Helen Craig, granddaughter of the theatrical designer, Edward Gordon Craig, is best known as the illustrator of Angelina Ballerina, written by Katharine Holabird. However, there are many other facets to Helen’s art and it is not just mice that she likes to draw. As well as being an illustrator, Helen is a sculptor and print maker and she has a fascination for horses too, despite being petrified by them.
I spotted this little horse on her mantle piece when I visited her a couple of weeks ago.
It was the horse that inspired these images in Amy's Three Best Things; a story written by Philippa Pearce (1920 –2006).
Helen told me she was delighted when she was offered a chance to re-illustrate Amy's Three Best Things. And it was the little horse on the mantelpiece that helped bring about that strange metamorphosis illustrators can have when an object leads you into a story.
Suddenly, I spotted other horses that Helen had made out of clay -
– there was even one lurking in the flower borders of her garden.She showed some of her horse etchings – hauntingly surreal and very different from her Angelina Ballerina images.
I was beginning to understand now why it was a horse that was the catalyst for the images in Amy’s Three Best Things. In the story, Amy brings her three best things with her when she goes to visit her Granny: a bedside mat, a little horse and a toy boat. At night, when she starts to miss her mother, Amy finds each of these things can take her back to her own home where she catches a glimpse of her family before returning, comforted, to her Granny’s house.
I love seeing roughs so we went up to Helen’s studio where she showed me how she created the illustrations for this delightful book working with her son, Ben Norland, Art Director at Walker Books. Here is the process from thumb nail sketch through to final illustration:
the thumbnail sketches,
the first layout with text,
the first rough in ink when the layout changed to a double page spread,
the first colour rough, photocopied and colour tested,
the final pencil drawing where the houses have been moved clear of the horse's hooves: half size (145mm height by 372mm width)
and the final piece of artwork which the publisher then enlarged to 215mm height by 530mm width.
By working with photocopied pencil drawings, Helen was able to achieve a lithographic effect which adds to the spontaneity and magic of these illustrations.
Copyright @ Helen Craig