Finish Mental Health Awareness week with student's monstrously good picture book

My Brother’s Monster illustrates the issues that children face today.

A University of Wolverhampton student is taking a novel approach to talking about mental health and well-being by illustrating the issues that children face in a new book.

Bethany Pickford, a third Visual Communication (Illustration) degree student, created the illustrated children’s book, My Brother’s Monster, in time for Mental Health Awareness week.

Drawing on personal experience of mental health issues suffered by friends and loved ones, Beth wanted to use her art to help children understand and relate to the complex issues surrounding depression.

Beth, 20 from Kidderminster, said: “The story focusses on a little girl who tries her best to reach out to her older brother as he suffers with his 'monster', and tries to free him of it. I wanted to find a way that translated how being with a loved one who’s suffering can make you feel, in a simple but effective way.

“I chose to illustrate this as a children’s book because I believe that it’s important for children to be introduced to mental health issues at an early age, as they or the people in their family, can also suffer from them. I wanted to try and show how it can feel from both sides, as someone who suffers and as someone who just wants to help, but can’t. Most of all I wanted the book to have a positive and heart-warming meaning even though it deals with a dark and sensitive topic.

“Initially I planned to work in watercolours, however after some experiments with coloured pencils I found that they were ideal for capturing the itchy, always moving texture of the monster and illustrating this story. It allowed me to push the colours and keep my style original and true to me. I’m really happy with how it turned out!”

Beth has had the full support of the staff of the Wolverhampton School of Art, especially Ben Kelly, Amy Evans, Howard Read and Stuart Varley, who have continued to mentor Beth, despite teaching moving to a virtual space during the COVID-19 lockdown.

She aims to pursue a career in writing and illustration. She said “It would be amazing to get My Brother’s Monster published! It has been my first attempt at creating a full book of final artworks, and I am extremely proud of what I was able to achieve. This project means a lot to me, as it has lasted throughout the whole of third year and developed leaps and bounds since the concept was thought of last September.

"It would be a dream to hold a physical, printed, and published copy of a book that I both wrote and illustrated. Ultimately I would love to be a freelance illustrator and self-author!”

Digital Arts thinks Beth has a very good chance here; after all, I Want to Believe...

You can see more of Beth’s work on her 
website or on her Instagram account.

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