Winding down at Christmas

That was rather a self-indulgent last post, but I guess I’d been having a duff few months. I’ve been indulging more in mince pies and chocolates over the last week and am feeling much the better for it. I got most of the House of illustration ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ competition finished before the holidays which meant that I’ve been able to focus on board games with the family and the PS4. I’ve also been given a copy of Wundersmith : The Calling of Morrigan Crow which will be in competition with The Wildings as my chief source of inspiration over the next few months. The Wildings author, Nilanjana Roy, by the way, emailed me the other month after being shown my sketch from the first book, telling me how much she liked my work. She provided me with some great source material to help me with other drawings, which was really helpful, especially for a British artist who has never visited India.

On the subject of being despondent about artistic success being ever-elusive, I saw a post recently by a fellow SCBWI writer/ artist who was asking at what point does one say, “You know, enough is enough.” The number of responses encouraging them to not give up was quite fantastic – it just goes to show how important it is to be part of a supportive community. But it is a serious question – how far should the artist go in chasing the dream of going professional? It’s a tricky balancing act. It’s a highly competitive world, even for the most talented. Shortly after my UV win, I had the opportunity to discuss this very topic with Chris Riddell – it was a sobering conversation indeed. But if you’re reading this I’m sure you’ve experienced everything I could refer to – the stories of great artists who struggle find work, the mediocre artists and writers that get multi-book deals, the celebrities who nab the lion’s share, never really getting a straight answer either in reviews or from your critique group because at the end of the day, the truth is that (in the publishing world) there is no ‘good’ work or ‘bad’ work, only art and writing that sells. Because it’s a business. As a librarian, I get an interesting perspective of this ebb and flow of the world of children’s books – the perspective of watching how trends come and go over years and decades. I see trends that make me go “WTF?”, and many colleagues agree, but hey, people buy the Daily Mail so there’s no accounting for taste.

For the artist and writer, really the only thing to do is carry on simply because you enjoy it, and this was the gist of the replies in the SCBWI discussion. I’d go further and say to focus on the positives. It’s hard NOT to get hung up on the fact that (what we DEFINE as) success (e.g recognition) is ever elusive, but for the sake of sanity I’m going to remember 2018 for other successes. Winning Undiscovered Voices (even if it hasn’t opened any doors, it did give me a kick up the arse and a sense of direction), having someone ask me if they could use on of my drawings as a tattoo, getting a lovely email from Nilanjana Roy praising my interpretation of a scene from her book, getting a few hundred Instagram followers, and producing some of my best artwork so far. That’s not so shabby.

Happy New Year