Meet the Creators: Bedtime Daddy

It takes a team to create a picture book and today it’s my pleasure to introduce the author and illustrator of Bedtime, Daddy! This quirky look at the nightly bedtime routine is sure to become a family favourite. First, a little about author Sharon Giltrow and illustrator Katrin Dreiling…

Sharon grew up in South Australia, the youngest of eight children, surrounded by pet sheep and fields of barley. She now lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband, two children and a tiny dog. When not writing, Sharon works with children with Developmental Language Disorder. Sharon was awarded the Paper Bird Fellowship in 2019. Her debut PB Bedtime, Daddy! was released in May 2020 through EK Books.

Twitter – https://twitter.com/sharon_giltrow

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/sharongiltrow1/?hl=en

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/sharongiltrowwriter/

Katrin is a German-born language teacher but moved to Australia with her husband and three children and became an illustrator.

Katrin creates quirky illustrations that feature different media. Her first picture book The World’s Worst Pirate by Michelle Worthington has been awarded Notable Book 2018 by the Children’s Book Council of Australia and she also delivered illustrations for a highly successful video animation production on YouTube.

Katrin was awarded the Harper Collins Illustrators Showcase Award 2019 at the biannual SCBWI conference in Sydney. She is represented by Essie White at Storm Literary Agency.

Katrin also teaches art to children twice a week and conducts illustration workshops for both adults and children. She also loves to spend time with her family, writing quirky stories and walking her Golden Retriever Loki.

https://www.katrindreiling.com/

https://www.instagram.com/katrinartworks/

Congratulations to you both on the release of this fun story about bedtime. Sharon, I’m guessing the story was inspired by your own parenting experiences. Tell us a little about your writing process and how the story came to be published.

My story Bedtime, Daddy! is based on my real-life parenting experiences and my inspiration for writing came from my family. All the excuses that little bear uses are excuses my children have used to postpone bedtime over the past 13 years.

My writing process starts with me brainstorming the idea, researching the idea, mapping out the narrative ARC then writing the first draft. After I am happy with the first draft, I send it off to my critique group. Once everyone has critiqued the story, I take everyone’s suggestions, go through them page by page and comment by comment and then incorporate the ones that ring true. Then I let the story sit for a couple of months, then re-visit, revise it again, work out page turns and when I am happy submit it to publishers.

For Bedtime, Daddy! I wrote the first draft in June 2017. After numerous revisions I submitted the story to EK Books in June 2018. I received an email from two weeks later and signed the publishing deal two months later. EK Books asked Katrin Dreiling to illustrate the book.

Katrin, what was your response on first reading Sharon’s manuscript? Did the story immediately conjure images for you? Please share a little about your process in illustrating the book. How collaborative was it?

Thank you for having me, Teena! When I first read Sharon’s manuscript I had so much fun and straight away the feeling this would be a great project. I am a mum of three teenagers who never enjoyed and never will enjoy going to bed and still find every excuse in the book to avoid it so the theme definitely hit home. Hence I put a lot of my children’s face expressions and body language when they were little into the illustrating process.

Sharon, has the book been illustrated the way you envisioned it would be when you wrote it?

That is a very interesting question. When I wrote my book, I pictured the characters as people. A daddy and a child, although I hadn’t pictured the child as a boy or a girl. EK Books asked Katrin to illustrate people as well as bears for the characters and they shared Katrin’s illustrations with me. I was still picturing the characters as people, however the very wise Anouska Jones, EK Books editor, suggested that we go with the bear characters as they would have more worldwide appeal. I trusted Anouska as she had a lot more publishing experience than me. So, the characters are bears and they are perfect and I love them dearly.

Do you have a favourite part of Bedtime Daddy?

S. This is a very hard question as I have many favourite parts, but if I had to choose just one it would be the part where Daddy bear is wearing his favourite dinosaur pyjamas on his head.

K. I think I like the part where Little Bear puts Daddy to bed the first time and gives him a kiss best because to me it symbolises little children’s sweet determination and innocence when they copy grown up behavior and try to be responsible parents. It’s a beautiful age.

What do you hope readers will take away from the experience of reading this book?

S. That children and parents will enjoy the book as they laugh together over the antics of cheeky daddy bear going to bed.

K. For parents it will be nice to be reaffirmed that this bedtime pattern is universal and maybe something to embrace rather than dreaded? Kids grow up so quickly but that’s easy to forget when you are busy and tired. For kids it will be pure fun to see Daddy being put in a child’s position – what can be better? 😊

Where do you find your creative inspiration?

S. My creative inspiration comes from real life and reading picture books.

K. I work a lot with children when I give art classes or spend time with my own kids and I am always amazed at their own unique creativity. Other than that I love to look at other illustrators’ work and find inspiration.

 How has your childhood influenced you as a children’s books creator?

S. My love of books as a child influenced my love of writing.

K. Growing up in Germany, you spend a lot of time indoors especially during the colder months. I listened to many audio plays during that time and would just draw and paint whatever and however I wanted. There were no rules and I felt free in mind and on paper.

 What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?

S. Finding a publisher that loved Bedtime, Daddy! and believed in the story as much as I did.

K. Probably realising that I need to be more patient and that these things rarely happen overnight.

What’s the best aspect of your creative life?

S. Creating something out of an idea. Taking an idea and making it into a story. Turning a blank page into a story. Sharing that story with other writers and readers.

K. I work from home in a lovely, small studio guarded by my massive dog and I can schedule my day exactly like I want it. I also love to be able to express myself creatively and hopefully touch children’s lives with my work.

 —the worst?

S. Wondering if publishers are going to publish it and then if readers are going to enjoy it.

K. An increasingly high chocolate consumption…

 What would you do differently if you were starting out now in this industry? What do you wish you’d known?

S. Try and picture how the story is going to look and read as a book.

K. I’d definitely be more patient. I think…I hope…

 What’s the best advice you were ever given?

S. Just write! Get that first draft down on paper. Also read lots of books.

K. A good friend of mine who also happens to be a very successful illustrator once told me to keep busy and not to think about the getting published aspect too much. It will happen – that is ultimately true because you are honing your craft this way minus the worrying.

 What’s your top tip for aspiring children’s books creators?

S. Make time to write. Even if it is just for 15 minutes at a time. Use what time you have and write.

K. Keep busy 😊

How important is social media to you?

S. Social media is very important to me. It has allowed me to reach out to readers and other writers from all around the world.

K. It is very important and resulted in several contracts for me. It can be a bit distracting or just plain “too much” sometimes and that’s usually when I take a break or keep a bit more quiet. I try to keep it always running in the background, though.

 Is there a favourite childhood book that has influenced you creatively?

S. Are You My Mother? By PD Eastman I read and re-read it as a child over and over again.

K. Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking with the fabulous ink illustrations by Rolf Rettich in the 1987 edition.

BOOK BYTE

Bedtime, Daddy!

Written by Sharon Giltrow

Illustrated by Katrin Dreiling

Putting Daddy to bed can be hard work. Especially when he starts crying! This story will show you how to wrestle your daddy into his pyjamas and read just one more bedtime story. ‘I’m thirrrrrrrrssssssty,’ says Daddy. ‘I need to poop … I’m hungry … But I’ll miss you,’ he says, while he looks at you with cutie eyes. You’ll have to battle the bedtime excuses and use go-away monster spray until Daddy finally goes to sleep. Bedtime can be a mission for many, but with these gorgeous illustrations of a little bear and his dad, this is the perfect role-reversal bedtime story to help put any fussy child to bed in a fun and positive way. Full of heart and humour, Bedtime, Daddy! is for anyone who wants to try and put a grown-up to bed.

Buy the book 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.

 

 

 

 

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?