I’ve always been interested in learning how illustrators work and what they do when they aren’t focusing on what’s happening on the page of their latest creative project. Today it’s my pleasure to introduce Gwynneth Jones, who recently celebrated the release of the picture book Together Things, written by Michelle Vasiliu. This beautifully crafted story looks at how a little girl finds different ways to keep the bonds of love alive when her formerly fun-loving father experiences depression. The text is powerful in its simplicity and Gwynneth’s colourful illustrations are fresh and vibrant.

Join me on my virtual visit to her studio in a collective space called The Creator Incubator where she drew Together Things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I receive the manuscript from the publisher, I draw up some roughs to the actual size of the finished book. I have tried to make miniature dummy books, but it just doesn’t work for me. I then send them off electronically to the editor and book designer who places them into a pdf layout for adjustments and then we’re ready to go on with the finished works if they’re happy with the roughs.

I work on the finished drawings in a random order rather than front to back of the book because styles can change. I hang the drawings up as I work on them as I’m trying to get consistency for the characters and colour palette, and to see what works for order of illustrations. This is the first book that I’ve finished my hand done drawings digitally, and I’m really happy with the extra touches.

When I’m not creating books I have a few different jobs to support myself. I work as an Uber driver, as an admin temp worker and I also run an Airbnb.

When I’m not doing any of those (and sometimes it’s all in one day) I can be found out and about or doing nothing!

BOOK BYTE

Together Things by Michelle Vasiliu and Gwynneth Jones

Her dad used to be fun, but now he’s sad. As her father tries to get better, a young girl finds new ways to connect with him. He might not be able to play with her as he used to, but they can still show their love for each other. They just need to find different ‘together things’ to do.

The book is available here and from leading booksellers.

Meet the Author: Bem Le Hunte

Bem’s top tip for aspiring authors: Never lose sight of the whole, in every sense. Find the diversity of your story (the culture and time), but never lose the unity (those principles like love, death, family, spirituality – those powerful themes that are shared in our human consciousness and serve to unite us all).

Bem Le Hunte is the author of four novels – the most recent is Elephants with Headlights (2020). Her previous novels, The Seduction of Silence and There, Where the Pepper Grows, have become number one bestsellers and been published internationally to critical acclaim. She is also the founding Director of the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation, a transdisciplinary, future-facing degree that teaches creativity across 25 different disciplines and explores the porous boundaries between fields, disciplines and industries. She has a BA and MA in Social Anthropology from Cambridge University and a Creative Doctorate from the University of Sydney where she wrote an exegesis on creativity and transcendence. She has a research interest in the extraordinary possible, spiritual realism and in creative practice across disciplines. She has worked in the creative industries and the arts across three decades. Throughout this time, writing has always been her elemental passion, and the gift of this calling has allowed her to flourish in many ways and worlds – well beyond the written word.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I believe that if you have a gift you should pass it on – we share consciousness with other humans and non-humans – whether we’re aware of it or not. Stories are a currency with great power to transform our world and the people living in it. Indeed, I once wrote an academic paper titled Stories have the Power to Save Us – and I’m guilty of believing some of my own rhetoric!

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Perhaps a midwife – maybe they’re even the same job! It’s hardly surprising that there are so many births in my books, including descriptions of my own births.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? The toughest obstacle is always writing something worthy of publication.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? I love my cover (thanks to Josh Durham). The two faces in the elephants’ ears… the suggestion of a love story,  contemporary and bold, in an ancient culture where driverless cars exist alongside elephants on the streets of New Delhi…and yes, I had a say in the cover. I was a creative director for years before I became a writer or an academic, and I have a strong feeling for these things (like Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow)!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Being swept away by the time-gobbling Duende, into a state of transcendence. I consider this to be a highly productive spiritual state and it’s useful for someone like myself who describes her genre as ‘spiritual realism’. I’ve been so enthralled with this process I even wrote my doctoral exegesis on Creativity and Transcendence.

—the worst? Having an overload of admin tasks that rob me of my moments of being and the rapture of writing.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Writing, like life, is a story. I don’t feel as if I should have done anything differently, because I would have robbed myself of an important chapter in my narrative.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I’d been told it was possible to be a writer – this part I simply had to imagine – write the path myself.

What’s the best advice you were ever given on writing? We’re in an era where people need to wake up, and writing can change people’s lives – writers can be midwives of change. Maxine Green wrote that ‘the opposite of aesthetic is anaesthetic – being numb, passive, blankly indifferent.’ Never underestimate the power you have to help people feel. She also wrote: ‘the arts, it has been said, cannot change the world, but they may change human beings, who might change the world.’ If you can become the great impetus for the shifting of consciousness that needs to take place, then you will inspire yourself as well as others!

How important is social media to you as an author? Very important, no doubt. I just wish I was better at it and cared a little more about it. To quote Greta Thunberg, ‘our house is on fire’… so where’s the time to post our latest meal on Insta?

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I force myself past it. I’ve created a ‘Methods Arena’ for students in my degree, the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation. There are so many methods you can invent for yourself if you’re an inventive soul and have a problem to solve. Never underestimate the creative capacity of humans. They might impress us yet!

How do you deal with rejection? Much better than I used to. And the wisdom is worth waiting for – the world is moving too fast now for us to get caught up in the projections of others.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Spiritual realism – emotional.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I’d love to spend an hour with Gabriel García Márquez. I’d like him to tell me more about his Nobel Prize speech – about how ‘General Antonio López de Santa Anna, three times dictator of Mexico, held a magnificent funeral for the right leg he had lost in the so-called Pastry War’. And because I wrote parts of Elephants with Headlights in a utopian community in South India, I’d like to discuss utopias with him – inspired as I am by his speech, which ends with these words: ‘A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.’

BOOK BYTE

In the tradition of Bem Le Hunte’s acclaimed novels, The Seduction of Silence and There, Where the Pepper Grows, this book is a spiritual and emotional journey like no other—a richly realised and hugely entertaining story that straddles cultures, continents and generations.

An encounter with Elephants with Headlights is a collision between east and west, modernity and tradition—between driverless cars and ancient lore—and a world that needs revolutionary reappraisal. In this world, Savitri, named after a Goddess, refuses outright to marry anyone. Her brother, Neel is intent on marrying an Australian girl called Mae, much to the displeasure of their mother, Tota, and father, Siddarth. But do they have the power to command love or destiny? Only the family astrologer, Arunji, knows, yet his truth is tempered by obligations to the family that transformed his life.

Characters who we come to love and care for, teeter on the brink of a radically altered future, leaving questions in their wake. What is the generative legacy of tradition? Can spiritual values survive amidst personal challenges, the tragedy of a death foretold, and the momentous changes of our times? A warm and engaging novel touched with love, wisdom and soulfulness, Elephants with Headlights is a breathtaking story for the threshold era we all navigate.

You can buy the book here:

https://transitlounge.com.au/shop/elephants-with-headlights/