Welcome to my new blog; where you'll be able to follow my journey being part of The Lightbox Gallery's, new children's book retrospective, Escape To Wonderland. 7 Aug-2 Jan '11. Please feel free to leave comments and ask questions. Prints of my work will be made available. And you can also book me for workshops and talks.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Illustration tip to myself No. 1. Draw what you like, or what inspires you.

It sounds obvious, but it's sometimes easy to forget. It is good to conquer things you find difficult to draw. But I usually find there is a way of doing this more organically than forcing yourself to sit there and torture yourself over it. For example, I'm not that strong at drawing buildings, however, I'm pretty sure I'd make a darned good stab at rising to the challenge if I were given a sketchbook and a beautiful, empty, ornate theatre! As a professional illustrator, I can't always draw what I want. However, there are always ways of bringing in elements of what I love into my work. And oftentimes I find what I'm most pleased with in the end, was the thing I was most worried about drawing in the first place.

My favourite things to draw are:

- monsters- both scary and friendly. 'Nuff said.

- trees of all kinds. I love the crazily quiet and still kind, that you expect to find faerie rings at the bottom of. I love the gnarled kind, you can see lots of different mangled faces in. But I also like the fat, portly look of toupouri and the swishy little new trees just as much. There's something about trees that makes me want to commit each to memory; the fact that there are so many different characters, perhaps. And a good tree can tell such a large chunk of story; about how a character is feeling and suchlike.

- Odd machines. This is a new one for me. I've always loved clockwork and steam engines etc. The way they work is fascinating. It sounds strange, but I think I was made aware of this by a book called 'The Tasks of Tantalon' which I had as a child. It was a puzzle book and there was a spread in which you had to work out which way to pull a lever to save the prince. You had to follow the workings of all these different cogs to figure it out. I thought it was so clever. Perhaps though, because of the complexity of that spread, I've been hugely scared of drawing machinery. I've always wanted my drawn machines to work! It wasn't until recently, finding Heath Robinson, I realised some of the joy of drawn machinery was that perhaps it didn't! (See image above, for my depiction of a machine that hasn't got a hope of lift-off!)
- Children. I'm always drawn to the human form. It's part of what got me drawing in the first place. There's a purity and expressiveness in a childs' movement that's particularly appealing in story-telling, regardless of the fact that most narrative illustration centres around them anyway. Kids tend to show you exactly how they feel in their facial expression and posture. Adults learn to hide everything, and teenagers purposefully adopt poses to contradict their emotions. Their honesty makes children very good storytelling tools. I mostly like to team one child up with another non-human character, so that they have a sounding board to really emphasise each others emotions.

- Lighting. Lighting is another one of those things that can play its' own character in a piece, and that's why I love it. If you draw nothing else on a sheet of paper, but a character standing still, we'll still know how that person's feeling by how you light it. Theatre and film are two of my greatest influences, and these are two mediums that use lighting to it's best.

So, find what you love and draw, draw, draw away. Passion will bring the best out of your artistic ability, and give you the confidence later on to handle subjects, you're not so sure of.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Audio-h no!

Oh dear. My day's preparation has been slightly nerve-wracking. I'm finding out there's a lot more to this whole exhibition lark than just bunging up some pictures. Give me a pencil, and if I don't have a darned good stab at creating something, I will at least feel safe. Today was completely pencil-less and I was totally out of my element.

I did an audio interview for the Lightbox archives.... and blethered like a rabid monkey. The interviewer was the lovely, Rib Davis, who did a very good job at putting me at my ease. Even at my best, though, I feel I can never quite say what I mean. Fortunately, I'm pretty sure he's as good an editor as he is an interviewer. With extensive audio nips and tucks, he has assured me, he'll have me sounding like a fully competant member of society in no time at all.

We talked about; my first illustration memories, how I go about interpreting texts, what I'm up to next, and what I want from myself as an author of stories.

His last question to me was, was there anything else I wished I'd been asked? Of course, I couldn't for the life of me, think of anything at the time (besides perhaps, would you like a strong cup of tea and a chocolate eclair???) but I've been thinking about it ever since.

I think I wish I'd been asked what knowledge or advice I would have told myself when I was just coming out of college. And it made me think about writing a list of top tips for the 'me' of two and a bit years ago. I thought I might put them up on here.

*You can come and snigger at my audio efforts at one of the two listening posts in the show.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Booked and booked

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness! It's just two weeks until the exhibition launches! I've seen some photo's of the installations coming together, and I think it could very well be MAGIC!

I shan't tell you the lay out of the main thing, as I don't want to spoil it for anyone that makes it down- although I'll definitely post pictures once the show's open. I can tell you that it'll be a chronological journey through the ages of children's book illustration. There's something very special about the idea that whatever age you are, you'll be able to see images from your own childhood.

The exhibition will of course also cover present day, and I'm very excited to see all of my hero's work in the flesh. I'm particularly interested in seeing Anthony Browne's work- I'm a sucker for detail! And from yester-year, I feel I may be drooling openly at a glimpse of Tenniel's work.

For my part, I'll be setting up a separate installation based on 'The Day in the Life of an Illustrator'. I'll be re-creating an area of my studio, so people can see what equiptment I use, and a little bit of the process behind my books. I'll have work exhibited, and an audio interview. Please don't laugh at my squeaky voice! I haven't recorded it yet, but I'm sure I'll sound like an infant mouse doing a bad Michael Jackson impression.

Today I went and got my work printed up, and took a trip into The Lightbox to leave it to be framed. I was asked to choose 3 pieces of work to display. The only thing I don't like about this sort of thing is the decision-making- I'm terrible at making decisions. I can't even choose what cereal to have for breakfast... It's very easy to select work if it's not your own, but it's harder to see things objectively when it's your own. It's good to pick work that's varied, but that complements eachother. Unfortunately, I often find the pieces I can look at without cringing are the similar ones! Also, more and more, I do my work in pieces, which I stitch together in the computer afterward, so finding recent original work that's complete enough is pretty difficult. It's done now though, and I'll put it out of my mind. I'm beginning to feel it's all coming together, and the reality that this is really going to happen has finally hit.
My only slightly 'eeeeeek-ish' worry now, is what to do for the workshops. I'm thinking of doing a character one... and possibly an interpretation of text one, but I'm really not sure. I've never done this sort of thing before, so if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Lightbox News

I shall be running 2 storytellings with workshops on the 7th.
At: 1 - 1.45pm and 3 - 3.45pm
Both will be FREE, although booking is required.
There'll be a special book on display, for anyone and everyone who wishes to have a go at illustrating. I shall be putting my pencil to good use, by starting the book off with one of my own drawings, and then the book shall be handed over to YOU to show us your very best in artistic flair! You can come and see me put together my efforts during the morning of the 7th.
I'll also be putting together a couple of lectures for later in the year. These will be for teenagers+. I'll let you know as soon as dates are announced.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Welcome All!

This is my first blog post to this lovely, brand spanking new, blog- can you smell the new paint? And the eagerness of the all those new, freshly-formed letters? Ahh, exciting times, people!

As you may have read, this blog will be about my Escape To Wonderland; that is, my small part in what is set to be an AMAZING children's book exhibition, dreamt up by the fantastic people at The Lightbox, Woking.

Anyway, this is going to be my way of keeping all the blog posts related to this exciting topic all in one place. You can also visit my main blog here, for all the regular news and gossip.