My busy autumn has not gone entirely to plan. Tonsillitis thwarted my intended visits to the Cheltenham Festival and a school in Guildford (apologies to all). Happily, Shoo Rayner, another author and illustrator, filled my shoes at Cheltenham.
At least I got to Paris and back in one piece. More importantly I had a wonderful time, and you can read a bit about the "Katie" celebrations on my KATIE'S PICTURES SHOW blog.
But it wasn't all work and my three evenings there each yielded a memorable experience...
The librarian, Janee (and her family) whisked me around Paris on the cruise, upon arrival. Here you will see snaps of The Garnier Opera house, a huge station clock outside the Musee d'Orsay, Notre Dame Cathedral... and the Eiffel tower of course.
That first evening I was taken to an extraordinary Parisian restaurant, Chartier's, which appears virtually unchanged since the days of Toulous-Lautrec. Above each table were long and elegant brass hat stands. The lamps gleamed, reflected in the many mirrors. Downstairs, tiny drawers in the panelling contained the napkins of regular customers; the waitress wrote out our order on the tablecloth. The systems and traditions were like stepping into another world. I felt I should have a top hat and cane at the very least, possibly a twirly moustache too. In living memory the restaurant still had sawdust on the floor, and where we sat (upstairs in a spectacular balcony that could only be rivalled at the Opera Garnier itself) we were entertained by a small brown mouse, who evidently lived in the panelling. And if you were a mouse I cannot think of anywhere on earth you could make a better life for yourself! Imagine the cheese! It was a truly enchanting experience - for there was food too, of course, and it was superb.
On the next night, headteacher Jamie Hornshaw took me to another lovely restaurant, and fine and grand as it was inside, the view outside, across a square in Saint Germain en Laye (just outside Paris) to the extraordinary Chateaux where Louis XIV was born, was the real thrill. Today it is a museum of Archaeology. When lit at night it reminded me of the Beast's castle in Cocteau's fabulous film "La Belle et la Bete"!
The last night in Paris, Janee kindly invited me her home, a beautiful house in the suburbs, where her husband Nicholas, prepared a typically French supper and we ate, with family and friends in a beautiful dining room crammed full of pictures and drawings by Janee and Nicholas's children.
My head is spinning with ideas... some may find their way into a book. Of those, the first to appear must surely be a story about my little mouse!
Friday, 1 October 2010
One of the best things about teaching students at Cambridge Art School (I'm a visiting lecturer on the MA in Children's Book illustration) is seeing them take off and do wonderful things.
I have especially happy memories of working with Faye Durston (also known as Faye Hanson). Like many illustrators, Faye lacked confidence, yet she is a remarkable talent, and not only for her exquisite and astonishing artwork. She is also a brilliantly imaginative writer and indeed won the Cambridge Art School/Anglia Ruskin University writing prize upon graduation.
Here's a short film to whet the appetite for her first book.
It's a gloriously imaginative confection with eye-popping images. I'm convinced Faye is destined for greatness and I am proud to have been her tutor.
The book is called the The Wychwood Fairies and is published today by Macmillan Books.
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