Caroline Pedler, BA (Hons) Illustration lecturer and MA Subject Tutor at Plymouth College of Art, has won the Annual Prize at the 2020 Chen Bochui International Children’s Literature Award (CICLA) Original Illustration Exhibition, in Shanghai, China.
Caroline is a practicing illustrator and artist as well as teaching at Plymouth College of Art. She has curated and exhibited in numerous shows across the UK and abroad, including the Bologna Children’s Book Fair Illustrators Exhibition held in Italy in 2018, where over 3,000 illustrators from 72 countries submitted their work for a chance to exhibit in the show. This year, Caroline also finds her work selected again for the CICLA Original Illustration Exhibition, 2020 illustration prize.
Founded in 1981, the Chen Bochui International Children’s Literature Award is one of the longest-running literary prizes in China, with the aim of promoting excellence in children’s publishing and cultural diversity. The award is named after author, translator, journalist and educator Chen Bochui, who translated The Wizard of Oz and Don Quixote into Chinese for the first time in the 1940s.
“I first found out about the Chen Bochui Original Illustration Exhibition award when I saw a stand for them at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.
“It was filled with one of my favourite illustrators’ work, and I thought I’d love that for my work. Although I made it to the exhibition and ceremony that year I didn’t apply in 2019 as I didn’t have any new work to submit.
“I kept getting emails from them, so when it was announced that submissions were open again, I thought why not! I just used it as a test space for my illustrations, I never thought I’d get further than before!”
The Accidental Gardener
Caroline took part in the Original Illustration Exhibition back in 2018, showcasing illustrations she had developed from ideas she had generated for her own picture books. This year, Caroline submitted illustrations from her upcoming self-authored picture book, The Accidental Gardener to be published in 2021, through Caroline’s own press An-ti-dote Press and Troika Books.
‘To feel seen creatively’
“I didn’t even know I’d won until a friend of mine from Yugoslavia messaged me saying huge congratulations! I had no idea why so I went into my emails and there was my name at the top of the list in red – the Annual Winner! I couldn’t actually believe it and I couldn’t help but think it was a mistake. I went to tell another friend and I just cried, because it’s everything I’ve worked towards for 20 years; to feel seen creatively within my career in picture books. It felt so good to be recognised for the work that is all me. It means so much.”
“I feel very privileged to be a part of this event, and amongst so many international illustrators, including inspirational illustrators such as Andre Letria, a Portugese illustrator who founded publisher Pato Logico as well as having won many awards, Yael Franken, an Argentinian illustrator I know, and Nella Gatica who won the same prize last year. Another friend, Elina Ellis, was one of the overall winners of the Chen Bochui Literature Award, with her book The Truth About Old People, which also won the Macmillan Prize for Illustration in 2017. I’m in such great company.”
Caroline has illustrated over 60 children’s books, working with international clients for over 20 years and has had her books published in 27 different languages. Clients of note include Little Tiger Press, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Tesco, Marks & Spencers, Readers Digest and Hallmark.
“The three illustrations I submitted are from my first self-authored picturebook, The Accidental Gardener. I wrote the story over 2018 – 2019 and it comes after three years of trauma and using my sketchbooks to help process that.
“The story spins around the anxiety I’ve felt in previous years, but was predominantly inspired by a close relative who became overwhelmed with work and was forced through his own anxiety and depression to give it all up for a year and later became a gardener. Finding gardening was his medicine, working with plants allowed him to heal and find a new pace of life.
“The book explores how nature and gardening can be a way of dealing with depression and anxiety, as well as how being kind and mindful to others can help mental wellbeing. The book carries the message that nature is so important but with a wider message of hope and overcoming the darkness.”
Principal Lecturer on BA (Hons) Illustration and Assistant Head of School in Design & Communication at Plymouth College of Art, Mel Brown said, “We’re a close bunch on the Illustration team, so when we heard of Caroline’s award win, we were absolutely thrilled and so proud. Caroline works so hard – she has talent and energy in abundance and is an inspiration to our students, showing us all how you can be both serious and joyful in your work.
“Over the last few years, we’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the development of her first self-authored, self-directed book, The Accidental Gardener – a deeply personal account of the benefit of allowing kindness and nature into your life. It’s absolutely fitting that this book gets the recognition it deserves and carves a new path in Caroline’s journey as an illustrator.”
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