Combining two different artistic disciplines is an impressive feat, as many people would argue that one on its own would be enough to keep them occupied.
For a lot of people, they find that, once they have found one creative outlet, this is usually followed by another.
Writers, for example, try to create vivid imagery through the words they pen, envisaging worlds, characters and beauty, encouraging their readers to do the same. For some writers, their words are given all the more power by the hand-crafted images that accompany them.
When the same person is responsible for both the text and the pictures, the reader knows they are dealing with the handiwork of a truly talented individual.
HG Wells is an example of a writer-illustrator, having provided images to go along with his work, The Time Machine (1895). Not only was the novel itself ahead of its time in terms of content and writerly prowess, the images that Wells provided along with it speak volumes of the man’s skills. A sense of vibrancy is present in the illustrations that Wells created, drawing the reader in in the same way that the words do.
In the 21st century, the trend of authors who illustrate their own work is on the rise. This is particularly prevalent among children’s authors, who perhaps are seeking to inspire the young to pursue literature through the idea that there are exciting pictures to see as well as wonderful words to read.
One writer who successfully pursues this aim is the children’s author and illustrator, Helen Cooper. This lady’s creative triumphs can be witnessed in her winning of the Kate Greenaway Award twice: firstly for The Baby Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed (1996) and secondly for Pumpkin Soup (1998).
Cooper’s illustrations have a warm, sentimental quality to them- ideal for drawing in children to engage with literature and to retain and interest for it.
Someone who has achieved something of a cult status in the world of children’s literature and illustration is Lauren Child MBE. This creative colossus is known for the series Charlie and Lola, Clarice Bean and Robert Redfort (the latter for older readers). These successes have led Child to being named the 10th Children’s Laureate by Waterstones in 2017.
Child’s illustrations for her younger audiences may be two-dimensional in nature, but that certainly does not make them shallow in terms of their quality. There is a relatable element in her art, similar to that of Cooper, which makes her work all the more popular.
Some writer/illustrators do not even pursue this course of action as a primary career. It is a secondary string to their bow. This is the case for the actor and comedian, Mackenzie Crook, who is known for his roles in the Pirates of the Caribbean saga, the comedy series The Office and for his own series The Detectorists.
Despite these very successful and lucrative activities, Crook has garnered further fame for his children’s book The Windvale Sprites (2011) and its follow-up, The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth (2013). The former book saw Crook being nominated for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in 2012.
There is a cartoonish yet realistic note to Crook’s illustrations. Those who are surprised by his artistic and literary endeavours may be interested to know that his interest in such activities have been with him for a large segment of his life. In his early life, he copied a pre-Raphaelite masterpiece onto his biker jacket, before pursuing a place at an art college. This place may never have been secured, but this evidently never stopped Crook from leading an artistic lifestyle throughout the years.
When someone follows their heart’s calling into one creative field, this is commendable enough on its own. When their artistic vocation leads them into two, or perhaps even more, inspiration can only be the result.
If we all followed our creative ambitions, who knows what legacy we may leave for the future?
–Luke Mayo, Editor (Art)
(-Picture, Maureen Barlin)