Monday, 20 March 2017

A peek at a new project

Been hunkering down on some new ideas recently.  

Here's a peek at part of a lift-the-flap book project I've written.
Have just sent off one 'finished' spread, a full roughs and a text across the ocean. 
It dawned on my during a brief whip around the London Book Fair last week that I am much better at promoting other illustrators than I am at pushing myself.  So fingers crossed that my plucky agent Erzsi, of Henandink Literary Studio will find the right publisher for it!  

I sketched out the whole book in colour but I decided that I better get all the detail I want in there as clearly as possible.  So I got my Pilot fineliner pen out. I got so used to drawing with this line I thought I might well keep it for the finals.
A couple of spreads on my work wall...

The idea started with a photo - framed below - of my lovely daughter.  When she was little she loved hiding and surprising us from unlikely hide-y-holes. I treasure this photo of her in the kitchen cupboard which ended up being a repository for recycled plastic boxes, yoghurt pots and ice cube trays - some of her favourite toys.  
Here I am - let's play!
Back to work now on a very different project - a picture book illustration commission for Bayard's Belles Histoires all about a shy young prince and a child-guzzling monster.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Can't draw, no stories? Here's a tip - a short post that goes a long way!

If you can write you can draw.  With just a few letters of the alphabet you can create characters.  (I can show you how in more detail if you invite me to your school or event)
Just like the full stop at the end of a sentence, dots are really useful.  
With two dots in four Os - two pupils in 4 eye sockets you can get your characters looking at or away from each other - hey presto, a relationship!  
And a relationship between characters, is a great prompt for a story.

There's more follow up but this is a start you can share with  anyone, kids  - grown ups - who say they can't draw.

Here are some pics to showing how kids and a few teachers got drawing. This is just one pic from one of  8 classes I visited thanks to the lovely people at this year's South Ken Kids Festival.  
One class of Year 2s in Norland Park School, London

This was a shorter (just 30 minute!) plenary session with about 90 children from 5 schools at the CWISL Shoutwest 2016 festival at Brunel University. 

#PowerofPictures and connecting characters

This week I've been drawing and 'connecting characters' with students up north here...

with illustration students at Huddersfield University,
and down in South London for a book week at Smallwood Primary, Streatham - drawing characters with every single year group from Nursery to Year 6 (age 11).
 Here are some of Year 3's quick draw characters done in the hall at Smallwood Primary.
I ran one- hour workshops for whole Years 2- 6 plus  individual classes from Nursery to Year 1.
(Big thanks Smallwood's Literacy officer John Griffiths)

For every session we looked at the simplest tool that I use as a narrative illustrator in my own books to get
characters really connecting to each other - or avoiding them: eye direction.
Som of my quick sketches to show (top) head - example of 3 simplified animals
(below) profiles showing a few simple ways to vary characters as springboards for stories

You could say it is about getting your characters to focus.  
Who is looking at whom (or not) and why and how? Such fun to see how a character comes to life when you place the dot of the pupils in a specific part of the eye socket!
The fun and stories really starts when you get that direction to a look. Then you can draw another character alongside, responding to that gaze - looking back or away. How do they feel about each other? Where will they look next?   It's a great springboard for story writing too as I've shown in more detail here. (And in a shorter quick tip here)

No matter how simple or elaborately drawn, how schematic or sophisticated it's amazing to see how a focused gaze brings a drawing to life.  "Like magic" as a Year 1 pupil told me, as she turned a round shape into a face and added a dot to the corner of each eye socket. 

Part of a Year 1 class  of 5 and 6 year olds in Smallwood - 45 minutes to
connect characters  (adding expressions).

Even some of the talented Huddersfield illustration students preparing final year books were struggling.  They tend to obsess on technique, the pressure to 'brand' your work or at the very least evoke an atmosphere.  It's so easy to forget how identifying with characters can help them and their readers to enter into and point the way (literally, you could say) through a story.

Coincidentally after this busy week I learnt about the #PowerofPictures initiative on Twitter.  Turns out that the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, the CLPE  in collaboration with Dr Sue Horner and Janet White have been doing some great research into the power of picture books over the past 3 years - with the help of some much-loved author-illustrator colleagues. 

Their report proves that 'getting under the skin' of characters in picture books can be useful for children in so many ways, well beyond 7 or 8 when kids are wrongly thought to be 'beyond' picture books. Many of us in publishing and in education know this but we have to convince others, especially parents anxious about their kids' reading level.   Here's to #PowerofPictures  - and the power of pupils (excuse the pun)!
But it's not just helping literacy levels. You could say it's  about encouraging the development of that bit of the brain that's crucial for the survival of the human race - empathy.

Here are a few glimpse of 'looks'  empathetic - and threatening - from some illustrations I did a while back
to Claire Clement's story that's just been published by Bayard France,  Le Doudou du Loup

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

On stage with Serge Bloch, pens and all at the South Ken Kids Festival 2016

The lovely Stella Bataille of Club Petit Pierrot who introduced us, just send me this short clip of our Drawing Duo together in the cinema at the French Institute, London. a restaurant as it turned out.  The audience then suggested the menu - mouse, and dog to eat!

 Ott's turn with his brush - meeting Serge Bloch's famous Sam Sam and his Sam Nounours

Here's the only (inadequate)  glimpse  I have of a stunningly original stage enactment of Serge's  The Big Adventure of a Little Line. Serge draws as a young actor mimed to music and in front of the backgrounds of his book.

Later I joined Axel Scheffler, Sophie HennDavid LitchfieldDorothée de MonfreidMarianne Dubuc and other amazing South Ken Kids Festival guests impro drawing on stage to jazz trumpet. Can you see one of our joint drawings I found on Twitter?

Friday, 14 October 2016

Kidcandoodle - kids can indeed and did at Bank Street Books

Just home from a Tiz and Ott tour in the US,  some inspiring publisher visits in New York and San Francisco -  and some time out with my partner out West too.   I had a bit of time to sketch too- here's a view Brooklyn, looking at downtown Manhatten...

Before I left London, the delectably doodly site kidscandoodle asked me to debut a new 'Drawn' interview. Here's a sneak peek of just one answer.  See the rest here!

then off with Tiz and Ott and my first ever US event -  in Manhatten at the venerable children's book store, Bank Street Books

Tiz  scooting off from Brooklyn - Ott still hanging around

Tiz and Ott make their marks on the door of Bank Street Book Store!
Never worked with so many pre-schoolers as at Bank Street.  We all went dot dot dot with Tiz and Ott!

A carpetful of crayons.  "Ott could paint a cloud with his eyes closed"

After my own booksigning - what a delight to catch up with the hugely talented author-illustrator Tim Miller in the crowd - and have him sign his books for me!

When I last saw him in the illustrator gathering at the 2014  SCBWI New York conference, he was 'aspiring'.  But I knew when I saw his work he had what it takes and now he has no less than 4 books in the bag - first of which are his great illustrations to the comical Snappsy the Alligator who did not ask to be in this book  (written by Julie Falatzo).    I treasure this book! Exciting too to get an advance copy of Tim's debut book as both author and illustrator - Moo Moo in a Tutu out in early 2017 and glimpse another beautiful book to be published by the innovative Brooklyn press Enchanted Lion.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

My colour mixing and painting family workshop in Bethlem Museum of the Mind

I can recommend taking some time out to mix and create your own colours.

That is part of what we did at my recent workshop at the wonderful Bethlem Museum of the Mind  (an ArtFund Museum of the Year finalist)  And we all had a wonderfully focused, creative time.
I started by serving over 20 plates like below, to adults and children of all ages from 5 to over 70...
one palette of blue, yellow, magenta red and white poster paint
Armed with this substitute palette, a couple of brushes (one doing the job of a spatula and one for painting) and a long strip of paper to paint on,  the first aim was to mix as many colours - as possible out of the 3 primaries - including black or near black.  

Here are 4 vertical strips each by a different workshopper.  They are almost like colour signatures. Everyone comes up with their own  amazingly distinctive colour range (and brush marks) from the three primaries.
4 vertical strips of colour made with 3 primaries.
Adding some white extended the range of beautiful chromatic greys.
One adult told me how soothing they found it.  And in the concentrated atmosphere, as ever the children worked faster.  Adults were still creating colours while a 4 and 7 year old had already started creating characters.
We then looked again for inspiration at a wordless picture book by an unknown artist, following a child's imaginary journey.  Part of the Bethlem Museum of the Mind's collection, it is currently on show with some other amazing works in their current Youtopia exhibition.

The adults caught up with the kids, and created their own amazing characters...
exploring strange scenes...

and  familiar worlds,  here work by a 7 year old left and his dad (right) 

 All in all, what a perfect workshop for Ott, from my book Tiz and Ott's Big Draw!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Katsumi Komagata at Foyles and ELCAF in London - and his transformative, transforming books

Lots to catch up with but first, a significant moment yesterday evening at Foyles - Katsumi Komagata's first talk ever in England and this coming weekend his first workshop open to all at the ELCAF festival.  Big thanks to their European funded initiative that he has been able to make it to London at last!
Coincidentally earlier this year I had written about my own discovery of Komagata in the UK's Association of Illustrators Varoom Magazine.  You can read my article  'Unfolding Stories' here (I love their layout!) : 

It was wonderful to see Komagata talk about the series of books he created from observing  and dialoguing with his daughter from 3 months till around 12 years of age  (she has now just married at 27!) Here he shows one  workshop piece that came out of an exchange in one of his many workshops:

I felt like it was also a part of my own personal history catching up with itself.  When I lived in France I would  take friends and Parsons students to see the Trois Ourses book collection.  We'd explore and play with their valise of books containing  Komagata's Little Eye series, and other innovative book makers from Bruno Munari onwards. 

Komagata referred to how it was a librarian from France (Elizabeth Lortic who co-founded Les Trois Ourses) who spotted his Little Eye books in MoMA New York and invited him first to France.  From there he has been published and done workshops in many other countries (except the UK!).  His work has had an undoubted influence on the French children's publishing industry in particular.

If you are interested in  a lateral view of picture books and artist's work for children, I recommend a making an appointment to visit Les Trois Ourses in Paris.
And if you can't make the ELCAF festival this weekend, I learnt from John L. Walters of eye magazine last night that you can find Komagata also in the Bookart Bookshop in London too!