Ken Wilson-Max, SCOOP Illustrator
Every other month I receive an assignment from SCOOP magazine. I never know what’s coming and relish the challenge of producing something in the following few weeks. This type of work is what I started my career with in Zimbabwe many years ago. In fact, I was still in school doing A levels when I was illustrating a weekly column for a magazine that covered social and political topics. For any illustrator or creative, learning how to deal with pressure is an important lesson. For me at that age it was valuable. But more than that, visualising depression, corruption and violence was simply overwhelming. I used to joke that perhaps I should be making stories for children instead…
I’m happy to say that working on these stories is the opposite of my early experience. For a start, I am working to feed young, curious minds, which is something I have been doing for many years. I enjoy following current affairs and reading about the world, and always believed children and young people would share that curiosity if current affairs was presented to them in a familiar way. Then there is the added bonus for me as a creator to present young people with a global perspective that feels local. After all, if you live in a city these days, the world is in your neighbourhood. Your neighbours could be from anywhere!
While I was studying there was a constant pressure to specialise in one thing; ‘Are you a designer or an illustrator?’ was the question that bugged me the most because my answer (that I’m both) didn’t cut it with my tutor, who really wanted me to choose one discipline. Growing up in Zimbabwe, though, we were always ready to make a plan B if plan A didn’t work out and I guess it was hard to lose that instinct. It’s always good to step outside a comfort zone and for me that means working in a comic-strip format, rather than in picture books or baby books. It also means working digitally, rather than with paint and paper.
SCOOP magazine has presented these wonderful challenges, these opportunities to learn and also to measure progress with new skills. It has very quickly become the space I use to experiment with new ways of storytelling and presenting characters from different backgrounds. Each story is a little world created to make a point or an argument so that children can make up their own minds with this new information. It is the best way to show how exciting diversity in the world is and play it back to those who might think otherwise.
I always hope that children who love reading will keep doing so, and that those who don’t read as much will find something in this magazine that resonates. They may even read another article after, and then who knows? The sky is the limit!