Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Shirley Hughes

Shirley Hughes is a gifted children’s illustrator and writer, creating many original characters over the years that have stood the test of time, from Alfie and little sister Annie-Rose, to Lucy and Tom.

What can I say about this talented lady? That she was kind enough to reply to me when I wrote to her during my Illustration degree, that the world she sculpts from her pencil leaps off the page, that she never talks down to children but presents the world from their angle, and that all her books simply smile at you from the shelf.

As seen here, one of her early books, Moving Molly (first published 1978), was one of my favourites. It presented my world, the world of London - of playing out in the street, of cats watching from their perch on garden walls, of the importance of imagination. She captures expressions very well and there is great attention to detail – especially in the clothes, which isn’t so surprising when you find out that Shirley trained in costume design, before going on to the Ruskin School of Drawing in Oxford.

Shirley Hughes started her life in illustration by trying to come up with sketches that would look good in her portfolio and then making a list of publishers, telephoning around to requesting an appointment with the art editor. This led to some paying work, which grew with each successful commission. Eventually, her work led around to children’s books and in 1960, she published Lucy and Tom’s Day, although it was from 1970, at the start of a long association with publishers The Bodley Head, that she came into her own as a children’s illustrator and author. She has won countless awards, including the prestigious Kate Greenaway award twice, and an OBE.

And, even better, she has just published her most recent book, Alfie and the Big Boys, this month. Nice to see she is still going strong! What can I learn from this lady - to carry a sketchbook around with me where-ever I go. And, like writing, to get any good you really have to do some of it each day.


Rachel said...

I too adore Shirley Hughes. I have not an artistic bone in my body but can dream of drawing like her.

Jayne said...

Hello Rachel!

I've only just seen your comment, so sorry for not replying sooner. I have quite a few books by Shirley on my shelves - Moving Molly remains my favourite though. I do dream of drawing like her, but alas and alack, it sadly never happens...