Today is release day for The Grandest Bookshop in the World by Amelia Mellor, and, delightfully, the first time my illustrations appear on the cover of a published book. The entrancing cover design is by Affirm Press, and I contributed the characters and window illustrations. I can’t wait til I can go to a bookshop and see it for real. But, in the meantime, it has been a pretty exciting distraction from Covid lockown.
As for the actual story: it’s a glorious middle-grade fantasy adventure set in 1890s Melbourne, and the bookshop, known as Cole’s Book Arcade, was a real place. I loved it, and it feels like such a special story, grounded in Melbourne history.
Thank you so much to Meg Whelan, and the Affirm team, for bringing me into this project.
In the depths of Melbourne’s lockdown winter, I was glad to have a distraction in the form of teaching. The School Magazine hosted a Literary Festival in late August, and I was invited to contribute some of my thoughts on illustration.
As always, teaching helps clarify ideas that have been floating in the back of my mind, forcing me to nail them down. And the TSM folk set me some interesting prompts to answer, which led me to question some of the things I do without thinking.
Growing up, I wasn’t one of the kids who was super into drawing, and it’s always really important to me to make sure that kids know it’s not a thing to just be ‘good at drawing’ (or ‘good at maths’ or anything else). You get better at things you spend time working on, and anyone can learn to draw (and do maths) whenever they want. It’s also really important to me that illustration is not simply ‘being good at drawing’. There are so many skills that go into it, and for these videos I found myself focussing on how to be the best illustrator you can be right now, even if you’re not happy with your drawing skills.
Another thing that filtered into my thought process while making the videos is more of a personal reflection. When I was young, and people asked me the question ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?‘, I never knew what to answer, because mostly I just wanted to read (and climb trees…). But I didn’t really want to edit books, or review them – making judgements seemed horribly difficult – I just wanted to delve into them. I could never have guessed, at nine years old, that drawing would be my pathway to that, but I’m glad I found a way there.