A University of Wolverhampton student is taking a novel approach to talking about mental health and wellbeing by illustrating the issues that children face in a new book.
Bethany Pickford, a third Visual Communication (Illustration) degree student, created the illustrated children’s book, “My Brother’s Monster”, in time for Mental Health Awareness week.
Drawing on personal experience of mental health issues suffered by friends and loved ones, Beth wanted to use her art to help children understand and relate to the complex issues surrounding depression.
Beth, 20 from Kidderminster, said: “The story focuses on a little girl who tries her best to reach out to her older brother as he suffers with his “monster”, and tries to free him of it. I wanted to find a way that translated how being with a loved one who’s suffering can make you feel, in a simple but effective way.
“I chose to illustrate this as a children’s book because I believe that it’s important for children to be introduced to mental health issues at an early age, as they or the people in their family, can also suffer from them. I wanted to try and show how it can feel from both sides, as someone who suffers and as someone who just wants to help, but can’t. Most of all I wanted the book to have a positive and heart-warming meaning even though it deals with a dark and sensitive topic.
“Initially I planned to work in watercolours, however after some experiments with coloured pencils I found that they were ideal for capturing the itchy, always moving texture of the monster and illustrating this story. It allowed me to push the colours and keep my style original and true to me. I’m really happy with how it turned out!”
Beth has had the full support of the staff of the Wolverhampton School of Art, especially Ben Kelly, Amy Evans, Howard Read and Stuart Varley, who have continued to mentor Beth, despite teaching moving to a virtual space during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Ben Kelly, Course Leader in Illustration at the University, said: ‘’Beth has worked incredibly hard on this project over the course of the final semester of her Degree programme. She has used this period of uncertainty in such a positive way, she is a credit to the course and we know she will go on to have a successful career within the creative industries.”
Beth aims to pursue a career in writing and illustration. She said “It would be amazing to get “My Brother’s Monster” published! It has been my first attempt at creating a full book of final artworks, and I am extremely proud of what I was able to achieve. This project means a lot to me, as it has lasted throughout the whole of third year and developed leaps and bounds since the concept was thought of last September. It would be a dream to hold a physical, printed, and published copy of a book that I both wrote and illustrated. Ultimately I would love to be a freelance illustrator and self-author!”
Another of Beth’s mentors at the University, Amy Evans, a lecturer on the Illustration course, views work that talks about mental health as absolutely vital. She said: “Mental Health Awareness Week has arrived at a time when it has never been more important to check in on our wellbeing. Mental health and depression can be a really challenging topic to discuss with children, but it is also so important to address. Beth has developed a really accessible way to approach the subject with a real sensitivity and understanding of communicating to young children in her picture book.”
The support and encouragement of her lecturers has meant a lot to Beth, helping her make the most of her course and hone her abilities. She said: “I always wanted to stay local for university and the Illustration course at Wolverhampton seemed approachable and welcoming to me. There hasn’t been a time where I regretted my decision, as I’ve always felt super supported by my lecturers and I am extremely happy with what I have managed to achieve over the past three years.”