This week I’ve been working on Naomi Hunter‘s new book. If you know her first picture book you’ll know that she doesn’t shy away from tackling the big issues. This one is about parenting and depression. Which sounds very sad, but it’s a book full of hope. It’s beautifully written and I really hope the pictures do it justice.
Depression and mental health are uncomfortable issues to discuss in relation to parenting. My oldest is nearly 15, so I’ve been to many playgroup sessions week after week and school mothers nights out. Predictably there’s always a lot of talk about mile-stones and achievements. The one thing you can count on not hearing is ‘Do you know what? I’m not having such a great time of things’. Parents can’t talk about not coping. It would be like admitting failure. And when you live in a gorgeous suburb by the sea, with a nice house, good jobs and healthy children….well failing to be anything but joyful and grateful is frankly not on!
Picture books often tackle the big issues. Here are some of my favourites:
Sometimes it’s really great to just empty your head and draw. I watched a little video of Shaun Tan talking about how he approaches starting a book. He said most of the time it starts with a bunch of drawings that seemingly come from nowhere. Here’s the result of my drawing daydream.
I thought I’d try to start the day with a random sketch. I went for a particularly blowy walk on the beach this morning. The dogs had heaps of fun….I was going to say they had a ball but realised they are dogs and that could be misunderstood. They’re not intelligent enough for a ball, they prefer to bark at the waves very stupidly.
Whenever you read or listen to advise from wise old artists and designers who have ‘made it’, top of the list is “Know what you’re worth”. That is; don’t sell yourself down, quote what you think your work is worth and never ever ever work for nothing. I totally agree with this to some point. When I did my second paid job as an illustrator I was sold the ‘big opportunity’ line and I did the job for peanuts. It was a physically painful experience. The client was rude and pushy and the project was ludicrous. So I learnt from that experience. However, lately I’ve found myself in the position of having a couple of long deadlines. It’s probably a good thing as I can really get into experimenting with different styles to get the next books just right. But, I’m finding myself watching the in-box a bit. I like having deadlines that are screaming at me to be finished.
A while ago a dear friend spoke to me about the possibility of doing some work for a book she’s writing. It’s a project I think is really worthwhile but the budget is uncertain. Now I have a bit of time to fiddle about with some ideas I am finding it really liberating. I’m enjoying the creative freedom but I’m approaching it in the same professional way I do with any project because it’s important to me to do a good job for my friend.
That said if anyone does write to me out of the blue stating they have a fantastic book that they’d like me to illustrate for nothing because the publishers are bound to accept it straight away! (It happened again this week) I’ll be hitting delete and taking the dogs for a walk on the beach.
I’m enjoying some experimenting with new inks, gold ink! What a joy. Also,, I went to life-drawing for the first time in years and years. An old friend told me it’s like creative yoga, so I finally went and enjoyed every moment. My attempts to get out and draw in public every Tuesday really died so this will lived up my ‘Tuesdays’ tab. I’ll wait a few weeks though. The winter school hols are almost upon us so I can’t go again for a couple of weeks.
I am loving being at the creative stage of a new book. Testing out the characters, gestures and colours. This one is a lot of fun. I don’t know what happened in the uploading but these colours are totally wrong. She’s a cute little character though.