It entered my mind that I could illustrate children’s books in 2018. I’d started that year attempting to do a drawing a day, which I did late at night after everyone had gone to bed, and kept it up for a few months. In the evenings, I was reading picture books to our daughters – the ones with great stories and pictures on high rotation – and thought I could introduce paint to what I was already doing.
Of course, watercolour is nothing like oil painting, so I made a tonne of mistakes. You can’t be a watercolour painter and a slacker at the same time. You have to work from the light of the paper to dark, you can’t easily remove or paint over your mistakes, and you can’t change your mind about what the picture is about halfway through.
I usually painted from light to dark anyway, still do, thinking I was following an Impressionist technique, but the watercolorists have obviously been doing it since the beginning.
It was a very enjoyable time learning how to use watercolour, which lasted about three months, until my younger daughter stopped sleeping so well and then family and work life took over and I forgot about it, until I started drawing and painting again at the start of this year.
Some of the illustrations from that year are on the Australian Society of Author’s Style File. It’s a nice reminder to me that some seeds take longer to germinate than others.
In other news, I’m pleased as punch to be working with Sheila Ngoc Pham, who also had brainwaves while reading to her kids, to develop some bilingual picture books.
Sheila, besides from being awesome at everything, started a Vietnamese bilingual parenting group on Facebook, which has attracted parents from across the diaspora.
The generation that fled Vietnam, our parents, are grand or great-grand -parents now and I don’t know about Sheila, but I stress about the cultural capital I can pass onto my kids. Her Vietnamese is much better than mine, though, so I’m glad she’s doing the writing.