Are children’s book authors and illustrators adults too?

I went to London on Thursday and had some time to spend in the mediaeval galleries at the V&A  (Victoria and Albert Museum in London)  I did some sketching and shared the work on YouTube.

This morning I woke to an interesting comment:
I thought about it over breakfast and ended up with a much longer reply than usual, so I thought I’d turn it into a blog post. What do you think? This is what I wrote in reply:

You might think, but a sketchbook is made for only one market and that is the artist themselves. If they choose to share the contents that’s another thing. Children’s books are inspired by everything – adult or children’s. A children’s book author/illustrator is an adult and, as such, interested in adult things. An illustrator in particular needs to be interested and try to understand pretty much everything they ever come across. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a catholic school, but you are often greeted with similar images of Jesus, wounded, dead or dying all over the place, even in classrooms, so young children can absorb the horror all day long.

This is a drawing of a statue that used to be on display in a church, and which is now openly on display in a museum, where children not only go but are welcomed. Such images, and far worse, are on display in churches all over the world and, once you get your eye in, you will find all sorts of horrors casually displayed in all sorts of religious establishments. My sketching is about exploring that idea.

This sketch is particularly about the casual nature of the horror. In the Bible, the scene is about doubt, the disciples having to see the wound to be convinced it was really him. While drawing this and the other things in the exhibition, I was struck by the idea of how each age and culture adapts bible stories, recreating scenes with their own dress codes, ethnicities, hopes, fears and prejudices. This sketch brings that though consciously up to date with the comment, “Hey guys, check this out.” And the Monty Python cherubs in the back reflect music video/Giorgio Armani style.

My job as a children’s writer is to take those ideas and make them accessible to children, gently preparing them for the realities of adult life. My job as a illustrator means I need to understand how the world is put together to show, explain and yes, to entertain too. But that involves going out into the real world, and continually drawing to learn, understand and improve my skills. It is a never ending job.

As Octopusbeak says, This channel has become for an older audience. Have a look at DrawStuffRealEasy for everyday drawing with a target audience of children – which is also watched by a large audience of older beginner drawers who are picking up from where they left off at the age of about 11!

All the best

3 thoughts on “Are children’s book authors and illustrators adults too?

  1. Maggie Hanshaw

    Shoo, I really loved the drawings you did at the museum. I love to study art from all over the world and see the differences and similarities in the work. And I loved to go to our Fine Arts Center when I was a child and see the Day Of The Dead displays. I loved the creepy carts full of skeletons being driven by skeletons. I also loved all the art work about Jesus and God. And you are right, some of it is hard to look at. But it all works together to tell the stories in the Bible. Keep up the good work Shoo. Hugs, Maggie

  2. Maggie Hanshaw

    Shoo, I really loved your drawings from the museum. You are right some of the Christian art is hard to look at, but it all works together to tell the story of God. Keep up the good work.

  3. Shoo Rayner Post author

    Thanks – we are only just beginning to be aware of the Day of the Dead celebrations here – Yes they are pretty creepy! Perhaps we molly coddle children a bit these days. Imagine what they must have seen and experienced every day in the not too distant past 🙁

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