'CAN YOU TURN THESE FINGERPRINTS INTO CREATURES?' Taken from Deuchar's book 'Let's Make Some Great ART'

Marion Deuchars is an internationally-acclaimed, 
award-winning illustrator, working with major design and advertising agencies – and producing illustrated children’s books as part of her ‘Let’s Make Some ART’ series. She has two boys aged 9 and 10, and lives in London. Her latest book ‘Draw Paint Print like the Great Artists’ is published by Laurence King Publishing.

My mother started painting when she retired, at 65, and is very good – so perhaps I inherited my love of art from her. We were always encouraged to do what we loved at home. There was no pressure to do anything in particular and that is quite liberating. I hope I can do that with my kids. I do always tell them that in the future they should try to find their passion first and then make their work around that. Then it’s never work.

We have two boys, aged 9 and 10. When they were younger, a large part of the day was taken up with making some kind of art. I tried out lots of experiments with them as I was compiling my first activity book at the time. We just played and explored things together. You don’t really have to teach kids how to make art, I never actually  taught them the how to draw; I always told them ‘there is no right or wrong way to draw’. Just make it possible for them to work with a range of different materials, or throw a few ideas at them. If you lay down newsprint on the floor and give them a large crayon, they will fill it that space; if you give them a tiny piece of black paper and a white pencil and say ‘draw a skeleton’, they will respond to that in their own creative way, too.

Marion Deuchars photographed by Tom Harford Thompson

I started giving them sketchbooks (varying the size and type of paper) from a young age, it was a nice way to keep some of their drawings together but also made drawing portable, they could take it with them wherever they went. Our youngest child still draws religiously every night in his bed before going to sleep. I don’t think it’s about drawing as such, more a way of downloading his day. He has filled hundreds of sketchbooks. Now when we go to a restaurant, they still always bring one with them. I also find that if you just start doing something creative yourself, they tend to join in. I find I have to work a bit harder with them as they have become older. However, it’s not a case of forcing them to be creative, that just wouldn’t work. Showing by example is better; kids are naturally curious and creative. I bought a whole load of modelling clay a few weeks ago and just started working with it on the kitchen table. It was not long before they both joined in. Now they are searching up how to make models of Wallace and Gromit on the internet.

Now that the kids are both busy at school and with after school activities, I can work roughly from 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday. I don’t work evenings or weekends. I had to learn how to switch my own creativity on and off much faster. I’m far more productive since I’ve had kids. It changes your perspective of time dramatically. The one rule I’ve been consistent with is not to do any commercial work when I’m at home with the kids. Whatever I’m doing they want to do, or they want to be nearby, therefore I try just to actually be with them and concentrate on their needs. Those needs used to be more physical but now they are much more about talking and listening.

'Salvador Dali' Taken from Deuchar's latest book 'Draw Paint Print Like the Great Artists'

Balancing work and motherhood is never easy, different challenges crop up at different times. I used to work on much tighter editorial deadlines but had to shift slowly out of that kind of work as I found it too stressful. I now work mainly in publishing which has much longer deadlines than say newspapers and means I can control my working hours far better. I don’t work from home, I work in a studio with different creatives, a 20-minute walk from home. I don’t have the discipline to work alone, too many distractions. I find if I take a day off to work from home, I end up shopping, cleaning or doing some other domestic chore that can’t be ignored when you are sitting right in front of it. Best to get out the house and then I think those chores get better shared or somehow get done by themselves.

We’ve come up against some resistance to anything we’ve suggested recently, be it a country walk or museum visit. The boys are very happy in each other’s company, playing around the house and then we suggest taking them out somewhere interesting and they start complaining that they are going on some ‘educational trip.’  We went to see the theatre production of Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales a few months ago at the Oxo Tower. It was an unusual interactive experience, moving from one spooky room to another to see each performance. They really loved it but it won’t make the next trip any easier to sell! We also enjoy travelling together to new places, playing card games and eating out. They have their favourite restaurants in London and have developed quite exotic tastes – one loves sashimi and the other loves chilli squid.

'Bruce Weber's Adventures in Hollywood' Taken from a hand-lettering project by Deuchars for a special edition of Vanity Fair magazine

When it comes to inspiring children, I know it sounds obvious but don’t spend too much time on screen, that includes us adults too. It’s great and part of all of our lives but it’s so addictive and such a time-eater. Use it only when you really need to. How often do we really need to check our email or what’s happening in the news for example: every six minutes? Supposedly that is how often the average person checks their phone. How can we set an example of self-control to our kids if we can’t get off our own ‘toys’? We have a new egg timer that lasts 15 minutes. It’s brilliant. The kids still respond to the physical showing of time rather than a clock or an abstract notion of time. So I can say, “let’s do this fun thing for 15 minutes” and turn it upside down, or “lets do this chore for only 15 minutes…”

Other than that, introduce variety; work with your hands more, it makes you happier. Sit down less. Try to learn something new together, no matter what it is. Make space for a permanent  ‘play desk’ at home – a place for paper, paint, pencils, glue, scissors, and rubbish. Make mistakes there, draw, cut, stick, glue. Most importantly, play there.


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