Write, Read and Illustrate with Abandonment by Eileen Magee

I have a friend who paints in water colours under the guidance of an Adelaide Hills artist.   Every now and then, my friend gives me a demonstration (and a good laugh) of her antics and interpretation of the ‘Painting with Gay Abandonment’ style that the artist advocates one should embrace regularly. 

Don’t get me wrong…she has every faith in painting with gay abandonment, it’s just that she embraces it with such gusto—which of course, is the point! 

Painting with gay abandonment, my friend assures me, requires one to stand up from their sitting down position—she at least prefers to.   She demonstrates…standing, she bends her knees slightly, steadies her stance and waves her invisible paintbrush in sweeping flourishes toward the imaginary easel in front of her.  This requires a little footwork to keep her balance, along with her free arm outstretched to the side for stability—which also invites her hand to flutter.  As she adds paint to her canvas, she moves to and fro…over here a little and a bit on that side.  I realise with all this gay abandonment, that…she’s dancing!  Once her gay abandonment session abates, she returns to her chair to focus and fine tune her work.

Writers too—and illustrators of course, embrace moments of gay abandonment. Though writers generally remain seated.  Our gay abandonment moments are akin to translating the conversations in our imaginations.  Getting those first words and sketches down on the page—the ideas—the jumble in our head tumbling out onto paper/screen.  Before our critical eye catches a glance.

We should keep gay abandonment in mind when reading too.  Let our imagination take us through the pages—into the story, the adventure, the magic—both the mysterious type, and of the words.

As long as something makes sense and feels believable in the context of the story—then we can, like our intended audience (children), embrace impossibility and not give too much credence to political correctness or safety issues and the like.  If you think about it—the Famous Five wouldn’t have got far if the writer realised that no responsible adult was around. Giant peaches may well have found themselves stewed, dangerous chocolate factories would be closed down, magical nannies medicated, and Gruffalos and green ogres confined to a zoo!

We need to give children some credit.  After all, their play often starts with the words “Let’s pretend…”.  We can therefore rest assured that they can differentiate between the real world, and the pretend world found in books, movies and in their imaginations.  We need not fear the world’s children will traipse off across the hills in search of dragons or lost treasures.  It’s also important to understand that children need a touch of the scary, the dangerous and independence in stories—as much as they need magic, laughter, adventure and heroes.  Reading helps them prepare for the world out there.  There’s no hiding from it. 

So, if the impossible is believable—such as the platform of 9¾’s bound for Hogwarts…then go with it—write it, read it or draw it—but, get on that train! 

As writers and illustrators of children’s books, we can’t afford to lose our inner-child, our imaginations, our gay abandonment, or our dancing shoes!

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Thursday, 15 April 2021

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