I've just packaged up some roughs and working drawings for The Fierce Little Woman and the Wicked Pirate, (published by the amazing Gecko Press) and sent them off to take part in a very special exhibition. It is near and dear to my heart because I know if I could get my hands on a time machine and tell ten-year-old-me that one day I'd be part of this exhibition, my ten-year-old head would explode with excitement. Which would mean I wouldn't grow up to illustrate the book, which would mean I'd never take part in this exhibition, which would mean... uh-oh. Paradox. Quick, reverse! Let me explain this in a slightly less quantumly-entangled way.
One of the moments in my childhood that I often think about, especially when visiting schools and talking to enthusiastic future illustrators, is the day Gavin Bishop came to Elmwood Normal School. (Yes, that was really its name... a totally normal school. Nothing to see here. Move along, people.) Gavin Bishop is one of New Zealand's most beloved illustrators, and has illustrated many award winning books with the iconic New Zealand authors who were also part of my childhood world - most notably Margaret Mahy and Joy Cowley.
I was about 10 years old, and they must have handpicked a group of us to hear him speak, because I seem to recall there were only about 20 kids in the library. I made sure I was right up the front, standing up on my knees while everyone else sat cross-legged, craning forward so that my face was as close as I could get it to the drawings he was showing us. He was busy working on the illustrations for Mrs McGinty's Bizarre Plant, and showed us all his rough sketches, and it was the best thing that I had ever seen. His rough working drawings had a magnetic fascination for me.
Which brings me neatly round again to the Painted Stories exhibition, organised by Gavin and his daughter Cressida, to celebrate New Zealand illustrators who have worked on books by Joy Cowley. In which, I am delighted to say, they are featuring my work! The fabulous illustrator who came to my school like a pencil wielding rock star some undisclosed number of years ago is still fabulous, still a rock star, but now also a colleague. And I've sent my rough sketches along for other ten year olds to peer at... and maybe one day, some of them will illustrate books of their own. Which is pretty cool.
Painted Stories is on at the Millenium Gallery in Blenheim until the 26th, and then will be touring.