A Colin Thompson Special

The first book I read that was illustrated (and written) by Colin Thompsonwas The Last Alchemist which transformed me into a veritable fan. If writers/illustrators were rockstars and had groupies, I shall consider myself a groupie indeed.

Over and above his being a prolific writer, he is an even more inspired illustrator. Here are some of his art works which are likewise found and downloadable from his website.

I am no expert in art, but I love the fact that each page in his children’s books is a classic work of art, filled with teeming images, a true visual feast, a smorgasbord of fantastical drawings and colors. What I particularly like about his drawings is that there are little images built into the bigger images. So for art teachers who would like to teach their young students great attention to detail,his books would be a perfect example to showcase/demonstrate and teach that skill.

Since I have not had a chance to meet with him or correspond with him yet, I just stalked his website to find out exactly how he does these surreal images –otherworldly indeed. Just looking at his books makes me wonder just how much time he devotes to making each beautiful page that could stand for works of art in and of themselves. Apparently, his first two publications were in 1991 and within 17 years (by 2008) he already had 51 books published. He truly must be living and breathing paints.

I have a theory about what it takes to have a creative mind. And I feel that what he writes down in his website is a testament to this burgeoning idea in my head and what I observe from the brilliant people that I have interacted with. You don’t begin with just a singular idea, follow it through, and begin another one again ONLY after you have finished the first one. I myself am a victim to this, since my mind is always teeming with around 5 bright ideas before breakfast. And I do not get bothered with multiple projects since it takes sensitivity to discern which one you can go forward with and which ones would be placed on the shelf, waiting for their perfect moment. As what I told Mary the other day as we were chatting about this gatheringbooks website and the many other projects I have, it’s a matter of experiencing and enjoying all these parallel waves of opportunities/projects and allowing them to wash over you; you may get a breather on occasion, but you ride these waves to the sunset and beyond.

As Thompson himself put it:

For example if I am working on a particularly detailed illustration, it’s impossible to sit down, begin and carry on until it’s finished. There comes a point when I look at the page and think – what the hell am I going to put there? It’s as if I’ve emptied out the part of my brain that stores images and then I have to do something else while it fills up again.

Sometimes this just involves working on another picture and I often have two or three illustrations on the go at the same time. Other times I go and do some writing as that seems to use a different part of your brain. I hate anyone even being in the room when I’m writing but when I’m illustrating, I have music playing and am quite happy to chat to whoever’s there. Other times I might fiddle around on the computer or go shopping, take the dog for a walk or do the washing up. (http://www.colinthompson.com/page5.htm)

Regarding his working methods, he mentioned in his website that he used technical pens with inks that he mixes himself. He also used dual brush pens which come in a range of 144 colors. However, with the advent of Wacom Cintiq graphics tablet (I actually have an Intuos 4 myself, which I hardly use, unfortunately), he now illustrates on the computer. And he noted that while he still enjoys using pens and buying them, there are things that you do in the computer that are “difficult or even impossible using pens and paper (http://www.colinthompson.com/page20.htm)” and the fact that you can easily undo/edit your work if a new idea happens is also a major plus factor. This is an example of a drawingthat he has done on the computer – it’s based from his next two picture books: The Violin Man and Colin Thompson’s Castles.

The details are just breathtakingly astounding. And just plain inspiring. Clicking on a part of the image would likewise provide even more details found from within the image (see the violin on top of the first image and the one below).

I am also thinking that with Kindle and iPad, I am sure it would also revolutionize the way that we avid readers could experience a Colin Thompson creation.

Right now, I have four books by Colin Thompson all borrowed from the National Institute of Education library (a wonderful resource, truly). I look forward to having my own personal copy of all 56 of his books, soon. I doubt if I can find them anywhere here in Singapore, so I’d probably order them on amazon while we are in the States this December for faster and cheaper shipping. Enjoy his works, everyone.

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