25 October, 2012

Retreat with Doug Cushman

SCBWI SA was incredibly privileged to have Doug Cushman facilitate two retreats in October in South Africa. The first one was held in Gauteng at Lama-Lama Game Reserve and Conference Centre in the Dinokeng region between 17 and 19 October.

Doug Cushman has been writing and illustrating stories since he was a teenager. At this point, he has illustrated over 125 children's books, thirty or so of which he wrote as well. And he was in South Africa to help us write and illustrate!

In the many well-received picture books Doug Cushman has written and illustrated, his emphasis on character is evident in both text and artwork. As he once commented: "A good character will almost write a book by himself with a little nudge or two from the author." ...  "It's a very physical process," Cushman has said. "My first dummies are almost collages with scraps of paper taped all over the pages. Words and pictures must work together in unison, one not be more important than the other. In the end, of course, it's always story, story, story."
For more on Doug Cushman's artwork at http://www.doug-cushman.com

The Retreat started on the afternoon of 17 October with a session on Doug's work over the years, where he came from, what influenced his writing and illustrating and how he develops his characters.

That evening we had a session with Joan Rankin on designing your own mask. There are some pictures below of some of the beautiful masks designed by participants and inspired by Joan's ideas.

After a splendid breakfast made by Julia, Thursday's workshops continued to explore characterisation. We all did some practical work and then shared this. Doug made some really helpful comments and we learnt a lot from the exercises. Doug was very generous in sharing his impressions and helping wherever he could.
Next we had to work out how we'd sell our work to publishers via a short sales pitch. This exercise turned out to be harder than we realised. 

We were happy to relax around Ingrid's delicious potjie that night and listen to Donna's story. We love storytime! This was followed by a Crazy Cat performance by Lynn. Where does she get all that energy?

Friday began with an inspiring game drive and another hearty breakfast. We talked about selling our stories and Doug showed us his latest dummy for a story he's taking to publishers. 

The Retreat was wonderful. It was great to get away and be creative for two days. We learnt so much that it will take time to process. We hope to go back to Lama-Lama next year. This time, we'll make it a working Retreat. Hopefully, then, we'll be able to implement some of the ideas that arose from this Retreat. Of course, Doug won't be with us but his suggestions and inspiration will keep us going.


Matina and Thandi

Donna Wolf

Jenny Le DogTor

Doug not Sloth



Matina Butterfly


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