16th September 2019

Illustrator spotlight: Paula White

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Illustrator spotlight: Paula White

For her submission for the 2019 Templar Illustration Prize, artist, illustrator and printmaker Paula White drew deeply upon her family’s rich maritime history on the Suffolk coast.

With deep maritime roots on both sides of her family, Paula White’s submission for the Templar Illustration Prize is a story close to her heart. She explains, Bread, Buns and Biscuits “is a tale of everyday life in the fishing village that was once situated in my home-town on the Suffolk coast. It recreates a vanished way of life, describing the daily lives of a hard-working, close-knit fishing community.”

“Only small remnants of the village survive today, and many people do not know it even existed. I want the children of my hometown to be proud of their heritage — to ask about their home and feel the same way I feel when I think of my relatives and the past.”

“I hope to emphasise the importance of working together and of feeling valued and part of a community, however seemingly small the role.”

After conducting extensive research into her own history, Paula discovered that for many years, “those that lived by the sea were expected to follow a ‘fishing way’ of life….if [you] were not suited or able to work on the sea [you] were in danger of being undervalued and marginalised by the rest of the community.” In Bread, Buns and Biscuits, Paula wanted to celebrate the role of her Grandad, Percy, “who went against the norm and decided to become a baker in a world built around the fishing trade”. But, she adds, “his role was important too — he baked bread, buns and biscuits for the town and fishing community, providing food, comfort and fuel through good times and through the dark days of World War II.”

Percy never became a sailor or a fisherman like his father, grandfathers, uncles, brothers and uncles before him. After two disastrous attempts at sea, he knew it wasn’t for him. Paula hopes that her grandfather later understood the importance of his role in the village but says that she “can’t help that feelings of failure might have been present.”

“I hope to emphasise the importance of working together and of feeling valued and part of a community, however seemingly small the role.”

“Discovering our past and how our relatives lived, worked, faced and overcome challenges can help us to have a clearer understanding of who we are and where we come from. It can help bring communities together, no matter how different our background.”

To create her illustrations, Paula combined drawings from her imagination with researched observation, inspired by industrial and working landscapes and a love for the everyday. There is a scale model of the old village in the heritage centre of Paula’s Suffolk home. While working on Bread, Buns and Biscuits, she created many drawings of the model, wanting to “share the charming rows of flint faced cottages with industrial buildings, trades, shops, cafes and pubs.” While Paula has worked across numerous techniques and mediums, Bread, Buns, and Biscuitswas created using pencil and ink: “I enjoy the raw and honest feel, perhaps because it best reflected the honesty of the hard-working fishing village of the past.”

“I think that stories and art certainly help to connect people with their local history and community, by bringing history that is unique to an area back to life and connecting the past with the present. Discovering our past and how our relatives lived, worked, faced and overcome challenges can help us to have a clearer understanding of who we are and where we come from. It can help bring communities together, no matter how different our background. I know that through my research and discovery of my own heritage, I feel proud of my hometown and appreciate how hard my relatives worked to make a living in very different times. It makes me feel grounded.”

The Templar Illustration Prize was launched in 2018 as part of Templar’s 40th anniversary celebrations. The award’s impetus is to discover and foster new illustrative talent, offering a platform for new illustrators to launch successful careers. The winner of the 2019 prize will be announced on 18thSeptember 2019 at Nomad Books in Fulham. Maria Coco, Sally Walker and Paula White have been shortlisted for the 2019 award.