A talk for children

“Mr Wildsmith graciously agreed to record some comments about his work that could be used directly with children.”

From British Children’s Authors, Interviews at home, Cornelia Jones and Olivia R. Way, American library Association, Chicago, 1976

Hello boys and girls. As I'm speaking to you I am a long long way from you. I think about 3000 miles. It’s difficult to imagine isn't it? I'm sitting in a little house in a garden in the middle of London, surrounded by trees and there are little squirrels and birds who live in that garden. We have a little robin that lives in the garden. He is always pecking at my flowers. I have a very beautiful flower called an azalea and he's always picking the flower buds off the azalea. Today is a very beautiful day. The sun is shining and the birds are twittering away and I am now going to tell you a little bit about my picture books

I have illustrated quite a few pictures books. Now, I don't know if you are like me, but I love drawing and painting and I enjoyed making all these pictures and I made them all for young boys and girls like you.

I have four children, three girls and little boy. They all like looking at books and they all help me with my picture books. What happens is this: When I’m working in my little house in the garden called a studio and they come running home from school, open the door, they say, ‘Let's have a look Daddy.’ So, they come in and look at the painting I've just done. I say ‘Well do you like it?’ They might say ‘Well it's alright.’ When they say that I know it’s because they're not really excited about it. I say to myself, ‘Oh, you children just don't know.’ But then I pin the painting up on my board and I look at it for about three days and think, ‘Well perhaps they’re right, it’s not really very good.’ So I start again until my children come back and get excited and say ‘Oh, I do like that.’ That’s when I know it's right for young children and I can go onto the next picture.

To make a picture I suppose I use the same sorts of paints as you use, those in a tube. I have one in my hand now it's called gouache. You know you can do anything with it. You can mix it thick or you can have it thin. It also dries very quickly. I once started using oil paints but oil paint takes a long long time to dry so that's no good at all because I have to send my paintings to a printer. If the paint is not dry then it gets smudged. An oil painting can take three or four months to dry, you know, while the gouache will dry in a few minutes, which is absolutely perfect. To apply the gouache, I just use ordinary brushes. Sometimes I use my finger to paint with or a piece of cloth or in fact anything that will make a mark. You don't have to use a brush to paint. Have you heard of a painter called Rembrandt? I'm sure you have because he was one of the world’s finest painters, well he hardly ever used a brush. Most of the time he used his finger which is really all you need. I mean a brush is only something with which to put the paint on the paper or canvas and your finger will do just the same. The only thing you have to be careful of is that you don't wipe your hands down your clothes. Otherwise your mother may get very cross.

Most picture books are about 11 1/4 inches long by 8 3/4 inches wide and a painting has to be exactly that size. If I make a painting larger or smaller it’s no good, it has to be made again. Once I’ve made it I might not like it so I have to start again. Sometimes I have to do it five or six times. When I make a book it’s always fun because every book I do is different. And, you know, it's lovely to splash around with bright reds and yellows and blues and greens. So every day I love doing my work and I think this is what's very important. No matter what you do, the best thing is to do something that you love doing. I think if you love doing it you'll do it well to the best of your ability and perhaps someday you'll become the best in the world at what you like best to do.”