Military moves provide an opportunity to experience different cultures in all kinds of weather. Without a doubt, the most extreme for my family was our move to Syracuse New York. Yes, culture shock can occur in the U.S. too! We arrived in the summer of 1995, and after nearly two months of house searching we settled into a quaint neighborhood. It was just a few miles from shopping and schools, yet tucked away on quiet streets for outdoor play like biking and skateboarding. Our neighbor’s home sat atop a tremendous hill — which he kindly donated to the neighborhood children as the “sledding path.”
It wasn’t long before we understood the significance of our neighbor’s generosity. Just before Halloween “old man winter” arrived, transforming our vibrant green setting to glistening snow white. Throughout the coming months we watched in awe as the snow continued to fall, routine as rainfall. Dump-trucks soon followed snow plows to haul away the mounds of accumulating snow in the cul-de-sac — flood prevention should a spontaneous melt-down occur. Finally, in May on Mother’s Day, nearly eight months after the first snowfall and 200 cumulative inches later, snowfall subsided and spring emerged!
My husband has been TDY in Utah this week. Temporary Duty Assignments were commonplace during our military years — and as we’ve learned it’s frequently the case for contractors too. Hearing his reports of refreshing spring weather suddenly diminished by cold and snow immediately made me think of Syracuse! It also brought to mind a book that I discovered during the Christmas season.
When It Snows, written and illustrated by Richard Collingridge, released in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in December 2012. It is “an amazing journey in which they ride a polar bear and meet huge snowmen, an ice queen, fairies, elves, and a giant reindeer. When everything grinds to a halt because of the snow, one small boy and his teddy bear refuse to allow the weather to spoil their fun.” The author was born in London and studied Illustration at the University of the West of England. I had the privilege of a virtual meeting with Collingridge. We shared our mutual love for giving children a place (inside a book) to play, dream and imagine. It was his book trailer that first captured my attention; from there I was mesmerized by Collingridge’s artistry and story-telling talents. Our online conversations developed into a superb interview.
Now that Old Man Winter appears to have had his last hurrah with last week’s snow mixed with sleet, it appears New Yorker’s are setting their sites on spring. So, let’s seize the opportunity of setting aside time to play, dream and imagine. My Q&A with Richard Collingridge brings such an opportunity, with celebration of incredible gifts and a fascinating book trailer, When It Snows goes well beyond Christmastime! Available on Amazon August 2013!
Q: When did you first realize that you had a gift for writing and drawing?
A: I first realized I was good at drawing when I was about 5. Everyone in the class was drawing stick men, and I thought ‘people don’t look like that’, so I drew my people out of shapes – and ever since then the shapes have become more accurate. I still think drawing isn’t difficult, it just takes practice and most people give up if they aren’t great straight away (I had the same problem with Math).
Q: Who was your most significant mentor, and why?
A: In art – No one really, there are a lot of things that influence me but nothing /no-one who showed me a particular direction. In publishing – my publisher David Fickling. Just because he, above everyone else understands my vision, pushes me to produce better work and trusts me in what I do. I don’t think there are many publishers in the world who have those traits, and I’d suggest that might be why a lot of illustrators/authors give up so early on in their careers.
Q: You’ve received formal art education — has that been the door-opener for you? Or would you say your own persistence, boldness or something else contributed more.
A: Art education…that’s a difficult one – I’d say the best thing about studying art is that you have time; time to try things without the pressure of paying bills.
However I don’t think it prepares you for life outside education. I had problems with different tutors saying different things about what direction I should have gone in. And when you are a student and they are the teacher, so you tend to listen to them too much and end up doing things that you think they would like rather than what you would like, and that never ends well.
So my advice is to perhaps, listen to what they say to an extent (because they have experience and are generally great artists in their own right), but do what you enjoy – because after all you are not going to be illustrating for them for the rest of your life, you are going to be illustrating for yourself, so best to do what you enjoy!
Q: You’ve created a brilliant book trailer as well. Do you have aspirations of a full length movie?
A: Thank you, very glad you like it 😉 I’d love to see ‘When it Snows’ become a movie. We’ll have to wait and see on that one!
Q: Your title first caught my eye – all of Hope Matters’ books begin with “When.” (“When Your Teacher Has Cancer” etc). How did you decide on the title?
A: I had originally done an illustration of a giant reindeer in the snow, which I really liked… so I decided to do a series of snowy illustrations. I arranged then in a list of what happens “When it Snows.” As we developed it into a narrative, the title stuck.
Q: What do you hope readers come away with — is there a moral or ethical message in the storyline, through the actions of the characters?
A: Not really (moral/ethical message). I try to conceive worlds that definitely aren’t real & illustrate them as if they are real. So I guess it’s a kind of escapism, but an escapism that you can feel (I hope).
Q: In your opinion, why are imagination and a spirit of adventure important for children?
A: I think imagination is important for EVERYONE. It’s important because the real world has boundaries. Boundaries that as a child you’re not allowed to go past, and as an adult you know you can’t go past. Imagination, either your own or relayed to you in stories can take you beyond those boundaries and give you hope…and hope is probably one of the single most important things we have to keep us going as a species (of course that’s just my opinion).
Q: From idea to press, how long has the process taken?
A: It has taken a long time. The original concept sketch I did was in 2009. The book was released in September 2012.
Q: What inspired you to write a children’s book – why that choice of genre?
A: I showed my portfolio to my girlfriend’s grandmother Françoise , and she said that my work was great, but very dark – So I decided to do something for children, and When it Snows was born out of that.
Q: How do you like to spend your time when you’re not writing or illustrating or film-making?
A: Unfortunately, I don’t get much spare time these days… I suppose being an illustrator/writer means you generally sit in an office and draw/write pretty much every day of the week, and that’s not brilliant for your health. So in my spare time I try to do some form of exercise. But generally drawing etc is part of my life; so it’s not something I can put down after I’ve finished my shift.
Q: Do you have any book tours/events scheduled in the coming weeks?
A: I’ll have some in 2013 I guess, but to be honest, I’m not great at them so I generally let my publicist sort that out!
Q: Anything else you want to share?
A: Just, that I hope you all enjoy When it Snows. Very best, Rich