Theadora Whittington

Theadora Whittington

10 January, 2013
Artist & writer
Author of "The Mermaid and the Pink Dolphin"
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Theadora Whittington has lived in China and Hong Kong for over 10 years. Originally working as a barrister in the UK, she left that behind to pursue her passion in art and illustration. Theadora also holds a strong interest in the importance of biodiversity, leading her to convey this message to children in self-illustrated books. Her latest book, "The Mermaid and the Pink Dolphin," is now available.
 
Ecozine: What inspired you to write this book?
 
Theadora: I enjoy observing and learning something about the natural world around me. I saw some pink dolphins from a boat in Hong Kong – beautiful, energetic. The importance of man’s co-existence with other creatures is not a new idea, and it is not only a fascinating phenomenon, but it is also all too easily disrupted – and disrupted adversely by man’s very own activities. So often people like the idea of something, for example, to have a balanced co-existent way of being, and yet the desires of day-to-day actualities thwart that overall idea.
 
I wanted to put these thoughts across to children. I want them to wonder, to laugh. And for each child to think about his/her unique role.
 
Ecozine: You illustrated the entire book. Where did you learn your craft?
 
Theadora: I started to draw and paint while living in Beijing, while I was also working as a lawyer. My teacher there, Liu Dawei, was himself taught by great masters such as Wu Zuoren and Li Keran – and traditional painting is very much an art form which is handed down. You learn traditional Chinese painting by observing what is true, by drawing from life, but also by copying the great masters. This was a very different approach from that taken during this period in Western art schools where you were encouraged to keep analyzing your own work, your own inner thoughts, etc. as you progress.
 
But I returned to England and studied for a degree in illustration at the vibrant Cambridge School of Art where students were encouraged to experiment. I also learned a lot from other deeply professional printmakers at Gainsborough House – East Anglia has always had some simply amazing artists/printmakers.
 
Ecozine: During your travels through China in the 1990s, you learned traditional Chinese painting with Liu Dawei. How has traditional Chinese painting influenced your own illustration style?
 
Theadora: I find that drawing with the brush is fundamental to my work of working. There is a lyricism and variable rhythmic feel when using a brush and water based materials when drawing which is important to me – maybe this links to my musical ways, too. This brushwork is rooted in what I learned in China. I also use a variety of Chinese papers.
 
Ecozine: The nature of this book is very different from your previous career as a barrister. What drew you to the visual arts?
 
Theadora: My first visit to Asia was stimulating – it made me move beyond what I already was, to see new perspectives. And so I responded by drawing and painting my new surroundings and experiences. I already knew the importance of the role of the imagination in musical and religious fields, so it was an easy step also towards an exploration of the visual arts.
 
Ecozine: What do you hope kids can learn from this story?
 
Theadora: I hope that each child who reads my stories will feel an independent enjoyment of the world round about. Also that each child will learn a little about the amazing pink dolphins – and so be inspired to want to know more in detail.
 
Ecozine: The book is fairly specific to issues we face in Hong Kong. How do you think the message conveyed relayed to the international audience?
 
Theadora: An international audience will, I hope, appreciate that there are wonderful creatures in particular parts of the world, that they are all important. We each in our own part of the world need to see the value of what lies before us, and to protect what we can when it is under threat. I also hope that an international audience will appreciate that Man is also a peculiar creature, clever but terribly accident prone – it is an odd thing for a creature to be destroying its very own habitat!
 
To read our review of "The Mermaid and the Pink Dolphin", please visit: http://ecozine.com/article/ocean-tales
 
To see more of Theadora’s work, please visit: www.theadorawhittington.com

By: Esther Wong
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