Last Saturday was Helen Craig’s 8oth birthday and a surprise party was thrown for her. Friends and family had been asked to arrive early and park their cars, out of sight, in the field, before waiting very quietly for Helen to arrive. Did she suspect? Here’s her expression as she walked through the door.
Despite repeatedly saying she didn’t want a surprise party, when it happened Helen was smiling.
The remarkable thing about Helen Craig at 80 is that she is still having picture books published. She’s currently working on the illustrations of Snowy Sunday, eighteen years after doing the first book in the series, One Windy Wednesday, published by Walker Books in 1996.
One Windy Wednesday is a story about the animals on Bonnie Bumble's farm having their voices blown away by the wind and all ending up with the wrong sounds. Here’s a link to it and the other books in the series: One Windy Wednesday, Meow Monday, Turnover Tuesday, Thirsty Thursday, Foggy Friday and Soggy Saturday.
Helen told me that she wanted the images for these books to be quite different from her Angelina Ballerina books. She said she found it hard to draw in a bold manner and so she did the original line drawings very small - about 3 inches square for the single page and then enlarged on the photocopier to 8 inches square so the enlargement was quite great and the line ended up nice and chunky. She then dampened the picture and stretched it onto a board, before colouring it.
“In Snowy Sunday,” she said, “it’s snowing snowflakes as big as balls of wool and all the animals are shivering, so Bonnie Bumble has to knit them coats and scarves, beak warmers and tail warmers. These stories are always whacky and fantastic but that's what makes them such fun to do.”
This must be the secret to Helen’s long illustrating career – the fun of it all and the sheer delight of drawing and painting.