Picture Hooks Conference 2014

Picture Hooks conference headerThis weekend I went along to a conference about children’s picture books, called Picture Hooks. You might remember that I went to their inaugural conference a couple of years ago (read about it here). It was held at Edinburgh College of Art, which was where I studied, so it was lovely to be back there. Even better, the Head of the Illustration Department, Jonathan Gibbs, opened the conference. It was great to hear him speak again and really good to have a proper catch up with him during the lunch break. He’s an illustration giant and a bit of a hero of mine.

The day was action-packed, starting with Val Brathwaite from Bloomsbury. Her passion for picture books came across clearly and she is hugely experienced. While acknowledging the competitiveness of the industry she was encouraging in the breadth of work she talked about and the evident care Bloomsbury takes of its authors and illustrators. We heard from agents Lindsey Fraser and Lucy Juckes. Chrissie Boehm from Artful Doodlers and Ashley McCracken from Sugar Snap Studios talked about opportunities for illustrators outside of picture books.

My absolute favourite session was from Mark Hearld and Simon Lewin. I’ve heard Mark speak on a number of occasions and he never fails to be brilliant. For those of you who don’t know, Mark is an incredible illustrator and designer with a colossal and highly regarded output. He has worked on everything from designing fabrics to producing his own fine art prints. In amongst all the industry chat of markets and sales he reminded me why I do what I do. He flung his arms wide, advocating that we dump the word “style” for “voice”. His joy and enthusiasm are infectious. He name-dropped a vast array of influences as if they were dear friends and in so doing, he reminded me that there are no short cuts. Anything with any staying power and any value needs to come from deep and well-established roots. Acquaintances can be made quickly but friendship always takes time.

Mark didn’t say this, but his life as an artist felt like a call to produce the very best we can for our little ones. Picture books have a hallowed home in the heart of a child so if any one of us ever has the good fortune to write or illustrate a picture book for children let it be one that is so rich and genuine that it is treasured by generations. And in that, there is a funny contradiction, like the way you have to look at the dark sky next to a star in order to see the star. It seems to me that it is no good pursuing picture books in themselves but only as offspring of this wonderful creative pursuit called illustration: one fruit on a tree that is always stretching and straining for the sky.

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2 Responses to Picture Hooks Conference 2014

  1. Linda says:

    Beautifully said Hannah. xx

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