There was a collection of English nursery rhymes in my
childhood that always made me angry. It was all so quiet and polite, the children and the
world in it were so pale and washed out. Peter Newell's books were always full of fun and
calamity that wasn't too disasterous. And I must confess, the fairy tales that had no
pictures always meant that I could create my own.
Books at school were upsetting to me. Those frightening black and blue worlds, where
everything was outlined in black and indiscriminately filled in with one color. There were
blue cows and blue pigs and blue chickens and blue barns and blue people beneath a sky
filled with blue sunshine and blue trees on blue grass. On the next page the world would
suddenly have turned orange. An orange child in an orange world carrying an orange basket
filled with orange juice, up an orange hill under an orange sky.
Fortunately children looking at books, or children drawing, singing, watching or just
listening, seem to catch instinctively those details which are most important to them.
They focus without being hampered by superficialities. And with this faculty of
perception, children are closer to the primitive and nearer to significant detail.
Children are never as disturbed as grown-ups by contemporary arts, a streamlined plane, or
a gallery of modern painting. They see an image with real meaning and vitality and
sometimes with incongrous humor giving it a sharper reality.
I remember an ugly old
Victorian sofa, covered with faded green plush. It would become for me country fields with
the sunlight lighting up the dust particles and warming the grass upon the seat. Even now
I cannot see a patch of grass in sunlight without that old sofa falling out of my head.
I remember the sharpness of small pain, of infinite curiosity which would inevitably
end in small joy or great disaster, of hiding things in my nose or cutting the Brussel's
lace dining room curtains because the pattern was so disturbing and the starch so stiff. I
was obsessed with the darkness of drawers, and wanted to create my own expressions with
the hands of the clock, paint permanent shadows behind furniture and people.