Friday 14 July 2017

The making of Pink Lion by Jane Porter

A bold and colourful picture book with a heart-warming story about always being yourself.

Arnold blends right in with his bright pink flamingo family. Then a growling gang of lions stops by and tells Arnold he should be more lion-like, just like them. 

Poor Arnold tries but misses his old life. But then his flamingo family are threatened by an unwelcome visitor. Is this the moment when Arnold will find his roar?

Behind the scenes with Jane Porter

We’re excited to welcome Jane to the Picture Book Party blog for a behind-the-scenes on the making of Pink Lion

This is the story of how Pink Lion came into being…

Once a week I run an art class for under 5s. It’s a great joy to watch the creativity of young children – and a constant source of inspiration to me. This was never more true than the week we made robots. After constructing our shiny cardboard creations, I asked the group what they thought the story might be about today. “A pink lion,” said one boy, without hesitation.

That was the spark that set me pondering, scribbling and scouring museums for stone lions (the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford has a particularly fine one in pink granite). Brainstorming pink things put flamingoes in my mind, and I liked the idea that a pink lion might be adopted by pink birds and live an idyllic life with jelly for tea every day. For some reason it seemed natural to call him Arnold.
This didn’t offer much drama, however, which is where the growling gang of yellow lions comes in. When they meet Arnold they send into a state of confusion about his identity – the story was starting to have some direction. I made a series of small dummy books with all sorts of endings – in one, Arnold raced round making cold drinks with curly straws for the lazy lions, in another he went home to find the flamingoes had formed a stunt motorbike troupe.

I took the latest version on a camping trip to Wales, and one wet afternoon when there wasn’t much else to do I read it out to a friend’s little boy. His feedback was concise, and pinpointed the problem with dazzling accuracy – “It needs more roaring”. And that’s when the very nasty crocodile came in, putting flamingoes in peril and letting Arnold discover his inner roar.
The story was coming together – now for the artwork. “Make it look as if it took five minutes,” said my editors – good advice but so hard to achieve! It seemed to take about two years to make it look as if it took five minutes. I tried every material under the sun – coloured pencil, collage, gouache, ink. None of the pinks felt right, and they seemed to clash with the yellows horribly. Then one day I was browsing a book about Picasso, and noticed ‘household emulsion’ in the list of materials he used. That’s when it clicked – I bought a sack of tester pots from Homebase, with delightful names like Yellow Submarine and Berry Smoothie. I applied them with the worst brushes I could find, added a scribble of pastel pencil, then pen and Indian Ink for the details – and finally I had something I was happy with.

Now the book is finished. I’ll be visiting bookshops to do some storytelling and craft activities – and it’s the first time I will have done this without an author. So I’ve made myself someone to travel with: a pink velvet soft toy version of Arnold – he’s a proper luxury lion with THREE types of pink velvet from his inner ears to his paw pads, and raspberry mohair for his scribble cheeks. I’ve stitched little bags of baking beans into his paws, which gives him just the right amount of weight to be able to sit up on his own. We are looking forward to touring together! Although our family cat is rather jealous.

Pick up a copy of Pink Lion at your local bookshop. Plus take a look at the brilliant animated trailer that the talented Jane has created!

Jane Porter is an illustrator specializing in work both for and with children. Her work ranges from picture and novelty books to children’s maps, murals and hand-made books suitable for outreach work. She has worked for a number of organizations, including the National Trust, English Heritage, London Zoo, the Corporation of London, Historic Royal Palaces and the National Health Service. When she's not working, Jane is often to be found out on the River Thames in a coracle or skiff, looking out for passing bats, cormorants and wagtails. Jane will be making book shop visits, you can find details below.

Sheen Bookshop on Friday 28th July, 10.30-12.30 

Waterstones Clapham Junction on Saturday 5th August, 3pm

Heffers in Cambridge on Saturday 19th August, 2-4

The Apple Store in Regent’s Street on Saturday 26th August at 2pm

Tales on Moon Lane, Herne Hill in the afternoon on Monday 23rd October.