Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Happy Birthday Amy!

It's my first granddaughter's third birthday today. Amy. Dear, round-headed, Amy.

For her present I wrote her a short story, least it started off as a short story but gradually extended itself to 6,000 words.

It was an interesting exercise.

A very particular audience. A story that I had in my head from start to finish. So it was simply a matter of describing what I could see in an appropriate way governed by a desire not to talk down or even at Amy.

So I included words that she might not understand.

I remember being read Peter Rabbit as a young child and adoring the word 'soporific' which appeared on the first page, as far as I remember. I had no idea what soporific meant but it sounded wonderful, then, once explained, sounded onomatopoeic.

I have never forgotten soporific.

I feel sleepy just repeating it.

My big problem has being to illustrate it. Children are difficult to characterise. I made many false starts. But yesterday, at lunch break, I walked past a gallery and saw a big crude, forceful painting of a child and thought "Ah ha!'.

I had found my style. OK, someone else's style. But now mine.

For I intensely dislike the simple reductionist style of Disney. Again, from my childhood, I remember the illustrations of Beatrix Potter, E. H. Shepard and John Tenniel.

They were illustrations that illustrated. For the function of an illustration, to my mind, is to add to, and not just act as literal translations of, the text.

What they heighten is the dark side of the story. They create an atmosphere, which, though inspired by the words, create a setting for the words.

They are pictures you can visit and revisit and always find something new.

My drawing is just of Mum and Amy, Amy peering up at the dizzying height of Brighton's Victorian station, without the background detail yet added. (I ought to add that Mum is very pregnant. Her second is due in mid-June. Otherwise she would, of course, be slim as a very slim pencil that has recently been on a diet.)

The problem I now face is colour. I am not a brilliant colourist. I might have to call on the talents of, Sue, a dear friend who has recently discovered she has a talent, a real talent, for watercolours.

Of course,some, the cruel among you, might say I am not a brilliant illustrator. But I like it.


Caroline said...

Happy Birthday Amy.

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Ah, self-deprecation, an endearing qwalitee, but I have to say that your illustrations are damn good.

And you'll understand, from my obsession with good (and against bad or lazy) metaphor, how I chuckled at your BlackAddery "thinner than a thin thing" pencil comparison.

Well done, mate!