I thought I’d write a little about how I like to work, and about the things that interest me in terms of the kinds of pictures and stories I most like to make.
In this age of digitally enhanced art I like pictures that look homemade – where you can see the pencil lines, the scribbles and the raw materials that have gone into making them.
When I was little the artists I liked most were the ones where you could look at a picture by them and almost see how they’d made it – see that that bit was done with a crayon, or that bit with watercolour, or a ripped piece of paper. I liked artists who used the same materials I had at home, and didn’t disguise or hide the fact, but showed it off. Their skill lay in their ability to turn all their talent and technical expertise into pictures that felt deceptively simple and homemade.
Pictures like that made me think ‘Hey, I’ve got crayons like that in my drawer! I could have a go.’
Reading picture stories became more than just a passive experience that involved looking at something I could never do or even understand how it had been done. They inspired me to want to have a go myself.
I think that such a level of engagement is something you only get when you’re looking at pictures that are made with things you can recognise. I found it frustrating when artists used materials and techniques and equipment that were clearly way above anything I could get hold of – it felt unfair. The pictures I loved were the ones that looked as though they could have been made using the contents of my own art box at home, and where it felt as though the artist was talking directly to me, on my level, and saying ‘Look at all the things we can do!’
Now I’m older I want to recreate that sense of excitement I got when I was little in my own pictures. I hope they look a little untamed and a little unrefined, because that’s how you draw when you’re little, and there’s an energy to it that can disappear once you ‘learn’ how to draw properly.
I want the pictures I do to feel accessible and recognisable, for people to be able to look at them and work out what was used to make this bit or that bit and to feel that perhaps they could have a go too.
I like stories that deal with that childhood logic whereby the world operates, or feels like it might operate, in a completely different way to the world of adults.
When you’re little, and there is so much to be learnt about everything, the gaps in your knowledge get filled in with all sorts of strange ideas and misconceptions – stories you hear, things you see and interpret in a certain way, things people tell you.
When you grow up a little you realise there’s a certain logic to the world and then you enter the grown up way of thinking. When that’s happened you can look back at some of the things you thought as a child and laugh at them.
But when you are a child, it’s completely different. You live in that world, and your childhood understanding of things – your imagination – is your reality.
Sometimes I think it can be a lot darker than we like to remember.
The objective reality that you slowly learn about as you grow up constantly collides with the childhood reality you have built up around you, like the moment you first learn the truth about Santa Claus, and suddenly you have to reassess everything you had previously understood to be real.
So I like stories where a childish understanding of the world spills out into reality and where reality is informed and coloured and influenced by an imagination that is just as real as reality itself, where the lines between the two are blurred or confused, in both good and bad ways – because imagination can work both ways – taking you from a world where the fantastical and brilliant are possible, to a world where the dark and the fearful lurk, each as real as the other. That’s what makes being little such a complicated and unusual and exciting time. Everything is so real.