The 5 day-long Pathways Winter Residential at Anglia Ruskin University was everything I had hoped for, and more.
The studio itself was a little slice of heaven – large tables stacked with art supplies and piles of beautifully illustrated picture books for us to refer to, walls and shelves displaying gorgeous artwork, huge iMacs and scanners… almost everything an aspiring illustrator could want.
We ‘mentees’ spent the week getting to know each other. Illustrators are often really great at working in isolation and might find the thought of working side-by-side with other ridiculously talented creatives somewhat daunting. What we found instead was positive energy and a supportive tribe. Some wobbles were inevitable, but there was never a shortage of encouragement going around.
This could easily have gone the other way: there could have been a toxic air of competition and undercutting in this room full of creative people, but I didn’t catch even a whiff of anything like that. If anything, there was generosity when it came to sharing knowledge and constructive criticism, which makes me think that the Pathways mentees as a collective could become quite a force.
One of the best aspects of the week was the balance that was struck between active input and creative time. We were not overwhelmed with “from-the-front” teaching but were given plenty of useful information, inspiration in the form of stories from the mentors’ personal experiences, and lavish amounts of time to work independently with just the right amount of one-on-one support.
At the end of the residential, all of us headed home, back to our natural environments and got to work on our first literature brief deadline. If the Cambridge residential was anything to go by, the next two years are going to be remarkable.
Pathways mentee Jacinta Read is an Oxford-based writer and illustrator. She joined Pathways to become a children’s illustrator because she sees the value in how we make sense of the world through stories. To her, stories “make life worth living”.
The Pathways Winter Residential was conducted at Cambridge School of Art , Anglia Ruskin University. It marked the start of the Pathways programme and acted as an introduction to the field of children’s illustration. It was conducted by Yasmeen Ismail (illustrator); Rachael Ball (graphic novelist); Shelley Jackson & Viola Wang (Anglia Ruskin); Emma Blackburn, Strawberrie Donnelly & Rachel McNally (Bloomsbury).