Anna Rickards: Oliver Jeffers Masterclass

Scottish Book Trust recently hosted an Illustration Masterclass by the award-winning artist and author Oliver Jeffers, at the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh. Young writer Anna Rickards attended this event and has reported back on Oliver’s thoughts on illustration, the techniques he uses in his work and her thoughts on the event.


Picture a large white screen on which is drawn a blob with two sticks for legs, two dot eyes and a line mouth. Not your average start to an author Masterclass, but this was no average author. I was sitting in a lecture hall in the National Galleries of Scotland, feeling rather like small-fry, surrounded as I was by professional writers, illustrators and glamorous art school students. The hall was packed, and everyone smiled in anticipation as Chris Newton of Scottish Book Trust introduced the man we had all come to see, the great Oliver Jeffers!


He had a great hat, Mr Jeffers did, when he came on – a fine specimen of headwear, in my opinion. And I don’t say that about just any hat. But enough about hats! I’m here to talk about art, and also books - two things I am very interested in. I will not try to regurgitate the speech to you, because I can’t. And also that would be silly. But what I can do is explain the many interesting and also useful things that I learned from it. In a list! Because I like lists. 

Important, Inspiring and Interesting Things That Anna Learned at Oliver Jeffers’ Masterclass

This could be shortened to IIAITTALAOJM (short not being the operative word) but that is irrelevant. Without further ado, here is my list: 

1. Oliver Jeffers is actually a pretty funny guy. He used his brilliant PowerPoint to illustrate his love of drawing that had lasted his whole life, as well as showing us some of the places he had recently been on his World Tour, such as Australia. 

2. He is above all an artist (as in, really talented). As well as his books, he showed us various paintings that he had done, featuring both people and landscapes. Was there any end to his talent? Probably not. He showed us books he had illustrated using the pages of old books, and others in which he used somebody else’s artwork as a backdrop (what’s the fun in writing books without a little lawsuit once in a while?) 

3. People should start thinking out of the proverbial box a little. He told us of a little boy who thought that instead of the opposite of up being down, it was probably half a sandwich. I mean, why not? By extension, he explained, the opposite of a cat could be a multi-storey car park. It could be.

4. He does not try to understand the minds of children or write specifically for them. Oliver Jeffers writes the stories that come into his head, and he hopes everyone will appreciate them, whether they are one or one hundred years old! He gets his ideas from real-life events, such as a boy stealing a penguin from the zoo, and then he lets his imagination do the rest. 

In conclusion, not all of the things I learned at Oliver Jeffers’ Masterclass can be put down on paper. Was it interesting? Yes. Was it entertaining? Oh, yes. And was it inspiring? Definitely


Why not check out our Oliver Jeffers Authors Live event which took place earlier this month.


Other News

We’ve just heard about exciting craft courses for young readers in Edinburgh! Edinburgh Contemporary Crafts believe that craft and narrative go hand in hand to inspire creativity. They are running a series of art and craft workshops throughout the summer holiday, using children’s stories as a basis for creating various art, from ceramics to printmaking, upholstering to jewellery making. If you’ve been inspired by Oliver Jeffers why not take a look at the workshops available? Visit the website or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

If you know of similar workshops in your local authority please let us know.