I had a message from a Graphic Design student in Paris last week. They really want to be an illustrator and there is not enough drawing on the graphic design course, which only uses illustration within design projects.
As I was wondering what to advise, I saw a video by @willterryart called called “Artists should always have a personal project”
It got me thinking. Life takes you down may routes and sometimes you might wish you had chosen a different path. Sometimes, if you are in a really bad or dangerous place, you need to stop and start again immediately, but generally, going back and trying another route doesn’t get you very far either. You can just sit down and cry, but that doesn’t help much.
It’s generally best to forge ahead and do the very best you can, learning all you can along the way. At the same time, have your personal project. If you want to be an illustrator, then draw ever day – all day – in every spare minute. then bring what you learn into the part of your work you find less interesting and do that to the best of your ability.
If you are stuck in a place, work so well, putting in love and enthusiasm to your work, so that you outgrow the situation you are in. It’s amazing how opportunities come to such people, because opportunity likes to work with hard working and talented people.
Your degree qualification will mean nothing in the big, wide world. You will be judged on the quality of your work, ideas and personal vision. So get working on that and others will start working to advance your career. Everyone loves a winner and everyone loves to be a part of their success.
Good luck to you all, but you won’t need it if you work hard and do in your own time what burns inside you. Luck only comes to those who have already prepared the ground.
If you wonder what this post is doing on a children’s book author’s site, then I wonder the same thing too. I’m planning to split my efforts across two sites soon. one will be more aimed at drawing, professional and personal development nad this will return to children’s books.
I had a great day in a school yesterday – I’ll tell you more later. I was reading them one of my Ricky Rocket stories in which there is a lot of… well… let’s call it bottom burping! Every time I milk that story, I think, “Oh dear! How have I stooped so low. But then today, National Poetry day, I thought about the problem and decided to stand up for what I believe in and and write a poem that concisely expresses my feelings on the subject. And here it is:
What makes me laugh
If I want a cheap laugh,
and not pay money,
farting is free
and terribly funny!
I heard on the news this morning that more and more families are hiring home tutors. While that may be a good thing if your children need particular specialist help, there are things that you can do that will have a much deeper effect on your children’s education and also on the happiness of your family. They are not only cheaper, they are free!
The press and politicians love to bash schools. They do it to sell more papers and gain more votes. The care and education of the children comes a long way down their list of concerns.
Schools actually do an amazing job. Each year they are asked to achieve more and more, and are given a hard time if they can’t squeeze more into the same sized brains that enter their doors each year. The world is changing just as fast for teachers as it is for you I. Schools and teachers are doing an amazing job keeping up while meeting unhelpful political targets. Teachers want to teach, not win votes for politicians.
Teachers only have so much time in the day and rarely have time for a one to one sit down with your child. If they do, they are probably, subconsciously making sure there is no physical contact and that no part of the conversation can be misconstrued.
Children come home from school tired. They’ve been working hard all day. The last thing they want is to see the smiling face of a home tutor when they get through the door! They’ll put up with it and may even, reluctantly, learn something because, generally, children do what they are told.
You, as a parent are the best home tutor a child can have and you come free! Every thing you do is a potential learning situation. Separating colours for the wash, weighing and measuring, counting, adding and taking away. So many irritating moments can be made simpler and more fun but remembering to turn it into a game. I know it’s hard to remember when you are exhausted too, but it does make it so much easier than fighting and arguing.
But there is one simple thing you can do that no teacher or home tutor can do that will change the lives and educational prospects of your children more than anything else.
Snuggle up together at bedtime and share a book.
You don’t have to be the greatest reader in the world or be able to do all the whacky voices. You are your child’s hero, so whatever you do will be great. If you can make the time to spend twenty minutes or half an hour reading to your child every night, you will be increasing their educational prospects more than any other intervention could ever hope to.
However sophisticated we think we are, we are still apes and we still need moments of physical closeness to bond. It is that closeness that children crave that modern life does its best to exclude. If children learn to relate reading with the best, cosiest time of their day, they will want to learn to do that magic trick themselves.
Following along as you read, is the best way to learn those long words and see them being decoded before their eyes. Learning to read is the hardest job any of us encounter in our lives. It requires thousands of hours of practice to become fluent. And fluency in reading is the key to pretty much every subject in education. Even sport has become an academic subject! Without fluency, don’t waste money on home tutors. They will force learning in one ear for it to pop out of the other. A tutor should enhance a hunger for knowledge, not be there to force it in.
The stories you read at bedtime will stay with your children for ever.
And, if you remove TVs and computers and any other electronic distractions from the bedroom, you’ll find that children who’ve had that special, bedtime story and a quiet review of the good bits of the day or prayers, if you are that way inclined, will go to sleep happy in the knowledge they are loved and that someone has the time to care about them.
This can be your quiet-time and relaxing end of the day too – every day.
I was just watching a trailer for a new movie called Embracing Dyslexia. A faltering piano tinkles in the background as the music track. I was half listening to it when… BLAM! Everything made sense. Dyslexia must affect the reading of music too!
A quick search took me to the British Dyslexia web page on the subject. I’m 50 something years old and I only just figured it out!
I loved music as a child – it was something deep inside me. I sang all the time and was thrilled the day I learned to whistle. I wanted to be just like the Beatles when I grew up. But I couldn’t make head or tail of written music. Oh, the frustration! Every time I tried to learn music they put those dots in front of me and every time those dots jangled about the page like a room full of bluebottles. Why wouldn’t they sit still on the stave? Actually the stave was a bit wobbly too, vibrating like guitar strings!
So it would be suggested that maybe I wasn’t quite ready to learn the guitar or piano or whatever. Singing in the choir was easy. I just sang what the person next to me was singing. I was so sensitive to the music I could pretty much guess what the notes were anyway, getting a bit cross when the composer put in a weird, unexpected modulation to make it more interesting.
I eventually learned to play the guitar when I discovered that they drew little pictures of the chords above the misc and even showed where to put your fingers. But lead guitar meant nothing to me. The scales didn’t either and they still don’t make sense. Semitones are the same as “i before e”. I know the rule and can recite it backwards, but I still spell cieling wrong! Ceiling just doesn’t look right.
And the black keys on the piano… why? I just don’t get them. When I watch proper musicians I’m amazed. They follow those notes and stick to a tempo: tick, tick, tick. It’s why I was never any good playing with other musicians. Music to me was a purely emotional art form. Tempo, like Space Time, was relative. The tempo of a song that I wrote depended entirely on how I felt that day, what my voice was like, and the emotional intensity of the song at that precise moment.
When I performed the songs I wrote. I started and finished. I couldn’t remember any of the bit in between because I’d been there, in the story, enveloped in the emotion, in the moment, performing.
Like the observer effect in particle physics, as soon as I turned the tape recorder on to play a proper performance, in time to a click track so I could layer harmonies and overdubs, it all fell to pieces. I could sing along quite happily in playback as an emotional response, but as soon as the record button went down I could see those notes bouncing up and down – marching ants crawling along the staves – swallows collecting up on telegraph wires – and ill all went to pieces – thinking about it too much.
Weird! But I feel liberated having finally understood. Maybe I was never really meant to be in a band after all!
Last week we visited the ancient town of Ludlow in Shropshire in England. It’s full of medieval half-timbered houses complemented by fine Georgian and Victorian architecture. It must have been a rich market town in its day. It still must be doing well, judging by the kind of shopping to be had there.
Ring the bell at the Castle Lodge, pay your three ponds and you will be treated to the most eccentric visit to an historic building ever!
For some reason the county name of Shropshire is shortened to Salops!
We were on our way to visit Stokesay Castle , which will be the subject of the next video.
I recently wrote a post about the Carnegie Medal that caused a bit of a stir in the tiny world of children’s authors. I learned many things from the reactions to that post; mainly that I should only make one point at a time, as readers are liable to choose a sentence or two that suits their prejudices and assume the whole article is about something other that what was intended.
I was amazed at the reaction to this paragraph:
Why are we no longer surprised when kids join gangs and shoot each other on the streets? They’re conditioned to it by playing killing games on their consoles and watching endless serial killer stuff on TV. So why not put it in children’s books too? How else are publishers going to compete and make a buck other than by joining in the slow moral decline? We are conditioning ourselves to accept that it’s okay for kids to kill each other.
What I meant, in the context of the article, was that as children’s publishers find it harder to sell books, they are having to chuck in the towel and join the rest of the media, giving into violence, to be able to compete. Violence sells.
So does sex, but… stick to my point! I had a lot of vociferous reaction claiming that there is no connection between books, video games, movies or comics with violence. That I’m an old reactionary wanting to spoil teenager’s fun. (I thought was writing about books for children – not teenagers – never mind.)
I had to think about that point for a while and here is my reply.
Five million jews, gypsies and unfortunates were cremated during the second world war. How did that happen? A man called Hitler wrote a book called Mein Kampf. Don’t tell me that book had no effect on violence. Where did Hitler get his ideas from? Wagner’s fairy tales, and the eugenic writings of revered writers of the likes of My Fair Lady’s George Bernard Shaw and The War of the World’s H G Wells. Each generation makes the unthinkable acceptable and then practicable.
Many more millions were murdered in the USSR thanks to Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. And how many more millions died thanks to Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book? Please don’t tell me books don’t have an effect on violence.
How many millions have died because of or in the cause of the Bible or the Koran?
Human beings are hard wired to receive stories. That is how we learn. Religions, encouraging distrust in the unfaithful, know this. Advertisers, telling us that the latest gadget will make us look cool and sexy, know this. Politicians, spinning their yarns, know this. They also know that the statistics can be massaged to tell whatever story they like – as in, “…there is no correlation between books and violence.”
Violence sells… but only for so long. We come to accept a certain level of violence then we need more – we are only human. So the level is turned up until we come to accept that too.
Take the TV show Silent Witness which, when it started, was all about the righting of wrongs and moral dilemmas. In the morgue, we would see close-ups of the doctor’s eyes and sweating brow as they went about their grizzly work. It was fascinating, instructive and the story lines were intriguing. We might have seen a toe with a cadaver’s identifying label, but generally the body was covered in a sheet.
Then the special effects department came up with realistic rubber bodies and they let us see the whole grizzly autopsy, with everything hanging out and bits dangling on the floor. That wasn’t enough, CSI began with gory CGI effects and Gore Wars ensued. The original Silent Witness stories began with a body – as does the work of the pathologist. Now the grizzly death scene had to be included – in minute detail.
That wasn’t enough, the un-witting pathologists became the victims as the serial killer genre swung into action, leading to the ultimate in the ramping up of CSI violence – or is it moral decline? – the TV series, Dexter. Dexter works for a CSI department as a blood-spatter analyst, he is also a serial-killer himself, but he’s okay, he only murders other serial killers – what fun! You’d be amazed how often I’ve heard primary school children say they want to be CSIs when they grow up! Why are they watching this stuff? Why aren’t they in bed?
The violence levels are slowly ratcheted up as we accept new levels of violence and come to see them as entertainment. This has all been echoed in the book world with Patrica Cornwell leading the field that was very soon filled with new writers eager to get on the bandwagon.
How incredible that ITN proudly splatters the word “Exclusive” all over pictures of bloody-handed Michael Adebolajo, minutes after he had killed Private Lee Rigby on the streets of Woolwich. ITN know the power of a good story in a crowded news market. But just a very few years ago, they would never have considered showing those pictures. We have not only got used to seeing pictures like that and accepting the violence, we want more, preferably on the six-o”clock news! (They didn’t even wait until after the 9.00pm watershed.)
Just this week, video of the Santiago De Compostela train crash was shown in slow-motion on the BBC News. They did warn that it was upsetting, but they still showed it. They had the footage, it was already on YouTube so they had to show it. Five years ago, if they had that footage, they would not have shown it. Next week we will want more… bored with train crashes.
Oh – let’s stray off the point and get back to sex – Fifty Shades of Grey – to be precise. A book promoting both violence in sex has it’s own merchandise in Greetings cards shops! Cute, furry handcuffs on a greetings card for valentines day? what kind of violence has that inspired and made acceptable in bedrooms round the world. It’s a best-seller so sadistic, violent sex must be okay – isn’t it?
It’s not the books, video games, movies or comics that are to blame. They are inert. It’s the stories and their messages that are dangerous, they always have been and always will be.
Please don’t tell me that there is no correlation between books, and the stories they contain, and violence. Those committing the violence maybe well be illiterate but they understand stories they are told and can perfectly understand the message that they are fed. Those teaching them, leading them and putting ideas in their heads are clever and highly literate, and there is your direct correlation.
I was childishly pleased when I came up with the series title, Little Horrors. They’re horror stories for small children, whom we often call little horrors themselves. Actually there’s no horror in them at all, just the suggestion. They are meant to be funny with moments of doubt… Shiver with fear.. shake with laughter, as the series slogan goes!
I love reading these stories to Key Stage 1 children. Some hug each other, some pose and pretend they aren’t scared, some burst into tears, but most laugh and join in with the noises and actions. Sadly the publishers, Orchard Books decided not to reprint. But that gave me the opportunity to bring the stories back to life again.
Online, print-on-demand publishing is an amazing thing. The first book in the series, The Swamp Man in now available in old fashioned print and as an ebook for the iPad. When I discovered the Open Dyslexic Font, I made it available as a Dyslexic font edition on the ipad too. The type is weighted so the letters behave themselves and sit on the line and the page colour is cream.
If you would like a signed copy of the Swamp Man, then click here
The Swamp Man – Little Horrors book.
Why Creative Businesses Work: The Four Noble Truths – A graphic by Alex Mathers at www.redlemonclub.com
© 2013 Red Lemon Club. All rights reserved
There has been a meme going around YouTube for a little while called “Drawing My Life”. YouTubers tell the story of their lives while drawing, usually with stickmen drawn with dry wipe markers on a whiteboard. A lot of people have asked me to do a draw my life video over the last few months.
The trouble is that most of the people who make draw my life videos are quite young and they manage to fit most of their lives into one video. Well, I’ve been around quite a few years now, so I’m going to have to do quite a few episodes!
Also, I should really try to draw with something a bit more like the rest of my channel, with pens and markers or watercolour. I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while, How I should go about it, how I should break my life up into episodes and what are the best bits to draw?
I think I’ve worked out the formula and, with some trepidation, I have started on what is going to be a pretty massive project. I could really do with your support if you like it. Please tweet, share, Facebook and tell al your friends on all the forms of social media you use. If you do – many thanks.
It’s going to be a bit of a history lesson too, so you may find it informative and useful in schools!