12 Days of Christmas

The inimitable Christopher Cheng - Author, SCBWI ambassador, general great guy, has a lovely tradition of posting '12 Days of Christmas' on his blog. Each day an author or illustrator recounts their favourite Christmas memories.

I'm delighted to be included this year! And already am in amazing company with the likes of Dan Yaccarino, Janeen Brian, Wai Chim and Gabrielle Wang. Mine can be found here and I'm looking forward to the next 7...

Thanks Chris!

(and just by the by, I did the image for my last post (the 'first day of Christmas') before I knew I would be included in Chris's tradition this year. how funny is that?)

MATS: Wrap up

The Make Art That Sells experience was quite amazing. It was intense. It was challenging. It was liberating. It was frustrating. It was eye-opening. It was affirming.

Intense: 5 weeks, a mini assignment each Monday, a main assignment on the Wednesday, due on the Sunday. Posts almost each day (sometimes videos of 30minutes+) on the market we were exploring that week. Information overload, but what amazing information.

Challenging: Definitely getting out of the comfort zone. Trying to complete a professional quality illustration in 4 days. Thinking about my art (and myself, my role, what I want my art to be) in new ways.

Frustrating: I felt like I never had enough time in each week and could have kept going for ages on each piece! (This is a good thing I guess. But so is knowing when to stop!) At one point I started to fall behind in class posts and was struggling to catch up. But in the end, I was mostly pretty happy with the pieces I put up. (except was disappointed in myself for the Children's Book week)

Liberating: Trying new things. Things I'd always wanted to try but never given myself the time or the freedom to try them. Having fun doing things I wasn't sure I would like!

Eye-opening: Seeing what all the other amazing artists in my group game up with was truly inspiring (sometimes daunting) but mostly motivating to work hard and achieve a higher level with my own art.

Affirming: This is what I want to do. I think I can do it! Finding some new directions to take my work in.

The class was definitely good push to try new things and discover other avenues to get my art into the world. I look forward to revisiting some of my pieces because I would have loved to have had some extra time to work on them during the class. I also look forward to reviewing some of the class posts because there was SO much amazing information given out, I'm sure I missed some along the way. But I feel like I am armed with all of the necessary info to enter any one of the markets we studied. It's just a matter of making some amazing art and getting it out there!!!

These are the pieces I created during the class:

You can see my posts here: Fabric / Home Decor / Children's Books / Wall Art / Gift

Another wonderful part of the class is the incredible wealth of information from classmates, as well as feedback and support through the Facebook group. Lucky for us, the fb group continues on indefinitely and we still use it as a sounding board and support network.

These are a few of the amazing pieces from some of my classmates: (soooooo much amazing work let me tell you!)

Rebecca Jones

Anna Whitford

Mary Tanana

Linda Tordoff
Kirstie Cookman

Hui Yuan Chang

Hung-yu Chen

And here are some of the other participating artists with blogs who are blogging about the class. Take a click to see incredible art from these talented people!!

Katie Wood - http://www.katiewoodillustrations.blogspot.co.uk/
Anne Waters - http://annewatersdesign.com/blog/
Aisha Khan - www.aishaandherwork.blogspot.com
Linda Tordoff  - www.paintlovestudio.blogspot.co.uk
Martina Lenhardt - www.ma-len.blogspot.com
Melissa Doran - www.goradiate.ie
Jo Chambers - www.studiolegohead.blogspot.co.uk
Son Atwal - www.applekaur.com/blog
Bari J. - http://www.barij.typepad.com
Eva Marion Seyffarth - www.eva-marion-seyffarth.blogspot.de
Rachael Schafer - www.rachaelschaferdesigns.com
Danielle McDonald - http://reddogandjude.blogspot.com.au/
Renske de Kinkelder - www.renskedekinkelder.com
Jordan Vinograd Kim - http://www.foundandrewound.com/blog/
Emma Schonenbergh - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Emma-Schonenberg/175939639128136
Aileen Tu - http://aileentu.com/blog/
Sarah Ehlinger -  www.verysarie.com
Jen Burbridge -  www.madebyburbs.co.uk
Carolina Coto - www.carolinacotoart.com
Claire Lordon -  www.clairelordon.blogspot.com
Anna Whitford - www.rosanna-rossi.co.uk
Mary Tanana - http://www.barij.typepad.com
Jennifer Wambach - http://jennartdesigns.blogspot.com
Victoria Johnson - http://victoriajohnsondesignblog.blogspot.it
Nic Squirrell - http://nicsquirrell.blogspot.com
Melinda Hopkirk - www.crouchriverstudio.com
Jennifer Appel - http://www.jaillustration.com/
Wendy Brightbill - http://www.agirlandherbrush.wordpress.com
Andrea van Dalen - http://dreamkeeperfae.blogspot.nl/
Ohn Mar Win - http://illustrationsouljourney.blogspot.co.uk/
Jill Byers - http://jillbyers.blogspot.com
Sarah Gager - www.sarahgager.com
Angie Sandy - http://www.angiesandy.com/blog
Diane Neukirch - http://dianeneukirch.blogspot.com
Larisa Hernandez | https://www.facebook.com/pages/Larisa-Hernández/166215440228435
Kathy Weller - http://www.wellerwishes.blogspot.com
Lisa Deighan - http://www.lisadeighan.com
Deb Trevitt - http://www.debtrevitt.com/blog/
Tara Lilly - http://taralillystudio.blogspot.com
Nicole Piar - http://www.ghostkittendesign.blogspot.com/
Stacy Peterson - http://stacypeterson.net/blog
Emily Dyer - http://www.emilydyer.com/blog
Antje MO (Martens-Oberwelland) - http://antje.art.com

Noisy Neighbours

I happened upon a lovely book at the equally lovely Younger Sun (children's) Bookshop, by illustrator/designer Ruth Green.

I love Ruth's palettes and fun characters. The design of the book is fantastic, and I think my son will really love the bold contrast in the images.

It looks like this is her first book, but she has lots of other delicious work!

It's been interesting reading to Oscar - I have a good selection of children's books, but many of them I have collected for the illustrations and haven't actually read them! Reading them now, I realise many of them are so very simple. (And also that a good rhyme is hard to come by!)

Little Dog Lost

My good friend Monica Carnesi has recently published her first picture book!! It's called Little Dog Lost.

It is a true story of a dog called Baltic, who was found stranded on an ice floe in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Poland. Monica's simple watercolour-and-ink style is so graceful, and her text fits perfectly with the illustrations.  It even comes with a little Baltic! 

I'm very proud to have my own signed copy.

you can read more about Baltic's story on her blog here: http://msc4art-books.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/blog-post.html

Monica and I met at an SCBWI conference in New York several years ago. I'm so happy that we have maintained our friendship and it's a thrill to see my friends have such successes! Well done Mon!!!

Picture Show

For the school holidays the gorgeous Hill of Content bookshop in Melbourne is hosting a lovely little picture show in its front window of some original children's illustrations. I've got two pieces in there (below) and am humbled to be sharing the window with wonderful illustrators such as

Jody Pratt
Lisa Coutts
Anna Walker
Sonia Kretschmar
Sarah Hardy

Some pieces are for sale and others have prints available for sale. Contact me if you're interested in a print of one of these babies:

In other news, the final painting for my current book is fresh off the press! I of course can't show you too much, but here's a little snippet. :-) I filmed a stop motion of me creating this painting so I look forward to showing it to you when I can.

Hope all is well out there in bloggy land.....

Back in the Pacific Northwest

As usual, the SCBWI Conference I attended just outside of Seattle was fun, entertaining, informative and inspiring.

I was lucky enough to get into the awesome illustrator's masterclass with the formidable Dan Santat and Anne Moore from Candlewick Press. Dan was first up and took us through some basics of colour theory and composition which is always good to review. But THEN he took a portfolio piece from each one of us (submitted earlier) and photoshopped them to make them stronger, using those principles. It was EXCELLENT.

We also had some homework for Anne and she took us through each piece speaking from the publisher's point of view, which was very insightful. It was so interesting to see how everyone had interpreted the same text (like with illustration Friday).

Then it was 2 days of inspiring and informative talks. I was also given a (very lovely) gift bag for being the person who had travelled the furthest to get there - true, there weren't any other people from Australia!

I think the best sessions i attended were:

Victoria Jamieson on creating book dummies, where she took as through the multiple versions of her story in dummy form, from beginning to publication (including agent/publisher notes along the way)

Rollin Thomas on story book structures and myths

Anne Moore on book and type design, which is something I've always been interested in.

The other wonderful part of these conferences of course, is meeting wonderful people. I finally got to meet Stacia who is the diva of Creative Cup, our online critique group. It was so lovely to hang out with her all weekend!

I also met Shane Watson who is a fantastic illustrator with sci-fi bent, and also all-around great person. Go check out his work!

And luckily I also got to see Richard Jesse Watson, the amazing illustrator who critiqued my portfolio at last year's LA SCBWI conference. It was a treat to catch up with him and also meet his family including his son illustrator Jesse Joshua Watson. At one point I found myself sitting at a table with Richard, Jesse, Dan Santat and David Hohn, wondering what alternate reality I had stepped into?

I have left with so many ideas swirling in my head, and a definite direction to go in both my writing and illustration.

Even though I'm on holidays, you can't stop these things working in the background.

But, next stop New Orleans. A city of music, food, culture... And not a moment to waste!

Look! Me & Leigh

I went to see the fantastic Look! exhibition at the State Library -- and it's worth the trip into the city just to spend some time in that gorgeous building.

The exhibit was fantastic too of course, with original artwork by more than 40 Australian illustrators, including some of my favourites, below.

Anna Walker, Big Red Bus

(bought a copy of this, finally!)

Alison Lester, Are We There Yet?

Leigh Hobbs, Old Tom

It was a really fun day. I went with my friend Jody Pratt (and her daughter Abby), who is a fantastic illustrator/painter in her own right. I am very proud to own her beautiful hooty piece below. You should check out her stuff!

And speaking of Leigh Hobbs, lookie here!: (click to enlarge)

Me & Leigh on the cover of the Victorian Writer's Centre mag! Hee hee. They did an article on lil ol me and Anne Mangan, the author of the picture book I illustrated, True Blue Santa. We got a full double page spread! It's about creating a picture book from both author and illustrator's perspectives, with Anne's viewpoint on the left and mine on the right.

Neato! Thanks VWC!

Around the edges

Today I went to see an exhibition and talk from one of Australia's most amazing illustrators Graeme Base. I got to see the original art for his new book The Legend of the Golden Snail at Melbourne Arts Rooms and my, are they breathtaking. The detail is so incredible, and his rendering is top notch. He uses a blend of watercolours, airbrushes acrylic inks and coloured pencil to great effect. so very inspiring.

I TOTALLY forgot to take my books of his to sign (doi) so I got him to sign my notebook instead :)
In other news, I've been working on a few illustratory things around the edges which I can't share with you yet, so instead here is something I was involved in as part of the Melbourne Festival last weekend - a flash mob dance! (SO FUN!) See if you can pick me out, ha ha. There were a total of 5 dances done throughout downtown Melbourne that day (I did two), but so far this is the only one I can find...

How beautiful is this?

I was recently introduced to Pamela Zagarenski by Stacia over at my critique group Creative Cup.

All I can say is I am in LOVE. Her work is so incredibly beautiful and I must admit I secretly covet this style. (It is acrylics though. I need to explore how to make something similar work in watercolours) But the way she uses collage and words especially, and her colour palettes, and oh.

Here are some more images and you can see an interview with her with tons of her work here. Enjoy! (and remember to wipe up your drool when you're done ;-)

Tim Burton's freaky mind

I went to see the Tim Burton exhibition at Melbourne's Centre for the Moving Image. It was reeaaaaallllllyyyy cooooool. It was a very well put together exhibition - I felt like they really tried to create his 'world'.

There was a giant topiary deer. Now you can't go past that.

There were also lots of otherworldly sculptures, early illustrated books, a wacky black light cave, and lots of movie accessories (like a batmobile). and also LOTS of sketches. I LOVE seeing that. the background behind all the refined stuff. All I have to say is he has a FREAKY mind, in a brilliant and hilarious way. I left feeling all spirals and red and white stripes.

I'll let his pictures speak for themselves!

(this last one is gorgeous - a retelling of 'Romeo and Juliet' as a love story between a land mass and a water mass. Film idea which never came to fruition!)

SCBWI L.A. conf : Part 3 : BUDDIES

One of the best parts of going to a writing/illustration conference is.... meeting other writers/illustrators! So, here are some I'd like to tell you about:

I arrived at the conference late on the Thursday before the early start Friday morning, so I was so relieved to be greeted by my roomie Jill Kassander, who I had met through the SCBWI forums. Jill had been to the conference 4 times before and so knew the ropes, and was a fantastic roommate, tour guide, carer, advice-giver, and confidante. Thanks Jill!! :-)

It didn't take long before I met the aussie contingent:
The unmissable Chris Cheng who was named SCBWI member of the year!
Then I found the fantastic Western Australia cohort: writer/illustrator Samantha Hughes, and writer Caz Williams. Here is some of Sam's spooky work:

It was fun meeting up with these ladies throughout the conference. Sam and I ended up waiting nervously for our portfolio critiques together, and then sharing a still-jittery tea afterwards to hear the outcome (she got really great feedback too!) And I knew if I wanted to find someone to sit with that I could scan the crowd and find Caz's bright red hair. :)

I also got to meet fellow Melbournian Angela Driver and I also briefly met aussie Kandace Mavrick (no link). HEre's artwork from Angela's up-and-coming-book:

At the illustrator social on the first night, I was introduced to the inimitable Kelly Light, who incidentally has just raised $10,000 through her Ripple blog -- Way To Go Kelly!!

Kelly in turn introduced me to the lovely Angela Matteson/Angelato (whale and boy image below) and Linda Silvestri/Sketched Out (monster image below), and together we formed a terrific trio. We talked, we laughed, we badgered Loren Long. It was such a joy to meet them. So funny because we all knew each other from bloggy land, but didn't know what the others looked like.

Then LAST but not least, I met and had a good chat with Priscilla Burris who just has such an incredible amount of bubbly energy it's amazing! (even after 4 days of organising disorganised illustrators!) As I mentioned before, Priscilla bought my ripple painting for her daughter Laura, who I also had the pleasure of meeting.

WEll I don't think I missed anyone. It certainly is such a pleasure to meet all these amazing artists in person. It's funny when you know someone by their work alone, you think you know them already. But meeting in person and sharing experiences, facial expressions, hugs, it really cements those friendships.

Everything is still sinking in for me -- the inspiration, the career opportunities, these new friendships -- but all I know is I am so happy I went.

So, all I can say to anyone who is considering going to the SCBWI conference.... do it do it do it!!!!

SCBWI L.A. conference wrap up : Part 1 : INSPIRATION

I'm home! Back to winter.... back to work.... back to real life....

but let me delve back into a childrens bookmaker's wonderland for just a moment. oh please...

The SCBWI conference in LA was fantastic on many levels. I'm splitting it into three: Inspiration, business, and personal.

I'll do more of a general wrap up of my time and experience there as opposed to a workshop-by-workshop synopsis, seeing as you can get those in multiple places, not least from Team Blog who was blogging about everything live from the conference!

It was such a thrill to hear people like the ones below speak. (It was also great to hear M.T. Anderson sing a love song to Delaware.) Unfortunately I missed the last keynote Ashley Bryan because I had to leave for the airport.

A few tidbits of advice from the heavyweights:

The stinky cheese man himself
• read every picturebook you can!
• be proactive and determined getting your work out there
• if you have written a pb manuscript, cut it down by half, at least! (too true)

amazing work and wise words
• start one sketch at a time
• work should have that "emotional hit" and tell a story -- think lighting, posture, mood
• what music might be playing during the scene? try to evoke the same feeling with the pictures. (I love this!)
• the characters and book should be your friend

• a great way to build a 'new world' is to base it on your own (eg. Delaware) but then twist it a bit. A place you recognise partially is more powerful than something completely outlandish.
• show children new ways to see

this guy was hilarious!
• Do what the kid in you thinks is 'cool'
• Subtlety isn't lost on kids

E.B. Lewis, artistrator:
amazing inspiring art
• uses models for his characters
• find simplicity in compositions

Overall the main thoughts/feelings I came away with were things I already knew but are always good to have affirmed: do what you do. work hard. get it out there.

WRITING MASTERCLASS: Strong Emotions on the Page
The illustration masterclasses booked out so quickly, but I was able to get into a writing class by Arthur Levine, the VP at Scholastic and owner of his own imprint, Arthur A. Levine Books. It was really fun to put myself into a writing situation. We even had homework! Although the assignments were very interesting (write about a place, then write about it again evoking a totally different emotion), I don't feel like we got through very much in the class because there were 26 of us! Maybe the classes need to be even smaller next time, for more hands-on interactivity.

So I don't know if I'd sign up for a masterclass again, unless it was something I was 150% into. Because it was run for an hour each of the 4 days, that meant 4 other workshops I couldn't go to -- and there was so much to see!!

But Arthur was fantastic - a very patient, insightful, funny, deeply engaged and engaging teacher.

THEN, there was the portfolio show, with about 100 illustrators (including mine) displayed for all to see. So amazing to see everyone's work, perspective, creative presentation, aptitudes, talent, dreams. There was a winner: Molly Idle, whose work is, yes, jaw-droppingly beautiful (below).

The folio extravaganza was squeezed in between a 10 hour day of speakers/workshops and the 'heart & soul' themed dinner/ball, so after about an hour of looking at folios, thinking alternatively 'wow! this is amazing! how inspiring!' and 'wow! this is amazing! what am I doing here?' I took my leave to ready for the partay....

knitted heart 'brooch' my friend made for me to wear at the heart & soul ball

so next post, the business side....

And fun was had by all...

Have been having a fab time with friends in Montreal and family in Boston. Lots of good food, good drink, staying out late (one night with no sleep at all -- my 3 and 5-year-old nieces couldn't quite understand why Auntie-K needed nap time too) and genereal fun and mayhem.

In illustration news, in Montreal I got to meet wonderful illustrators Susan Mitchell (aka Sweet Pea), Paula J Becker, and Suana Verelst. It was great to have a face-to-face with these inspiring ladies, and to see Susan's work space. I was the lucky recipient of one of her lovely felted softy bunnies, and some of her illustrated Xmas cards which I will show you at some point.

I was also put to work in my time in Montreal and did a mural in my friend's soon-to-be baby's room. some photies:

And yesterday we went to the Eric Carle museum which was as much fun for little ones as it was for me! It was great to see some of Carle's original collage work, along with his amazing linoprint work I had fogotten he did.

They had spotlights on artists Leo Lionni and Lisbeth Zwerger - always great to learn about new (to me) illustrators. Zwerger's work was incredibly detailed - some pieces were so small!! one was about 3in x 3in. and she uses some amazing perspective in her work too.
While I was checking out the exhibition the littlies were having fun in the art studio making their own collages or in the library reading from the amazing book collection. fun had by all :-)
Staying in Boston until Thursday when I'll head to LA for the conference.. excited!

Check em out

I'm checking up on some of the speakers who will be at the SCBWI conference. I got into illustration after I left North America, so even though I'm pretty au fait with who's who in australian illustration, I don't know some of the most common names in the US. So I'm doing my research. lookie at these heavyweights:

(he's got a great website)

(can't you just feel that rain?)

Priscilla Burris - website & blog
(who, incidentally, bought my ripple painting, and who I'm looking forward to meeting at the conference. She also did all of the illustrations for this year's conference materials -- sweet!)

(some lovely mexican influences here)

Phew! I think I need a nice cup of tea and a good lie down now...

seminars & websites

Illustrators Australia held seminars this past Saturday about contracts, copyright and pricing from and illustrator's perspective. It was a great day!

I learned a lot about PLR and ELR (Public Lending Rights and Education Lending Rights) which I hope get for the first time with the book I have just completed. Basically, PLR/ELR are payments made to australian authors/illustrators to compensate for books being available to view and photocopy for 'free' in libraries and schools, in theory diminishing sales of the book. You can read more about it here.

I was also finally able to meet the lovely Majory Gardner in person. Marjory and I worked on a similar series of books for Five Mile Press (Brimax) last year, and she also has a brand new sparkly website. Do go have a look - it really is beautiful and her bright work just pops from the page!

some other cool revamped illustrator websites to check out too:

such lovely folio sites - they make me realise mine needs a serious update/revamp too!


I got a lovely little present in the mail yesterday from the lovely Monica. I am the lucky recipient of Monica's first giveaway - a totally cute little puddytat.
Thanks Monica! I will give him a very good home here :)

And speaking of cats, sometimes I find it very hard to work, I'm not sure why...

Goodies and tidbits

Ooh it's been a while since I've posted. My blog was getting lonely. sorry, blog.

I was just finishing up a few bit and pieces of work - a few small textbooks illos, here is part of a rough sketch for one:

These were in B&W which was great timing for me. I'm about to start writing/illustrating the dummy for my book, and it feels good to get back to basics, review the way I work, start from scratch. Nice to work in B&W and think about showing form in light and shade instead of colour.

so until I have something other than 'work' to show you (soon, I hope!) I will show you some lovely goodies I have picked up along the way:

Lovely, sweet, wonderfully loose illustrations Paige! well done.

And I also picked up this little guy from Paul at Trianglenose, affectionately called El Muerto, but dubbed Miguel by me. I love his cheeky little grin. And I also love Paul's funky little striped cat too - too cool!

Plus... have you seen this stop motion animation using photos? or this one using paper cutouts? Both worth a look. The first so fun, the second so crafted, really incredible. Enjoy!

Surprises galore

Life is full of surprises. I haven't been blogging lately because I was off surprising by mother by arriving on her doorstep (from Melbourne, Australia to Portland, OR, USA) for her X0th birthday! (and I know she reads my blog so couldn't give any hint towards the trip here either!)

It was an absolutely wonderful time that I will never forget. And now back in Melbourne, I have come home to a few surprises myself.

First of all, a mail surprise, which is always so much fun! Recently I won a giveaway on flossy-p's blog of her Happy Happy Garden Card Pack. Now, I didn't actually know what this was at the time, but it turns out to be the most beautiful thing: a small series of cards, about half the size of a business card, with illustrations and phrases such as 'You have such a lovely garden' or 'Your tree is so tall'. The idea is to walk around your neighbourhood and 'sprinkle compliments' by giving out these random-act-of-kindness cards. What a great idea don't you think? The problem is, they are so beautiful!! I don't know if I can give them away! oh, it's going to be hard, but I'll try... In the little mail package wrapped in the coolest paper ever (top of picture) was also a bookmark and a flossy-particles tag. This made my day amongst all the junk mail and bills I came back to - thanks flossy!!!

and still more surprises, this one not so good. There are some major revisions to do to the roughs for the 4 book series I am working on. My art was well received, but it seems that the marketing department has decided that elephants are not 'sellable'. Who would have thought? So back to people it is. I see a lot of erasing and redrawing in my future... sigh.....

BUT, this last "surprise" lifts my spirits, as next Saturday Oct 18th is the launch of my book Surprise! at Eltham bookstore. I have seen one advance copy so far (which I have already given away), but next weekend I'll finally get my hands on a stack of em, so 'watch this space' for a giveaway!! And if you are in Melbourne and fancy a drive out of the city, please come along - all are welcome, especially kiddlies...