Although I grew up in a more urban than rural environment I was encouraged by my artist parents and my mother in particular (a great gardener and reader) to observe the world and wildlife around me. The combination of roaming and playing outside along with a home filled with poetry, story books and beautiful objects fueled my natural affiliation with Nature and my love of the cycle of the seasons. Home, as an image of time, the quietness of interior spaces and atmosphere is very important to me and features constantly in my work.
|The nearly home trees|
As a child I was lucky enough to be a precocious reader: I devoured Blake, galloped through Grimm (with terror at my heels), constantly revisited the melancholy world of Hans Christian Andersen and gleefully recited the poetry of AA Milne and Spike Milligan. But my greatest love was increasingly for writers where I found not just lyricism but a suggestion of something more indefinable: the landscape shaped by layers of time, the workings of man and mythology. I was drawn to John Masefield, L.M Boston, Eleanor Farjeon, Elizabeth Goudge and C.S. Lewis who explored history and atmosphere and an indefinable sense of mystery and magic which culminated in my utter joy to discover myth made real in Alan Garner’s Owl Service.
|‘owls not flowers’|
At school my major interests were Art, Literature and History and I went on to study Fine Art Painting at Central School of Art in London. I have exhibited my paintings in galleries for over thirty years with book Illustration only becoming a major part of my work over the last ten. The narrative element of my work lends itself to creating successful greetings cards and prints and these were seen by one of Templar Publishing’s designers in 2008 who then commissioned me to interpret Carol Ann Duffy’s fairy tale The Princess’ Blankets as a sequence of paintings. I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful chance to enter the world of publishing by working with a beautiful, thoughtful text leading to a sumptuous production. I was also lucky to be given completely free reign with my approach and it is perhaps the most unusual book I have worked on. The Princess’ Blankets won the 2009 English Association Key Stage 2 Award for Illustration and I am really proud that all my picture books have had the honour of being nominated for the Greenaway Award.
|Princess Blankets: the forest’s blanket|
My first author/illustrator book The Star Tree was really an attempt to create something that encompasses lullaby, magic, imagination and journey. It is a book that I would have liked to have read when I was little, one that I wish my children had been young enough to enjoy when they were small and one that I hope their children will love.
|Star Tree spread|
My most recent project for Zephyr (Head of Zeus) The Snow Angel novel by Lauren St John has been another learning curve: a front cover with black and white interiors. These interiors were executed on clay board – a new technique for me which I absolutely relish for its organic qualities and mark making possibilities.
|black and white interior for Snow Angel|
Over the past few years the boundaries between my painting and illustration have become happily mixed, referencing works on canvas with words from books and poetry and bringing as many painterly qualities to my illustrations as possible.
Painter or Illustrator? I am Catherine Hyde.”