Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Ongoing inspiration - author-illustrator Roger Duvoisin




Look what I received in the post today!


Front and back cover of Roger Duvoisin's Lonely Veronica pub 1963 -this is the 4th reprint 1974


The text of Lonely Veronica is much longer picture books are supposed to be these days and the story  unusual too.  
How ever did Veronica get lost at the top of a half-finished skyscraper?  
And winched out of a ship - as  the cover shows?  I love how the ship's funnel is just a hint in the bottom corner and how the lines of rigging and net play across the front and back  - and the lettering too!


The first page - 'Veronica's river was do slow and lazy..." 
(Can you see  a happy Veronica  hidden benhind the trees?)




Next spread - "Then one day men came..."It's the end of the world!" cried the hippopotamuses.


But plucky Veronica wants to explore the 'good new days'.  Joe the foreman makes her the machine crew pet and she joins them on a ship to American to work on building and demolishing in New York. 
One day she decides to explore and finds herself in a lift up a half finished skyscraper.

"When dawn awoke Veronica, the city was sunk into deep fog.."

The last spread


Getting down is harder.  She falls and is fed, oddly, by a pigeon called Alexander and finally rescued by Joe again who takes her to live by the old oak tree in his family farm.

All the pictures, in black and white and colour are works of art go add to my long list of Roger Duvoisin's illustrations in my Pintarest list of personal inspiration I put together for the lovely people at Orange Beak Studio 

Lonely Veronica was published by Bodley Head in the UK in 1964, three years after Roger Duvoisin's first book about the strong-minded hippopotamus Veronica,  an old  copy of which has been face out on my shelf for a while.  
Veronica has been republished.   Hum I wonder if Lonely Veronica will be?

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Booktrust Lifetime Achievement Award - ongoing!

'Ongoing' is my new watchword.

I've been moved to resume my blog - to record just a few of many inspiring pearls from the Booktrust Lifetime Achievement Award I was lucky enough to attend today.

When John Burningham stood up to give his acceptance speech  he mentioned that a lifetime achievement award  sounded so FINAL when after 55 years he felt he was just starting!   Having said that, he never dreamed he'd also have the pleasure of receiving flowers from Anthony Browne.

He's working on a new Mr Gumpy - a 40 year old idea pulled out from a drawer but a difficult one...
He and Helen Oxenbury his wife, the joint Award winners, are not giving up.
Not resting on what in their case are a tremendous pile of laurels!
(And neither is Judith Kerr who confided after the event that she was starting a new idea...the difficult stage, she said)
It should be called the 'Ongoing Lifetime Achievement Award'.

Yet, though Helen Oxenbury confessed she almost felt guilty about how much fun she's had over the 50 years of writing and illustrating, it's not easy work.  
Never easy.   

As John Burningham suggested it is the problems  (like how to suggest in a picture, the smell made by a teenage elephant!)  that keep us going. 


In her tribute to Helen Oxenbury,  Nicolette Jones spoke of how was one of the first to really bring diversity into her lively, innovative warm work. Touching to hear John Burningham added later that he reckoned his wife Helen's Farmer Duck was some of the best work ever done!

Anthony Browne talked about how John Burningham was one of a rare breed of a writer-illustrator who is both experimental and reassuring. He cited Come away from the water, Shirley as one example -  a breakthrough book playing on the gap between words and pictures that really fires the child's imagination.

Lauren Child spoke of how Burningham's work changed her life.  She quoted Helen Oxenbury saying about her husband and his book Seasons,  how John 'throws anything at his work'.    The creative freedom - true artistry -  and how the work "makes you react with every part of you (including the part that is still a child) 'just as if you are looking at a Matisse or Bonnard'. 
Also how a book like Would you rather? creates  bonds, generating conversations with old and young. 












And most important of all,  especially in the current climate, is how Burningham tells the truth.  The joy of the relationship his book Grandpa - ending with the 'bigness of the emptiness' of the empy chair...


Last spread from John Burningham's Granpa













Not to end there!  
It was great to see and hear poet (and our fellow picture book crit grouper!) Joseph Coelho talk about the importance of Helen's work for small children. 

And I enjoyed writer and presenter Floella Benjamin's lively introduction which gave us a real sense of just how many children Helen Oxenbury reached with her books and how her work will live on.   

So much more I wish I had noted!
Huge thanks to the host and Booktrust CEO Diana Gerald,  
and to Natascha Biebow and the SCBWI for inviting me to an inspiring moment!

Floella Benjamin & Joseph Coelho giving the award to Helen Oxenbury

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.
...in 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.