Meet the Author: Sarah Mahfoudh

Sarah’s top tip for aspiring author/illustrators: When you find the time to read, make it count. Sometimes life gets busy, so fitting in a daily writing practice and managing to read every day might not always be possible, but I do believe reading is the key to improving your own writing. You don’t need to read all the time but when you do find the time to open a book, read critically. Notice the things that work and don’t work in the books you are reading; notice what you enjoy and what bores you; notice how an author brings a scene to life. You can then use these observations to improve your own work.

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Sarah Mahfoudh is an author, illustrator and editor from Oxfordshire, England, with a BA in English Literature and Theatre Studies and lifelong love affair with books. Having lived in fairyland for most of her life, Sarah thinks it’s only right she should share her adventures with the rest of the world. Sarah writes children’s books for all ages, as well as YA fiction. She is the founder and creator of www.can-do-kids.co.uk where you can find articles, ideas, resources, and links to inspire children to be confident, compassionate and open-minded individuals. When she is not writing or reading, Sarah loves to dance, exercise and rant about ethical living! You can find out more about her over at www.sarahmahfoudh.com and follow her on Instagram (@mahfoudhsarah) and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mahfoudhsarah

AUTHOR INSIGHT

What’s the best aspect of your creative life? There are so many things to love about it: the fact that I am always learning and that I am never bored; the fact that I get to lose myself in imagined worlds for so much of the time; the sense of pride I feel when I finish a story or hold a published book in my hands. I really enjoy the editing process too. I know a lot of authors dread editing their own work, but I think the first edit might be my favourite part of writing because I get to read my own story. The second and third edits can get a bit much, though!

—the worst? Never feeling like I have enough time. I always have so many ideas and stories I want to work on and I never feel as though I have enough time to finish them. I also really dislike telling people about my books once they are finished and published. Promoting books and selling them feels like a full-time job in itself and it’s something I naturally shy away from. But I really do want people to read my books so I am trying to get better at being brave!

Where do you draw the inspiration for your books? For a lot of my picture books, I would say I am inspired by my own children. Can-do Kat, for example, was created to help my little girl with some of her confidence issues. For my older children’s books, YA, and adult books, I am often inspired by landscapes and nature. Sometimes a news story will trigger an idea, and I also find fairy tales and old folk tales really intriguing and evocative.

How has your childhood influenced you as an author? I was lucky enough to grow up in a house that was packed full of books, and my sisters and I would often pop to the library across the road after school and stay there for what felt like hours. My parents are both book-lovers, and my dad is a poet so I think stories and books are in my blood. In terms of the sorts of issues and themes I write about, my parents were always very outspoken against any sort of bigotry or injustice, as well as raising us to understand the importance of looking after the planet, so those are things that have always been at the forefront of my mind and naturally influence my writing.

How do you approach a new writing project? Walk us through your creative process. Once you have an idea, what’s the next step? Contrary to much of the advice out there for writers, I do a lot of my writing and planning in my head before putting pen to paper. I will often think about characters and their stories for months or even years before starting to write about them, or I will write an opening chapter and then step back from it for a few weeks or months before continuing. There is a popular opinion in the writing community that to be a ‘real’ writer, you must write every day but I don’t think this is true. If I try to write when I’m not in the mood, it just won’t happen so I have thinking days, note-making days and writing days.

I write long-hand and on the computer depending on how I am feeling on the day. If I am writing on the computer and I find I’m struggling with a section, I will switch to long-hand because it is much freer and boosts my creativity. I usually have an overall view of where the story is going by the time I get to about 25% of the way through but I won’t usually write the structure down until much later because I know it’s going to change. I find it incredible how stories and characters develop and take on a mind of their own once you actually start writing them.

As I already mentioned, I love the editing process so I really look forward to finishing my first draft and then moving on to the first edit, which is when I will take the time to really fine-tune plot and structure, develop my characters and bring the story to life.

What are you working on at the moment? I always have far too many projects on the go but I am trying to be more streamlined these days and focus on one at a time. (It sometimes works!) At the moment, I am desperately trying to finish the final edit (is there ever a final edit?!) of a YA fantasy book. I finished the first draft several years ago but life, work, kids and covid restrictions have delayed things slightly. The book is the first in a trilogy portal fantasy but it does follow on from a book called Faces in the Water that I published quite a while back now. Faces in the Water was my first ever novel and follows a 14-year-old girl, Eshna, as she stumbles into a new world. My writing and my ideas have matured slightly since that first book so this new trilogy can be read with or without prior knowledge of Eshna’s earlier journey, and begins around three years after the end of Faces in the Water.

I also have several children’s books in progress – one picture book, which is written but needs illustrating, and one middle-grade chapter book which is currently being plotted out in my head.

Do you have a daily routine? My daily routine is dictated by children. I wake up before the rest of the house so that I can meditate, shower and get dressed in peace. I only mediate for 10 minutes each morning but I find it helps me to stay calm when I am trying to get the kids up and out in time for school.

Once I have walked the kids to school, it’s time to work. If I have a paid assignment to do, that has to come first but, of course, writing and illustrating days are my favourites. I find the short school days frustrating, especially when I am on a creative roll, but in a way, I think they focus me and make me more productive.

After school, it’s all about kids’ clubs, dinner (my husband does most of the cooking), and I will try to squeeze in an exercise session at least every other day. In the evenings, I will sometimes carry on working and sometimes just flake out depending on energy levels and how inspired I am that day.

What do you hope readers will take away from your stories? Great question! Most of all, I just want readers to enjoy my stories. I want them to come away feeling as though they have been on adventure, experienced a magical world and made new friends. That being said, reading is one of the best ways for people to learn compassion and understanding for other people so I try to make my books inclusive and diverse and to challenge common stereotypes and out-dated attitudes. Many of my protagonists are female because women and girls are still underrepresented and misrepresented in literature, TV, films and the media. I hope my readers, young and old, will come away from my books with a greater tolerance for others, and that they will be inspired to stand up for themselves, be confident in their own abilities, and to speak out against injustice when they see it.

Is there any area of writing that you find challenging? Endings. I find writing endings and knowing when and how to finish a story, difficult. I also find it hard to be around people when I am really into a writing project. I get very annoyed by any interruption, however small.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Being brave enough to put my work out there. I can write and write and write but when it comes to publishing my work or sending it off to agents/publishers, I procrastinate, make excuses, and put up obstacles. This is something I am still working on. I have a few books just sitting around that I know I need to send out into the world to see what comes back, but I keep finding ‘more important’ things to do instead.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? It takes time. Embrace the process and don’t be afraid to take criticism. I was so sensitive to criticism when I was younger and I think it held me back for a while. I wanted to have written a masterpiece straight away and I wanted everyone to acknowledge it, but writing is like any skill, it takes time and patience to learn the craft, and criticism is an essential part of the process.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Trust your own process. It’s easy to get imposter syndrome as a writer, but writing is a creative process and there are no rules. Different people work in different ways and what works for one person won’t work for another.

How important is social media to you as an author? I’m not really sure. As an author, there is a lot of pressure to be visible on social media and I do try, but it can be hard work and demoralising at times. I think perhaps social media is a good place to connect with other creatives. In terms of selling and promoting books via social media, the jury is still out. For me at least, it seems like I need to put in a lot of time and effort on social media to see any sort of boost in sales.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I am never really sure what ‘writers block’ means. If it refers to running out of ideas and stories to tell, then no, I don’t have this problem. I do sometimes sit down to write or illustrate and find that it just isn’t working, though. When this happens, I have a few methods that work for me:

  1. If I am writing on the computer, I will switch to long-hand and I will give myself permission to write whatever comes out, no matter how rubbish it is;
  2. If I am stuck on a particular chapter or scene, I will just write a note to myself like, “They escape” and then move onto the next scene.
  3. I walk away and give myself space to think about the problem. If I am writing, I will do some art instead or vice versa or do another task on my to-do list until my sub-conscious has had time to figure out what to do.

How do you deal with rejection? As an author, rejection is part of the job but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting. It’s helpful to remember that all authors, even famous ones, will have been rejected at some point in their career. Once I have sent something off, I tell myself I won’t hear back about it and then I just put it out of my mind and get on with trying to make my next project even better. A growth mindset – which I really did not have when I was younger – has really helped me to develop as a writer in recent years, and it also helps me to handle rejection a little better.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Oo, that’s tough! Magical, compelling, fun … (I hope!)

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Another tough one. There are so many good answers for this one but I think I would choose L.M. Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables books. The character of Anne Shirley has been such an inspiration to me throughout my life. At a time when women and girls were expected to be pretty and quiet and obedient, Anne was out-spoken, determined and fiercely intelligent. I would ask the author what inspired her, how the book was received at the time, and how she, as a female author, was treated.

Now for a little light relief – If you were going to be stuck in a stalled lift for several hours who would you choose to share the experience with you and why?  Can it be someone who isn’t alive anymore? If so, I’m choosing Gene Kelly. He’s my idol, and I think a lift would be just about big enough for us to dance in. It would be an absolute dream to tap dance with Gene Kelly.

BOOK BYTE

The Twelve Dancing Princesses – the true story

Perhaps you’ve heard the classic fairytale about the twelve dancing princesses; the version told by stuffy old men from the olden days who thought it was okay to lock princesses up in towers and marry them off to strangers. Well, the stuffy old men got it wrong. Here’s what really happened…

Meet the twelve high-spirited princesses of Feather Castle. They enjoy science and magic, motor-bikes and clothes, music and saving the world – oh and they REALLY love to dance. But when spies in the shape of aspiring suitors visit the castle to discover where they go at night, the headstrong sisters won’t stand for it. They soon have their guests outwitted in this hilarious story of royal disasters, pixie-loving dragons, magical gardens, contests and friendship. outwitted in this hilarious story of royal disasters, pixie-loving dragons, magical gardens, contests and friendship.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses – the true story: Signed copies of the book are available in the UK from the Can-do Kids store here: https://etsy.me/3vL6VzZ Alternatively, it can be found in most online bookstores in the UK, from the Dixi Books website (https://dixibooks.com/product/the-twelve-dancing-princesses/) and for people buying from outside the UK, you can order it from www.bookdepository.com, here: https://bit.ly/3zKVz2e

To sign up to Sarah’s mailing list for future updates and lots of free resources, go to https://www.can-do-kids.co.uk/join-our-club For signed copies of Sarah’s book and a selection of children’s greetings cards, visit The Can-do Kids Etsy Store: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/CandokidsStore

Faces in the Water (mentioned in What are you working on at the moment?): https://amzn.to/3hrcLl3

Meet the Illustrator: Kym Langfield

It’s my special pleasure today to introduce Kym Langfield, the illustrator of my newest picture book, Solo Dan. Kym is a children’s illustrator, author and teacher. Her titles include Adventure Guide – Teddy Town (Picture book, The Book Company, 2014) and Just One Wish – Christmas Tales Anthology Three (Short story, Storm Cloud Publishing, 2018). She gained her diploma in Illustrating Children’s Books from The London Art College in 2016, and she has experience in editing and writing book reviews.

Kym has a passion for watercolour, and also enjoys combining pencil, ink and collage. She is a primary school teacher, specialising in literacy and visual arts. Kym also creates commissioned art on a casual basis.

Kym, How did you come to illustrate Solo Dan? I was sitting in McCafe of all places, enjoying a hot chocolate with my eldest daughter, when I received the best email from a lady called Jennifer Sharp, from Daisy Lane Publishing. One of her writers had noticed my artwork on social media and Jennifer asked if I’d be interested in illustrating a book for her. I was thrilled!

I was sent a couple of manuscripts to consider and I immediately felt a strong connection with Solo Dan. As a primary teacher, I feel very much for children who go through struggles in their lives. Reading Teena’s manuscript made me quite teary! Jennifer and I decided that Solo Dan seemed to be a natural fit for me.

What were some of the challenges in creating the illustrations? I wanted to make sure that the main character Dan looked consistent throughout the story, so I drew him in lots of different poses and positions.

Another challenge was drawing so many different types of characters, including toddlers, elderly people, guinea pigs and cats. I made sure that I looked at lots of different photos and examples of these character types (including photos of my own family members!) before designing my own!

Walk us through your creative process. Once you have an idea, what’s the next step? I often have an image come to my mind very quickly. Then I figure out how I’m going to draw it! I do lots of Google searches, take lots of photos, look at photos and books that I already have, until I’m satisfied that I can put the picture together.

I spend a lot of time sketching the picture and making lots of alterations/improvements until I feel that I have drawn it just right.

Finally, it’s time for the colour! I often use watercolour to apply a base coat to the picture. Sometimes I add an extra layer of paint, or I move onto coloured pencils to add further details and shading.

For Solo Dan, I learnt how to use Photoshop to add digital improvements, alterations and to add text to the illustrations as the final step.

How much time do you spend on creating each illustration? I tend to spend a couple of days sketching an illustration, a day or so adding the watercolour and another part of a day using the coloured pencils. Usually no more than a week.

Do you have a favourite medium? Yes, I love watercolour. The colours and the way the paint absorbs and mixes together is always a surprise! It can also be nerve racking too!

Is there any area of art that you find especially challenging? Adding the paint is always nerve racking because it’s like taking a risk or gamble every time I add colour! Will the paint behave the way I want it to? Will the colour palette look OK? Will the paint complement the picture or ruin it?

 

What’s next on your creative journey? Do you have any other picture books in the pipeline? I have been challenging myself to submit my work to a few illustration challenges currently happening with Australian groups/publishers.

Being September and a big fan of Christmas, I am already designing some new Christmas card designs, which I will sell via my social media pages. I’m gradually illustrating some early designs for a close family member who is an aspiring author. I’ve recently completed a few commissions which has been lovely. I also enjoy writing my own stories, so I will get around one day to illustrating one of my own stories!

What’s the best aspect of your creative life? As a busy mum and teacher, it’s really lovely to have a creative hobby/job just for myself. However being a creative person, I do love to bring creativity into my children’s life and into my classroom as often as possible! I really believe in making time for creativity every day.

—the worst? Wanting more time! It would be wonderful to have more hours/days/quiet time just for creativity.

Where do you draw your inspiration? Often my own children and the wonderful students I teach. I also find lots of inspiration in nature – both flora and fauna. I live at a quiet bay area, which is always an inspiration. I’m also inspired by touching stories that I hear, either in the news or in the lives of my family and friends.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator? That the digital side of illustration is just as important as creating the illustrations traditionally. It is really handy if you know how to use programs like Photoshop and to obtain skills in typography and book design.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? To draw daily and to get your work ‘out there’ on social media as much as possible.

What is your creative dream? To write and illustrate a book (books preferably!). I’d love to be involved in creating a Christmas book. I would love to dedicate more of my time to creating books and running art workshops eventually.

Now for a little light relief – If you were going to invite two special guests for lunch, who would they be and what would you serve them? It would have to be a high tea! Preferably a garden party setting. Lots of tea and cakes. As for the guests – this is too hard! If I stick to arty people, I’d love to invite illustrators I admire and hope that they share their tips and tricks with me! I’ll start with Anna Walker and Tania McCartney.

I think it would be lovely to share a high tea with yourself, Teena, and with our wonderful publisher, Jennifer Sharp!

That would be a treat, Kym. We will have to arrange that!

Kym’s top tip for aspiring illustrators: Make time each day to practise drawing, even if it’s for only ten minutes per day. It’s amazing how quickly your skills can improve by doing this. I also found that enrolling in an illustration course (I have a diploma in children’s book illustration) improved my skills and knowledge greatly.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Solo Dan

Written by Teena Raffa-Mulligan

Illustrated by Kym Langfield

 

Dan has never had a place to belong. He bounces from one home to another, like a ball no one can catch. He’s OK with that. Families can be too much trouble. His shadow is all the company he needs. Or is it?

Perhaps what he really wants is a forever home.

A story about hope, love and belonging.

Buy the book here: https://www.daisylanepublishing.com/product-page/solo-dan

 

 

 

 

 

Off the Page: Melissa Johns

 

Melissa Johns is an artist and illustrator from Northeast Victoria who creates using recycled papers on canvas and paper. Her passion is children’s artwork and education particularly in regards to environmental awareness. Melissa’s works range from naïve and whimsical to contemporary, all with a vintage feel due to the recycled teabags used in every piece.

Melissa illustrated the recent picture book release,Tabitha and the Raincloud,  written by Devon Sillett. It’s a beautiful story of resilience and optimism for anyone who has ever had a day when nothing seems to go right. I was fascinated by Melissa’s creative process and was interested in finding out more about how she works.

Where do you write/illustrate? My illustrating is done in my creative corner at home, which is a re-purposed dining area. It is a large whimsy area with lots of inspo surrounding me, as well as a lot of clutter due to all of the recycled items I collect to use in my illustrations/artworks.

Melissa, please describe your process.

I create my pieces using Recycled T E A B A G S and other recyclables. I chose these mediums as I wanted to work with sustainable materials that would lend my work a certain whimsical feel. In 2015 I began my journey of creating pieces using the teabag fabric on canvases as part of a collage, along with other recyclables; coffee cups, serviettes, gift bags, coffee filters etc. My process involves painting and drawing on each individual piece of teabag fabric (i.e. every colour represents a different collaged piece of fabric), which I then collage onto a canvas. My process is a lengthy one, with pieces taking anywhere from one to five weeks to complete. Other mediums I use in this process are charcoal, pastels and watercolours, with acrylic base on occasion.

I begin with sketching out the spread layout then tracing patterns onto the different recycled papers and tea bags, then cutting and collaging them onto the canvas or paper. Once everything is in place then I go to town on adding in all the little features and details.

What do you do when you aren’t creating books? I work on other wall art pieces (all using recycled teabags, serviettes and papers) either by commission or to sell in the two art galleries I supply to, one of which I’m also the Director of. I also am a wife and mother to twin 13-year-old boys…so that never gets old!

Tabitha and the Raincloud is about those days when things seem to go wrong from the moment you wake up. When Tabitha wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, she finds a big raincloud next to her taking up most of the space. She tells it to go away, but it won’t budge. Things get worse. At breakfast, the cloud rains all over her scrambled eggs. At school, she tries to draw a giraffe, but the raincloud distracts her and her art teacher compliments her on her dinosaur Aaagh! By lunchtime, Tabitha is so stormy that none of her friends want to sit next to her. Tabitha realises she needs to change her attitude. It’s not the raincloud that’s making her day unpleasant, but how she’s choosing to react to it. So, Tabitha fetches her umbrella, raincoat and boots from her locker and starts dancing in the rain. It’s not long before her friends join her and they’re all having fun together This is a story of resilience, choices, optimism and perseverance. It’s a gentle reminder that we all have raincloudy days but we’ll get through them. And sometimes, we can bring the sunshine out a little bit faster if we remember to dance in the rain.

The book is available here.

Visit Melissa on Facebook here.

 

 

Meet the Illustrator: Amy Calautti

AMY’S TOP TIP FOR ILLUSTRATORS: You are on your own journey. Don’t look to the side, just keep working and win your own race.

Amy Calautti has loved to draw from a young age and often made up games based around drawing to entertain her younger brother and cousins. Her artistic talent was noticed and she was accepted into fashion and textile design in high school and TAFE.

When she became a mother, she fell in love with picture book illustration and realised what her true potential could be. Amy has developed a few distinct styles and is always playing with new techniques to expand her repertoire.

Visit her website here.  Amy is also on Instagram: @amygorgeousness and Facebook: www.facebook.com/amyillustrates

ILLUSTRATOR INSIGHT

When the Moon is a Smile is your debut picture book. How did that project come about? I’ve been illustrating for a couple of years with the intention of illustrating for picture books, and just started submitting my portfolio to publishers while I posted all my work regularly on social media and had made lots of arty FB friends along the way. Jennifer, our lovely publisher, friended me on FB, and once I had finished my Inktober project, she asked me to illustrate a book for her.

What were some of the challenges in creating the illustrations? I feel like the first draft is the trickiest because that’s where you use your imagination
the most. Sometimes I can come back to an idea and expand on it more. Once that’s done the rest is easy!

Walk us through your creative process. Once you have an idea, what’s the next step? First I thumbnail a storyboard. This is mainly stick figures and page layout. Next I make more detailed drawings to send off to the publisher.
Then I go through any changes and redraw which spreads need to be done.
My favourite part is next – PAINTING! Then I add any coloured pencil outlines or tonal values.
Once the artwork is done I scan it, and then add digital touches to bring it up to professional standard.

How much time do you spend on creating each illustration? Not counting the drawing time, painting a double page spread takes from four to nine hours. Nine hours has to be a very specky painting.
Do you have a favourite medium? My favourites are watercolour, coloured pencil, ink and digital.

Is there any area of art that you find especially challenging? Not overly, now that I’ve learned about preparing files for printing. I think my
technical side is improving. But I would like to be quicker so I can say yes to more projects.

You have two more picture books coming out next year. Can you tell us anything about them? I can’t really share anything about them although I am almost through my first round of drafts with both of them. Needless to say it’s been hectic at my house. Surprisingly I haven’t had any offers to help me out with all the neglected cleaning jobs around the house.

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? The best aspect is that I get to do what I love. I can’t think of a better way to spend my day!

—the worst? In the beginning it was learning computer programs. I’ve climbed the mountain now! Just over a year ago, I had never owned a computer of my own or did any classes in the digital realm. Not even a typing class! Once I figured out it was holding me back, I took the plunge! now look at me go. Ha!

What is your creative dream? Gosh, so many dreams! I would love to illustrate a funny book. I really value humor in my life, so it makes sense to me to illustrate a book in that genre. Also I dream every day to be a full-time Illustrator, creating illustrations for picture books and junior fiction and provide an extra income stream for my family.
Other than that I would love to go on a painting tour around Europe. I don’t know if they exist, but they should!

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator? Nothing I could have been told, but something I would’ve loved to have studied is graphic design instead of fashion design back when I got into both courses (despite never touching a computer in my life, ha ha).
What’s the best advice you were ever given? There’s so much I’ve heard but I’ve not been told specifically. One off the top of my head is, ‘Illustrate, don’t decorate’.

Now for a little light relief – If you were going to be stuck in a stalled lift for several hours who would you choose to share the experience with you and why? Probably my husband, he would Macgyver our way out of there. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

BOOK BYTE

When the Moon is a Smile

Written by Teena Raffa-Mulligan, Illustrated by Amy Calautti

 

“Don’t go, Daddy!” It’s the plea that tugs at the heart of every loving father whose child no longer shares his everyday life due to a relationship breakdown.

For a young child, accepting how things have changed once parents live apart can be difficult. When ‘Daddy time’ is occasional instead of constant, saying goodbye for now can be the hardest part of spending time together.

In this gentle story about the special bond between a little girl and her father, the fun of sharing a day imagining everyday activities into extraordinary adventures turns to sadness when it is time for him to leave.

Tears turn to acceptance with the promise that Daddy will soon return — and there is a special way to know when that will be.

A heart-warming family story from the author of Who Dresses God?, True Blue Amigos and Friends.

When the Moon is a Smile is available here from Daisy Lane Publishing and also from Amazon and other online retailers.

 

 

 

 

In the Picture: Veronica Rooke

In this new occasional series, illustrators share the stories behind the pictures. Today, the spotlight is on Veronica Rooke, artist, graphic designer and cartoonist. When Veronica isn’t trying to master baking gluten free muffins or hanging out with her neighbour’s cat, she’s absorbed in her next illustrating project. That could be anything from fire breathing frogs to peeing dogs. After 32 years of drawing, she’s done it all and still loves it.

Veronica illustrated Who Dresses God? by Teena Raffa-Mulligan, a sweet picture book about a small girl who also wants to know how He can see, hear and speak without eyes, ears and tongue.

 

Did illustrating Who Dresses God? present particular challenges because of the nature of the topic? Very much. The art needs to be engaging to people who don’t have faith, while appealing to people who do.

 How did you approach the project? Walk us through your creative process. Once you came up with some ideas, what was the next step? Firstly I read the story to get it into my head. This helps my mind visualize it while I’m doing ‘domestic’ stuff. When I start drawing, I already know how the pictures will look, so I avoid staring at a blank page.

The cover is unusual for a spiritual book for children. What inspired you to use the clothes line and the cheeky dog? I wanted to avoid boring clichés and use visual humour. It’s funny to watch dogs yank clothes that we humans have so carefully pegged up. (I guess funny when it’s not your clothes- Then it’s #@* dog!) And I used word relation: ‘Dress’ in the title and ‘clothes’ on a line.

How closely did you work with Teena on the development of the book? I call Teena a ‘dream’ client. She comes into a project with a lovely ‘let’s see what you come up with’ approach. However she knew that with WDG, she wanted a soft, water colour look. The mum in the story took a bit of adjusting to get right, but after that, she ‘let me loose’ on the roughs. Once they were good, I got out my old paintbrushes.

 How long did it take you to complete the illustrations? They took roughly a few months. As usual, I had to start and stop it because I’m often working on several projects at once. I can’t pick when I’ll get work, so I juggle them depending on which has the closest deadline.

Do you have a favourite medium? Not really, I work in all sorts. I find the paintbrush medium for WDG a bit unforgiving. I’d colour the illustrations in bits and pieces and scan them into the computer. Photoshop then allows me to adjust things that a paintbrush can’t.

Is there any area of art that you find especially challenging? I’d probably say getting art ‘past’ sales reps and shop owners while working for a t-shirt company. I’d study previous ‘good selling’ designs and felt I could ‘see’ what worked. I’d create something with those elements, but if those two parties didn’t believe me, it would be rejected. However, it was great when I COULD get those designs through and they sold well. 

Is social media important to your work as an artist? Yes. It lets me showcase artwork. But I don’t advertise current publications very often. A large number of my followers want to be entertained, that’s why most of my posts are cartoons that people are welcome to repost.

What are you working on at the moment? 1. I’ve just finished illustrating a picture book for Aly Bannister called  ‘Johnny the Leprechaun…breaking school rules!’ 2. Two book covers for Teena called: ‘The Apostrophe Posse’ and ‘Sleepy Socks & Sometime Rhymes’. 3. A range of children’s t-shirt designs for the clothing company ‘From the Bush’. 4. The last 10 books in a 30-book reading program set by Jackal Ed Publications.

Your creative life has been diverse and as well as illustrating picture books, you’ve created cartoons for newspapers and magazines, designed T-shirts, giftware, jewellery and logos and presented cartooning workshops for people of all ages. Is there any aspect of being a working artist that you would prefer to concentrate on? It’s easier to say what I DON’T like concentrating on – quoting for jobs. Each project is different, so working out how long you’re going to take is hard. Over quote and the client walks, under quote and you work for peanuts.

 What is your creative dream? Where I am now. I make a living from drawing in my slippers. Sweet! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked in freezing cold to boiling hot factories and in shops. Those times make me appreciate ‘now’ so much more.

Now for a little light relief. If you were going to be stuck in a stalled lift for several hours who would you choose to share the experience with you and why? The New York Literary agent who rejected my manuscript. A while ago I pitched my comic to this agency. They loved it and asked me to turn it into a 60,000 word MG novel. Hey, I’m an artist, not a writer! But I tried…..Man did I try! They mentored me; there were talks of a three-book set, picture books. I was beyond ecstatic. But one day, after two years and four rewrites I received the dreaded email: “Unfortunately, Veronica, I no longer have the time to-.”

 I was gutted. I’d like to be stuck in an elevator with that agent. Then I could say: “Since we’re not going anywhere for a while, NOW you have the time to tell me what was wrong with my manuscript!”

Veronica’s top tip for aspiring illustrators: Draw…and draw and draw and draw until you become good and fast. Creating books is a business and it’s uneconomical if an artist takes an entire year to create the illustrations!

For more information about Veronica, visit http://www.fishbitten.com.au

Who Dresses God? is available from Little Kids Business, Amazon and other online retailers. Contact Novella Distribution for trade orders.

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Illustrator: Tash Macfarlane

It is my special pleasure today to introduce debut illustrator Tash Macfarlane, who is inspired by nature and metaphors and cannot imagine a life without art to express the joy of being alive.

Tash Macfarlane lives and works in Perth, Western Australia. Mainly working in watercolours, she uses Manga and comic-style art to bring her ideas to life. Inspired by the worlds from Nintendo’s Pokemon and Wizard of the Coast’s Magic the Gathering, Tash’s work has been shared across the world via social media. After a tough few years battling cancer, Tash, 23, uses bright and vibrant colours to express the joy and brightness her life has become since beating the disease. The middle grade novel Maximus by Steve Heron is the first book she has illustrated. Visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/KizmettoArt/

ILLUSTRATOR INSIGHT

Maximus is your debut illustration project. How did it come about?

Maximus was offered to me after I was informed by Serenity Press that author Steve Heron liked my art style. Feeling chuffed, I took on the challenge and accepted the opportunity to illustrate his book. I then met Steve for coffee and discussed his book and vision and got to know him a little better, making me feel better about the project!

Did you work closely with Steve to create the illustrations for his book?

I only saw him once throughout the process, after I made thumbnail sketches for most of the chapters. He gave me his input and I learned about little details he imagined his character having, such as freckles or the general feel for where he lived.

How specific was the brief you were given for each illustration? Was there room for your own creative interpretation of the text?

The brief was quite broad and allowed for my creative process to be shown. After reading the text, with some back and forth between myself and the editors, we settled on some designs which I then rendered into the final illustrations.

How did you go about the illustration process?

It was a fun and challenging process, forcing me to try drawing new things I hadn’t had much exposure to before, but I learnt a lot and am proud of the final product. Each image came with about four to six sketches before merging a few which resulted in the final sketch.

How long did it take to produce each illustration?

About three to five hours per piece generally speaking, which included research and practice before the final pieces.

What did you enjoy most about working on Maximus?

I enjoyed imagining and plucking the images from my head and putting them to paper. I hope the readers can match them up to the text!

What’s next for you? Do you have another illustration project lined up?

Right now, I am not working on any projects. I’m hoping to be working on another one very soon however.

Can you imagine your life without art?
Definitely not. Art is very important to me, it’s a form of relaxation, expression and emotion. Without art I wouldn’t know how to use this energy or ideas! And seeing people’s reaction and their reasoning and interpretation of my pieces makes it worthwhile.

What inspires you most creatively?

Nature itself and metaphors. I like the surreal and I love how beautiful nature is, but it is impossible to capture its beauty, so you can only try to manifest it into a metaphorical piece and then try and reason with it and others! It’s like a good debate.

Describe yourself as an artist in three words.

Fine-lined, colourful world-builder.

What is your favourite art media?

Watercolour is one of my favourites, but I have not mastered it at all, that will take many years of practice! But it is fun to use and play with. I also enjoy digital but there’s something about tactile mediums, the grain of the paper, the grasping of a brush, squeezing the paint out of its tube.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

“Draw what makes you happy, I want to see what goes on in your mind, let me see it.” – A nurse who was treating me at Chemotherapy.

Is there any advice you would give someone who dreams of becoming an artist?

The above advice is pretty good. If you enjoy what you’re drawing, it will be evident in your sketches and books and final pieces. People can really tell if you’re having fun or not. If you’re not, then you should take a break, and then come back to it with a fresh mindset. You’ll find something to like, maybe it’s the setting, the colour palette you get to use, the mediums. Find what you enjoy and really go for it.

On a lighter note – If you had the chance to spend an hour with any artist of your choice living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living an artistic life?

I think my choice would be Kristen Plescow. She does amazing and colourful pieces full of life and it really draws you into those pieces, definitely an influence on me. I would want to know how she renders such beautiful textures and how her sketch processes go.

BOOK BYTE

Maximus

Steve Heron

Illus. Tash Macfarlane

 

Mitch says stuff sucks. His life has been turned upside down since his dad started working FIFO at the mines.

From a messy bedroom to a close footy match; an annoying little sister to incredible Anzac projects; losing friends and losing face, Mitch deals with an explosion of feelings associated with bullying, fighting, suspension, family conflict and his first crush, all in the space of eight days.

Will an encounter with a surprising new feathered friend and the reliability of old ones help Mitch get his mojo back?

Maximus is available here from Serenity Press.

 

 

 

Meet the Illustrator: Aśka

 Aśka’s top tip for aspiring illustrators: People say that a lot of it is luck. That is true. But luck is a statistical concept. If you want to play the numbers game you have to be in it! So make sure you enter all the competitions, challenge yourself with unusual illustration projects, join groups, try to apply for grants and send your folio out to all the publishers every year. If you buy 100 tickets in a lottery, your “luck” is sure to improve. And so will you.

Photo: Lili Riecken Photography

Aśka is an illustrator, artist and scientist. Once a PhD candidate researching quantum optics, she turned her hand back to art with the goal of being a children’s book illustrator.

She has more than 10 years of experience in children’s character illustration and book development, kids’ product design, graphic novels, animation, design and children’s science education.

Aśka has had numerous comics published in Perth and Melbourne, was featured on an ABC TV documentary – Noise On Screen – , won a Curtin Gallery Grant for her solo art exhibition, and ran an eight-week animation festival on the Northbridge Piazza Superscreen.

Continuing her passion for science, she also works for Scitech, presenting science programs and workshops to children across Western Australia.

Three of her illustrative projects have been published in 2017: The Cosmic Adventures of Alice and Bob, by Cristy Burne (CAASTRO); Pepsi the Problem Puppy, by Sandi Parsons (Faraway Nearby Ink); and Looking Up, by Sally Murphy (Fremantle Press).

Through her illustrations, she loves to create energetic characters with a curious streak – the best type of friend to take on an adventure uncovering the wonderfully diverse and inspiring world around us.

Check out Aśka’s latest projects on www.askaillustration.com

ILLUSTRATOR INSIGHT

 

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life?

First of all it’s the act of creating new things that brings me a lot of satisfaction and personal fulfilment. I also love the flexibility of being my own boss, and the ability to really maximise my schedule on my own terms. I think I’m getting pretty good at that.

I’ve always loved sitting in my room and making things. Back when I was in primary school my projects had an imaginary audience, and I developed comic books, board games, toys and teaching aids for them. Today I still sit in my creative bubble at my desk, but now I’m working towards more focused outcomes and (hopefully) for a real audience!

—the worst?

It is easy to get lost in my work, and forget that sunshine and fresh air exist.

In order not to transform into a cave-dweller, I try to take my bike for a ride around the river in the mornings. Working at Scitech several days a week also helps, as it gets me out of the house and amongst the children.

How do you approach an illustration project?

It all starts with some kind of research. This could take the form of anything really: leafing through pages of books by a particular artist, watching cloud formations or browsing images of frogs on the Internet. Ideas then start popping into my head and I proceed to ‘try them out’ by scribbling. Eventually one of the ideas becomes more dominant and persistent.

Though I am a mostly a digital illustrator, I always start a concept with pen on paper. It is never pretty – more of a gestural squiggle, allowing me to feel the composition and envisage very early on how the design will take up page space.

But once I start working on the line work, first sketchy, then more refined, ideas do often develop further. I essentially think through drawing. Seeing images on the page breeds further ideas.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m illustrating a picture book about a boy with dyslexia, which was written by a dyslexic author. Having been fortunate enough to win a DCA grant, I have taken the project from my ‘creative cave’ and out to schools, inviting students from Years 3 and 4 to hand write their own stories. I then either use these stories as background textures in the illustrations, or actually illustrate them as part of the main character’s world.

Because the book aims to give children an insight into the world of a dyslexic person, I wanted to make sure it was very accessible to children with reading difficulties, so as to not alienate this crucial audience. So I held some consultation sessions with a variety of children who struggle with reading, to ensure the font choices, sizes and illustration layout did not make the book more difficult to read.

I am also developing a short video to show the children who participated how their contributions shaped and changed the illustrations.

It is a project and a half! But it has been very satisfying working with so much input from children and truly developing the book together.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?

I did everything backwards, as I didn’t do my research. After coming up with an idea, I made a book and then tried to plug the finished product to publishers, not even following their submission guidelines because I was so excited about my project I thought they would be too. Seems a bit crazy now.

Joining SCBWI, learning about the industry and seeing other people go through the publishing journey certainly paid off in the end.

But I think the obstacles are there every time I want to be published again. There is a lot of wonderfully gifted competition out there and limited publishing spots. So I guess believing that there is a space for me amongst all this talent in this vibrant and joyful industry of children’s publishing is the perpetual challenge.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator?

The only other job I’d settle for is an astronaut.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator?

I found that ten years ago I was saying “I’m an illustrator” a lot more than actually doing the hard, uncomfortable and challenging work. I wish I had had someone point out to me that being comfortable and finding things easy is not the way up.

Sweat, tears and ink!

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

“Don’t draw to be paid” (or, “make money in your spare time”). I started out working for a design and illustration company, but found very little energy remained after work for my own artistic pursuits, as I was working in the very area I wanted to develop in. It was hard to experiment and find my own style when people were paying me for particular outcomes. I did the same thing over and over, so that my rent was paid.

When I started to work as a science communicator, interacting with children on a daily basis, I would return to my studio full of ideas and will to create.

I do of course get paid for my drawings, but I don’t do them with the sole goal of being paid.

 

BOOK BYTE

The Cosmic Adventures of Alice and Bob, written by Cristy Burne, illustrated by Aśka, published by CAASTRO

Dedication, daring and discovery… Ever wanted to find the answer to BIG questions? Or dreamed of inventing the Next Big Thing?

The Universe is an amazing place, and we’re only beginning to understand it. There’s still so much to be discovered…

  • Join Alice and Bob on their ambitious journey to the hockey finals
  • Uncover true stories of scientific failure, fluke and fame
  • Find the everyday inventions that began with space research
  • Meet the world’s next-generation telescopes, jump on board with Citizen Science, and tackle the big questions with CAASTRO: Australia’s keen team of all-sky astronomers.

The book aims to inspire and excite young minds about science, experimenting and the wonders of the universe but most of all, encourage them to never give up on having a go. Alice and Bob’s fictional adventure is enhanced by the factual stories of discoveries, sometimes accidental, woven throughout the book as well as additional layers of information, find-this-object challenges and teacher resources to emphasise the importance of previous space research on our everyday lives.

To quote Cristy, “The Cosmic Adventures of Alice and Bob is part-fiction, part-fact, and all fun”.

This book is not available for sale, however all primary and combined schools in Australia received a free copy of the book so it can be found in a library near you.

 

 

 

Meet the Illustrator: Ella Mae

Your art, the things you love, make up your life. Your life is your art, because life is how you make it, life is your blank canvas, or your empty stage, or whatever you want it to be. Self-expression is a very important part of a fulfilling existence.- Ella Mae

This week I’m celebrating the release of my newest children’s book, The Seven Day Dragon, a quirky, warm-hearted story for eight to 11-year-olds about family, relationships and accepting what is, while still seeing that life is full of possibilities when minds are open.

The book features illustrations by debut illustrator Ella Mae and today it’s my pleasure to introduce her with a behind the scenes look at the way she works and an insight into her thoughts on art and life…

 

You were only 14 when you were offered the opportunity to illustrate The Seven Day Dragon for Serenity Press. How did that come about?

The opportunity to illustrate this book came about when our family friend, author Tess Woods, was meeting with Karen from Serenity Press, to discuss Lara and Tom Woods’ book Lily Reaches The Rainbow. Tess knew that Karen had mentioned she was due to fly to Melbourne soon to look for an artist to illustrate a local author’s new book, The Seven Day Dragon. Tess phoned me the night before the meeting and asked if I would like to send through some examples of my artwork so she could show them to Karen, which I did. The next day, on my birthday, I heard back from Tess that Karen had liked my images, and was keen to offer me the opportunity to work with her, and author Teena Raffa-Mulligan, to illustrate The Seven Day Dragon.

How did you feel?

I felt incredibly excited and lucky to have such an amazing opportunity at such a young age. I felt very grateful to have Tess’s encouragement and her confidence in my ability to take on such a big project. It’s safe to say that it was the best birthday present I have ever received!

It was quite a responsibility to be asked to produce 12 professional standard illustrations for publication.

Illustrating The Seven Day Dragon was certainly a lot of work and it was definitely challenging at times to juggle school work, my social and family life, sports and illustrating in order to stay on schedule and meet the deadline, but I was always really motivated by my love of illustrating to make time for it.

How did you go about the illustration process?

I would always start with a rough thumbnail sketch of the composition of the illustration in the sketchbook that I used for planning and notes, to figure out what positions the characters would be in and what main colours I would use. Then I would move on to an A4 piece of watercolour paper, and sketch out the composition first in pencil, then in pen – adding detail and refining it, and then erasing the pencil sketch underneath. The last thing I would do on each illustration was to add watercolour paint to bring it to life and inks for texture when I was painting the dragon.

How long did it take to produce each illustration?

My first illustration took me about two weeks until I was happy with it and felt that I was finished, but I found the more I illustrated, the more confident I became, and the faster I could complete an illustration. It took me about five months of illustrating almost every day but I found that towards the end of the deadline I knew what I was doing so well, that by the time I did my last illustration, it only took me about a day and a half.

What support and artistic guidance did you receive?

I have had a lovely web of support from friends and family as I have been illustrating The Seven Day Dragon, and I have been so lucky to be able to work with such an understanding author and publisher. As I didn’t have any experience in illustrating officially for a book, Serenity Press and Teena were very helpful in giving me some guidance in what they had envisioned for a particular illustration. I am lucky enough to have an artist for a mother who was always ready to offer advice, and family always ready to offer tea, when I was stuck on an illustration.

What is your favourite art media?

I definitely have different favorite mediums when trying to achieve different results on different subjects, for instance I love using oil paint when doing landscapes and ballpoint pen or lead pencil when drawing people, but at the moment my favourite media would definitely be pen and watercolour paint.

Can you imagine your life without art?

I can’t imagine a life without art, no! For me art is a release, a way to vent, a way to express what I believe and what I am passionate about. I think life without art wouldn’t really be life at all, in some sense; it would just be survival, because life is art. In Shakespeare’s words, ‘all the world’s a stage’. Whether, like me, your art is painting and drawing, or if it’s performing, or if it’s your green thumb, the way you can always make people laugh, or knowing exactly what that dish needs to make it taste perfect, or maybe your art is your excellent interpersonal skills. Your art, the things you love, make up your life. Your life is your art, because life is how you make it, life is your blank canvas, or your empty stage, or whatever you want it to be. In my few years on this earth I’ve come to believe that self-expression is a very important part of a fulfilling existence.

When you’re working on your personal art projects, what inspires you?

Self-expression is definitely what I strive for in my personal art. I find that the beauty I see in this world, beauty that cannot always be seen with the eyes, is what inspires me most. I always endeavor to express this beauty, these truths that I see, and I often try to address issues that I feel are important in my art. At the moment what inspires me is human bodies, how amazingly complex they are, how diverse and amazing. More importantly, I’m exploring how society sees our bodies, and how wrong this view often is.

Do you have ambitions of becoming a professional illustrator or are your career aspirations in another direction?

I actually have always wanted to be an early childhood teacher. I’ve always loved little kids and I think it would be a great outlet for all the creative things I love to do. I think it’s definitely a possibility that I will illustrate again in the future though!

BOOK BYTE

The Seven Day Dragon

by Teena Raffa-Mulligan with illustrations by Ella Mae

Seeing isn’t always believing. A different dragon story…

 

Joshua Jones has no one in the world except a fruit loop of a gran and they live in a tiny city flat so he can’t even have a pet.

When a spectacular creature on a seven-day visit from Jupiter offers to be his houseguest during its Earth stay, Josh thinks his luck has changed. His nothing life is about to become awesome.

His celestial visitor eats frozen peas and crossword puzzles, answers questions with questions and is invisible to everyone except him. That should have warned Josh to expect the unexpected.

He finds himself in trouble at school and minus a best friend.

As the days pass, time is running out for Josh to get a trip to Jupiter, which would have made up for all the complications Traveller has caused.

Soon his house guest will be gone. Old Bob, the only person who seems to understand Josh, will be gone too.  Josh’s life will be back the way it was… or will it?

The Seven Day Dragon is available from Serenity Press here.

Picturing Friends with illustrator Veronica Rooke

bio-pic-2It’s my great pleasure today to introduce my talented friendly neighbourhood illustrator Veronica Rooke.

When Veronica isn’t drawing, she’s either running with her friend’s geriatric greyhound or talking to the neighbour’s cat. And yes,  she insists he meows back. In thirty years, Veronica’s illustrated hundreds of T-shirt designs for the tourism market and created two very popular comic serials for The School Magazine. There’s been LOTS of other drawing as well, but what Veronica enjoys most is illustrating picture books….and cake.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have Veronica assigned to work on my latest picture book, Friends, due for release soon by Serenity Press. It was such an exciting process to see my simple rhymes translated into colourful pictures with a touch of humour. I’m always interested in finding out how the creative process works for writers and illustrators, so I put Veronica on the spot with some questions about her illustrations for Friends.

ILLUSTRATOR INSIGHT

Why did you cast a koala as the main character in Friends? The text doesn’t specify any particular characters. Because of my work for the tourism industry, I know that koalas are the most popular animal. But I didn’t decide that straight away. I did sketches of all different animals for the first few pages. Then when I looked at it as a reader, it felt odd. I didn’t have a single character to identify the ‘friend’ theme with.  When I put the koala in, it did this for me.

How did you decide on which creature to place on which page? First, I worked out the text for each page. Then while reading each one, I imagined which animal I could apply to it. Some pages were easier than others. You have the theme the author puts into their book, but I always like to add an element of humour into the illustrations.

You have worked on Australiana designs for tee-shirts in the past. Did this experience make the illustration process for Friends easier? Yes. I’ve drawn Australian animals since 1992. Tourists preferred animals to be well drawn. So when they return home with their shirts, everyone can clearly see where they’ve been for a holiday. Correctly drawn animals are important for Australians too. You can always spot when a badly drawn kangaroo looks more like an oversized rabbit!

You’ve created a special font for this picture book. Why didn’t you use a standard font? I started with a standard font while working out the pages. After I married up the illustrations to the text, it looked too boring. Also every font in my computer has been used before. I wanted a unique font just for this book.

This is the third picture book of Teena’s you’ve illustrated. Did you use a different approach? I needed to keep in mind the styles in Teena’s other books. I didn’t want her to end up with a similar looking one. When an author displays their books at a fair or a talk, it’s better if they all look different. I’m hoping there will be more books we work on together, so they’ll need to look different again.

As an artist, how do you feel about author involvement in your creative process? I like it. It’s the author’s story, so I feel they should have input. It’s my job to make what they want look amazing. But I’ll also suggest things along the way.

What media have you used to create the illustrations for Friends? I’ve used pencils to draw the illustrations and then scanned them into Photoshop.

Is your creative process when illustrating a picture book always the same, or does the project influence how you work on it? I start them all the same. I read the text as soon as I get it and then put it away. While I’m doing other things (like boring housework), my brain is busily conjuring up images to go with the words. When I sit down to draw, I can start sketching straight away.

What did you enjoy most about working on Friends? It gave me the chance to draw Australian animals. Teena is a great author to work with too. (Thank you!)

What’s next for you? I’m excited to have Monique Mulligan’s new book Fergus the Farting Dragon to begin illustrating next. I’ve created the cover, so we know what the character looks like and also the style. It’s being published by Serenity Press. Drawing an animal farting….what isn’t there to love about that?

BOOK BYTE

friends-cover-2Friends

Written by Teena Raffa-Mulligan, illustrated by Veronica Rooke

What makes a friend special?

Meet the Illustrator: Heather Charlton

I’m delighted today to introduce one of my fellow Wild Eyed Press picture book creators, Heather Charlton.

I asked Heather to tell me a little about herself…

!cid_57BE901D-63AC-47B7-91EC-F6A58CE4DC5B@homeA long time ago my father found me struggling to begin a primary school art construction project. To encourage a bit of resourcefulness he said: “Make something out of nothing and you will be all right.” His words motivated me to find a different way to make things work, and while I successfully completed the construction, I did not follow my father’s footsteps into an engineering career. Instead, I eventually undertook studies in fine art and have since enjoyed a creative journey in both business and pleasure.
Among various endeavours including raising my family,  part of my work life involved running my own floristry business, a commercial art studio and  more recently the management of a remote Indigenous Art Centre.
I enjoy the art-making process.  Ideas  for projects come from everywhere, and I scribble thoughts down quickly.  I have written and illustrated several stories for children, have one picture book published and other works are in progress.
Now, so many years later, my father’s words stay with me and I’m still making something  out of ‘nothing’ to bring ideas to life. And I’m still all right.

Find out more about Heather on her website http://www.heathercharlton.com

 

AUTHOR INSIGHT

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? Having the opportunity to spend time working with something I enjoy, and seeing the creative process through to becoming an actual product.
How do you approach an illustration project? If the work is a book, I read the manuscript several times to get the feel of the story. If necessary I research the subject matter/characters, then read again. I make  small quick sketches as ideas emerge as some of these may be useful later.  When working on a book, I rarely make illustrations in order,  often choosing the simpler ones first  as a ‘warm up’.  As the first and last pages are cornerstones to a picture book  I  like to leave them until most of the other works are complete.
What are you working on at the moment? I am  making preliminary drawings which will become paintings for a new children’s picture book.
Are there any areas of art that you still find challenging? Making art can be both exciting and challenging, but I find experimenting with use of  new media is sometimes outside the comfort zone.  This is good however, as trying new tools can produce surprising outcomes.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Finding a publisher
What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? I am interested in many forms of creative pursuit, however ideally I would be sitting on a beach somewhere above the 26th parallel with pen in hand as my best-selling story unfolds, while a long line of publishers queue in the dunes.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator? To join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? Challenge yourself and keep trying .  If it doesn’t work the first time, take a break then try to look at the problem from a new angle.
What’s your top tip for aspiring illustrators? Buy the cookbook – ‘A hundred and one ways with mince’.

BOOK BYTE

Wild-Eyed-Press_Mama-and-Hug_030416_front-coverMama and Hug

Written by Aleesah Darlison

Illustrated by Heather Charlton

Published by Wild Eyed Press, 2016

When Hug first climbs out of his mother’s pouch it is spring, deep in the Australian bush. The trees are in blossom and new green growth is everywhere. As Hug grows, the season changes to the sharp dry crackle of summer. One day danger comes to the bush and Mama must flee to protect her baby, Hug. Aleesah Darlison’s tender story of a koala and her joey is delicately illustrated by Heather Charlton. Buy the book here.