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.

Meet the Illustrator – Muza Ulasowski

MUZA’S TOP CREATIVE TIPS: Practise, practise and practise your craft. There is always something you can improve on. Never give up.  Take up all opportunities offered.  You never know where they may lead you.

MuzaUlasowskiMuza Ulasowski is a graphic designer and children’s book illustrator based in the leafy western suburb of Brookfield in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. She is inspired and surrounded by a vast array of local birds and animals who tend to make their appearances in her book illustrations. She shares her life with her wonderfully patient husband, their charismatic bulldog called Charlie and a black magic cat named Basil.

In 2010, she was invited to illustrate her first children’s picture book and enjoyed it so much that she has been collaborating ever since with Australian and international authors. To date she has illustrated 10 children’s picture books and is currently illustrating several more which will be published in 2016. Whilst primarily concentrating on creating digital images for children’s picture books, Muza also specialises in graphic design, designing book covers and book layouts to print ready stage. She also designs badges, brochures, logos, DL cards, stationery, business cards, programs and the like.

In her spare time she enjoys illustrating in pencil and charcoal, acrylic painting, wildlife photography, sewing, and creating artworks for her colourful and crafty ETSY store.

Find out more about Muza on her Website and Facebook. She is also on Instagram.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? Being cooped up behind a computer all day creating whimsical characters.

—the worst? Being cooped up behind a computer all day creating whimsical characters.  LOL

How do you approach an illustration project? When I am offered a manuscript to illustrate, I need to be able to ‘see’ the words written as images.  If I can’t  ‘see’ the words in pictures, then I don’t take on the project.

Once I have accepted a project, I firstly create a 32-page dummy with the text roughed out and very rough pencil sketch ideas for the illustrations to go with the text – rather like a storyboard.  Then rough sketches are created with my Intuos 4 Wacom tablet using the Artrage Studio Pro program – it is so much faster digitally and I don’t have to waste time scanning the artwork.  I love the fact that I can create very rough roughs which look like marker pen sketches. I then erase the unnecessary lines as I clean up the image.  Once I have decided what goes where, I then use the ‘sketch’ as the background layer for my more detailed sketching. Once the roughs have been approved, then I digitally ‘paint’ over the top with colours using a combination of programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and Artrage Studio Pro.

What are you working on at the moment? I have only just completed illustrating a children’s picture book Getting Home written by J.R. Poulter – https://www.facebook.com/GettingHome2 .  It is off to the printers as we speak and the launch date will be announced very soon.

I am just about to commence illustrating the next book, Magical Minnie written by Jennifer Douglas – about an ex racing greyhound dog who is now companion dog to a gorgeous little Autistic girl. Check it out on https://www.facebook.com/MagicalMinnieBook

Is there any area of art that you still find challenging? I find every area of art a challenge. I am my own worst critic! I never know whether anything I attempt will be successful or not.  I usually get to about half way into an illustration before I know whether or not it will work.  And even then I always find something wrong with it that needs to be fixed!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I was extremely lucky to have been given my first break in illustrating children’s books by being offered a contract by a very large publishing firm.  This contract was then followed up by another contract with another publishing firm.  At the time I actually didn’t realise how very lucky I was to have been offered these opportunities. The last few books have been independently published collaborations with the most amazingly talented authors who found me through social media.  I am so honoured they thought me good enough to bring their manuscripts to me and trusted me to create illustrations for their wonderful stories.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? As a child I always wanted to be a children’s book illustrator.  But in my day this was not recognised as a legitimate profession and I was talked out of enrolling in commercial art studies.  It was only after my children were grown up and had left school that I remembered what I always wanted to do and recommenced this path again.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an illustrator? I would not have listened to the doubters who talked me out of studying art in my youth.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator? I wish I had known just how much marketing and promotional work is involved in becoming published successfully. I wish I had been told that illustrating is only 30 per cent of the job done…. That publishing a book is a business with 70 per cent of it being marketing and promoting the book. Not that it would have made a difference – I still would have continued with my illustrating career, but at least then I would have had more realistic expectations.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? The best advice has been “Do not draw because you want to be famous or to be published…. Draw because you have a need to draw.”

BOOK BYTE

GH_JustFrontCover_1000pxGetting Home

By JR Poulter

Illustrated by Muza Ulasowski

 

Baby Bear is curious, he goes where Mama said, ‘Don’t!’ He finds himself adrift in a BIG, BIG ocean! Will Mama find him before his piece of pack ice melts?

A story for early childhood and lower primary with themes of risk taking, keeping safe, obeying rules, becoming lost and being found. The book also introduces small children to the idea of protecting our environment, animal habitats, melting of the pack ice and global warming.

Meet the Author/Illustrator: Andrea Faith Potter

seahorsesANDREA’S TOP CREATIVE TIP: Be happy to change your book as you create it. It is important to plan a book and then be flexible as you work. Let the ideas breathe, allow the book to become what it wants to be. And then be happy to make more changes after you have ‘finished’ the book. Tiny tweaks can make a big difference.

Andrea Faith Potter studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at the University of Tasmania. After completing her degree she was selected to do a Research Associate for 12 months. Andrea then studied a Post-Graduate Diploma in painting at RMIT. She went on to have more than 50 art exhibitions nationally and her work has been featured in several magazines (including Craft Arts International). Andrea has illustrated two books by Jackie French, Werewolf Warrior and Dance of the Deadly Dinosaurs (both books were edited by Lisa Berryman and published by Harper Collins). Andrea has also created a learn to read system for children learning to read their very first words. Andrea’s website has lots of illustrations for people to see. www.andreafaithpotter.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write and illustrate children’s books? I feel compelled to draw. I always have. I PotterAndrea1love to make up characters and explore imaginative worlds. I love to pretend the characters are real and have a life of their own. It is a funny thing to say, but I imagine the characters so vividly that I get worried about them when they get into strife and they make me laugh when they do something funny.

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? I love improving my skills and ideas. Every day I get a little be better at what I do. I have a love of visual story telling. It is exciting to come up with new ideas and develop them. Drawing has always been important to me. I draw all the time and then I still feel like I haven’t had enough drawing time.

Do you think of yourself more as an illustrator or as an author? I love writing stories for children but I tend to think of myself as an illustrator first. This is mostly because my stories come to me visually and then I translate the ideas into text. I draw the stories before I write them. When I write longer stories I tend to write the story first but it still feels very visual.

Are there any new areas of art or writing that you want to explore? I am always coming up with new ideas for books. I love thinking about possibilities and inventing new worlds. I love drawing animals, funny or sweet characters, fantasy and domestic scenes and so much more.

I love telling children funny adventure stories where surprising things happen. It is exciting to see the looks on their faces and how they get wrapped up in the story, jumping about on the mat imagining it is all true.

Have you illustrated books for other authors? Yes. I illustrated two books by Jackie French, zDance of the Deadly Dinosaurs coverWerewolf Warrior and Dance of the Deadly Dinosaurs. There were about 40 characters to design for the first book, which was exciting. Then there were a lot of new awesome characters in the second book, including dinosaurs (dinosaurs are awesome to draw!).

Have you ever self-published any ebooks? If so why? Yes. I thought that learning to read could be much easier and more fun if there was a set of books FrogandBatwhich introduced words gradually and kept using the same words so children could practise the words they had already learned. I felt that the only way to make a whole system of books affordable, was to self-publish them as ebooks. With my love of visual story telling, I was able to create adventure stories that were told with very few words. I also created several books which are told with words that have four letters or less (for reading practise and to build reading confidence). Frog and Bat is one of these books.

 

 

Meet the Illustrator: Daniel Weatheritt

DANIEL’S TOP ILLUSTRATION TIP: Practise lots and get into a daily routine that works for you. Gain inspiration for your drawings away from the world of children’s books. Go for a walk in the woods or at the beach. Try drawing in these different environments and see how it affects your work.

 

DJW Twitter-20140821-154602684-20141007-182428734Daniel Weatheritt is an artist and designer based in Northumberland, UK. His love of drawing started in Year 3 as a member of Northburn First School Wildlife Club. Shortly afterwards, he began self-publishing comics including The Adventures of Mickey Molar and All Wrapped Up – Secrets of the Mummies Tomb. These formed an important precursor to a life-long fascination with image-making and all forms of design. He studied Graphic Design at Northumbria University and graduated in 2008 with first-class honours. Daniel uses many mixed-media techniques, often combining traditional media (pen and ink, pencil, watercolours and collage) with photography and digital colour production to create surreal characters, environments and narratives which are full of intricate detail and humour, inspired by the animal kingdom, scrap yards, circuitry, vintage cars, folklore and science fiction. Find out more about Daniel on his website – www.danielweatheritt.com

ILLUSTRATOR INSIGHT

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? Being able to work on such a broad range of projects. My artistic life covers quite a lot of ground, from illustrating books and guides for museums to working as a designer and also delivering art workshops in primary schools. I’ve always created things from a very young age and feel lucky that my skills have enabled me to grow my own job.

—the worst? The isolation. It’s a blessing and a curse. I spend much of my time working alone, which is great for developing my creative skills without interruption, but because of the commercial nature of my work I am constantly seeking to bounce ideas off other people and gather feedback, which can be tricky at times.

How do you approach an illustration project? If illustrating a book it starts with the story and lots of reading, making notes and sketching quick ideas for possible illustrations. I then create little storyboards, which are usually tiny, around 10% to 25% the size of the final printed book. These are drawn in ink with loose watercolour washes and are invaluable when it comes to producing finished artwork, acting as a guide for the composition, placement and pacing of images.

What are you working on at the moment? I’ve just finished designing and illustrating a booklet for Northumberland Wildlife Trust for the 2015 red squirrel appeal. All of the drawings were produced in watercolour and coloured inks and it has been really rewarding seeing my work going out to thousands of households in North East England. Also off to print is an art guide for Woodhorn Museum, a coal mining museum and art gallery in Northumberland.

Is there any area of art that you still find challenging? I’m rarely working on one project at a time, so juggling everything can be a real challenge. Creatively speaking, I think staying true to my initial sketchbook observations which I’m getting better at through practice. Also, to work across multiple mediums, be it pencil, paint, pen and ink, collage, and still produce something that feels unique to you and your creative language.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Making people aware of who you are and what you do. It’s a very competitive industry and you have to be quite clever with marketing and how you present yourself creatively. The best self promotion is to do great client work, simple as that.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? I think it would still be something creative. A lot of my time is actually spent working as a designer, which doesn’t involve drawing in many cases. I love wildlife and archaeology so maybe something in these fields.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an illustrator? Get a better handle on the business side of my creative practice and make sure my website was up and running sooner.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator? That it really is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re reading this as a student or graduate starting out with nothing (like I did), no industry contacts or inside information, it really is up to you to get to where you want to be.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? A) The harder you work, the luckier you get. B) It’s in the limitations of a medium that an artist finds his true strength.

 

BOOK BYTE

817ssALNV4L._SL1500_Daniel illustrated my children’s book Catnapped, a beginner chapter book about a couple of bungling teens whose plot to snatch a Lotto winner’s cat and hold him to ransom is foiled by a menagerie of pets. Catnapped is available from http://www.amazon.com/Catnapped-Teena-Raffa-Mulligan/dp/1623955882