By a nice coincidence, my first ever collaboration with an illustrator began just after I’d written the previous blog – about visuals in text. My kids’ stories featuring Stanley, the fairy who lives in the washbasin in my bedroom, had been accepted by a publisher and I obviously needed someone to create some appropriate images for him. Fiona-Jane Brown, a FaceBook friend, suggested I contact Melanie Chadwick. I did and, as a consequence, met Stanley for the first time.
By that I mean that, although I’ve written seven stories about him and am aware of his character, his habits and his presence, I’d never really thought about what he looked like. I knew he was the size of a mouse and that he preferred being miserable, but that was it. In the first story, which I wrote in response to the publisher’s request for information about how he’d come to be living in my bedroom in the first place, I gave him a scarf, woollen socks, a tee-shirt and some shorts, but I never envisaged him wearing them.
Melanie agreed to do some sketches for me and I have to say I’m delighted with her ideas, her style, and the Stanley she’s created. But …
The first sketch she sent me was a black and white version of the one above. I’d told her that Stanley was miserable and that’s what she’d given me. But it was only when I looked at it that I realised that, more than miserable, Stanley is angry, aggressive, rude, impatient. I’ve known him for two or three years at least but it was only the visual representation of him that brought that realisation. So a more typical Stanley pose is this …
The point is that all my theorising and/or speculating about visuals in text was exactly that – abstract – and it was only when I literally had to look at a picture of Stanley that I first began to wonder what he looked like. Well, thanks to Melanie, now I know. She’s produced lots of versions of him in various moods and has designed three of the seven covers, bringing her own sense of Stanley (and sense of humour) to them and really transforming the stories into something other than the things I’d written. Her sketches have also given me ideas for more stories because I’ll now be ‘interfacing’ with the character in a different, more questioning way.
This business of visuals in text is even more complex than I thought it was.
By the way, it’s important for me to say that the copyright for these images belongs to Melanie Chadwick and they can only be reproduced with her permission.