning before and returned 11 HOURS later! After epic traffic chaos, and with jet-lag, DVT, and all the usual things you end up with from Ikea (an intolerance to meatballs, for example) they’d staggered in with tables in tow. Whatever it took, the tables WERE going to the ball!

Whilst the boyf also gallantly took up the cause, brandishing an alan key in earnest, I hurriedly planned and drew up a picture for a sort of pictorial visitors' book for the show... which, was to be photographed (along with myself) at 11am sharp by the press.... I *think* I produced something semi-presentable in the short time, and boyfriend now believes I should be able to finish a picture book per day 'or I'm obviously not really trying!'

By then, the place was populated by humans of all shapes and sizes. Kids were whizzing about like balls in a pinball machine. Adults were doing that 'I'm not really running in a gallery' speed walk after them- None of them quite managing to look ‘the austere grown-up’ when they too had spotted favorite characters from their own childhoods! And The Lightbox, being a fantastically airy building (and therefore pretty echo-ey), was sounding busy too. Something that oddly, was quite brilliant for calming the nerves. Perhaps because it was obvious everyone was having a great time.

One last important thing needed to be sorted out before the first workshop at 1pm. Sarah and my miracle-worker, Emma O'D from Hodder, dashed about with me sticking up pictures of Lively Elizabeth characters for the children's treasure hunt. On our way, I got a quick squizz at the gallery as well.

In one room, I noted a coin operated life-size dog (I've made a mental note to go back and investigate that chap, for sure!) down a corridor, I saw a really interesting twisted-up sculpture (looking a little like someone's soul, I thought- and also to be examined in future), but of course what jumped out most at me was the work in the illustration exhibition. I still hadn't had a chance to look around the show properly, and much of the work hadn’t been up when I'd dashed off the night before. Some time over night, Chris Riddell, Maurice Sendak, and Wayne Anderson’s work had crept in. ‘Wow!’ Was all I could think, as we whizzed by some Oliver Jeffers’.

The press photographer arrived, and much gurning from me ensued. 3 amazing kids were hoiked out of the exhibition to pose as well, and they proceeded to look admirably interested, whilst the photographer snapped away and I pretended to be drawing for them. It was lovely to meet them. We also got to catch up later for my workshop and it was lovely to see some familiar grinning faces in the crowd.

Of course, due to the angle of the book in the photo’s, the picture I'd so fretted over that morning, isn't likely to feature, so I needn’t have rushed after all!

Next, we moved out into the gallery, to take photos with my work. My marvelous friend, Rachel, had helped put together my installation piece the day before. We'd spent the day getting it exactly right so that; I now got to sit on my chair, at my drawing board, next to my slippers and mug of tea... surrounded by members of the public, the Lightbox's PR crew, my Hodder people, another photographer, and... wasn't that my Mum back there...? I was at the point of yelling, 'this is not my room. THESE are not my toys!' Labyrinth-style, when Lively Elizabeth author, Mara Bergman, turned up. Having her about to bounce off of (and I've spoken before about what a relaxing influence she is) made the situation more normal somehow and whilst being snapped, we took the opportunity to have a quick chat about what was going to happen in the workshops…

...which both turned out to be fully-booked! The workshops were the bit I'd been losing sleep over, throughout the month. What if no one came? What if too many came? What if the activities I planned didn’t work? Because I'd organized the events myself, I was very conscious if it all went wrong, it'd be my fault. And Mara had come all this way. And this was to be the first time I was going to draw in public too! And, and and…!!!

I think people think, if you can draw, you can ALWAYS draw. What they don't know is there are days you can't draw to save your life. Your mind might be willing, but your hand's coordination has just packed up and gone on holiday. Normally, you ride it out, and hope things turn out better the day after. But, what if today was one of those days?!

As it turned out, both workshops went more smoothly than I could have hoped for. Mara read the story of Lively Elizabeth, and the kids loved joining in with her, yelling 'BOO!' and saying, 'SORRY!' We played a game of 'Elizabeth says' to get everyone moving, I drew for the kids (and no one laughed) and all the activity sheets Hodder had provided were excellent for allowing the kids to discover illustration a bit more for themselves. The children’s drawing activities also gave me time to talk to the kids individually. This was the best bit of the day for me. There was quite an age-range in the groups, and I loved seeing how differently they were handling stuff. From the tiny tots, that just got on with it and happily babbled at you, wandering seamlessly between topics, to the older kids that asked for advice on how to draw eyes or that seemed wracked with self-consciousness. I was quite choked up to see how much effort they'd all put into their drawings, and the results were stunning! I’m gutted I didn’t get more pictures of the event.

After sending them off after the workshops to do the aforementioned treasure hunt, I was surprised that even after an hour's search, kids were STILL up for looking for that one lost character! Eventually, having to be bribed with answers and marshmallows and peeled away from the place by tired parents.

I think, hearing news of how books aren't being read anymore, and how kids would rather be off doing other things, and locked up alone in my studio as I usually am, I'd almost begun to believe the reports. I knew what a momentous exhibition this would be to people like me; art students, illustrators, writers too. I knew it'd be an excellent teaching aid for local schools as well... But I didn’t think it would affect the general public, of all ages, on such a level as it did. My insides leapt to see, firsthand, the utter joy that it brought to everyone. The adults were engaged. But more importantly, the kids were too. I'm certain not one of them missed their T.V.'s that afternoon.

During a time when I think I've also been guilty of cynicism towards my own industry, I'm thankful to have been reminded of its' power to capture imagination. And I’m grateful to the strong imaginations and enthusiasm of the entire Lightbox team that make it possible to celebrate illustration on this scale. Not to mention for allowing me to be part of it.

We finished the day off; a collective and exhausted puddle on the comfy sofa's of The Lightbox's cafe. It'd been momentous- I'd worn a blimmin' dress, for goodness sake's! But the night was just getting going for The Lightbox, who were holding an enormous thank you party for all their amazing volunteer's. Worn out, we drained our glasses, said our goodbye's and left them to it, toddling off into the night.

…And I STILL haven't managed to see the exhibition yet!!!

Photo's supplied by Cassi. Please check out her fantastic account of the show here.

6 comments:

  1. Oh Cassia - that all sounds totally brilliant and such a success! Well done you. And now you must be all big grins of relief that it's all over and went down so well. It sounds a very interesting exhibition. I await your review...

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  2. Melanie WilliamsonAugust 11, 2010 at 2:34 AM

    WOW!!! Gobbsmacked lady! Sounds absolutely amazing..wish i could bob over and see. Big pat on the back + very well done, you must be pooped! xx

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  3. What a day! I was really glad to have chanced by and seen the finely oiled machine that is "Team Thomas" working beautifully! Next time I will also take the Cass class and brush up on my anatomy drawing too. Very well done to you... and now rest...ahhhhhhh.

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  4. Lynne, I'll have a proper look next week and report back.

    Mels, aw, thanks for stopping by, Lovely. Hope the book's going well?

    Matt, lol. I like 'Team Thomas!'

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  5. Fun blog-- lots of little bits here and there! ;)

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  6. thanks, Abz. Found your art really interesting too! Cool stuff.

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