About six months back, I was invited to run some workshops at the Durban House Heritage Centre in Nottingham, as part of their D.H. Lawrence Festival. These were for adults, which makes a pleasant change, so I have been looking forward to it. The day came this Saturday, so Friday night saw me gathering together various bits of artwork and roughs into a portfolio, with a range of posters for creating a display. I also packed up my little suitcase with books to talk around, books to display and books to sign.
I had decided to do a similar workshop to the Stockport one (see Stockport Art Gallery), creating illustrations of predators, and then using them as the inspiration for stories. This time though, I was going to base it on Rocky and the Lamb, a book I did with Greg Gormley, which features this rather hairy monster, and on the Gnash, Gnaw, Dinosaur! drawings (see Gnash, Gnaw, Dinosaur!).
I booked a nice early train, so there was plenty of time to set myself up and have a cup of tea before kick-off. It was a good-size room, with the two big tables I'd asked for next to the flip chart at the front, a semi-circle of chairs facing me expectantly, and tables behind them, ready for the drawing and writing activities. I stood my picture books up along the front tables, and stuck my posters along the front edge, so they hung down nearly to the floor, like a colourful table cloth. While I was setting out paper & pencils on the guest's tables, I asked the organiser what sort of numbers we had booked in. She went away to find out, while I drew my usual 'welcome' drawing on the flip chart: this time a rhino swinging in a tree (dressed as Tarzan and based on the cover illustration from When You're Not Looking).
I was rather disappointed to hear that there was just one person booked in for the morning session, and four for the afternoon, but didn't despair: there are almost always quite a few who turn up on spec. Still, clearly this was not going to be standing room only; the organiser helped me remove a lot of the chairs and a couple of tables. Five minutes before the off, she left me to it and I sat down at the front to finish my tea. Generally they wait and do and introduction, but I'm quite happy to be left to my own devices.
Twenty minutes later, I left the still empty room and took myself off to reception. 'Shall we give them a ring?' suggested the lady on the front desk sympathetically, the almost virginal booking form in hand. It all seemed a bit desperate, but, 'Yes,' I said 'that's a good idea.' But my one and only client was not at home. 'Perhaps she's on her way?' said the receptionist, unconvincingly hopeful. 'I'll hang on another five minutes,' I said and went back to my room. Outside, the sun was shining. I thought of my garden, the one I'd had almost no opportunity to sit in recently.
It was quite a wait until my afternoon session at 2.00. I contemplated wandering about. Fortunately, Durban House was right next to a tiny park. It had two benches, and a children's play area. I chose a bench, ate my sandwiches and read a book.
When I got back just before 2.00, there were three women waiting for me. I tried not to look too obviously grateful. When an elderly couple joined us, it felt almost like a crowd, but then they broke the news that he was there to take some photos, and his wife was just tagging along for the ride. Never mind, we were back in business.
It was in the end, a really creative afternoon. I talked for about half an hour, then each of the three women drew very different, but equally powerful illustrations. We had a pouncing tiger (tackled front-on: very tricky), a terrifying, but beautifully drawn owl, and a curious half-man, half-cat creature, remeniscent of the Greek Myths. We didn't get as far as writing the stories, but we spent quite a while talking through various possibilities arising from the drawings, and matching them to the structure of a picture book.
And Alan Clayden and his wife stayed for quite a while too. He took masses of photos and promised to send me a CD. I gave him a big drawing of Rocky the wolf as a souvenir.
All's well that ends well.