Mr Potter's Pigeon
'I had never looked at a children's book from an artistic point-of-view before.'
When the portrait of his sons was completed, Reg happened to notice a painting in a similar style featured in a room setting in a magazine. The painting was from the Portal Gallery in London, which deals in naïve art:
'So I sent them a photo of my painting. Almost by return I received a letter asking me if I had any more! I set to and produced four, including one I had done of a pigeon fancier who had a loft near the railway line on the A6 … Portal put it into a show and everyone wanted to buy it. It just happened to be right for the time.'*
The painting of the pigeon fancier was also spotted by somebody from Hutchinson Children’s Books: 'He called me at home on a Saturday morning and said he had seen the painting and thought it would make a good children’s book … Had I thought of doing a book? I explained that I hadn’t and he said give it some thought* … Patrick Kinmonth, the son of my neighbours, was in between school and university and he volunteered to write a story about the pigeon, which he did, in three hours flat!'**
The book was published to great acclaim and is considered by Hutchinson to be one of their classics. For his artwork, Reg won the 1980 Mother Goose Award for the most exciting newcomer to British children’s book illustration – even though ‘The funny thing is that I had never looked at a children’s book before from an artistic point of view'*. The book appeared in 6 foreign language editions, although it was rejected by the United States, as ‘Americans, generally, do not like children’s stories depicting elderly people'#.
*Reg Cartwright talking to Steve Thomas-Emberson from, ‘Happy Endings’ in The Artist, (January 1997), pp. 24-5, RAC/13
**Reg Cartwright talking to Joan Stephens from: ‘The Story Evolves’ in Leicestershire and Rutland Life, (October 2009), p. 120, RAC/13
#Ann Cartwright, To What Extent is Reg Cartwright a Naïve Painter? (undated), p. 43, RAC/16