We had another very good evening at the White Horse Barn on 4th March, this time with award-winning children's illustrator and author Mini Grey. Mini studied sequential illustration in Brighton under John Vernon Lord (inspirational creator of The Giant Jam Sandwich) and decided that she had to be able to generate her own stories if she was going to be a children's illustrator, 'otherwise you just have to sit and wait for other people's stories and that might take a long time!'
She brought along several of er sketchbooks and also the zigzag books and the miniature books she makes to show her agent and publisher, small early versions of the finished books. It was fascinating to see the gestation of the books. Some, like her latest book Hermelin, take years and start off in very different forms - Hermelin began as a story about missing cats. She uses a lot of bits and bobs in her initial sketchbooks, and brought a tiny cheesebox back with her from Prague, for Hermelin cheese, that seemed to be crying out for a small creature to live in it.
'I've always used Dr Marten's watercolours but they do fade. I use ink, pencil, Quink. But I always come back to watercolours. I love the unexpectedness of watercolour. You can be messy with them. Masking fluid is good, you can spray - there is an unexpected, random element. I do try to make them messy. Some books are hard to be messy with... My least favourite part of the process is the final artwork - you're committed then.'
- Did her English degree prepare her for her career? 'Words and pictures... I didn't think there was an option for words and pictures. I never did a proper art degree or training. I should have done an illustration degree but it was seen as a lower form of art. Now it's got a new profile. Also, there are children's picture book courses - exciting things are happening now, they are seen as a proper art form.'