"In the world of unknown creatures,
I wonder what you'll find.
Perhaps the unknown creatures
will open up your mind."
An Oriel Hoskin Scholarship from the Learning Connexion is helping Illustration student Melissa Burtenshaw pursue her dreams of writing and illustrating children’s books.
The Level 6 student has recently self-published her second children's book, titled The Unknown World.
With a background in teaching and a love of illustrated stories and poetry, Melissa had always thought about writing children’s books, but was waiting for a spark of inspiration. It came courtesy of a tutorial on children’s picture books.
“Suddenly I just felt this huge inspiration. Ever since then stories have just popped into my imagination. It’s happened quite organically.”
Melissa says most of her ideas come from nature. “I get inspired when I’m in nature, and these poems just pop into my consciousness. Most of my stories are to do with the connection to elemental beings. Fairies, creatures of the earth – a magical mystical world.”
As the recipient of a 2018 Oriel Hoskin Scholarship, Melissa has been able to focus on her goals in the New Zealand Diploma in Creativity (Level 6). “Level 6 has been amazing for being able to bring things into completion,” she says.
Melissa says self-publishing gives her the freedom to write what she wants. “A lot of my writing is a bit more unconventional.”
She works closely with her tutor Iain Watt on her illustrations, while Digital Art and Design tutor Alan Poole has helped her with the book’s design.
“If I come across any big stumbling blocks and don’t know what to do, they are very good at helping me – I feel very grateful for their support. If I was doing it by myself, I’d probably find myself stopping more, and feeling a bit disheartened by some of the challenges that come up.”
Melissa works on her illustrations in TLC’s fully equipped illustration studio, working with water colours and gouache.
Tutor Iain Watt says he’s been impressed by Melissa’s work. “Her stylistic consistency is the key holding the whole book together, and the ability to do that isn’t easy. It takes evolution and time – but she’s got it.”
As for the future? “I’d love to write fulltime – that’s my dream”.
“Joseph Campbell coined the term ‘follow your bliss’. This is a quote that I wish to live my life by. The creative process (of receiving inspired ideas, writing them down, and then bringing them into the world of form) is my bliss. There is nothing that brings me greater satisfaction in life.”
The Learning Connexion has one of the only specialist illustration programmes in New Zealand. Find us, Discover you.
Want to follow your creative dreams, but finances holding you back? Apply for a Learning Connexion Scholarship. Find out more here.