I am working on three new books at the moment. One is a delight to play with, a book of numbers. One Cheetah, One Cherry. It’s a little anarchic, but not in the flow of the numbers ( 1-10) but in the imagery, which is rich, influenced by my adoration of the medieval scribes and artists who laboured so many years ago decorating manuscripts and doodling in margins.
I know that in the past some people have criticised my books as being ‘too good for children’. It’s a criticism I am happy to try to live up to. My belief is that nothing is too good for children. But I try to design books for grown ups too. I know parents spend a great deal of time with these books.
Number two is: Two dogs, two balls, one big, one small.
Lots to talk about there including big and small.
The background for this work was inspired by a small illustration in a book I have, Medieval Dogs, by Kathleen Walker-Meike published by the British Museum. The painting in the book was painted around 1340 in Spain. Even so I have not copied the image but used a part in a similar way to decorate my painting. Even separated by time I feel it is only polite to do as much honour to the original, possibly Spanish anonymous artist by crediting him/her with that influence over my work. I love the beautiful paintings of this period, the colour, the pattern.
Recently on facebook I have seen posts. People show someone’s work, often crafts people, sometimes painters. They say “I like this, can you make me one like it?” The answer from the maker they are asking is often “Yes, I can, and cheaper”. It should be, “No. Go to that maker and ask them to make a piece like it for you. It’s their art, their idea.” Sometimes I see work that is very derivative of another artist with never a comment or a recognition of any influence to the original maker. Once I saw a comment that it was “Ok to copy someone’s work if they live a long way away from you.” How far? How far is far enough to make the theft of ideas ok? 1 mile, 50 miles, another country. It’s nonsense. I see people copying the style of inventive facebook people, down to the very made up language they use, taking their ideas for promotion, not changing them at all, speaking in someone else’s voice or voices, a strange jekyl and hyde of other people’s ideas.
Be original. Follow your own voice. Have faith in your own voice. Whether that be in words, or images, whatever your craft. Yes, we are all influenced by things around us, by work that has gone before ours. I owe a huge debt to all those anonymous scribes who laboured in cold cells to make beauty, all those Egyptian craftspeople who sculpted and painted, to Brian Wildsmith and his glorious watercolour work who taught me by looking at his work to free some colour from my soul, and many others. But I hope I have a language of my own, both in words and pictures.
There’s a strong line between influence and plagiarism. Not a fine line as some think.
I love it when I see my work popping up, shared on people’s facebook pages. I love it even more when they have tagged me, or credited me, so when images wander off, and they do, to have a life of their own, there is something that leads that stream back to the source.
( Two dogs are Ivy and Belle, sisters, Crab Hound and Eel Hound of great beauty, who posed rather elegantly whilst demanding biscuits.)