May 8th, 2012

stratford-upon-avon and the killer book-reading swans

Last time I took part in Stratford Literary Festival, I drew a variation on their logo swan, so this year I took it one step further, and scribbled this in the cafe:

Every festival has its highlight, and this time it was getting to meet 7-year-old Sara Constantin, who had drawn a half-size facsimile version of You Can't Eat a Princess... just just scenes from, but THE ENTIRE BOOK!

There's something about copying work I admire that makes me really, really see it and understand what the artist was trying to do. I do that a lot when I go to art galleries, with great masterpieces. It's not about trying to 'rip off' Rembrandt or Hergé, or whoever it is - I'm not going to go away and sell my image and pretend its my own - it's about learning and exploring the way the artwork has been created, in utter detail, making my hand do the same lines and work out the same compositions. And when I'm doing it, I feel a sort of companionship with the artist, going over the same lines and shadows that they did, and thinking, Ah, now I see why you did that. So I got almost teary to see someone do the same, so extensively, with my own work. That Sara will know my book better than anyone! And it feels rather companionable.

Okay, humour me here, I'm going to show you the WHOLE BOOK because it's so amazing. Sara even drew the endpapers, which are four pages a lot of people would just skip over.

I was very impressed by seeing her work out the text placement on the page, and she spread the compositions fairly evenly over the pages, right to the edges, which takes some skill. (A lot of kids will draw everything very small in one section of the paper.)

If you're familiar with You Can't Eat a Princess!, written by Gillian Rogerson and illustrated by me, I think you'll get a kick from Sara's reinterpretation of it. Her characters look slightly different, but they also have their own graphic boldness and liveliness. I love them!

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a strange lull after the wild ruckus

I'm going to be away from the blog for a few days, but in the meantime, I wanted to pay tribute to the amazing picture storyman Maurice Sendak, who died today. He will be greatly missed; so many of us hoped he'd go on making books forever.

I was talking about copying in my last post, and I have a notebook somewhere of lots of Sendak pictures I carefully copied out of his books, particularly In the Night Kitchen, which I always found so strange and wonderful. When I was little, I wanted so badly to be able to build an airplane out of bread dough and fly off into the stars. I still do, really. I love the way Sendak didn't sugar-coat his characters or his stories, but still made them wonderfully appealing, creating marvelous worlds into which you felt you could step. And his drawn characters have a lovely bulkiness that I've always found very appealing. Goodbye, Mr Sendak, and thanks for all the amazing things you left behind. The wild ruckus won't end anytime soon.

A few housekeeping things: There's a lovely review of Morris the Mankiest Monster by a four-year-old in The Guardian here.

And while our Society of Authors Science Fiction event at Foyles, Worlds of Tomorrow has sold out, the people who run The Kitschies awards, Anne and Jared, are running a series of posts on their blog to coincide, getting different writers to talk about their favourite childhood SF favourite reads. Do drop by regularly to see what they're getting up to! (Their blog is called Pornokitsch, but I swear, the first part of the name has nothing to do with the content.)

Congratulations, new Irish Children's Laureate Niamh Sharkey! I've learned a lot from Niamh, too; her book The Gigantic Turnip was one of the first in my collection when I moved to the UK. I love the way she takes complicated figures and makes them more abstract and whimsical. I'm not at all surprised she's the new laureate, and Irish children have a lot to look forward to this year. You can follow her on Twitter as @sharkeytweets. Oo, and I notice she has the same Maurice Sendak book on her shelf as I do.

If you're anywhere near London, have you booked your tickets yet to the amazing comics festival that's happening soon at the French Institute? Check out the line-up, it's brilliant! I'm especially looking forward to meeting Guy Delisle for the first time; I even referred to his Shenzhen book on the fourth page of my own China travel comic here.