Illustrator delights in book project
Drawings for favourite author
She may not be well known for illustrating books, but when Cromwell artist Deidre Copeland was asked to illustrate a book by one of her favourite authors – Janet Frame – there was no way she could refuse. ‘‘It was an honour to be asked. I’ve always been a big fan of Janet Frame and her work. I felt lucky to be able to do it.’’ The manuscript of the neverbefore published book, called The Mijo Tree, had been stored at the Hocken Library, in Dunedin, since 1970. It was written between 1956 and 1957, during Frame’s time in Ibiza, and is being described by the publishers, Penguin NZ, as ‘‘a darkly beautiful fable from a writer of vast imaginative power’’. Ms Copeland, who is most wellknown for her huge portraits, was approached about a year ago to illustrate the book and was given a basic brief of what the publishers wanted. ‘‘It had to be black and white and have the look and feel of a book from the 1950s,’’ she said. Other than the basic brief, she was given the freedom to illustrate it in the way she thought best captured the story. ‘‘It was quite mindboggling. I had to weed out the main parts of the story and illustrate them. I lost count of the number of times I’ve read the story.’’ Ms Copeland said she spent a lot of time researching the story – while the Mijo tree doesn’t exist, it was believed to have been loosely based on the Judas tree – before producing a concept draft which the publishers loved. ‘‘I wanted it to be an intricate puzzle with lots of hidden objects in the darkness of the shadows, because Janet Frame’s work is like that..’’ She was delighted with the final outcome. ‘‘I’m really happy with how intimately the words and illustrations knit together.’’
What: Deidre Copeland launches TheMijoTree and the paintings she did for the book Where: The Artist’s Room Fine Art Gallery, Dunedin Honour: Cromwell artist Deidre Copeland withThe MijoTree, written by Janet Frame, which she has recently finished illustrating.