Today I attended Creating Picture Books and listened to Margaret Hamilton and Dee Huxley talk and present for five wonderful hours. Did I learn something? Lots. Did I enjoy it? Heaps. Would I recommend this course? YES.
I don't see the world with picture book eyes so I doubt that I am destined to be a picture book author. But I do want to write at least one. I suspect I may only ever have two or three suitable ideas so I want to give them the best possible chance of survival. And even if I never write a picture book, I'll always be a connoisseur and collector.
Dee is passionate about her work and all those students in her art classes are very lucky indeed. As I watched Dee display and talk about her portfolio, I desperately wished for just a smidgen of artistic talent. But in the end it doesn't matter. I have a wonderful picture book library with talented artists on every page. And if you haven't seen Dee's illustrations in Glenda Millard's Angel Breath then go out tomorrow and borrow or buy a copy.
Margaret is a wealth of information on every aspect of picture book publication and presentation. Listening to her stories is both informative and encouraging. Not that she said it was easy but seeing a publisher's love for a book they 'just had to publish' - well, it doesn't get more inspiring than that. I'll be posting a review of her wonderful book The ABC Book of Australian Children's Illustrators shortly. It's a must have for any picture book lover.
So often I attend courses - and no matter how interested I am in the subject matter - I find myself bored part way through. Not this time. This course is entertaining and Margaret and Dee make a great tag team. The hardest thing for me was letting go of the original Stephen Michael King sketches from Janeen Brian's Where Does Thursday Go? It's one of my favourite picture books and it was exciting to hold those drawings in my hands.
If anyone is interested Creating Picture Books course information can be downloaded here. And here is a review for the last Dee Huxley illustrated picture book I purchased:
A Bush Christmas by C J Dennis Illustrated by Dee Huxley. black dog books, Picture Book Hardcover rrp $24.99
This iconic poem by early 20th century Australian poet C J Dennis, has been illustrated by award winning Australian author Dee Huxley, and released just in time for Christmas.
It’s December 25th in the bush. The day is hot and still. Mum has the farmhouse kitchen heated to an almost unbearable temperature as she prepares a traditional dinner of roast turkey and plum pudding. Even Old Rogan has come down from his lonely hut to join in the festivities.
After dinner Rogan tells the children stories of strange white snow-filled Christmases in other lands with mistletoe and yuletide logs. But here:
The sun burns hotly thro’ the gums,
The chirping of the locusts comes
Across the paddocks, parched and grey,
“Whew!” wheezes Father. “What a day!”
Dee Huxley’s characters are larger than life, dwarfing even the backgrounds she has drawn them against. They are full of energy and celebration of not only Christmas, but also life on the land. For me, they evoke a strong personal association as my family have a farm in central western NSW. That's it, right there on the page. In every colour and every brushstroke.
There is a timelessness about this classic story. Even though we don’t find the heat of Christmas Day at all strange. And even though we celebrate a little different in the city. But the message of friendship, opening your house to your neighbour and sharing a tale after lunch, is just as valid today as it was at the beginning of last century on an outback homestead.