The macabre in searching for self.

Macabre and illustrations, make me think of dark tales, with twists and turns, much like walking through the forrest at night, its not what you can see, its what your imagination leads you to believe you can’t see.

Chris Odgers encapsulates this sensation for me, beautiful illustrations with tales created for adults and children. Creating limited print runs, making his work collectables, but for me adding to the intrigue and the allusiveness of his work.


[images online] Available at 28th December 2014]

‘Fall’ written and illustrated by Chris Odgers and limited to 1000 copies, is a story of a boy called Harvey, who on Halloween discovers there is a missing jigsaw piece, but more bizarrely the jigsaw piece is from his chest. The tale unfolds as Harvey embarks on a journey, brimming full of metaphor, as friendships are made stronger and Harvey goes in search of his missing part of self.


[images online] Available at 28th December 2014]


[images online] Available at 28th December 2014]

Odgers work uses characters and symbols that for most are dark, yet the stories told are not, taking time to delve into the illustrations, the limited colour pallet highlights the intricacies in the drawings and adds a beauty to the perceived darkness.

Odgers work reminds me of a recurring theme within my Art Therapy practice, clients in search of self, their identity, and through the utilisation of Art they can embark on a journey to find themselves, or as Harvey did the missing part of the jigsaw.


  • Odgers, Chris, (2003)  ‘Fall’ Atlantic Press, Cornwall.

Final Piece

narrator stitched

Final piece, created for FAT1, mixed media.

This is my final piece from FAT1  a culmination of research and ideas that will be now used as a foundation in FAT2. I found that the project was challenging in that it brought up so many ares that needed to be considered and that FAT1 alone it was not possible to explore all of these aspects.  I feel I was unaware of how much detail I would like to incorpate into the concept and the depths I wish to explore.  The fundamental elements of fusing my Art Therapy practice and my illustration remain at the core of my work and I will continue to use my keyword emotion and a reference point.

Creating a story that is about death, that allows the reader to use their imagination and life experiences to relate to the narrative, and yet the narrative must not dictate to the viewer how that should be feeling.

The character design has felt like a complex process and one that is organic, and as the narrative grows, so does the character.


Sketchbook, Working Character design for FAT1.

As I step into FAT2 I am intrigued where my research will take me and how this will reflect within my practical work.

Picturebooks without words

Trauma and illustration, picturebooks that explore trauma through narrative, does this narrative require text or is it enough for the illustrations to speak alone to the viewer. In allowing the illustrations to stand alone, does it allow the viewer to create their own narrative, align their own experiences within the narrative of the illustrations, or does the text give them a foundation in with they can build their narrative from and again align to their own personal experiences.

Reflecting on my Art Therapy clinical work, it is focused on providing a space where emotions and experiences can be explored using art as the narrative, as words can be to hard to find to truly express how the client is feeling. In Psychology Today a article Children’s Art as Visual NarrativeMalchiodi (2014) states,

“We now know that non-verbal expressive arts like simple drawing, painting and constructing are effective restorative experiences. Language, a function of declarative memory, is often inaccessible to trauma survivors of any age if the event has been particularly disturbing.”
(Malchiodi 2014)
As I work through these thoughts I feel there is not a definitive answer, as a Art Therapist the client tells their story in their own words, as an illustrator does the same principal remains when creating books focusing on traumatic experiences.
Shaun Tan’s book ‘The Red Tree‘ (2014), depicts a story of a girl’s  world full of dark thoughts and feelings. Tan uses little text or no text, in the book. Text that is used is either interwoven into the illustration or carefully placed on the page pulling the viewer to the image first. Tan expresses his understanding of expressing emotions through illustration
“I’d also been increasingly aware that illustration is a powerful way of expressing of feeling as well as ideas, partly because it is outside of verbal language, as many emotions can be hard to articulate in words. I thought it would therefore be interesting to produce an illustrated book that is all about feelings, unframed any storyline context, in some sense going ‘directly to the source’.”
(Tan, S,  n.d)

[images online] Available at:// [Accessed 16th December 2014]

As my works shifts and changes, I am sure so will the use of text, with some work needing more and some requiring less or even none at all. It feels as though it will be subjective to each work produced, and not a exact template for each book or even each page.


Art work that allows space to create your own stories.

Charles Avery, I first came across his work in The Gallery of modern Art in Edinburgh about 10 years ago. Since then his work has reappeared in my head. I have thought what this is, but on reflection I think it is because it captures my imagination. it allows the viewer to create their own story through Avery’s beautiful, and detailed sketches.

[image online] Available at:

Avery, C (2007) Untitled (Place of The Route of the If’En) Pencil, ink & gouache on paper. 162.60 x 243.50 cm[image online] Available at:

Creating scenes that pull the eye in, roaming around from section to section, each time you look you notice something new. Using sign and symbols of everyday objects we all recognise, and we can project our own meaning onto these objects. No one viewers story would be the same.


Avery, C (nd) Untitled ( Heidless Macgregors Bar) [images online] Available at: [Accessed 5th December 2014]

Charles Avery  is a Scottish artist from Oban. He currently lives and works in London. Since 2004 he has devoted and developed his practice to develop an imaginary island. Avery uses drawing s and sculpture to explore the aspects of the island, the main market town Onomatopoeia to the Eternal forrest.

Avery gives an insight into the ‘Heidless Macgregors Bar’

‘After an afternoon ambling through the market our tourist will no doubt frequent one of the taverns around the port that provide bush meat and beer, before tottering onto the cruiser that will convey him back to Triangleland, as the Islanders disparagingly call the outside world.’

Avery 2008

These feel to me like the working of Avery’s mind, bringing the subconscious to the conscious, a wonderful imagination, depicting his thoughts and bringing them to life in his drawings. His work leaves an intrigue an invitation to pull you back too the Island again and again.


  • Generation(2007),Generation-25years of Contemporary Art in Scotland. Available at: 5th December 2014]
  • National Galleries of Scotland (2008),The Islanders: An introduction|Charles Avery. Available at: [Accessed 5th December 2014]

Challenging subjects in picturebooks.


[images online] Available at: [Accessed 14th November 2014]

Picturebooks can often be viewed as books which contain stories that are light hearted, contain a moral or a lesson for the younger generation to learn. Often they do not handle the more challenging subjects, and when they do it can provoke reactions and avoidance from some.

When should children start to learn about the more challenging aspects of life, and what about those children who are already dealing with difficult and traumatic experiences on a daily basis, I wonder what it would be like for them to pick up a picturebook that spoke to them, resonated with a part of their life.

Wolf Erlbruch a German author and illustrator created the book Duck, Death and the Tulip (2007) (German title: Ente, Tod und Tulpe).

The story consists of two characters, a Duck who comes to know Death, and unbeknown to the duck death has been following her all her life.

DDT internals_Page_05

[images online] Available at : [Accessed 14th November 2014]

Duck and Death become friends and talk about life, death and what happens after you die. Sitting in a tree after being diving together they wonder what would happen to Duck’s lake after she dies. The book comes to a close with the death of the Duck, and Death carries her to a river, placing her gently on the water, Death takes the tulip and places it on her,”For a long time he watched her. When she was lost to sight, he was almost a little moved.” 

DDT internals_Page_16

[images online] Available at: [Accessed 14th November 2014]

I can imagine this is a controversial topic for a children’s books, but the way the illustrations depict the gentleness and the empathy of Death towards Duck it handles it with delicacy of Death in a beautiful way.

My work as a Art Psychotherapist working with children I witness children dealing with real challenges more than some adults do throughout there whole life.

I understand this can be hard to contemplate, so when picture books that are created tackling the harder subjects it does cause controversy, but what I pose is, whose need is it to avoid the challenging and hard subjects?

We can not rescue and protect forever, and I wonder is it better to give children an understanding through the use of a medium they know and understand, that can allow for questions to be answered with those who care for them, a healthy exploration into the difficult aspects of life. 

I feel Wolf Erlbruch deals with the emotion of death in a manner which invites a conversation and give permission to talk about something which so many try to avoid, just like Duck not knowing Death had been following her all her life until she turned around.


  • Danielson, J, (2013),“You can start having strange thoughts in trees”, Or, Curiously Good Books from Around the World’, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, 13th October 2013 [online] Available at:Available at : [Accessed 14th November 2014]
  •  Erlbruch,W (2007), Duck Death and the Tulip,New Zealand, Geko Press.

Gabriella Barouch enticing illustration

Gabriella Barouch has created these beautiful images which illustrate Edward Lear’s wonderful and eccentric words, in the book, Edward Lear’s, Book of Nonsense (2011).

I don’t feel may words are needed as the illustrations speak for themselves. They draw the reader in and each time you look at an image you notice a different element.

The text delivers a sense of lightness and humour and the illustrations significantly enhance the words adding more detail and a sense of magic.


[images online] Available at: [Accessed 29th october 2014]

Screen shot 2011-06-17 at 10.57.52 AM

[Images online] Avaliable at: 29th October 2014]

Screen shot 2011-06-17 at 10.58.02 AM

[images online] Available at: [Accessed 29th october 2014]


Illustrators envelopes


Susanne Varley [image online] Available at: [Accessed 25th October 2014]

The image above is a simple black and white illustration drawn onto an envelope by Susanne Varley.  It cleverly combines a every day object and makes it a part of the illustration. It combines the address into the string of the kite, and the stamp becomes the kite.It feels to me the journey is being emphasised, from the hand or paw of the mole, the letter travels a journey only possible by the use of the stamp and the address displayed on the envelope, without these two core aspects the letter would not reach its destination, just as without the wind a kite could not fly. The kite string continues off the envelope further adding to the notion of the journey carrying on.

As researched the image further I came to learn that the illustration of the envelope by illustrators is an art form within its self.

Klauss Flugge the founder of Anderson Press has been receiving illustrated envelopes for over 30 years. the envelopes have now been collated and been published in a book. The Guardian details some of the envelopes in an article called ‘A Publishers Postbag.’ (The Guardian 2011)

The tradition continues with Nosy Crow publishers sharing the same experience and blogging about their illustrated envelopes. (Nosy Crow 2012)

Below is another envelope by an illustrator who has been capturing my imagination since I was a child Maurice Sendank


Maurice Sendank [image online] Available at: [Accessed 25th October 2014]

As I read about this act of illustration on envelopes I am really captured by it and wonder what other envelope art is out there. Let the research continue. From one simple image a whole world has opened up, and for me that’s the magic of illustration.