The British illustrator and author delivered a fascinating account of six books that have influenced her life and work.
We were very excited to host the reputable author and illustrator, Marion Deuchars at YCN last night. With an immediately recognisable style, she’s world-renowned for her bestselling series of books based on interactive art activities, which include ‘Let’s Make Some Great Art’ and ‘Let’s Make Great Fingerprint Art’. She’s also worked for a wide range of clients that include Royal Mail, Penguin, and Faber & Faber, and is the proud owner of three D&AD yellow pencils.
With an audience packed full of YCN members, Marion began the talk by pointing out that of the six books she had brought along with her, two of them contained the word ‘Tibet’ and two contained the word ‘death’. An hour later, after hearing a wealth of fascinating stories and insights, those two words seemed to do a fine job of summing up what the talk was all about. “I’ve tried to be really honest in my selection,” she said, “I’ve chosen books that mean something to me rather than trying to look clever.”
1. Tintin in Tibet, Hergé
“Tintin represents my introduction to art and travel through comics” Marion said before describing her avid love of comic books and how much she loved the cartoons, the covers, everything about them. “My brother and I would go to these comic conventions looking for odd magazines.” Tintin acted as her introduction to the world of illustration, and following Tintin’s adventures around the world gave her a thirst for travel herself. “These are worlds you could escape into as a child” she said, before proceeding to tell us some gripping stories of her travels around the USA with some pretty curious characters.
2. Saul Steinberg: Illuminations, Joel Smith
During her American travels, Marion visited a Saul Steinberg exhibition in New York. “I’d seen his work as a kid. I like the fact that he draws what he wants to draw without worrying about what people might think.” This is an aspect of Steinberg’s work that Marion has tried to take on. Although her work doesn’t actually look much like Saul Steinberg’s, the thoughts and themes behind it are surprisingly similar. She continued to talk about the idea of illuminations, and how illuminating texts through design and illustration is an age-old craft that stretches back to scribing monks. “When I’m stuck for ideas, Saul Steinberg is a really good person to look at. He inspires me to break rules and deal with clichés.”
3. The Dimension of the Present Moment, Miroslav Holub
“I bought it because of the title,” Marion explained of the book that contains a collection of essays on science and art, “I don’t always understand it though.” She told us about how she always turns to books for stimulus, and that good ideas are borne out of a strange mixture of things — books you’ve read, snippets of conversations, little things that you saw and so on. “When you get absorbed in a writer’s head, things come out of that. Miroslav Holub’s book is so dense, yet super clear. I’ll read this book again and again, I’m sure.”
4. Death In Venice, Thomas Mann
Marion’s fourth book was one of the first talking points when she met her now-husband, Pentagram Partner Angus Hyland. “It has everything in it. You can read it on almost every level,” she said, citing it as a rare example of when both the book and film are equally brilliant. “He writes so economically and clearly,” she said of Mann’s writing style, “I’m not a fan of flowery writing and that’s why I like this book. He doesn’t waste a word.”
5. Charles Dickens: A Life, Claire Tomalin
“I don’t generally like big, thick books because they’re scary, but this one I couldn’t put down.” With London featuring heavily in the book — Dickens used the city as a tool for his inspiration — Marion told us about how the book taps into her love of London. “What I love about London is its history. If you tune into it, you can live in the present and the past at the same time.” She proceeded to give us an insight into her unique way of looking at the city, how each street has a story and her love of observing how the city functions — the merry dance of millions of people, cars, bikes and buses all gliding around each other.
6. The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche
The last of Marion’s six books is written by the Buddhist mediation master, Sogyal Rinpoche. Given to her by her brother, she told us about the time that she visited a Buddhist monastery just outside of Scotland. “They say that mindfulness and meditation has more of an effect than any drugs. If they taught this stuff in schools, it would be a very different world.” She then read out a very succinct and profound passage from the book, addressing the western world’s outlook on death. Despite having no direct relationship to her work, Marion’s musings on the subject of death was without doubt one of the highlights of the evening.
The floor was then opened up to the audience, who posed questions addressing technology, how she balances her time, and the importance of drawing. A huge thank you to Marion for taking the time to come in to YCN and providing us with such a broad range of stimulus. Members can pick up copies of Marion's book choices from the YCN Lending Library and if you want to see more of her work, you can head to her website. Also, keep your eye on our events page to find out about future YCN Reading List events.
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Location:72 Rivington Street,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:20th May, 2014 at 6:30pm
End:20th May, 2014 at 8:00pm