A Start in Art
by Joe Sinclair
His letter is before me as I type this. It is dated September 1, 2001 and starts:
Dear Joseph, My wife Winifred and I were delighted to meet you yesterday and to have the preliminary chat regarding the possibility of producing a book.
I will send you a brief summary of the book I have in mind and then await your reaction before I proceed further.
It was signed:
At that time Alan was already well into his eighties.
Last week I attended the book launch in New Milton, Hampshire, of the book that had progressed from Alan's mind through the various stages of discussion, anguish, disappointment, and much hard work (particularly on Alan's part), before ending up as the attractively printed and artistically designed work that is reviewed in our book pages. [You can read the review here] The picture above shows an ecstatic Alan Crowe. He may not look ecstatic to you. As he wrote in another one of his handwritten letters, this one dated February 13, 2003 "You say I must be getting very excited. Well I suppose so, but it is a restrained excitement." So he doesn't reveal his feelings very much, but I know that inside he is ecstatic.
And why not? At any age it is a considerable accomplishment to go from the germ of an idea for a book to the completion of the project. When that achievement involves not merely the writing of the text, but the producing of the graphics in a work that is graphically top-heavy, finding a suitable printing company that can also offer help on the production and marketing side, and then taking total responsibility for the financing, publishing and distribution, this is an achievement of which anyone, at any age, can be justifiably proud. Let alone someone in their mid-eighties.
But Alan has kept himself active and involved for more than seventy years. His background was in advertising, mainly copywriting, but his interest in art also started then and was indulged at every opportunity. He had, many years earlier, and long before retiring to the south coast, produced a book of drawings and narrative of old taverns and public houses in Surrey. He had also started drawing illustrated regional maps and selling them through local outlets. He has continued this activity, and his maps of New Milton and Barton-on-Sea are on sale in several local newsagents shops.
Alan's letter to me in September 2001 was the result of his having seen an article about me and my ASPEN self-publishing service in the Prime Time supplement to Dorset's Daily Echo of August 2001. The article described how I was targeting "senior citizens", primarily via the University of the Third Age; encouraging them to consider writing "the book that is within every one of us" and learning how to publish it themselves. I had produced a booklet called Publishing Your Book, and Alan had written asking for a copy.
The service offered by ASPEN is non profit-making. It aims to recover costs out of book sale proceeds if the book is eventually published and sold. It is as much a retirement hobby as anything for me; a lot cheaper than philately; and a lot more fun than examining watermarks. My satisfaction, my personal sense of achievement, comes from the success of my clients.
When Alan's book was printed I wrote to tell him that I regarded him as one of my greatest success stories. He wrote back: "I take [that statement] with a pinch of salt. You must reserve judgement until we see if I sell any copies of the book!"
A typically self-effacing comment. I think the book will sell very well. But whether it does or not, it is a success, and Alan is a success, and I am proud to be associated with it.
Alan Crowe with Joe Sinclair at the book launch