Friday, 17 May 2013

Thank you, Ruth and Bob

Last Wednesday, the Wellington Children's Book Association held an Illustrators' Panel Discussion  featuring Ruth Paul and Bob Kerr. I am in awe of anyone who can write picture books, and doubly in awe of anyone who can both write and illustrate them (like Ruth and Bob).

Ruth gave a talk about the talent myth ("there's hope for all of us!") and her own path towards being a children book illustrator, peppered with wonderful quotes such as "talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There's plenty of movement, but you never know if it's going to be forward, backwards, or sideways" (H. Jackson Brown.) We all learnt more than we knew before about myelin and its role in helping us develop new skills, based on plenty of practice. Ruth also showed us some amazing photographs taken at the week-long illustrators' masterclass she recently attended at Amherst, Boston, where she worked on the drawings for the wee dog in Bad Dog Flash.

Then Bob took us through three of his favourite time-lapse titles, to show how well picture books can capture and express the passing of time. He described these books as "the best app for moving through time - you just turn the page, and there's another decade."

First: Steve Noon's A street through time, that covers 12,000 years, from the Stone Age to modern times:

Next, Virginia Lee Burton's classic The little house

And lastly, Jeannie Baker's Window.

Under Bob's guidance, I'm sure we all noticed things about these three books that we'd never appreciated before. Bob also generously shared with us some of his thoughts and ideas about the project he is currently working on.

Lots of questions afterwards: What was your motivation for becoming a children's book illustrator? How do you keep learning? Do you draw for fun? Do you think all ideas are good ones? (Bob: "some ideas just float away; others won't go away"; Ruth: "your eyes gets better, so you can tell a better idea from a worse one more quickly.")

And Ann Mallinson summed up the general feeling at the end: "Children's picture book writers and illustrators are heroes!" So special thanks to these two local heroes for sharing so much of their knowledge and expertise with us.




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