Drawing on the past
When her father-in-law began writing stories for his grandchildren to entertain them while he babysat, Jessica Stafford Cameron was enchanted.
The tales she heard Sir Roy Cameron – Jessica’s Scottish husband’s father – read to her niece and nephew captured her imagination.
Soon the American-born 31-year-old was putting her considerable design skills to use by illustrating the tales.
“The stories were excellent and as soon as I heard them I wanted to illustrate them,” Jessica explained.
“I illustrated and published ‘I Once Had a Chimpanzee’ last year and have just launched our new book ‘The Tale of Jessie the Highland Cow’. This story is by way of tribute to Roy's ancestors, including Grandma Jessie Cameron, who for generations crofted in the Scottish Highlands.”
Jessica has long been fascinated by illustrating – it’s a skill she has honed since her early years growing up in Petaluma, California.
“As a child I would draw on everything; the walls, my skin, my sister, my dolls and even the family dog,” she explained.
“It was no surprise to my family that I went on to study art and design. I have seven years of formal creative design education including an MA in Design from University of Leeds - 2013, a Certificate in Graphic Design from Santa Rosa Junior College - 2009, and a BA in Art with an Art History Minor from San Diego State University – 2006.”
While working abroad in New Zealand, Jessica met her Scottish husband Graham – Roy’s youngest son – and they are now living ‘happily ever after’ in Glasgow.
The first book Jessica published was A Highland Boyhood in Ardnamurchan – a story which described her husband’s late grandfather Angus Cameron’s experience growing up in the Highlands of Scotland. She then gave it to Roy as a birthday present.
When it comes to getting a book pulled together, publishing is not the tricky part, she explained. Rather, it’s getting word out there that is the harder part.
“It is very easy to self-publish. The difficulty lies in marketing the books and getting the books stocked in stores. I am now attempting to get our books stocked in the gift shops at castles and in local bookstores,” she said.
“I am currently in contact with Scottish book distributors, libraries and bookstores and also the venues that are hosting our events.
“We will be having meet the author and artist events at Oxfam Books on Byres Road in Glasgow on Saturday 25 April at 1pm, Edinburgh Central Library on Tuesday 26 May at 6.30pm and the Art Store in Glasgow in the autumn.”
As for advice she would offer up-and-coming illustrators, Jessica drew on the sage words of Japanese spiritual leader, Daisaku Ikeda:
“No matter how wonderful our dreams, how noble our ideals, or how high our hopes, ultimately we need courage to make them a reality. Without action, it’s as if they never existed.”
For further information on Jessica Stafford Cameron and her work, visit Facebook.com/jessicastaffordcameron designs and Twitter.com/JessicaSCameron