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"Seventy-Eight Cats" was the counting rhyming story to take you through the year of 2022!
I wanted something completely different from last year's "Blue Hat Badger" story. I had spent a lot of time working on "Bonnie's Ball" and therefore drawing LOTS of dogs, so I quite fancied the idea of a story centered around cats!
My starting point this time was thinking back to memories of my first cat - his name was Tiger. My Dad found him in a bin as a kitten, so he brought him home and he lived a happy life with us. And so the first rhyming couplet formed in my head for January...
Rhymes just seem to conjure up all sorts of images for me, so this seems to be a successful format for me in which to create artwork!
I liked the idea of drawing all kinds of different cats in various settings, each time adding an extra cat for the following month.
I was hoping to appeal to children and adults alike, after my 2020 "Christmas Tree Cats" card design sold out.
Something that I had learned from the previous Story Calendar was that the front cover really has to sell it to the customer.
Having left it to the very last minute for "Blue Hat Badger", I was determined not to go through that self-made stress again, so ideas started forming for possible front and back cover designs.
The story began with a nostalgic family memory so I stuck with this feeling and brought in the idea that an elderly couple owned the house where all the unwanted cats came to live! Enter: my lovely grandparents, Kathleen & Eric, who have lived in their gorgeous family home all their married lives.
It felt like a little nod to one of my favourite Raymond Briggs books, "Ethel & Ernest", as well as introducing a reason for the tale of the 78 cats.
My family have always had cats as pets, so it was pretty easy to find inspiration of what situations to put them all in.
My Mum shared a photo of her black and white cat, Candie, sleeping in a flower pot - an illustration opportunity not to be missed! Most cats are random, but a lot of them are friends and family members' kitties. I do prefer to draw from original sources where possible.
The more Story Calendars that I create, the more I like to experiment with the format:
How can I add to the story with the front and back covers?
What clues can I hide?
They are a great way to experiment with new ideas. Some images might work as greetings cards, some stories might be strong enough to develop into full picture books one day.
I will often draw what's in front of me if I'm stuck for ideas - rather than research some found images.
The fireplace featured in "November" is our log burner. The bucket, rug and slippers, also belong to us!
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