by Claire Powell
I grew up as an only child and reading was one of my favourite things to do. I was fortunate that my parents read to me every night and enjoyed it as much, if not more, than I did and I have vivid memories of being snuggled up in bed, with my night light on, reading Enid Blyton on winter nights.
Alongside my love of reading was my love of drawing. Like many illustrators I have drawn from an early age. My dad turned the under-stairs cupboard into an art den and it’s where I could always be found, drawing and talking to my teddies, apparently! My parents supported my budding talent with art lessons, endless supplies of crayons and, as dad worked as a printer, endless supplies of paper too.
It was natural then, that I studied art foundation after my A-Levels. But a lack of decent career advice meant I would be told illustration wasn’t a viable career option and, if I wanted to pursue a career in the arts, graphic design was the only choice. Nonsense, but there you have it. So life took me down a different path and I wouldn’t draw again for almost 14 years. Instead, I studied graphic design at UCLAN in Preston, worked for several years as a print graphic designer before moving to London, studying an MA in TV design and landing a job re-branding television channels for a large design agency where I stayed for many years.
Throughout this period, I still read books. Lots of them! I loved going to the library and, in an effort to be disciplined, I would try to select just one book but, I would always leave with the maximum amount of nine.
One such book was Arthur and George by Julian Barnes. It’s a beautiful book. Based, for the most part, on a true story about a man called George Edalji, whose life is thrown into turmoil after a series of disturbing events lead him to be accused of a ruthless crime. In an attempt to unravel the mystery he finds himself in, George appeals to Britain’s most famous detective writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who sets out to clear George’s name.
I was captivated by this real-life story. So much so, that I spent the next four years making a hand-drawn, animated film about it, which I called The Scapegoat. I hadn’t drawn for 14 years. To say it was a challenge would be an understatement but the more I drew, the more I realised how much I had missed it. I felt I had found a long-lost friend, familiar, but with lots to catch up on.
A few months after I finished The Scapegoat, serendipity intervened because I saw, without trying, a picture book course advertised, run by the author/illustrator Claire Alexander. I signed up and during the first lesson I realised, illustrating words made sense to me and suddenly, my two favourite things didn’t have to be done independently anymore, they could be done together.
I now work as a children’s books illustrator. I still read everyday, the only difference is, the characters I imagine don’t stay in my head anymore, I draw them on paper for other people to see. And, I don’t put limits on myself when I go to the library either, I get out as many books as I can carry, sometimes more, because it was a book that reunited me with my long lost friends, the pencil and paper, so who knows what magic the next book will set free.
This is a guest post by Claire Powell and the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG. Daddy Hairdo is published by Simon and Schuster