My Pictures Tell Stories

by Marjorie van Heerden

February 2007

I started to draw when I was very young. I drew everything I saw and I even drew things I thought about, like dragons and fairies and monsters. To me drawing was like talking, like telling a story. Often I found it easier to draw something than to explain it in words. Today it is still the same for me.

When I was little my favourite book was Ferdinand the Bull, a story about a little bull who loved smelling the flowers. He did not like to fight like all the other young bulls. I was four years old when my mother first read Ferdinand to me. I remember being fascinated with how the words made pictures in my mind as I listened to them. And I loved the way the pictures in the book were drawn. Some pictures showed far away scenes with big empty white areas on the rest of the page. Other pictures showed figures in close-up, completely filling the page. I wanted to draw pictures like that – pictures that tell a story. So I did. I remember drawing a picture of a lot of sheep in a field with one sheep looking up, one looking right and another looking left. Every sheep in my picture looked towards a different place. My picture was telling a story.

Today I am an illustrator and a writer of children’s books. Sometimes I write the story and draw the pictures. Sometimes I illustrate a story written by somebody else. Then I first read the story over and over again. I let the words form pictures in my mind’s eye. I let the characters in the story become alive in my mind – I actually see them. I do this until the whole story becomes like a film playing inside my head - picture after picture after picture. Then it is time to start drawing.

The words and the pictures are like best friends. They cannot be without each other. Both must be there to tell the story really well. They work together like close partners. A little bull who loved smelling the flowers taught me that!

Over the years I drew many, many pictures. just in the last five years I’ve had to draw lots of people and animals and wizards and dragons and fairies and goblins and gargoyles and dinosaurs that talk and even a magical moonchild. I’ve also had to draw monsters, lots and lots of monsters. I even drew a plant called a delicious monster! And I placed them in magical forests, or in huge castles covered in silver moonlight, or on the shores of wild seas or under the waves. And I painted whole worlds on my paper in the colours I love.

Anything is possible if you have a crayon in your hand and a blank page in front of you.

I really, really love what I do... I draw pictures that tell stories!