As I walked down the stairs at The Book Lounge, in the heart of Cape Town, it all of a sudden hit me. I could hear the children playing and laughing from below, general chit-chat and social noises of their parents and the sound of tea and coffee mugs clinking with their fellow saucers. In a few minutes I was going to illustrate the three main characters that I created from the imagination of Julia Richman’s book, Katya Cat.
Julia was calm as ever. In fact, it was all a little reversed as just the week before when we had our meeting to determine our ‘game plan,’ she was incredible nervous and I was calm. Now we were here with swapped emotions, in this gorgeous environment, with (another) Julia Anastasopoulos illustrations on the wall with buildings and stick characters holding balloon. Although for those of you in South Africa, you know Miss Anastasopoulos by her alter-ego name – Suzelle DIY.
After what felt like very rushed ‘hello’ to my friends who had made it, the author and I were guided to the front of the crowd, where we found two little wooden chairs and a flip-chart. As Julia started reading, I took out my prepared ‘cheat’ notes of the characters as well as some pastels for quick colouring in.
I discovered that trying to maintain conversation with a room full of children, while illustrating on a flip chart requires a certain skill that I haven’t quite mastered in life. Julia came to my aid and helped me ask children about the characters while I drew them. Together we joined forces as a team, until eventually, three characters and two chapters later, we reached the end. Julia told the audience that if they wanted to find out what happened next to Katya cat they would have get the book.
Afterwards we handed out black and white versions of the characters for the children, as well as chocolate Kit-Kats (Katya’s nick-name after all). I was honored by a few readers who asked me to sign their books.
Overall, I hope that everyone enjoyed the day. It was fantastic to meet everyone as well. As nerve-wrecking as it was to have to draw on the spot, it was a delightful experience that I hope I get to experience again soon.