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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Sonia Bellhouse

Sonia’s top tip for aspiring authors: Think about what excites you, what inspires you. Write about that. Even if it’s not in now, you never know what will become the next trend.

Sonia Bellhouse grew up in England, but she now makes Australia her home. Inspired by Enid Blyton’s comment, ‘One day you might write a book,’ writing is Sonia’s lifelong passion. She has published in magazines both in Australia and the UK and was awarded two major short fiction awards.

Sonia completed a university English degree as a mature student. She is a member of Romance Writers of Australia. Her journey to publication is included in the anthology Writing the Dream. She also contributed to the anthology Passages.  A longtime member of Armadale Writers’ Group she is their speaker coordinator. Her book Fire & Ice combines her interests in ice dancing, Vikings, love that spans time and Bergen, Norway, a place that she loved when she visited. When not writing Sonia can be found ignoring the ironing in favour of playing with her cats. She reads six to eight books a month and reviews them on her blog https://soniabellhouse.blog.

Visit Sonia on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/soniabellhouse.author/

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I’ve always scribbled since I was very young, writing and illustrating stories. It is something that won’t go away. I don’t want it to. Writing is a part of my identity. I write to clear my head, to clarify or explore my thoughts.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? A lot more reading!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Procrastination and self-doubt.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Far more involved than most first time authors can expect to be. I have been exceptionally fortunate a writer friend, who was procrastinating on her own writing , sent me six sample covers.  They were all good, but one really spoke to me and I sent to the publishers as an example. After seeking the relevant permission they decided to use it.

The editor was one I had worked with before , so I felt very confident in taking her  advice, which was comprehensive.  There were 13 pages of notes, comments on the manuscript  itself and graphs showing character arcs and plot tension points.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The ability to create what you want, limited only by your own imagination. A close second is no workday commute .

—the worst? The usual – the insecurity and self-doubt. The critical voice in  your head. The feeling that you should write more, write faster, be more like another author.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Start earlier, be brave, send more work out, learn from rejections. Analyse what works, what doesn’t and remember you have a unique writing voice.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That the work hasn’t ended when you have written ‘The End’. in fact, it’s just the beginning of a much larger process.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Believe in your dreams you were given them for a reason.

How important is social media to you as an author? I’ll let you know! I enjoy Facebook and  ‘meeting’ authors that I admire. Now I have a Sonia Bellhouse Author page myself.

I also have a blog  https://soniabellhouse.blog  where I post about the 6-8 books I have read each month. It also includes aspects of writing and whatever else is on my mind And I dabble in Pinterest – I created a board for  ‘The Book I Am Writing’

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Luckily, I usually have two or three projects on the go at the same time , so if one stalls, I simply switch to another project.

How do you deal with rejection? It hurts!  I allow myself to experience it to rage , and  to feel they are unjustified. Then when  I have calmed down, I assess whether they have a valid point. Did I submit something unsuitable, or to the wrong place? If that’s’ the case, lesson learnt; if not then maybe they had just commissioned something similar.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? From my heart.

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? I think this is the toughest question. There are so many wonderful authors I admire and for different reasons. While I have listened to writers at various events and conferences, a one-on-one would give personalised advice.

After much deliberation I choose Joanne Harris. I loved  her series with Vianne Rocher. It started with Chocolat,  continued in The Lollipop Shoes and Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure. The fourth in the series is due for release in April, that is seven years after the last book. What prompted her to revisit it? How difficult was it to return to those characters?  I enjoy how the series combines a fey quality of magic  with the practicalities of everyday life and well-drawn characters. Each book is different but continues the series.

I’d like to learn how extensively she planned it,  how difficult it was to get back into the mindset of the characters and whether she would do anything differently. Additionally, she has written other genres, they have a different tone and I admire her versatility.  There are even two cook books, some books spanning her French heritage Others on runes and fairy-tales. And we could always talk about our childhoods when we both lived behind a sweet shop.

Fire and Ice

Sonia Bellhouse

Olympic ice dancer Blaise Daniels’ partner has just called it quits – leaving her with no chance of competing at the Winter Olympics. Determined not to give up on her dream, Blaise travels to Norway to meet legendary skater Kristoffer Erikson. After a bumpy start, they connect both on and off the ice. Their partnership seems assured, but why do they both start having dreams of a mysterious Viking past? Can an ancient love be rekindled or will an old tragedy complicate their present?

The book is available from Daisy Lane Publishing, Book Depository and leading online retailers.