As part of my MA Children's Illustration practice, I wanted to produce a book which would fit into the bracket of picture books. Initially, I was drawn to a story about the night and its quirks: the silence, the stillness and nature in its uneventfulness. I added a few characters in the mix - thinking this would animate the story a bit - however, I soon realised that my heart was more in the setting rather than the action. The initial sketches all featured a hedgehog, a heron, a badger and a hare. In the embryonic state of the story, the hedgehog (in its sheer curious nature) sets off to find out where the light goes at night; soon, he/she comes across a blackbird, a heron, a badger and a hare - all looking for the same elusive source of light. The story, strewn with dialogue and surreal scenes of flying through the marshes, over the fields and a 'black Earth' draws inspiration from the typical night-time visuals of the generic English countryside; think sounds and smells of the moors and the fields. The typical animals present in this sort of environment play a role in leading the narrative, but it is the nature-themed Haiku interludes which create a sonic picture. The story and the Haiku interludes are all my own writing, or rather, my own decision to randomly mix words written on pieces of paper and allowing them to sit by each other's side, making up sequences and sentences; a bit Kate Bush-meets-David Bowie, as one of the academics dubbed it!
As time passed and the images and the story developed on their own, my primary research alongside all this made me realise that there was a small proportion of books which offered a meditative, journey-like experience and as a result, I decided to tackle this gap through honing the story in a direction which aimed to revel in its own stillness, rather than worrying about a story with a clear ending. This is what 'Story about Light' turned out to be: meditation through images and poetry; a mix of nature and nocturnal animals, on a journey with no aim or conclusion. The key areas of research (to be transparent) have been mainly Japanese Haiku and pen and ink illustration (inspired by the wood engravings of the likes of Joan Hassall or Gwen Raverat). My preferred medium oscillated between watercolour and pastel, but if the book had a predominant medium, that would certainly be concentrated watercolour. Some editing occurred in Adobe Sketch on the iPad pro, but the final spreads are 99% scanned analogue work.
All in all, with this book, I wanted to blur the line between children’s picture books and visual books which serve a purpose of meditation through imagery. I have included a selection of spreads below...
Thanks to T Snape in Preston for printing and binding. Top quality.