#SCBWICON16 Conference Report from the Wales Network: Illustrator Keynote Speech and Q & A

Illustrator Keynote Speech and Q & A

By Zoë Thomas

Our guest speaker was Leigh Hodgkinson, who is clearly a non-stop, spinning top of ideas and has multiple projects on the go at all times, with more ideas buzzing around, vying for her attention. She admitted that ‘Everything excites me and I don’t want to lose time!’

Illustrator Keynote Speech

There are books, illustrations, animated films, collages, and lots of goodies on her website: http://www.wonkybutton.com  The tagline advises us to ‘Share the Love’, and you can feel that love of creativity and expression, through whatever materials she can get her hands on. Is there anything this lady can’t create? I think the answer is ‘No!’ - as she said:

‘Being creative and expressive isn’t a choice, it’s just what I do!’ 

She added that it helps her make sense of the world and her feelings, and she just can’t stop - her husband lovingly refers to it as her ‘creative Tourette’s’!  The way she sees the world, very much reminded me of the Japanese idea of Wabi-sabi, where beauty can be seen in ordinary, ‘imperfect’ things, and she clearly sees possibilities everywhere.

Q & A breakout

In her Q & A, she spoke of her love of fusing things that wouldn’t naturally go together. ‘The more extreme they are, the better it can work’; e.g. Trollswap came from looking at Wife Swap and then pairing a child and a troll.

She likes to play with form and structure, and also the conventions of character, e.g. Limelight Larry is aware that he’s in a book. He’s also a spiky, awkward character, as ‘[MCs*] shouldn’t always be fluffy and cute.’

As children love the power of knowledge, she suggests adding extras in the illos for them to follow. And also noted, that children love different versions of a well-known story and the liberation of reworking them, hence Goldilocks and Just One Bear was born.

Leigh chatting to SCBWIs

On a practical level, she writes text and illo notes at the same time, as with an animated script. And uses font to give the reader a directional nudge, which helps give feeling and texture to her stories. To reduce the pressure at the start of a project, she often experiments with backgrounds and textures, as with Are You Sitting Comfortably?

Use font to give the reader a nudge.

You really get the feeling that there aren’t enough hours in the day for Leigh to create all the things she’d like to, but you can rest assured that we will have many more delightful years, enjoying what she can make time to produce. Insider secret - watch out for Tolibobs in February 2017 (CBeebies).

In the meantime, take a leaf out of Leigh’s book and look afresh at what’s about you and then let your creativity go to town on it - everything has a possibility!

*MCs = Main Characters


Zoë Thomas heads up the Wales network and this was her first conference. She’s been a member of SCBWI for two years and it’s been a delightful revelation. With all the support and skill sharing at hand, she’s determined that some day she will write the perfect picture book! 

You can reach her at wales@britishscbwi.org

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