Writing a book for children

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized

I’m currently writing a picture book. It’s an idea I’ve had buzzing around in my head for over 20 years. I bet some people reading this page haven’t been alive as long as I have had this in my noggin.

I’m going to make a little project of writing about my progress now and then.

I’m a self taught artist really and I think there’s something really wonderful self taught artists. Of course, there are many areas of knowledge and experience that I lack but I make up for that in enthusiasm. Sometimes I wish I had known how much I loved illustration before I embarked on a university education. But then I wouldn’t have had the characterisation skills I got from my Theatre Arts degree, nor the breadth of knowledge of the human experience without studying Archaeology and Anthrolopology.

In fact, it was in a formal Archaeology degree that I ignited my passion for visual art and representation.  I trained in archaeological illustration which is basically drawing lots of very old things, like Roman pendants in the shape of (to use Baldrick’s parlance) a ‘thingy’.  I drew lots of Roman penises basically. Penises and pottery. And bits of glass. It was fun. No, really it was. (Points finger accusatorily).

I always loved making up stories as a child. I can remember making a book when I was about 11. It was called ‘Willy-Nilly the baby dragon’. It was unsuprisingly about a little dragon called Willy Nilly, who ate flamed grilled beefburgers.  It wrote it and illustrated it. It was a bit shit, I guess. But what do you expect? I was 11.

So this here idea I’ve got, I thought I’d have a go at getting it out there. I’ll send it out to publishers and if they don’t ‘see a market for it’ then I’ll blummin’ find a market myself.

Now, in the film of my life  this is where they would cut to me clawing at the doors of a London publishing house shouting, ‘I’ve found a maarKKEEETTTTT’ you bastards!’.

So I have been taking the time to storyboard my little tale and I’m going to share the journey with anyone who is interested enough to pop by.

I’ll start by sharing with you a little sketch I have started of one of the illustrations. You can learn more about it as the weeks go on.

****PLEASE BUY PICTURE BOOKS AND WHERE POSSIBLE, FROM INDEPENDENT BOOK STORES. DON’T LET THE ART DIE OUT. ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILDREN TO READ PICTURE BOOKS, ESPECIALLY OLDER CHILDREN. PICTURE BOOKS REALLY ARE GIFTS TO FEED THE MIND AND SOUL****

Stan in pot rgb this

 

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When drawing is like (shush)…sex

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized

Yep. I said it. S-E-X. It’s a bit of a rubbish analogy but it illustrates (get it?) my point. Everyone does it differently. I love to see the methods other people use for getting their drawings out. I thought I would briefly share some little pics of me at my desk. I’ve been working on a little something that I will share properly later on. This time, I sketched out a rough and then transferred it on my Wacom into Illustrator so I could mess about a bit and get my colours just right. The finished thing was hand painted in watercolours. Phew! And people think you just do a little doodle right?! 

Using Adobe Illustrator

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized

Dear Diary, (or infact, WordPress blog).

Yay-hey! Wooooo- hoo!!!! Ok, so I thought I’d give it a go trying to get some of my sketches into digital format. Here’s my first attempt at transferring a handcoloured sketch into Illustrator and working over the top of it digitally. I have still got so bloody far to go and there is SO MUCH to learn. It’s blimmin’ overwhelming!

HERE IT IS. DOWN HERE. JUST UNDER THIS TEXT…

TA-DA!!!

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Yep. This tiny sketch has taken me about 12 hours over 3 days and you won’t believe the intricacies of some of this stuff. BUT! I have finally grasped a rudimentary (i.e. for simpletons) understanding of LAYERS! They aren’t the capricious and malevolent force I suspected them to be. They are things of genius!

Do watch in the next few weeks, as I blunder through a catalogue of embarrassments as I try to self teach myself what I need to know…

 

 

Work in progress

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized

There’s nothing better to me than watching the process any illustrator or animator takes in creating their pieces. I enjoy seeing the variety of processes or techniques in action. I’m always amazed at how often the finished piece is a world away from the stages I’ve seen along the way.

I’m currently working on a large illustration – close to 14″ x 21″. That’s a fair bit larger than the size I usually work at which is closer to 12″ x 10″.

I don’t always use the same process. I tend to work a lot on instinct as I don’t want to take too much of the original sprit of the idea away. Here,I am starting with the background first and will move on to the little girl next….

I’ve left a section behind the girl clear as I am going to put something extra special in there which will hopefully pull the whole illustration together… If you can guess what it is I will give you the gift I often promise to my dismayed children… my ultimate respect. Here’s a clue… buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!!!!!

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Sketches for a character

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized

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Messing about today, tying to develop a female character. I find the process of creating a character is different dependent on what works for me at the time. Sometimes I draw them first, sometimes I write them first.  Either way, the one will compliment the other and I can start to ‘layer’ this little person. More often than not, there’s something of me in these little people. I suspect it’s the part of me that as an 8 year old, took the corpse of a vole in to school to pretend it was my pet. The girl that asked if my friends wanted to come and see my ‘sleeping’ mouse that I kept in a glass jar in my coat pocket. The girl whose Mum had to knit a robin to sew on to the shoulder of my school jumper, just so I had a little friend who ‘got’ my imaginary world.

Probably.

Faces are aces

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized

Ballet

I love drawing faces. Fat, thin, old, young. Faces are aces.

I used to write comedy and the thing I loved most about it was creating a character from nothing. Just the little seedlings of people you’ve met along the way, all fused into new little people you create in your head. It’s the same with illustrating. I get to make new people. People with little imaginary back stories. People with secrets. Lots of little faces with secrets and stories. I love drawing faces. Faces is aces.

Jadie and Sparky in flight

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized
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Jadie and Sparky in flight

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Close up of Jadie

Here is a recent commission of the beautiful Jadie and her horse Sparky. When I was talking to Jadie’s Mum about the relationship between Jadie and Sparky, it took me back to being a little girl when I was lucky enough to have my own horse. People talk about their connection with dogs but the connection with a horse is really special too. They also symbolise freedom and escapism for me. That’s what I hoped I had captured in this illustration. At times I wished I could have jumped over the moon…

Art and the Unspeakable Demon of Money (not Monet)

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized
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The Unspeakable Demon of Money

 

If you ever needed a crude sketch of a demon happy to be holding money, you got it….

I secured my first commission last week which was just brilliant. In excitement, I worked day and night on the piece and it was an absolute joy and privilege. It also brought with it the excruciating (well, for me) discussions of money and value.

Perhaps it is because I am English and that the awkwardness of money is part of my identity, or perhaps it is because it is so hard for me to believe in myself.

When I was approached by the individual and had to come up with a price, I suddenly seemed to develop some incredible, fast-acting virus. My pulse quickened, my palms were clammy, I lost the power of speech… What was I worth? Shouldn’t I just be thankful people were asking me to do something for them and give them my valuable time for free? Yeah, because civil engineers are constantly popping up a free building here and there… Those charitable surgeons are just waiting to for someone to have a myocardial infarction so they can negotiate a good price on the cut.

So I asked my Husband. He seems to be the wisest person I know. He also makes music, so he ‘gets’ how difficult it is valuing your time and creativity. He is tattooed (not in that ridiculous hipster way, but more of your old fashioned salty sea dog way). He said to me ‘When I go for a tattoo, they charge £50 an hour. Value what you do. If you don’t, no-one will’. What he said really resonated with me. There are some awesome tattoo artists out there, by the way, so no sleight on them at all. But why are people so unwilling to pay for art they love? I know that at the moment, it’s hard to put food on the table so I’m not talking about art being seen as a ‘necessity’. It remains a luxury for a lot of people and I completely get that. I am talking more about it’s value in relation to ‘other’ luxuries. People will pay obscene amounts for shoes and handbags, even tattoos, but art? Hmmm…

The commission also raised another interesting point. I asked the lady how she felt approaching me about prices and we talked about how awkward that conversation is and she said something that made me smile and totally hit the nail on the head. She said ‘Well, it’s ‘Art’ isn’t it?’ We both laughed. I get it! I have totally felt this way too. I would be so reluctant to approach someone myself as you don’t know what the ballpark is, you’re afraid of looking a fool, of not ‘getting it’. So from now on I am going to ask and if I can’t afford it, I am going to say so.

To anyone thinking of requesting an artist undertake a commission, please just ASK!

A lesson in flourescence, dead artists and car boot sales

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting

I keep squeezing that comfort zone, bending it, warping it… it’s so much fun to go back to the essence of all this and explore and have fun.

A little story about dead people:

My Husband and I love to spend our Sunday mornings getting up and going hunting at car boot sales for vintage art and records. We have got some absolute beauties in the past. But one day this summer, I came across a haul of artist materials: brushes, oils, pastels, technical pens… the list goes on, literally boxes of stuff. The guy wanted £10 for it all. I have bought a couple of coffees for not much less than that before. I duly handed over my money and picked up the stuff. He explained that an artist had died and they had come from a house clearance. I thought this was really moving. I spoke to the guy, the dead artist. Told him I would do his materials justice and how much I appreciated what he had left for me. It felt like a connection. And in the spirit of continuing to push my comfort zone, I had a go with his Conte Crayons last night. They flouresce! No, they don’t really. But they look like they do! I love them. Here’s the results. Thank you, dear anonymous dead artist friend. We’re keeping the circle of self expression going.

Think I also picked up a nice early Procol Harum record that day too… 

⭐️

Out of your comfort zone

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized

liberte

I have started work on a few new pieces using very different materials for me. Canvas and arylics. A few years ago I handpainted shoes for some folks. I needed to use something that would work on canvas so I bought some acrylic paint. I was really unsure at first, because I never really enjoyed ‘painting’ at school. Isn’t it weird how your school experience shapes so much of your future self? I found the paints again recently and thought I’d have a go at a few little paintings to mess about with techniques and see what I liked and what I didn’t like. I used a fantastic site called pexel.com where you can use stock photos, free from copyright restrictions as a tool of reference. A lot of traditionalists don’t like working from photos and to be honest, I very rarely work from ‘life’, but for me, working from a photo allows me to build techniques and experience. I think my style, whether pen, ink, watercolour, acrylic is just a step beyond the ‘real’ so I’m not too fussed if the tones / tints aren’t classical. For me, art, in whatever form should be about enjoyment and expression, not rigid rules laid down in stone. Stone = cave art = ultimate human communication. If you like to draw, if you like to paint, or even if you have never tried but have always wanted to, do it. It doesn’t matter if someone tells you what you do is bad, or that they don’t like it. It has nothing to do with them. It’s about letting your ‘inside’ out for a bit.