An amazing story from one of our Illustrating Children’s books students Jacqui……..
A few years ago I was lucky to be given the London Art College Illustrating Children’s Books course by a good friend. I love working through the course, even if I have been ridiculously slow at it. Yet seeing everyone else’s work on the forum was inspiring and also daunting. As much as it is something I have always wanted to do I could almost feel my dream fading daily. With three small children finding the time always seemed impossible; my head is full of ideas but barely get a chance to put them down on paper!
Instead of concentrating on my course work, and feeling overwhelmed, I started to find just five minutes each day to doodle. It was incredibly therapeutic! A year ago a lady I hadn’t met before saw me drawing and loved what I was doing. She said I should open a Facebook page for my art. So I did. Not for selling but just so I could play around with my art (never having tried different mediums before) and share the results…good and bad, to receive feedback.
One of my old singer/songwriter neighbours liked what he saw and asked me to draw his album artwork for him. Which was a real pleasure to do. One of our other old neighbours, another singer/songwriter saw the album cover and said she wanted to talk to me…
Katherine Crowe has been an inspiration to so many people over the past year or so. She has terminal breast cancer, and is allergic to the usual treatment, having suffered anaphylactic shock twice from trying chemo. And so is trying to find an alternative treatment to help. She says she is ‘ten months past her dead date’ and yet still manages to produce records that make it into the top ten of the singer/songwriter download charts on iTunes, and, this is where I come in, get a children’s book published in record time!
At the beginning of the summer holidays Katherine came to see me with a story she had written when her children were little. It was a dream of hers to see it published and said she had looked for an illustrator in the past but couldn’t really find what she was looking for. Since then her 10 year old daughter, Becky, drew her interpretation of Denzil the Mouse. Katherine asked me if I would be interested in illustrating her book for her! Absolutely, I agreed nervously.
It was an incredible, and fast!, journey. With Becky’s drawings there was no need for us to work on developing Denzil; I just needed to do all the illustrations. I was a graphic designer in a previous, pre-children life, so Katherine also asked if I could bring the book together too.
Now, having never illustrated a children’s book before (nor having completed my course!) I had to learn all about the layout, expectations, illustrate it and get it ready for the printer. During the summer holidays I had three children at home, and one growing quickly inside me. It took a couple of weeks to agree how to illustrate Denzil – pencils, pastels or watercolour. Using Katherine’s story I laid it all out (in InDesign) and worked out where Becky’s pictures fitted and what was missing. Then I drew full size pencil mock ups to show Katherine.
Thankfully she loved them, and was excited to see Denzil finally coming to life. At the end of the summer holidays, Katherine ended up in hospital again, and it scared me into making sure we got the book finished, quickly.
For three weeks, just as the holidays ended and I needed to start school runs, and after school activities again, I worked hard on Denzil. It was quite tough at times; the baby was getting bigger and was kicking the drawing board just as I was trying to paint; I wasn’t spending much time with the kids or my husband, yet it was all worth it. My children would look at it and say “Wow Mummy, they look amazing!”
It felt like, in the end, that we managed to create a book in just three weeks. I had to get all the pages ready for the printer too, and we still had to get the ISBN number. To see her book published Katherine funded the first publishing run herself, having set up ‘Rabbit is Strong’ publishing. Somehow she managed to sweet talk the powers that be into getting the ISBN numbers to us within 24 hours, and then everything went into the printers hands.
Denzil the Mouse was published last week with a book launch, and signing, in Waterstones in the Isle of Man last Saturday. I have yet to see a copy but the feedback I’ve had is that it’s great and all the kids love it.
Sadly Katherine has been in hospital again, but is still fighting back. She’s a strong, fighting lady, who gets things done! It was a real privilege to illustrate her book for her, not only making one of her dreams come true, but also one of mine. She has another book for me to look at too, which is more exciting…now we know what to expect!
Look for Denzil the Mouse online, you can view the official Facebook page >> , The official Website >> he’s available to buy on Amazon, or through shop to shop transfer with Waterstones, from the Isle of Man store.