Monday, 12 January 2015

In Memory of Vanessa Cabban

This post was originally published on Picture Book Den.



I have a new picture book, A Spot of Bother, coming out next month. Having a book published is usually a cause for celebration, but the publication of this particular book is tinged with sadness as it will be my last with illustrator Vanessa Cabban, who passed away shortly before Christmas.

People often assume that picture book authors and illustrators work closely together, but it’s not unusual for the author and illustrator to have no direct contact, with the book’s creation being co-ordinated by the publisher. This was the case with Bringing Down the Moon, which was the first book that Vanessa and I created together.

One of Vanessa's beautiful illustrations for Bringing Down the Moon

Vanessa and I in Amsterdam
A couple of years after Bringing Down the Moon was published, the book won the Kiekeboekprijs, a Dutch book award, and Vanessa and I went to Amsterdam to accept it. Although we’d now done a second picture book together and Vanessa was about to start illustrating a third, it was the first time we’d met or even spoken to each other. Vanessa turned out to be stylish, funny and refreshingly frank and forthright in her opinions – we spent a lot of our visit in good-natured argument! By the end of our short stay we were firm friends. We resolved to keep in touch and did so regularly through many emails and lengthy phone calls over the following years. We both shared a mischievous sense of humour and our conversations were nearly always punctuated by laughter. 

In addition to the seven books we did together, Vanessa illustrated many other picture books, written by Alan Durrant, Giles Andreae and several other authors. And she both wrote and illustrated two Bertie and Small picture books about an adventurous toddler and his toy rabbit. Vanessa had no children of her own, but was very fond of her niece and nephew and was a much-loved aunt, sister and daughter.

Vanessa artistic talents extended beyond illustration into fine art and her paintings, prints and sculptures were exhibited and sold in various galleries around the UK. She was also an accomplished knitter, posting photos of her handiwork on her "Do you mind if I knit" blog.

Two of Vanessa's sculptures.

One of the pleasures of creating a picture book with another person is that one can draw on their strengths as well as one's own. Vanessa brought her own distinctive charm, warmth and humour to all the books that we created together.

She was a good friend and a wonderful, inspiring person to work with. I will miss her dearly.



In memory of Vanessa, her family have set up a Just Giving page where you can make a donation to the Mental Health Foundation.

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