The Lost Words: Q&A with Jackie Morris

June 19th, 2019

Jackie Morris has been awarded the 2019 Kate Greenaway Medal for The Lost Words.

Jackie Morris lives in a small house on the Welsh coast. She wanted to be an artist from the earliest she could remember. After studying art at Hereford and Bath Academy she went on to illustrate for magazines and newspapers. She began her first book for children the week after her first child, Thomas was born and has gone on to illustrate and write many books.

We caught up with her about her work.

Do you work directly from nature and personal experience, or from photographs? 

For much of The Lost Words I needed to look no further than my rather wild garden. The adder was sleeping on the hill above my house. Ravens surround me. I work from life, specimens, photographs, observations. Whatever works. Looking close, then closer still, and always learning.

Which did you enjoy more, the individual animal studies or the double page spreads that link the poems?

The absence pages were the most satisfying, trying to discover the way to suggest an absence.

What is your favourite art medium to work in?

Sumi ink. I love grinding the ink on an inkstone. Mixing it with river water. Painting on Two  Rivers watercolour paper. Taking the time to make the ink and imagine. But The Lost Words was painted in watercolour.

How important is the relationship between author and illustrator? Having experience of both roles, which do you prefer?

The relationship between the words and the image is where the magic lies. Robert and I worked hard, together, first to imagine the shape of the book and then to create it, with emails flying back and forth across Wales and England.

I like writing for other illustrators, working on my own texts and working with writers. Each experience is different.

Do you agree with the book’s central premise that the natural world is being lost to today’s children? How do we stop this?

I believe that the human creature has a massively over inflated idea of its own place in the ecosystem. It thinks what divides it from other species is intelligence, when in fact it is carelessness. No other species is as careless with its own environment. We’ve blundered around, exploiting the world, making a terrible mess and are beginning to wake up and realise it’s a small planet we live on, and we are a tiny part of a whole. And we need to live in better ways.

The Lost Words is available to buy on our schools’ website. Find out more about Jackie here.

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