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Place Of Winter Quiet Illustration © Ed Boxall

A Town Explores A Boxall

Young illustrator Erin Brookes-Doolan meets established illustrator Ed Boxall and talks to him about his work.

I was introduced to Ed’s linocut prints many years ago when a few of them were displayed along the corridor of the Conquest Hospital by the children’s ward. Whilst I was there, they inspired me and their gentle magic never really left me. So, as a fellow illustrator, the opportunity to interview him for HOT and discuss his work seemed just too tempting!

Ed Boxall is a much-beloved local illustrator, author and educator, having illustrated both his own writing and others. Ed works in various disciplines – poetry, printmaking, performing and creative-education is a selection and his prints and books are available in galleries over the UK.

With Covid restrictions in full measure, the interview had to be conducted through email and Zoom. I sent over some questions for Ed to consider and threw a sneaky extra couple of questions to him in the following chat. Credit where credit’s due, as my first time interviewing somebody, Ed was very approachable and understanding.

Book jacket © Ed Boxall

Have you always wanted to be where you are as an established writer and illustrator or did the interest develop as you grew older?
“I’ve wanted to be some kind of artist since I was about nine – it’s pretty much what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve moved around between art, writing and music but it’s always been something creative.”

What inspires you?
“Right now, music by The Cocteau Twins and The Incredible String Band, Poetry by Mervyn Peake and Rainer Maria Rilke, memories of Hastings Bonfire Night and Jack in the Green.”

What work do you most enjoy doing?
“I really like all of it. I think as it’s the middle of Winter I’m enjoying being a bit of a hermit… I’m enjoying quietly getting on with some drawing and seeing where it takes me.”

As an educator, what do you enjoy teaching the most?
“One of my favourite things of all is to visit schools and festivals to perform my poems and run workshops with all ages. Whether it’s art, writing or music, I really enjoy teaching it all.

“I always find it exciting to help people to be creative, I guess it’s the level of enthusiasm of the participants that make it rewarding.”

What advice would you give to those wanting to develop as an Illustrator?
“Hmm…tricky. I think there’s always ways of doing exciting projects and getting your work out there…don’t wait for publishers to find your work; Self-publish, organise your own exhibitions…create your own animations.”

What has been most challenging to you in your career?
“There have been some ups and downs. Everyone says you have to get a thick skin to be and work in the arts…but I still find rejection very difficult. I have yet to grow a thick skin!

“It’s always gutting when you make things that aren’t as popular as you’d hope.”

Recommended by Ed

Do you have a favourite piece of artwork and why?
“Just at the moment, Samuel Palmer’s sketchbook of 1824. I love the intimacy of seeing his drawing process. You can get a facsimile of the whole book.

“If you mean my own, I think my little book High in the Old Oak Tree is the best thing I’ve done.”

© Ed Boxall

Name something you love and why?
“I really, really, really love trees. The trees in Alexandra Park are incredible. I particularly like the Scots pines and Beech trees along the path by the entrance at the moment. Trees are utterly mysterious but comforting and homely at the same time.”

If you could be an animal what would it be and why?
“I would be a crow – they always look like they’re having a great time flying in the sky above the garden. They’re always up there with the gulls but they are much more cool and aloof than the gulls.”

A great performance! © Leyla Guler

This spring’s A Town Explores A Book’s chosen theme will celebrate Lear’s book of Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany And Alphabets – first published in 1871 – as 2021 will mark its 150th anniversary. Ed will be running one of the festival’s workshops using workaday objects to forge 3D creatures and plants – with a good old portion of poetry thrown in.

Can you tell me more about your festival project and plans?
“We will be taking the idea of Lear’s nonsense flora and fauna into 3D. Children will be creating nonsense animals, plants and people with everyday objects and writing poems to go with them. So for example putting wings on a spanner so that it turns into a Spannerbird, you know that kind of thing where you are looking at very mundane and ordinary things and transforming them.

“The children will be creating their own three-dimensional nonsense bestiary and nonsense flora and fauna which will be appearing around St Leonards. We’ll then be using these creatures as a starting point for writing little poems to go alongside these. This will be going hand in hand in developing their language skills.”

Have you always been a fan of Edward Lear’s works?
“Yes – as a child I loved The Owl and The Pussy-cat but didn’t know much else.

“As an adult, I’ve got to know the rest of his work better. I like the more wistful poems/stories that have a tinge of melancholy best, like the Jumblies going to sea in a sieve – those kind of things that have a real narrative.

“I also love the way he uses everyday objects in surreal and magical ways. His Nonsense Flora, Fauna and Alphabets are like a kind of magical bric-a-brac shop.”

© Ed Boxall

So, wrapping up, are there any questions that you feel I should have asked you, but did not?
“I think you’ve got it all covered!”

I’d highly recommend you to check out Ed’s eclectic range on his website as they truly are charming. There you will find an array of handy free activities and fun video performances. Greetings cards, posters, prints and books are all also awaiting!

You can see more of Erin Brookes-Doolan’s work on her website.

If you’re enjoying HOT and would like us to continue providing fair and balanced reporting on local matters please consider making a donation. Click here to open our PayPal donation link.Thank you for your continued support!

Posted 19:40 Thursday, Jan 7, 2021 In: Hastings People

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