Chris Haughton tells us about the process of making his beautiful and witty picture book, A Bit Lost, which we will reveal over several posts...
Before I had my idea for A Bit Lost I had actually wanted to do a different story about birds in a forest. The birds in this first story come down from their tree top roosts to the bottom of the forest and meet all the other animals that live there. They pass all the forest animals that want to eat them and eventually manage to find food near the forest floor. The last spread would then be a panoramic of them back perched at the top of the trees at the end of the day overlooking all of the life in the forest below. I had the idea because I wanted to introduce all the animals and have the interactions of the forest in a sort of Arne Naess story of deep ecology and interconnectedness.
This image was the trigger for the story. It's a screen print I did for the fair trade company People tree. I really liked the image because I had the idea of hiding figures in the complex background (see the little cat in the bottom right)
I liked the silhouetted running shapes of the birds. They eventually evolved into the running owl and squirrel in A Bit Lost.
The birds here hide from a tiger (also a snake and an elephant)
The birds in their perch for the final image. They look across at the whole forest and see the web of all the animals that we met in the story.
In the end I didn’t like the way the birds interacted with the other animals in the forest. They were not engaging with them and it left a sort of lonely tone to the story. I decided I wanted to do something that was more engaging and somehow a little like pantomime. Without engaging with little funny questions and cause and effect (Uh oh! is he going to fall off?/ Uh oh! Is it Mummy? etc) a very young audience tends to lose interest quickly.
The breakthrough came when I made the bird fall from his nest. That way he was lost and had to engage with the other animals in a way that wasn’t about avoiding being eaten. In order to give the bird a range of expressions, forward facing eyes is much better graphically so I chose an owl instead of a bird. Also owlets apparently have a habit of falling out of their nests. I had imagined somehow that owl babies were cute until I actually looked them up on the internet…