#portraitoftheartist is a feature in which artists discuss their work, their careers and their inspirations.
I never thought that I would be an illustrator. I stumbled into it from a fine art background and now I can’t imagine doing anything else. What I love about illustration is that it is accessible to everyone and isn’t confined to the gallery wall; an illustrated book becomes part of someone’s home where they can read and touch it whenever they like.
My current project, a children’s book titled The Land of Nod is about a little girl who struggles to sleep as her mother isn’t there. Together with a visiting owl and her teddy bear, they go in search of the Land of Nod. Initially inspired by a dream I had about an owl taking me under his wing and flying me out the window and down to the ground below, the concept evolved after I spoke to my friend Lucy. Lucy spoke of how when she was a child she would hunt for different lands at the end of her bed, and this gave me the idea of interpreting sleep as a physical realm, accessible only by using the phrase ‘the land of nod’.
Lucy lost her mum as a child, and after imagining her burrowed at the end of her bed I decided to base our protagonist on her. To help, Lucy showed me pictures of her, with her mother, as a little girl. After seeing these pictures I decided to base the mummy character on Lucy’s mother, too. She had the kindest face and looked like everything a child would need in a mother.
Children’s books are interesting because of their frequent sinister undertones. Childhood is a frightening time to be alive, filled with confusion and total vulnerability, and this is something I feel compelled to explore. As a child I found it very difficult to sleep after my parent’s divorce; I would lie awake for hours missing which ever parent I wasn’t staying with, imagining monsters lurking in all the dark corners of my room. I would often crawl into my mother’s bed seeking safety and comfort just to be able to sleep, and it’s these feelings that I am looking to recall and commit to paper.
Illustrator Maurice Sedack is someone I find incredibly inspiring. Her book Where the Wild Things Are is about a boy who, having been sent to bed with no supper, finds in his bedroom a forest and embarks upon a frightening adventure. He returns from the adventure discovering a plate of food waiting for him. This book, whilst remaining beautiful, is expressing common childhood fears of loneliness, fear and abandonment and shows how an act of love (the plate of food) can make those feelings dissipate. Like Sendack I wish to subtly illustrate childhood vulnerabilities – I want the reader to be able to relate to the story without being too frightened by it. To further this goal, I have deployed soft colors, childish lines and cute characters.
This project has had a didactic element – there are technical issues that I never imagined; from communicating narrative and incorporating text to printing and then book-binding. I face a different challenge each day and each one teaches me something new, and if I’m honest, I have never enjoyed a project more. Working on this book has allowed me to delve into some difficult childhood memories and this, along with basing my characters on my dearest friend, has meant that this book has come to mean so much to me. It is, without a doubt, the most personal piece of work I have ever made.
Sara L is an illustration student at Brighton University. She spends most of her time rearranging her pens and occasionally doing some coloring in. When she’s not playing with her stationary you will find her running by the seafront, frantically training for the London Marathon or trying to knit a scarf thats been an ongoing project of hers for the last four years. ‘The Land of Nod’ will hopefully be ready to publish at the end of the year.
This piece is a part of Season V of PTL which is run in association with: All About Trans.
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