A couple of weeks back I had the pleasure of dropping in to a signing session at a local bookshop. The author was Dorset writer Jenny Hunt, and the book was her A Year on Chesil Beach – A Sketchbook. I enjoyed chatting with Jenny and bought a copy of the book. It’s a thing of beauty (and of wonderful observation) before you read a word – a facsimile of an artist’s sketchbook printed on heavyweight paper and ring-bound. It is obviously a labour of love, and, since I live close to the Chesil beach and know it very well, it touched me to the heart.
It also fired up an idea that has been mulling away at the back of my mind for some time. Why not take the plunge and illustrate my own books?
Well, you may ask, are you any good at art, then? The answer is that I was quite good at it when I was younger, though I had only limited formal training. Having said that, I had only limited formal training at writing, too – and I’ve never let that stop me. And so I found myself, the other day, purchasing a set of fine point pens and rummaging in a cupboard in search of drawing paper and pencils and nervously asking myself what sort of effect I wanted to achieve.
The answer, as so often, was staring me in the face: the lovely Q (for quirky) that stands in the heading for this blog. The plant-inspired stories I want to illustrate are highly-stylised, intricate, semi-naturalistic and faux-medieval. My Q is in the style of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement – which is, er, highly-stylised, intricate, semi-naturalistic and faux-medieval – and also largely out of place in the modern, high-speed, throwaway world we live in. Perfect! That’s exactly why I like it.
The ideas began to germinate thick and fast, just like the medieval-style plant scrolls on Morris wallpaper. I have some intense research to do, and the work will be slow, painstaking and probably deeply unfashionable, if I can manage it at all. I don’t care. Will it be saleable? I don’t care. Will it even be printable? I still don’t care. It’s right for me, and hopefully I can produce something I love. Commercial considerations don’t come into it.
The first experimental drawing, based on one of my own plant photographs, is already taking shape. I just couldn’t wait to get started. So watch this space – I’m happy to share my experiments (successes or failures) with readers of this blog. I doubt I’ll manage to produce anything as beautiful as Jenny’s inspirational book, but it’s going to be fun trying. Life for me these days is not about being as good (or better) than anyone else, or selling things, it’s about the satisfaction of creativity. So here I go, it’s time for my own little artistic revival!
For information on A Year on Chesil Beach, see the website: http://www.archaeopteryx-imprint.co.uk/shop.php?product/page/117/A+Year+on+Chesil