To celebrate International Women’s day I would like to applaud the marvellous Judith Kerr for her achievements as an illustrator, but perhaps more simply for her love of drawing.
She has inspired me as a child with her Mog the cat stories and The Tiger Who Came to Tea, and now that I am a mother I am enjoying them all over again with my own children. Her drawings are full of life, they are playful, and to me, they exude the joy of drawing. Reading about her has got me wondering where the heck the pencils are in the studio.
In her interview with the BBC, she talks about the importance of drawing and how it alleviates loneliness when she misses her husband who died 10 years ago. She has always drawn, and draws every day to this day – even as a 93 year old – in her study at the top of her house in Barnes, surrounded by jars of pencils and piles of paper. She draws because she loves it, she draws because it helps her forget that she is in pain, she draws because it is fun. So often I chose watching telly or checking ‘nothing’ on my iphone in favour of doing what I love – which is drawing. If you ask a designer for a pencil – they will struggle to find one. Which is just madness when it probably would have been the joy of drawing that got them on the path to design. Somehow we lose that part of what we love and become slaves to our machines. Drawing enables you to freely explore your ideas, we must do it more!
‘It’s something that’s outside oneself, that matters very much.’
Drawing is almost a meditative practice; it requires focus but somehow is totally relaxing. I suppose this is because there is no room in your head for other thoughts, apart from the world you are creating on paper with your pencil. I’m often telling my 5 year old son that a drawing can never be wrong, and that it belongs to you so it can be anything you want it to be – a rabbit on roller skates, faces with no noses, hands with no fingers, tigers that come to tea. And so you can create a world that has no rules and express your thoughts with the only boundaries being the edges of your piece of paper.
Judith’s life is fascinating – and highlights the many different chapters we can go through in our lifetime. She fled Germany as a child with her family after her father, a successful theatre critic had openly criticised the Nazi’s. (You must read her book When Hitler Stole Pink rabbit – it describes her time as a child fleeing from the Nazi’s and has a beautiful matter of factness about it – a theme that seems to run throughout the Tiger that came to tea. A tiger has eaten all of our food and drunk all of our drink – but nevermind. Lets go to a café, oh and we’ll get some tiger food in case he comes back. Silly us for not having it in our cupboard in the first place.) But it wasn’t until she had children that she decided to write and illustrate her first book – The Tiger Who came to Tea.
So, Judith Kerr, we salute you. You inspire us with your special mind and love of drawing. Happy International Women’s day everybody – move away from your laptop and get your pencils out.
You can read about International Women’s Day here