Baa-rilliant adventure for Otautau illustrator

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A Baa-rilliant Adventure illustrator Zerika van Jaarsveld, of Otautau, (left) and author Jennifer Somervell, of Canterbury, at the Oxford Book Launch recently. Photo: DanLim Designs

SOUTHLAND illustrator Zerika van Jaarsveld’s latest picture book is close to her heart.

A sheep’s-eye view of the nativity story, it explored what might have happened to three sheep after their shepherds ran off to Bethlehem.

The story follows Rumbly, Tumbly and Woolly, as they stumble after their shepherds, in the dark, in a dramatic adventure.

“This project excited me,” van Jaarsveld, of Otautau, said.

“I love drawing sheep and the nativity story is close to my heart.”

Author Jennifer Somervell, of the award-winning Tales From The Farm picture book series, was looking for an illustrator who could capture emotion both in the sheep and shepherds.

“When I saw Zerika’s paintings, I knew she could do it,” Cantabrian Somervell said.

van Jaarsveld spent almost a year drawing and painting the pictures, persevering through lockdown to make the printing deadline.

She described her process as “pictures piling up in my head, waiting to be painted”.

Though the story was imaginative, it was set in history.

The author and illustrator wanted the Middle Eastern setting to look genuine, so the pictures required hours of research, and help was sought from a scholar in Israel to clarify pictures.

“We didn’t want white faces and romney lambs. We needed the right breed of sheep clothing and footwear that could have been worn 2000 years ago by Middle Eastern shepherds.

“The response to Zerika’s finished pictures has been spectacular,” Somervell said.

Reviewers had described her pictures as exquisite, beautiful and breathtaking, she said.

“I always dreamed of illustrating picture books, which is my real passion, so A Baa-rilliant Adventure is an absolute dream come true,” van Jaarsveld said.

“An artist is part of who I am, not just what I do. I can’t imagine life otherwise. To me, art must be interesting, beautiful, and thought-provoking.”

A book launch would be held on Sunday, October 18, at 3pm at the Presbyterian Church Hall, Winton. Everyone was welcome, however for catering purposes, an RSVP would be appreciated to Landing Light Press by phoning 027 452 9858 or emailing books@landinglights.co.nz.

Books would be available after the launch at Paper Plus outlets and independent bookstores, or online at www.talesfromthefarm.co.nz

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