A couple of weeks ago I went on a one-day Writing Retreat led by poet and therapist Jenny Barton. It was a wonderful opportunity to think about what we need in order to write and what stops us from doing it (in my case I’ve spent years trying to find the time to draw and paint and am reluctant to use that time for anything else).
We also had time to sit quietly and write, without any pressure to share what we wrote, and I found myself writing a story unlike any I’d ever written before – maybe because I wasn’t thinking about the illustrations, or who would read it. Or about trying to make a Children’s Book that would have a certain number of pages.
One of the exercises that we did was called ‘Dangerous Writing’. Jenny asked us to sit and write for a short time, knowing that we would destroy what we wrote afterwards. It was like writing the Morning Pages that Julia Cameron recommends in her book The Artist’s Way, a practice that I rarely do these days with three bouncy kids around in the mornings. Jenny encouraged us to keep the words flowing, saying that if we got stuck we could just repeat the last sentence again…and again.
And after we’d all finished we destroyed our pages!
It was so helpful to me that I’ve continued to write in this way since then, once the kids are at school and I’m in my studio – tearing up the pages as soon as I’ve finished writing them. It clears my head for getting on with artwork or writing. This morning I lit a fire in my studio woodburner and burnt all those pages, along with some very old drawings – and it felt as if I was making more space for new things to happen
I made these this morning out of a Crayola modelling material that felt like a giant marshmallow. It was really soft and squidgy, much lighter than clay, and I LOVED making them. Next time I need a break from painting I think I’ll make a few more.
I was doodling some ducks recently when I noticed that the theme for #dailydoodle on twitter was Dancing Duck – so I drew this dainty duck, and gave her some music to dance to and a few flowers for good measure. Cutting the pieces out and sticking them down very quickly without thinking too much about it was fun, and a nice change from the way I usually work.
No matter how early I get up, there’s always something that turns our anticipated relaxing saunter down the road to school into a mad scramble of Lost Things, Urgent Needs and…Slugs.
Just before Easter I went to the Bologna Childrens’ Book Fair in Italy for the first time. I had heard it was huge but was still agog when I saw quite how huge it was….a vast bustling mass of publishers’ stands which didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason (until I found a map – the bus had dropped us off at a side door so I’d missed the official entrance with information about where things were).
Luckily one of the first stands that I stumbled across was Child’s Play, who I’d illustrated two books for a few years ago, and they pointed me in the direction of the main entrance.
When I got there I found the Illustrators’ wall, where illustrators can pin up postcards and business cards, and I put my own poster up. I’d heard that you needed to get there early if you wanted a good spot, and by 10.30am the only spaces left were near to the floor, which I didn’t really mind.
It all got a lot more crowded later – this was the first of the four days. What I hadn’t realised was that there were actually several Illustrators’ walls, not just one. It was interesting to see the variety in style between the posters.
I saw some really lovely work on the publishers’ stands, especially the Italian ones. Every time I go to Italy I marvel at books illustrated by artists like Anna Laura Cantone – so lively and colourful.
Lots of the publishers were showing mock ups of books that hadn’t been completed yet. My friend Rebecca Ashdown has done beautiful illustrations for this book, The Glump and The Peeble, written by Wendy Medour, to be published by Frances Lincoln….AND she hand-stitched this Peeble for good measure!
The exhibition of illustrators’ work was fantastic. I loved the work by this British illustrator, Maisie Shearing, who I’ve since heard won the International Award for Illustration for her project Susan’s School Days.
And I finished my trip with a few days in Siena, where I lived for a year as a student…one of my favourite places in the world.