For me, the beginnings of becoming an artist were seeded in the pages of the many books I read (and re-read) as a child, with the variety of illustrations offering a gateway in to other worlds and experiences. And so even though it is (mostly) animals that form the focus of much of my artwork, I think my style is best described as illustrative with more than a passing nod to the multitude of stories that have fed my imagination over the years.
As such, last year, I decided to actively pursue working in the arena of illustrating children’s books. Whether this would mean writing and illustrating a story myself or working for a publisher or getting an agent I didn’t know. So I began by entering a Europe-wide competition called Undiscovered Voices, which is best described on their website:
“Undiscovered Voices is an initiative by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) British Isles to help fresh, new voices in children’s literature – both writers and illustrators – find agents, publishers and ultimately readers”
There was an option of three briefs of which I chose the first –
“BRIEF 1: Re-imagine a scene from Kenneth Grahame’s classic, The Wind in the Willows. We are looking for a fresh, modern and lively take on this riverside favourite”
I opted to illustrate the moment when Mole enters The Wild Wood, a dark and foreboding place, when “Everything was very still now”. ..
In truth I thought it was a long-shot but that entering the competition would provide good experience and as well as some additional work for my portfolio. Then, in November, I got a phone call from the team informing me that I had been shortlisted to be included with 12 writers and 11 other illustrators in an Anthology that is distributed across the Children’s publishing industry. I was sent a copy to check which included some lovely comments from the panel of judges –
Although very dark and simply presented, this is an atmospheric and beautifully lit composition. The limited tones provide a wonderful dramatic tension and a great sense of the scale and mystery of the woods through soft and interesting mark-making.
My inclusion was to remain Top Secret until mid-January when it would be officially announced. Just before the announcement was made I, along with the others included in the Anthology, attended a workshop in London where we were presented with our own copy of the book as well as given many words of wisdom about pursuing a career in children’s books. We were also prepared for the official launch of the book which will take place in Covent Garden, London later this month, during which we will be introduced to publishers, art directors, agents and other folk from the industry.
As you can imagine it all still seems rather surreal, particularly given that I have moved house in the interim. But I have been working on my portfolio, ready to present at the launch, which accounts for my ongoing silence online. Thankfully my new nest is proving to be a lovely sanctuary for the quiet work of creating and imagining and plotting and I have been quite the hermit this past month. Still I am looking forward to spring and, not unlike Mole, emerging back into the world after this wondrous and rather unexpected experience for which I’m very grateful.