Last year during this month, I sketched a version of my absolute favorite bear from childhood, Paddington Bear, but it was the more recent movie version. This year’s version comes straight from the late 70’s Simplicity pattern 8223, (today I think this pattern number refers to knitted tops with Disney appliques), and it’s the one that my mother actually made for me. Well, not just for me, as she sold them in craft shows, but for me and many other happy adults and children in our little city. Though the first book about this bear was published in the late 50’s the first soft toys weren’t made until the early 70’s in the exact year that I was born. So the stuffed animal version of Paddington Bear and I are precisely the same age and have sort of grown up together. As much as I loved the bear, however, the real added magic to the Paddington stories came for me in the illustrations of Peggy Fortnum, who passed away last year at the age of 96.
The illustrations in those books were so incredibly endearing and Ms. Fortnum’s sparse, whimsical and energetic linework made the characters jump to life with personality. I think this had to be the first time I fell in love with drawing as I found it magical that a few scratches of ink could create so much personality and story. Later, other artists would splash some color onto her drawings, including her own niece, and we would see his signature blue coat. I longed to create drawings like hers and one day grow up and illustrate a book with my own characters. But I never took the time to learn or really practice illustration and would just scribble and get frustrated that things weren’t turning out like I had envisioned them. Now, over 40 years later, I’m finally illustrating my stories, but in a slightly different way. I still get frustrated, but the adult me has learned the beauty and reward of the journey.
For any of you who are unfamiliar with the story, Paddington was found sitting in a railway station in London and taken in by the Brown family. Since he was from “Darkest Peru,” and was well, a bear, he was quite unfamiliar with the customs and didn’t quite fit in. And when it comes to sharing my illustrations, I still feel a bit like Paddington. I’ve no clue what I’m doing and just love jumping in and trying to figure it out as I go along. So many of my lovely artists that I feature here have learned some beautiful techniques and I’ve made myself a note to someday learn them. In the meantime, each little post is an effort that arrives like Paddington in the station. Waiting there on a suitcase, hoping that a passerby might stop and take a second glance. And if they just bend down to look closer, they would notice a small and unassuming note that simply reads, “Please look after this bear. Thank You.”