A Life in Pictures – the work of Michael Foreman

I fell in love with Michael Foreman’s illustrations many years ago when I first discovered Michael Morpurgo’s books. I soon found out that he also wrote and illustrated his own stories, including War Boy and War Game which were stories about his experience of World War II. I found out a lot more about Michael Foreman and his huge body of work when I borrowed a fascinating new book from the library called A Life in Pictures.

Pages from A life in pictures
A glimpse inside A life in pictures by Michael Foreman

A Life in Pictures is written by Michael Foreman himself, and looks back over his long career in the creation of books for children. It is a beautiful book that is packed with Michael’s illustrations and stories about the books that he has worked on and the people he has worked with. You can read about Michael’s war childhood, the importance of location and landscape in his illustrations, the people that have influenced him and the people that he has collaborated with.

If you’ve read a Michael Morpurgo book you’ve probably seen Michael Foreman’s illustrations. The M-Team have been collaborating for over 20 years (their first book together being Arthur, High King of Britain, published in 1994).

I’ve always felt that Michael Foreman’s illustrations are the perfect match for Michael Morpurgo’s stories. Michael Foreman mentions in A Life in Pictures that ‘Michael Morpurgo not only writes good stories, he writes good pictures. His stories are full of them.’ His illustrations for Morpurgo’s stories are usually in black and white, but it’s the smaller, shorter stories, like Little Manfred, where his full-colour illustrations shine.

Over the years Michael Foreman has worked with many other authors, both living and dead.  He has brought the stories of Shakespeare, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens and Kenneth Grahame to life, bringing the ‘classics’ to a new generation of children.

My favourite edition of Michael Foreman’s classics is Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows.  The colours are so vibrant and the characters leap off the page. Michael also travelled to New Zealand in 1987 to visit Kiri Te Kanawa to research a book based on legends told to her by her grandmother. This book became The Land of the Long White Cloud.

A Life in Pictures is a fascinating read for anyone who loves books for children and would be a valuable resource for artists or those wanting to become illustrators.

RIP His Royal Purpleness – Prince

It’s a sad day for the music world. Prince of Purple Rain fame died on Thursday in his Paisley Park home. He was well known for his sexually-charged lyrics and his musical genius. He was a multi-instrumentalist.

Cover Cover Cover Cover

“As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader and an electrifying performer,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement.

Prince fought for many years to ensure copyright was upheld on all his music. So much so that there were many legal battles, no Prince music videos appear on YouTube, there is no official Facebook page nor official Prince website apart from one page promoting his latest album Art Official Age.

The Bridge of Remembrance to reopen

Cashel Street Bridge Of Remembrance From East
Cashel Street Bridge Of Remembrance From East, Kete Christchurch

It’s been a bit of a wait, but – fingers crossed ! – soon we will be able to stand on the Bridge of Remembrance again.  Of course, the surrounds don’t quite look like the photo above anymore. The repairs, painstakingly carried out by SCIRT, to the Bridge and Arch were completed in September 2015, but access wasn’t restored as landscaping work as part of the Te Papa Ōtākāro/ Avon River Precinct project has been carried out on the Bridge and the Park of Remembrance.

Coat of arms relief, Bridge of remembrance
Bridge of Remembrance – 8 April 2007 #DSCN2235 (Cecil) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

“Changes include removing the walls at the western end of the Bridge and the construction of a grand staircase, a new ramp creating a processional connection to the Nicholas Statue, and paving which links with the river promenade and in-ground lighting to highlight the Triumphal Arch,” Ms Wagner, the Associate Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister, the Associate Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister said late last year.

The repair work to the Bridge included replacing the original 4 metre piles with 27 metre ones, and reinforcing the historic arch with an 8.2 tonne beam. The work means that the arch, built from rock quarried in Tasmania, will rock rather than twist in any future earthquakes.

It is expected to be open again by ANZAC Day, 25 April 2016.

Learn more

 

The play’s the thing – 400 years since the death of Shakespeare

On 23 April 2016 it will be 400 years since William Shakespeare died. He is believed to have been born on 23 April 1564. Certainly in the English language, few writers will have left such a legacy as this most celebrated of playwrights.

Shakespeare

As an actor as well as a playwright he performed his own material, and in the four centuries following his death this material has continued to be performed, reinterpreted and reimagined in a huge variety of ways. His language can seem impenetrable, at least at first, but its richness, uncanny relevance, profundity and humour make it all worthwhile.

Some of his plays are performed with great regularity – who hasn’t seen a fluffy version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed in some lovely gardens on a pleasant summer evening? (No, MSND is not one of my favourites) Others are far more obscure – King John, anyone?

Very broadly speaking Shakespeare wrote comedies (eg As You Like It), histories (Henry V) and tragedies (Hamlet). Yet a good number of the plays cannot be easily pigeonholed, for example Troilus and Cressida and The Winter’s Tale. As Polonius says:

The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited.

Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2.

As for my favourite Shakespeare? Hard to say – I find Troilus and Cressida fascinating and wish I could have seen the Te Reo Māori version at the 2012 International Shakespeare Festival in London. I love Richard III – a masterful and still influential piece of Tudor propaganda that works just as well played for comedy as deadly serious. Who cannot love Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing – a star truly did dance when she was created.

It’s so hard to choose – Macbeth is so fast paced and profound, and as for Hamlet. Hamlet’s soliloquy in Act 4, Scene 4 might just be my favorite piece of his writing – but what about Richard III, Act 1, Scene 2:

Was ever woman in this humour woo’d?                                                                                         Was ever woman in this humour won?

Exit pursued by a bear.

What’s your favourite Shakespeare?

Brush up on your Shakespeare

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