My high school art teacher found me drawing in the corner of a corridor during break one day. She said, looking down on me, ‘Don’t you think you’re a little too old to be drawing fairies?’.
When I was very young, my older siblings and I used to play ‘jobs’. My brothers crafted cut-out paper money we could trade for our grown-up services. I remember my brothers showing up to see what occupation I had chosen; me, furiously scribbling away, my little desk covered in felt tips and papers. One brother informed me that ‘selling drawings is not a real job’. The other, to my delight, handed me a paper note and requested a picture of a cat.
I grew to be your stereotypical nerd, tripping over gangly limbs and pasting Garfield comics in my notebook. In intermediate school, I made the classroom my office during lunch breaks, and awkwardly sold cartoon portraits for 50c. Hitting high school and shaking off a little awkwardness, I started my first real business. I dressed up as a fairy princess, painted faces and sold fairy paintings at markets and birthday parties.
My first real introduction to fantasy was when my friend Jozephine Parker dragged me to a movie I had zero interest in seeing. As a pre-teen, if a film was not Disney, DreamWorks or Pixar, It was not worth my time. We saw The Lord of the Rings and everything changed. I knew where I was going. I spent the following four years increasing my nerd factor by pasting pictures of LOTRs characters on my walls and sketching armour, weapons and elves in silk dresses.
At 17, I moved to Wellington to pursue my dream of working at Weta Workshop. The Hobbit was already in pre-production and I hoped for complications in the production so that it would be postponed until I got my foot in the door. Would you believe my luck? I started work on The Hobbit in costume and props in 2010.
At 22, I got my first real design job. I designed characters for a children’s television show about princesses, fairies and unicorns. I was ecstatic. I will never get sick of drawing flowers and sparkles, and there was a year’s worth of flowers and sparkles. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to design for Toybox, Pukeko Pictures and Nickelodeon.
Sometimes I still feel like my four-year-old self playing ‘jobs’, with my desk crammed in the hallway exchanging paper money. As a mature adult, I now draw pictures from the corner of my living room, laughing to myself about the fact that the team at Nickelodeon will never know their designs were coming from a girl in New Zealand, working in her pajamas and singing along to The Lion King.
I am 25 years old and I’m proud to have very recently drawn a fairy.