When Claire Met Amber
This is me, Claire Baldry, as drawn by twenty-four year old Amber Gee. Amber has created all the illustrations for my latest poetry book ‘Simply Modern Life’.
This is Amber, at the age of three. Amber is a very private person, and this was the only photo she was prepared to give me.
So what can I tell you about Amber?
Diagnosed with Specific Learning Difficulties, Amber describes herself as ‘easily distracted with poor organisational skills’. I would only partially agree with that description. It is very much to Amber’s credit that two years ago she achieved an upper second degree in English literature. I admire her passionate belief in world justice, and her mature, wry sense of humour. Amber is also an extremely talented artist. Below is one of the many brilliant drawings which she created especially for my book.
And this is how we met……
I had already four published booklets of poetry. They were accompanied by beautiful photographs taken by a friend of mine. However, when I looked at the selection of poems I wanted to include in my latest booklet, I decided that photographs wouldn’t really fit. The poems were about the quirkiness of life today, and they needed something with a bit more humour. I went onto facebook, and asked for recommendations or offers from anyone who could create some cartoon style line drawings for me. The response was overwhelming. I had no idea who I would choose. Then the phone rang. It was an unexpected call from Will who works at a great family run bistro just up the road from us. It’s called Wickham Bistro, and well worth a visit if you happen to be in the Bexhill area.
Will said “I hear you are looking for an illustrator. You might want to talk to my girlfriend. Her name is Amber.”
I asked Will if Amber could email me a couple of samples of her work. When the pictures arrived, they were part of an exhibition about Dispraxia to which Amber had contributed. She had created a series of little gremlins which kept getting in the way. I loved the pictures and felt very optimistic. I was also pre-disposed towards working with someone younger and hopefully not too set in her ways. I sent Amber my poem ‘Beware of the Trolls’ and within days the drawing below arrived in my inbox.
I was totally captivated.
There followed a series of meetings, usually at Wickham Bistro. I gave Amber my poems and she slowly delivered her incredible drawings. I had no idea what she would produce, but each one seemed to lift my poems off the page and give them extra layers of meaning. She paid attention to detail, even asking for photos of my grandchildren so she could put their faces in a frame on the wall. I took her to one of my poetry performances, and she sketched some of the audience. People who know me well will spot other personal touches within the illustrations. We never fell out, though the journey was occasionally bumpy. By this time Amber was working full-time, and I had deadlines to meet.
When the booklet finally arrived, everyone admired the illustrations. They are an integral part of the publication.
For now, I am the writer, and Amber is the illustrator, but I think one day the emphasis might change. People might see one of Amber’s drawings and recognise her style. I imagine them saying “That must be by Amber Gee. Didn’t she start her career as an artist illustrating a work by an unknown poet?”