|I have vivid memories of my early childhood. They feed into the characters I draw and the kinds of stories I write and illustrate. I was born in Essex, the youngest of three children. My mum and dad named me Elaine Margaret Bowden.
|Sometimes I hated being the smallest in the family. I’m sure I longed to be the one holding the rubber ring here, instead of my brother – but the fact is, I wasn’t even big enough to button my shirt up properly. And the sun was in my eyes. No wonder my grin looks more like a grimace!
|Other times it was fun being the smallest, like when my brother and sister had to wear their grey school uniform, while I could sport my natty tam and waistcoat, crocheted for me by my Nana. It was a bit lonely though, being the only child left at home.
|I loved to play outside; climbing trees, rolling down hills, picking fruit, making dens and miniature gardens. I imagined being small enough to curl up in a rosebud or a seashell.
|When I was finally big enough for school, I smiled a lot. (The world didn’t really turn grey – that was just the camera film). I found I loved drawing, reading, writing and making things. I’m still a terrible hoarder of junk – just in case I might want to make something from it. (Sometimes I even do!)
|I went on to study History of Art, (so I could write words about pictures) then illustration, (so I could make pictures about words). For me, all forms of art are about connecting with other human beings. It’s heartening to find we have shared experiences of the world; that others have felt what we feel.
|Picture books are especially important to me. They seem to connect, almost magically, with even the youngest of children – including my own, and the child I once was. I love the simple way that words and pictures can work together, to convey quite complex emotions. So even as toddlers become increasingly aware of themselves as separate individuals, picture books can both empower them and reassure them that they are not alone.
“She knows her target audience well – young pre-schoolers whose early learning is dominated by visual images and direct experiences. These children will read her illustrations slowly to absorb, then understand the meaning and share the joy of growing bigger and stronger day by day. They will also be enabled to face challenges… with ever increasing confidence.” – Jenny Blanch, Carousel (issue 44 Spring 2010)