This is Jitske Wadman, the granddaughter of Ealse, my father’s best friend. Jitske studies to become a teacher of Visual Arts & Design in Groningen, the Netherlands. She and I are collaborating on the children’s book about her pake (grandfather) and the swan.
In a few separate blog posts, I am going to tell you a bit more about Jitske and the background of the swan story. This summer, Jitske and her uncle Piet began digging through old files and boxes to find all kinds of photos of the farm in Tytsjerk where Ealse and Janke, Jitske’s pake (grandfather) and beppe (grandmother), lived and where Piet grew up. They sent me photos of the swan and patiently answered endless questions. In this process, we all got more and more excited about the swan book.
According to Jitske, her uncle Piet’s house is a treasure trove of history. It was deeply moving to see the photos and hear all these stories about farm life, family lore, Jitske’s aunt (also named Jitske) who died young, and the wild swan that showed up shortly after her death and followed Ealse around everywhere. We giggled about what a character the swan had been, laughed at the comical stories about farm hands, escaped bulls, and the cat Smeerpoets. In this process, the farm in Tytsjerk came to life in a whole new way for both Jitske and me. All these stories will serve as material for the children’s book. We’ll also share some tales and photos on this blog.
This is what Jitske told me about her love of illustration, drawing, and art:
”As long as I can remember, I’ve been drawing. When I was a child and teen, I used to spend hours in my room coloring. It always gave me a positive feeling to create something, and I have that still. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve begun applying my love of drawing to illustration of stories. When I took a course in illustration a few years ago, I found the subject so interesting. All the possibilities and elements you have to think about: what exactly do you want to say with an image, from what vantage point do you tell a story, how do you flesh out your ideas? So many questions. And then all the possibilities of design itself. I found this super interesting, but I was still too unsure of myself to really go for it. All the same, the desire to illustrate stayed alive in me. By now, I allow myself a lot more time to experiment with materials and ideas. I enjoy that so much. I have little patience to truly learn to draw from life through observation. For some reason that bores me a bit, while it would be so wonderful to master the craft and technique. Who knows… All of that will come with time. But for now I focus on aspects of illustration such as content, composition, color, and materials. For me, the joy of creating comes first!”