Recommended feature about Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child, on the value of staring into space
After several false starts in various artistic disciplines, she had been hovering around the children’s books scene for almost a decade, trying to get work. “No one was interested in what I was doing. I would ask them what the problem was, and they would say ‘Everything’. I really felt it was a very hopeless situation,” she says with a giant smile as she recalls how “uncool people thought I was”.
In the meantime, Child was trying her hand at a variety of other pursuits. She “painted china tea-sets, did some window dressing, mural painting.” She started a bespoke lampshade business that never got up and running. She also worked as a spot painter in Damien Hirst’s studio.
“That was actually one of my favourite jobs. We were left alone in the studio all day with our instructions: how big the circles should be, where they should be placed, some on these huge canvases – you’d need a ladder – and some on these tiny ones. We would draw them and mix the colours and layer them up. There were many, many coats of paint, and I must have painted hundreds of spots. It sounds really boring, but it was actually a really useful experience because it was quite meditative. The process was mechanical and repetitive, but it allowed my brain to think about ideas I was working on.” It was staring into space, basically, with spots.
“When I was young,” she remembers wistfully, “my parents were around but they always had stuff to do. You could either muck in or get on with something else, and if you did, you were on your own with it, you had to be your own resource. If you were bored, you had to get out of it yourself, do something physical or find a place in your head.” You had to, basically, stare into space until your mind suggested something better to do.