Another double page spread illustrating a poem – The City Mouse and the Country Mouse – for Ladybug, a ‘literary children’s magazine’, was commissioned during the spring, just as I was crawling out of my winter ‘Call of the Wild’ fug. Ladybug is designed for children between 3-6 years old as an arts and culture magazine for the very young and as a precurser to Cricket – the original publication founded in the 1970’s as a ‘New Yorker’ for young adults. In addition to original stories and poems, there are lots of articles on the natural and cultural world, as well as songs, games, and activities introducing children to language.
The weather was veering between unseasonably warm sunshine and monsoon rains making the air smell green and the earth tumble forth wild flowers and happy weeds. This commission by Cricket Media illustrating the classic Christina Rossetti poem describing the lives of two mice, was the perfect project for those April times.
Working with Cricket Media was a smooth experience and the commission was very straight forward from the beginning. The brief simply asked me to ‘illustrate the poem’ – interesting to see the different approach to the previous commission earlier in the year from Highlights Magazine (see previous blog post) which was more heavily art directed. I was also encouraged to be anthropomorphic – something that isn’t so common at the moment but surprisingly enjoyable on the creative front. I’ve pasted the rough pencil drawing below which was accepted without changes.
Then I created the finished painting which was also accepted without changes. It really couldn’t have been easier…
The poem tells of the contentment of the country mouse, the beautiful simplicity of nature and the value of his friends in comparison to the sophisticated, but lonely life of the metropolitan mouse. It’s a sentimental take on nature, perhaps very Victorian in it’s idealised view of country living, but, regardless, this warm and fuzzy commission was the perfect antedote to the raw brutality of nature and the fighting, emaciated huskies found in ‘Call of the Wild’ in December.