Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I often go to schools to talk about my career path, my lifelong obsession with drawing, writing and creating things, and the first book I show is the one I got as a child and was the first book I could read 'all by myself'. The Silver Thimble Storybook published by Blackie arrived to me via either the post or my older sister. We were living in Ghana, West Africa at the time, and I was six. Our big sister was at boarding school back in Devon (there being no secondary schools for her in Takoradi) and it was her duty at age twelve to buy supplies of things from Boots the Chemist and other luxuries hard to come by before she boarded the Lollipop Express- the plane the air force kids came home on for the 'hols'. So possibly it was she that bought me this book at the request of our mother.
That book became my personal benchmark for illustration success. I had no idea who Rie Cramer, the artist was or even that she was a woman. Or that she wrote under the pseudonym Marc Holman (and we still have to pretend we are men at times to get the book buying audience), or that she was born in Java and moved to the Netherlands at nine years of age, or that she designed stage sets, costumes and ceramics. All I knew was that if I could draw 'as good as that' when I grew up, I would be a happy girl. I copied the pictures faithfully, read and re-read The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina and the other treasures within. I wrote my own versions of the stories as you do when too young to think of anything much yourself. After all it is said that there are only five stories in the world and everything else is a variation of one of those themes...
So here I am forty something years later, with my very battered and well loved book- still trying to draw as well as Rie Cramer (her real name was Marie) and come up with new stories. It pleases me that my first artistic inspiration in life was a woman who lent her hand to many creative pursuits and lived a fully expressed life because of that. And I am eternally grateful that my parents saw the value of flying precious books across continents to their children. We grew up reading- what a gift.
To all my fellow writers and illustrators out there and the publishers that deliver our work to children; may the arts continue to inspire generations. You just don't know whose future you will create.