IBBY UK/ NCRCL Conference Report – David Lucas

David Lucas – “Drawing, stories, ambiguity and magic”

by Eleanor Hamblen

 

David Lucas presenting in the portrait room

David Lucas presenting in the portrait room

Children’s writer and illustrator David Lucas rounded off a truly delectable day with a talk entitled Drawing, stories, ambiguity and magic. He began by leading the audience through his recent picture book, Grendel: A Cautionary Tale about Chocolate. Following on from a long tradition of edible worlds in children’s literature, the protagonist’s surroundings are transformed into chocolate by a wish concealed in a chocolate egg with Midas-like consequences. Delighted at first, Grendel comes to comprehend the darker side of this chocoholic’s paradise and the error of his greed.

Lucas went on to discuss the poetic logic of symbolism which enables us to communicate quite opposite meanings simultaneously. Lucas enjoys playing with contrasts, as is apparent his 2008 book The Lying Carpet which features a tiger skin rug who is at once king of the jungle and a doormat, embodying both pride and humility. For Lucas, beauty is found in the union of opposites, combined in a state of high tension and conflict. The visual arts are inherently symbolic since they can only ever stand in for reality. To demonstrate this, Lucas drew a simple star with five interlocking lines which has come to represent a great burning ball of gas millions of miles away.  He explained that all art falls somewhere between pattern (the ideal) and representation (the real). Medieval, folk, and religious art privilege pattern since they are aspiring to an ideal. Lucas’ own interest in pattern is evident in his illustrations which create unreal worlds with crystal clear vision.

 

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