July (all): the animal says… Debra Wellington

Candy Jar is pleased to announce its twenty-second ‘Book of the Month’, The Animal Says…

Published with the help and support of Candy Jar’s award-winning partner imprint Jelly Bean Books, this delightful book brings the animal kingdom to life with interesting facts and glorious artwork for young readers.        

Written and illustrated by Debra Wellington, The Animal Says… certainly would not have happened had it not been for lockdown. This gave Debra a chance to focus on her own art and ideas, something she’d not been able to do for years.

Debra says: “From a very early age I’ve always loved art and spending time being creative. On leaving college, where I studied graphic design, I bought my first flat, so needed a secure job to pay the bills. This job was in local government and I stayed there taking on a number of roles for almost thirty years. I never regretted this, as I had a good career, but there was always a yearning to do creative things, as this is what I really enjoyed.”

Six years ago, Debra got a job as an activities coordinator in a care home, where she introduced art to the care home residents. The residents particularly enjoyed sessions where they used a variety of art mediums. She explains: “I noticed that painting and drawing was very relaxing for residents with dementia. It made them really focused and they produced some wonderful pieces of artwork, which they proudly displayed in the care home.”

Soon after, Debra decided to become self employed and began running art sessions in care homes that encouraged the residents’ creativity. She continues: “Making art together is sociable, and it has been so rewarding to see the residents gaining confidence with skills they never knew they had, and enjoying the experience of seeing each other’s artwork.”

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic brought this to an abrupt stop. Debra was no longer able to visit care homes to run these sessions. Instead, she decided to embrace her creative side, but being lockdown it was difficult to get hold of all the materials she needed. Instead she recycled paper and materials as much as I possible, painting over them, and cutting them up to create her designs.  

She concludes: “I really enjoy colourful, quirky and whimsical designs which are fun to create. Someone told me that my style was similar to Eric Carle. I didn’t know who Eric Carle was. I looked him up to discover that he’s actually the writer and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. What a fantastic compliment! And this got me thinking. Like Eric Carle, my artwork also depicts animals. First I thought the pictures would be great for nursery wall art, but then it occurred to me that it would make wonderful illustrations for a children’s picture book, so I decided to contact someone about this”.     

Debra spoke to Shaun Russell at Jelly Bean Books about her artwork. Shaun says: “I absolutely loved the style. Debra’s book works for all ages. Children love the fantastic facts and humorous artwork. Adults are touched a degree of nostalgia. Debra really understands pop art, something that many love to display in their house. The Animal Says… is a book destined to become a future classic.”