Iranian talisman
This week, writer Philippa Francis suggests some ideas for talismans that might help illustrators steer a course through the year and achieve their creative Resolutions.

This is the time of year when we have all been encouraged to take up at least one New Year’s Resolution. There will be screeds of articles on what this might mean (including one by me for SCBWI-BI writers).

 But I decided to take a different tack (if you’ll pardon the pun) for my illustrator colleagues. Among other ideas, for me the word ‘Resolution’ conjures up one of Captain James Cook’s ships. 

HMS Resolution

When entrusted with the mission of sailing down to the bottom of the known world to the Antarctic, Capt. Cook didn’t select anything grand or fancy. He chose a collier brig – a sturdy little Whitby-built craft. He wanted something that could keep going through mountainous seas, cope with blustering winds or powerful currents, and weather great changes in temperature. 

And he was certainly in for the long haul as we are. 

As you probably know, seafarers tend to hold a great respect for luck. In almost every culture, they use rituals and items to bring good fortune. When I went to the Magical Books Exhibition at the Bodleian Library this summer, I marvelled at an Islamic talisman: a beautiful ship, with sails and clouds and gilding all made up of calligraphy spells. Such beauty had to sustain the holder throughout their journey. 

I think we could all do with some good fortune to keep us going – whatever our beliefs. After all, Thomas Jefferson said:

 "I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." 

Calligraphic galleon talisman

So I am asking readers, especially the illustrators and visual artists, to step back from their current projects, and consider the forthcoming annual ‘voyage’ as a whole. What likely projects are on the horizon, where would you like to be by the end of the year in your career? What goals or destinations are there along the way? What skills might you need?

You might like to create an appropriate 'talisman' to keep you on track. I’ve suggested a travel talisman as this fits with the notion of journeying through the year. 

 A talisman is usually in a shape that has a relevant meaning - like a ship for a voyage. Inside, it generally has images or words that mean something to the owner. For example, if one of your goals is to spend more time sketching, then something that reminds you of that could fill the sails of your ship. 

The purpose is to focus your mind on the year ahead: to centre your mind on what is essential. 

A suggestion for you: 

Create a travel talisman of your own; a boat, a plane, a pair of roller skates like Quentin Blake’s Mrs Armitage... whatever works for you.

It could be drawn or three-dimensional – something you can hold would be great. 

You could be humorous in the manner of The Interesting Thoughts of Edward Monkton, or as detailed as Grayson Perry

This could remain a private reflection tucked in your desk - or be displayed in your workspace as a reminder of your commitment to your journey (I should love to see someone’s).

I do hope you enjoy the process – and I don’t think it’s limited to artists. 

K. M. Lockwood is a writing name of Philippa R. Francis. As well as being a regular contributor, Philippa (@lockwoodwriter) is also part of the Words & Pictures team as the @Words8Pictures Tweetmaster, growing our following and maintaining our 'Industry news' feed.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this reminder of a talisman I once had. I found it in the street - a b/w photo of a strange engraved coin. I had just lost all my oil paintings in a fire, including a couple of precious large portraits I had painted of my dad, and my first love. I pocketed the photo like a message from the gods. And I went back to France and rebuilt my house and life there, with my then toddler son who once the house was sorted inspired me to write and illustrate my first published books.


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