Drawn to Norfolk
We meet Chris Riddell, cartoonist and former Children’s Laureate
DRAWINGS POUR, scuttle, meander and swarm from a studio deep in rural Norfolk. There are nightmarish creatures, all weird protuberances and dripping limbs, limping alongside jaunty princesses with cascades of curls. Classes of children cluster around storybooks; a cavalcade of familiar faces is made freakish by the slice-through-the-facade power of the political cartoon. Ogres jostle with authors, animals, trees transforming into fairytale characters and trees just being trees. And over and over again in this daily procession of drawings comes the chatty, enthusiastic, friendly, slightly rounded, lightly-bearded portrait of the artist.
For the past two years Chris Riddell has been Britain’s Children’s Laureate and for every one of those days he drew pictures; a remarkable record of the people he met, the places he travelled, the talks he gave, the illustrations he created.
Chris first arrived in Norfolk around 35 years ago, an art student preparing to meet the parents of his girlfriend, Jo. She became his wife and their house, created from two former farm cottages, at the edge of Rockland St Peter, near Attleborough, is on land her family once farmed.
Jo, an artist herself, generally appears in Chris’s work as ‘Princess Joanna of Norfolk,’ and Chris draws himself in poses ranging from ‘pontificating’ to striding joyfully towards the wild woods and big skies of Norfolk.
Above: Ottoline by Chris Riddell
Chris prepares to return to his beloved Norfolk
Chris’s wife Jo grew up in Norfolk and her parents still live in Attleborough