The Visitor, by Antje Damm
Article By Bob Abor
Fu Li, Beijing
It is a traditional for Chinese with their kids to go to public places of amusement on International Children’s Day which is celebrated on June 1st every year. This year the situation was quite different at Fu Li, Beijing as children accompanied by their parents spent a greater part of this historic day learning about fascinating illustrations from a popular German author Mrs. Antje Damm. Thanks to the 4th EU-China International Literary Festival, 2019. Mrs. Antje Damm, who was expressed happiness to be at the children’s literature festival, set the ball rolling by first showing to participants the room where she does her creative work from. Although she has illustrated over 30 children’s and picture books, Mrs. Antje Damm was quick to acknowledge that illustration is not as simple as many participants think. In this regard, she took them through the processes of illustrations before the final product-a book-can be published. In doing this, she employed a more participatory approach by projecting her illustrations to the audiences starting from sketch to the finished work and asking them after whether they liked it or not. An illustration involves about four stages from sketch to a ready picture, based on her slide show. There was a general agreement among participants that the final drawing was more meaningful and visually impressive compared to the sketch. Mrs. Antje Damm attributes this to ingredients such as colour, light texts which are applied at each stage of the creation process. To drive this point home, she selected one of her famous books Entitled; The Visitor. Precisely, the book is about a girl known as Elise. She lived her entire life in-house and thus, was very scared of people and even trees. But sometimes she would open the window to get fresh air. One day something interesting happened; the paper plane entered through the window to her room. That night she became scared as she dreamed that the paper planes were flying all over in her room. Later, she heard someone knocking at her door. She had never experienced it before. The door kept knocking. On opening it, she found that it was a boy. She directed the boy to the bathroom. The boy disappeared and later came back. The boy asked who is in the photo that was hanged on the wall. Elise replied that it is her picture when she was still young. She showed him the book shelves and asked if she could read one part of the book to him. She read it but the boy wanted her to read everything in the book. She gave him a cake. And then, told the boy to go home since it was getting late. She asked the boy what his names are. He replied to her that he is called Emils.
After all these, Elise went to read but all she was seeing were paper planes. At this point, the book is ready but the story is incomplete because it is not clear whether the two met again. But what is more important is that the narrative helps in the developing illustrations. Having been informed by the moderator Mr. that Chinese children love drawing pictures, she engaged them in creative assignments for the main characters-Elise and Emil-in her book. These were; making a new home for Elise out of a card box and paper planes like Emil’s. Mrs. Antje Damm, whose books have been translated into 14 languages including Chinese, said that colors are very important in illustrations. Children decorated the paper planes with their favorite colors. This approach proved exciting as children flied their paper planes together after accomplishing making them.
Feedback obtained from the children as well as parents indicate that the session was not only exciting but very rewarding in artistic terms.
“Today, I learnt how to draw illustrations for a picture book. I will practice it during my free time at home,” said Li Zi You, a grade five pupil at Chui Yang Liu School in Chaoyang.
Our children were very active and excited throughout the session. They now know how to think critically and create meanings through illustrations. It’s a great event,” Mr. Nai Yi Ji said.
At the end of the event, many parents and their children got the opportunity to have their preferred pictures drawn for them. She did many illustrations for children, including the popular Spiderman as parents took photos of their children paying attention to the details. The visibly excited children never wanted this fascinating session to close despite the tight schedule. At the end of the event, parents were seen lining up at Citic Bookshop to buy copies of her famous books brought at the event to inspire their children into drawing. When these children become great book illustrators in future, the EU-China International Literary Festival will go down in the history books for giving them the needed inspiration and exposure to great artistic pieces.
The Visitor, by Antje Damm