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The art and wisdom of creating Willow the Wonderer picture books

Updated: 6 days ago

Clap! My hands, came together as I became fully aware that my life was finite and I would die some day. I was 10 years old. I remember thinking that I have only a limited time to achieve my life goals and so made a pact with myself that I would make haste, hopefully fulfill them and make death bring closure to my life with another clap.

This action (clapping) I later surmised was my way of demarcating the movie of my life, much like a movie set clapperboard might punctuate the start of a scene. In my case it was the start of me being conscious of a limited lifespan. I would then imagine the virtual ‘clapperboard’ closing the movie of my life in my final moments, hoping that I would've lived my life so fully that death would tremble at my coming into it's fold (Bukowski).

I didn't have crystal clear goals per se but I did know I wanted to leave no stone unturned, to find meaning and ‘suck the marrow out of life'. I also had an inkling that I had a conscience and would be at its mercy at the Perly Gates.

I would gaze up at the stars from my bedroom window, gazing in wonderment at the stars, thinking there must be more to all this. I would wish a space craft would come down and a little green man would hop out, gesture me with a 2 fingered hand and some indecipherable sounds that I somehow understood to mean, "Get in we're late for dinner''.

My parents saw me growing up as a quiet, nervous and shy boy, the notion that ‘leopards don't change their spots didn’t apply to me they’d say as they gazed upon the naked photos of their son roped to a Rolls Royce car as a middle aged man. This was a performance piece as part of my Master of Art studies… but I digress.

The first picture book, awards, accolades and emptiness

It was at University that I illustrated my first childrens' book but it took 35 years more to do a second - a lifetime if you are a Grévy's Zebra. Why so long? You may ask dear reader and I will explain in more detail over the next few paragraphs but suffice to say it was the necessary time for me to gain the wisdom to do the second.

After finishing the first picture book at University I didn't think illustrating children's books a grand enough pursuit, it didn't seem important or worthy of my efforts.

A grand pursuit for me at University was to feature on the cover of