Tuesday, 28 June 2011

My words through an artist’s eyes

I’m trying something new with my writing. I’m working with an illustrator. I suspect a couple of sharp-eyed followers will already have noticed a contradiction. Two posts ago I wrote of my dislike for change and now I’m about to embrace it. But when it comes to writing, I’m always keen to explore different styles and if I ever stop trying to improve my work then it’ll be time to hang up the keyboard.

Sue Hague
I have my writing group to thank for this idea, yet again. [They’re lovely, are my writing group!] We all belong to a children’s book group which meets once a month to read and discuss children’s books... and to have lunch, of course! One of the members is an artist. Her name is Sue Hague and whenever we have a meeting at her house we are in awe of her artwork, especially the finely detailed flower paintings. She is passionate about observing and recording all those tiny details in the world around us, the details that most people don’t notice... the same details that I, as a writer, try to record with words, whereas Sue uses a mixture of acrylic, watercolour and soft pencil.

Last week Sue ran an art workshop for us writers. We’ve never done anything like this as a group before. It was an amazing experience if a little messy... 

Our first task was to rub oil paint onto an acetate sheet and scratch a picture onto paper which had been placed over the top of the paint. My result was a little smudgy but the activity had been satisfying and absorbing in a compulsive sort of a way.

Alex Gutteridge (left), me in the middle and Debbie White who I suspect had prior art training! 
Pippa Goodhart
We worked with materials that I never thought could go together... like a pen, some bleach and a sheet of soft coloured paper. The effect appears gradually. It’s another fascinating process. This isn’t my attempt. It’s Pippa's.

I didn’t produce anything that would hang on my walls but then that wasn't the aim of the morning. What I did come away with was a lot of inspiration, especially when it comes to looking at those finer details of life that are all around us... but there was more. I had a chat with Sue about the art of illustrating and it was then that we planned our collaboration. I have a number of children’s picture book manuscripts, words only, with written illustration guidelines where relevant. I have a rough idea of what the pictures might look like but I was interested to see if Sue’s expert input would add another dimension to my work.

As soon as I got home I emailed a manuscript to her. She came straight back to me with ideas that were already ‘running through her head’. Changes began to happen, improvements began to emerge, as she suggested some fine tuning to my story line, things that I wouldn’t have thought about on my own. She’s now working on some rough drafts and we’ll be meeting up very soon to merge our ideas. We’re hoping to make a joint submission and although we both know that it could well join my list of rejections, it’s been extremely useful to look at my words through an artist’s eyes... and who knows, it might even be accepted!



  1. This is some fascinating stuff. I enjoy workshops like this one.
    I take a lot of pictures to inspire me The other day I went to quite a few places and took pictures of places I thought would be a great place to discover a body.
    Best of luck with the new endeavor.

  2. Oh, I know i would have loved that workshop!
    I dabble in painting now & then and always love what I'm able to create!

    Much luck on the book!

    Margie :)

  3. what an unbeatable combination - a great writer with a great artist - good luck with the book deal.
    I think I would just have embarassed mysef at the workshop - to say I'm not artistic is putting it very mildly.
    Even my children stopped asking me to draw houses /dogs etc.... and I can't do artistic abstract designs either (sigh)

  4. "hang up the keyboard" Like that!

    Change is good if it's going in the right direction :)

    Have a lovely day!

    Duncan In Kuantan

  5. Hi Giggles and Guns, taking photos of places where it would be good to find a body does sound rather sinister... but a good idea nevertheless!

    Thanks Margie, it was great fun just having time to make a mess and experiment.

    Hi Ann, I thought I would show myself up as my artistic skills are less than inspiring but Sue was excellent. You'd have had a wonderful time.

    Thanks Duncan, I hope you're having a lovely day too.

  6. That's so exciting, Rosalind! I'm absolute rubbish with any kind of artwork, so I'd love to have an illustrator. I can't wait to hear more about what you both come up with.

  7. That looks like a fun workshop!! Isn't it amazing how new things present themselves to us on a daily basis.

    Best to you! (One Cancer to another)

  8. That sounds like a brilliant day of fun and a good progressive day as well. Wishing you lots of luck with your collaboration.

  9. I'm envious of the art time you got to have. And I love your first attempt. I hope your collaboration is a wonderful success. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  10. I think it's great to broaden your horizons by attending the art workshop. Sometimes you can gain a new prospective that way. Going to the lake house helps me to be creative.

  11. Oh what fun! Would love to be in a group like that. To stretch your creative juices is so enriching.

  12. A splendid idea. Your pictures are wonderful and tell a story on their own. Good luck with your "change."

  13. Sounds like a great idea. I also have some artistic tendencies, but I struggle to find time for it.

    Still, there's something about drawing and coloring that sparks my thoughts.

    I think the collaboration will do you both a world of good.

    Best of luck!

  14. Hi Talli, yes I'm looking forward to our next meeting. I'll no doubt blog about it!

    Hi Bryce, it certainly makes life interesting, doesn't it.

    Thanks Rebecca, it was fun.

    Hi Bish, maybe you have an artist friend who could do the same for you!

    Hi Mrs C. I'd rather be at your lake than painting any day... but yes, it does help to have different creative experiences.

    Hi Ann, as I said to Bish, I wonder if maybe there is an artist among your friends who would do a similar thing for you.

    Hi Manzanita, and thanks.

    Hi Misha, it's all about making time for things, isn't it. For me it's a lot easier to just sit down and write than get painting materials out.

  15. That's a great idea! It's also a fun way of bouncing ideas with someone else who's also creative but has a different point of view.

  16. Hi Ros .. so interesting to read .. and am delighted that you both are going to have fun with this .. it must be wonderful to see a manuscript come to life with Sue's depictions.

    Let alone the different thoughts you'll have for the end product as it progresses ..

    Happy creative days to the two of you ... cheers Hilary

  17. Oh Ros I wish I could have been there with you. I so enjoyed my time with the group. Please send my best wishes to Pippa, Sue, Debbie, Josephine [ where was she that day?] and Alex. At least I am trying to write something now..!

  18. Hi Rosalind

    My name is Suz Hughes and I was lucky enough to be taught by Sue at DeMonfort Uni, she was the best teacher I have ever had, So much so that I went on to do a Masters in Children's Illustration, and am now working on my first book. I just wanted to leave a note to say thanks to Sue really. I wish I had a group like yours to go to it sounds fab.