Perhaps it’s a cliche that a parent should find themself thinking of writing a picture book once they have a child. There’s lots of lying around together, reading fantastic, heart-warming stories, and it’s not such a stretch of the imagination to think, hey, maybe I could have a go at a picture book.
I’ve played around with several ideas for picture books, and have a few stories in draft form (and one as a very tiny dummy book) but in each draft I’ve reached a point where I’ve become hopelessly stuck. So stuck that several of my picture book drafts have been untouched in 12 months. Not because I don’t believe in the stories, but because I’m not sure I can do them justice. Because not only do I want to write a picture book, I want to illustrate it too.
On a whim earlier this month, I enrolled in Children’s Book Illustration course at the CAE in Degraves Street, Melbourne. I had nothing to lose, I told myself, madly typing in my credit card details, except if it went completely pear shaped I could finally strike picture books off my lifelong list of things I want to have a go at. It’s not a very big list, but this particular item has been on there since I first began to read.
So I had a go.
We covered story boarding and page layout in week one, and in week two spent almost the whole day learning watercolour techniques. Although I’d describe myself as someone who can draw, I’ve always shied away from paint but that approach has kept me in black and white and sepia tones. Watercolour was an entirely new experience, and surprisingly liberating, relaxing and fun. It helped that I went in with no expectations whatsoever.
My Grandpa was an artist, and when he died 7 years ago he left his art books and materials – pencils, paints, palettes and paper – to me. When it came time to use his materials, to dip my brush into his paint and fill his 1940s water jar with water, I felt connected to him and to my Grandma, two people who I love and look up to even though they’re gone. Especially now they’re gone. What to do with these gifts they’ve given me?
I don’t know what tune this is, but my heart seems to know the words. Holding a brush, I felt happier and lighter than I have in a long time. I think I just found myself a hobby.
What did you get up to this weekend?