Yogi Duck and the Little Chick picturebook written and illustrated by ©IsabelBenavides

This month, on 30 May 2022, RSPB Newport Wetlands Reserve will be delivering a brand new, bespoke storytelling session for families, ‘Yogi Duck and the Little Chick.’ In this blog, aspiring author illustrator, Isabel Benavides, explains how the idea for a story about a duck who does yoga came into being.

 

Isabel Benavides, author illustrator of ‘Yogi Duck and the Little Chick.’ © Isabel Benavides Illustration.

How did you come up with the idea?

I’m a regular visitor to Newport Wetlands Reserve. When I have writer’s (or illustrator’s…!) block, a stroll through nature calms and restores my mind. Appreciating and focusing my attention on the tiniest details in nature often inspires my work.

One day on a family walk at the reserve, I watched ducks on the lake. Their calm demeanour made me think how mellow they seemed - perhaps even yogic. I thought, “What if a duck did yoga?” Thoughts like this often form the beginning of a story. When they do, I scribble them down, to come back to later.

Yogi Duck and the Little Chick © Isabel Benavides Illustration.

 

The expressions and emotions of Chick. ‘Yogi Duck and the Little Chick’. © Isabel Benavides Illustration.

What themes interest and inspire your work?

I’m particularly interested in exploring human emotions and feelings through the characters I draw and write about. As an aspiring children’s author illustrator, I’m keen to communicate messages to children, that support the development of good mental health, wellbeing and resilience. Like the ancient Greek physician and teacher, Hippocrates (born c. 460 BCE, island of Cos, Greece—died c. 375 BCE, Larissa, Thessaly), I truly believe that “Nature itself is the best physician,” and that the natural world and wellbeing are inextricably linked. For this story, I considered how a meditative duck might think and behave, and how he might interact and help other characters in his story world. And so, Yogi Duck was born!

 I’m also incredibly interested in topics relating to the environment, natural sciences, and the climate emergency. Helping readers to consider these complex topics, why they should care, and how they might take action in their everyday lives, is also really important to me.

 As much as the topics of friendship and wellbeing feature in the story, it was also important to research and understand the ecology of Newport Wetlands. The team was very supportive in this area. I enjoyed researching and learning about the plants, birds, animals and insects unique to the site. The endangered shrill carder bee even features in the story!

 

Details of the illustrations. ‘Yogi Duck and the Little Chick’. © Isabel Benavides Illustration.

What materials and processes did you use?

Getting the words down in rough allowed me to flesh out each character. I explored each personality and, as I did so, I experimented with drawing rough character thumbnails. I experimented with materials – watercolour, handmade collage papers, inks and pencils. I cut and tore paper. I flicked and splashed paint. I often work in relief, cutting out characters and objects to create my compositions like theatre sets or dioramas, using shadows and light to create the appearance of depth. This part of the process is a lot of fun!

 

Yogi Duck and Chick – the characters in development. ‘Yogi Duck and the Little Chick’. © Isabel Benavides Illustration.

Chick ‘Yogi Duck and the Little Chick’ © Isabel Benavides Illustration.

What do you have planned next?

I’m currently working with a museum on a brand-new wellbeing family activity pack. I’ll also be getting ready to self-publish ‘Yogi Duck and the Little Chick’ later this year, with the support of a Business Wales Barriers to Start Up Grant.

 

‘Yogi Duck and the Little Chick.’ A children’s picture book story with ‘Explore, Do and Make’ playing cards, inspired by RSPB Newport Wetlands Reserve. © Isabel Benavides Illustration.

For more information on the event or to book: https://events.rspb.org.uk/events/18555

 For more information on Isabel’s work or to get in touch: www.isabelbenavides.co.uk

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