Ten years ago, author Pat Clarke and I began collaborating on a story by Pat called A One-Eyed Chook Called Sheila.

I had painted and sketched birds for years, but I had never drawn a chook.

This particular chook had a truckload of character and I could picture her as soon as I read the words.

Solid, reliable, a little quirky. And one-eyed.

In 2013 Sheila saw print and I held in my hands the very first copy of a book I had illustrated.

As a seven-year-old I wrote and illustrated my first story for school. It was one page long and had one illustration.

As I progressed through school, I continued to write stories and illustrate them, receiving top marks from teachers each time.

It was almost the only thing I enjoyed about school and almost the only academic pursuit I was any good at.

Holding in my hands a physical copy of a printed book, containing a series of my little artworks, at age 45 seemed the culmination of at least part of a life-long endeavour.

With the release of Tales from the Magic Forest this year, Pat and I have achieved our seventh printed collaboration – and we are already working on our eighth! For me, the Magic Forest volume is the eighteenth publication featuring my artwork.

It is an amazing feeling to be at this stage of the journey. An interesting facet of this little book is how it ties in with the other books we have worked on.

The heroine is Hannah, from ‘Howie the Yowie – Adventures of a Loveable Monster’, our second book.

Hannah has various adventures in these pages, one of which includes meeting a very special magical creature, featured on the cover.

I’ll let the readers discover more when they read the tale, but I will reveal that the story does not end with this book.

There will be a second volume, set in the present day, which will tell the tale of Hannah’s great-great-great-great grandchildren! (is that enough greats?)

This story is what we are working on now and we hope to have it published before the end of this year. (Fans of Pat’s stories will love some of the cameo appearances of their favourite characters in the second volume.)

It has been a privilege to work with Pat, to illustrate her tales and to see the books enjoyed by so many people – thousands, in fact!
I never would have thought at age seven of the possibility of this happening.

As a kid from Narrabri, having lived here all my life, having left school early to step into my creative path, having had to work at jobs I had no interest in to earn a living, having studied and practised music whilst I worked, having taught hundreds of kids how to play the piano; and yet, having stuck to my drawing through it all, I would say to any kid in a country town: be patient, be tenacious, take guidance, take opportunities, practise and persist at the thing you do best and love most of all, and you will succeed.

These last 10 years of my life have proven that to me.

By Graeme Compton.

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