I was extraordinarily lucky to be mentored by George Adams in my first year of studying Art and Design. This was a designer and artist who had studied at the Weimar Bauhaus under Walter Gropius in the early 1920s.
Elements of his teachings are still in the forefront of my mind today, over fifty years later. He didn’t teach us how to draw, but how to think. More importantly he told us never to stop ‘playing’. That element of play in design, illustration, painting and in creative writing are essential in allowing you to live what you are making.
In writing this allows characters to ‘take over’ the plot, to drive different storylines. You start off by being a puppeteer, you end up more like a puppet hanging on for the ride.
I am a part of that post war, baby boom, privileged generation – except it wasn’t quite like that for everyone.
Silver spoons from which to sup were few and far between in the suburban hinterland between North Kent and London. The most common weed on our pavements was wheat, still trying to break through the asphalt from the corn fields our suburb replaced. Prefabricated building littered the area for those who had lost their homes in the WW2 air raids of London and half ruined buildings and bomb sites were our adventure playgrounds.
They were a lot of children. That meant many potential friends and about twice as many potential enemies for an isolated kid who didn’t understand social interactions (many, many years later I was diagnosed as sub clinically autistic (what was Aspergers) and not even my GP can explain exactly what that means.
I was educated at a now vanished Grammar School and subsequently at the University of the Arts, London. At my graduation show I was recruited by Pearson Longman, after a cursory interview in a room with no windows (it might have been a cupboard).
A few years later I founded an advertising agency in Bristol with a business partner as equally confused by life as I was, but that was all a bit too serious and it only lasted three years. Since then I have worked on freelance commissions from publishers, book packagers, corporations, manufacturers, tourism boards, charities, theatres, the NHS, car manufacturers, various museums and several festivals – I’ve lost track of the complete list.
Interspersed with this work I have lectured, drawn humorous postcards, worked in youth theatre and educational storytelling groups. Amidst all this I managed to marry, stay married, raise two children, two cats, several fish and, of course, I write.