Thursday, July 14, 2011

Goblins, pirates, pen and ink: learning to draw with Chris Mould and David Melling

One of the best things that happened last year was our first ever event at Abingdon Library. Keen to strengthen our ties further (and also very keen to take advantage of the recent stunning upgrade to the Library layout) last Saturday we held an illustration masterclass for about 30 children, aged between 7 and 12. Inspiring and captivating everyone throughout the afternoon were two very special illustrators: Chris Mould and David Melling.
David is very well know at Mostly Books (we had a lot of fun last year with the launch of Hugless Douglas), but this was the first event we had done with Chris - who travelled down from Leeds especially. And they complemented each other brilliantly: both Chris and David have a very understated, laid back approach to presenting in front of children, in which the drawings takes centre stage. Whilst I very much appreciate events we have done with some of the high-octane, 'whoops-I've-hit-myself-with-a-chicken' authors that we have had in the past, I think it's great to see that children can be rapt and captivated simply by the power of the drawings that emerge on a flip-chart.
David kicked off by giving an overview of how he draws, and what quickly emerged was a series of rapid-fire illustrations which acted as a metaphor for the creative process (it doesn't come out well in the photo below, but the Goblin figure at top left is equipped with a large pencil).
Chris then stepped in, using black paint to 'block' some space, out of which emerged a somewhat scary creature, appropriate for someone whose books (such as the Something Wickedly Weird series) are often filled with weird and scary creatures...
During the event, both authors emphasised the importance of 'just getting on with it'. getting stuff down on paper and trying not to get self-conscious about drawing. Chris in particular is very passionate about countering the phenomenon that kids stop drawing around 11 years old, which corresponds with the leap to secondary school. He tends to work only in black and white and never rubs out - "you kill your drawings if you do that!"
As the acryllic paint dried, and Chris inked in details for the character, he then used tippex to add elements over the black paint. It was mesmerising because it was all done at such speed...

Many of the older children had already got busy with the paper and pencils in front of them, but at this point David took over and we got all interactive. Here, David instructs everyone in a Goblin's 'masterclass'...
And you can't see much, but here were the results.

And here are a few Goblins close up:
Chris - referencing his next project, all about pirates - got everyone drawing a skull and crossbones, and then our hour was (officially) up. With the library closed, Chris and David signed books and answered questions for some time afterwards...

...before one final pose, and a nip round the corner to the shop for a cup of tea, despite the heat:
My thanks to both Chris and David for a really superb event, and one which we have received so much great feedback about. It was a real privilege to meet and listen to Chris for the first time, someone who communicates so strongly the joy of illustration simply putting pen (or pencil) to paper.

It also happened that July 9th was the launch of the national libraries Summer Reading Challenge. Based on the theme of 'Circus Stars' children are challenged to read six books over the Summer from their library, and get prizes for doing so. Go see the website to learn more. Very happy to report (via the head librarian) that several children signed up at the end of the event...including some children on their first ever visit to the library. Magic...

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