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Shoo Rayner - Why I can't live without books









Shoo Rayner and Heather Dyer were among a group of authors who appeared last week in Rhyl as part of The Biggest Book Show on Earth for World Book Day.  

(The picture shows Shoo, Jonny Duddly, Jon Mayhew, Heather and ringmaster Steven Butler.)

Shoo Rayner is had written and/or illustrated over 100 books. Dragon Gold, which he wrote and illustrated, was one of Firefly's launch titles last year, and we'll be publishing the sequel, Dragon White, in the autumn. 

They were asked to speak in answer to the statement 'Why I can't live without books'.  Here is Shoo's response:


Why I can’t live without books.


Of all the millions of books on the library shelves, there is one kind of book that I can’t live without … a sketchbook.


A sketchbook is a personal, private space where I can do what I like and be as messy or as tidy as I wish. Some of my hundreds of sketchbooks, which date back to when I was thirteen years old, are full of writing, some are full of drawing and some are a mix of the two.


They span the years, revealing my moods, hopes, dreams and fears through the ideas that are packed inside. If ever I feel a bit empty and at a loss for something to do, I go back to my sketchbooks. They are like heavy-duty lithium ion batteries, all charged up and ready to get you going again.


Themes appear over the years and years of my sketchbooks, that clarify the thoughts and ideas I’m having now, as being themes I’ve been working on for years. This always takes me by surprise. Some ideas take forever to evolve, waiting for that last bit of knowledge or understanding. Like the last piece of a jigsaw that finally makes sense of the whole image.


Writers' journals are full of words. Artists have sketchbooks full of drawings and plans. I’m an illustrator. An illustrator tells stories with pictures, so my sketchbooks are a mixed up mash of words and drawing. The style and mood depend on the ideas I’m working on at the time. Some get filled in no time. Some are abandoned after only a few pages, something is not right - some sketchbooks are neutral and don’t give back. They don’t want to be your partner.


I tried sketching on an iPad. It didn’t feel right and you can’t flick to a page in that small watercolour moleskine with the Berlin sketches in - or that pair of cheap A4 school sketchbooks that follow on from each other with the dragon drawings.


Recently, I noticed other people’s sketches appearing in my twitter feed, all done on iPads with the same software. The iPad homogenises the artwork. It looks slick, but it all looks like it’s done by the same person. All the artwork is imbued with the personality of the person who wrote the app.


Each new sketchbook takes on a physical life of its own due to the quality of the paper, the size and weight of the book, the ketchup stains, or the new pen, markers or watercolours I’m trying out. Travelling adds scuffs and dents, the end papers fill with phone numbers and addresses. Some have pockets at the end that soon fill up with crumbling autumn leaves from the streets of Hannover or seeds from the gardens of Versailles.


And as for other people’s sketchbooks - what a marvel! Can there be a greater pleasure than being allowed to snoop through someone else’s sketchbook?


Just as you are wishing you could draw half as well, they compliment you on your own sketchbook - pointing out the fluid movement of the bits you dashed off and thought were rubbish!


What would be my Desert Island Book? They give you the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare. I can honestly say they would be enough for me as long as I could have a never-ending supply of sketchbooks.


I could always make charcoal from the camp fire and paint with berries or squid ink, but there is nothing quite like having a trusty sketchbook to hand.




For more from Shoo about the Biggest Book Show on Earth - click here.