MATS: main assignment Week 4 - Wall Art

This week's assignment for Wall Art was to create a piece of abstract art!! yikes! I'm not sure if I've ever done any pieces of abstract art before.

We were given lots of images for inspiration, and asked which one resonated the most with us. I really loved this one by Jill Ricci, so decided to use it as a starting point for my painting.

I first collected some interesting patterns from my collage paper library....

and got working....

part of the brief was to work with a restricted colour palette. Mine was Blue and Red, so this is what I came up with...

I carved some more stamps to use! I'm having so much fun with custom stamps.

and here's where I got too into making the piece and forgot to take photos! I stamped and painted in acrylics on top of the collage, did some paint splattering, and then added some 'bling' - some turquoise sequins I had picked up at the art supply store earlier.

part of the brief was to include floral elements (tick) and also some text. So I did some more hand lettering, and added it in digitally.

and here's the final piece!

I am very happing with this painting. In fact I think i am happiest with this piece out of all of them from the course. I'm not sure I would want to delve more into this market necessarily, but it was definitely fun to create, so who knows.

Next week is the last week of the course! Hard to believe. I'm actually excited for it to be over and have a bit of time to reflect on everything we've learned, and also to have a chance to catch up because I've been struggling to keep up with all the info each week. so stay tuned!

Next Week: Gift market
Click here to see last week's main assignment in Children's Books

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!

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. 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....

chirp, chirp

the crickets are chirping because there hasn't been much happening on this blog lately. sorry about that, but let me assure you, there has been a flurry of behind-the-scenes activity!

I've painted my hallway (but still want to do a mural), have illustrated 1.5 out of 4 books, witnessed history (go Obama!), had a birthday, got some good books (see below) and have been watching the tennis as much as possible (in person last night, but in breaks from painting today)

So no illustrations to show you at the moment, but here are some books I would like to share. I finally got around to getting some of my buddies' books, and they are all so amazing in different ways:

firstly the fabulously illustrated and beautifully produced Haunted Ghoul Bus by Jannie Ho aka chickengirl. So much humour, so much colour, so much WORK! Way to go Jannie!

then, the incredibly soft and beautiful I Love You All Year Round, the debut book from Alicia Padron - and a pop-up book no less! So sweet and heartwarming, in words and pictures. Gorgeous, Alicia :)

and then a novel called Couch from an old (okay, not that old) college friend Benjamin Parzybok. It's sort of a modern day Lord of the Rings type quest where 3 guys deliver a magical couch back to ... somewhere, I haven't gotten that far yet, but I think I will soon as I am devouring it. Well done Ben!

Then for my birthday I got this book which is next on my list to devour: Noa Noa - The Tahiti journal of Paul Gauguin. it is filled with actual excerpts of his journal with sketches and original penned diary entries in French. i know I'm going to love it!

and i must apologize to anyone who has left a comment or sent an email recently who i haven't responded to. i've been working hard on my books but will get back into blogosphere soon ... Hope you are all well and happily busy out there in bloggy land!

Stuck in February 2008

This year, Illustrators Australia made a fantastic calendar with members' illustrations to send out to clients for promotion. For the last few months I have had it permanently turned to February, because it is an illustration by one of my new favourite illustrators, Anna Walker, from a book of hers coming out next year, The Miggy Tree:

I have pre-ordered the book for its release, and as a little end of year splurge, I have decided to buy for myself a limited edition print from the book which I think is just gorgeous:
I also recently picked up some fun yuletideness from Anna.

But no, I'm not obsessed or anything.


I recently got the above book of lullabies featuring illustrations by some wonderful australian illustrators. It includes a piece by one of my favourite aussie illustrators, Alison Lester, (below, cropped as it wouldn't fit in my scanner) which was the inspiration for my last IF post, Late.

There were plenty others, like Stephen Michael King: (for you, Monica!)

and especially this one that caught my eye, by Tamsin Ainslie. I was really struck by her use of collage and her sweet characters. I was sure I had seen her work before, and sure enough, I had! - through Illustration Friday, Illustrators Australia, and her various work around Melbourne. I have added her blog to my blog list - go check out this talented artist!

Also, as an added bonus, here is a card I picked up for a little friend of mine, isn't it gorgeous? The artist is Gemma Hardy (sorry, couldn't find a good link for her)

I-F: Island

Hopefully this guy is heading towards an island or some other solid ground! This is an illustration for the cover of the latest Teachers Learning Network journal, which I design and sometimes do illustrations for. The title is Riding the Waves of Innovation. The inspiration for this is pretty obviously Hakusai, and was a lot of fun to add collage to.

I have some good news to tell about my last book Surprise! once i get a moment, and am happy to report that I am almost finished the roughs for my book series - hurrah!

Me & Shaun Tan

Well I don't think I can put me in the category with Shaun Tan except to say that we both had book launches in the past week. I have to say Shaun's was a bit more exciting!

The book launch of mine was for Short which I posted about here, published by Black Dog Books. I had one little illo in it, but it was cool to go along and meet the editor, and Mary Ann (the co-owner) again. I had showed her my folio ages ago, and she encouraged me to keep submitting samples as it really is a 'timing thing' - so that was good. Lili Wilkinson was the editor and she made a very humorous speech where everything was 'short' - "I hope you don't feel short changed, that Short stays on your short list", etc. I signed quite a few books and almost felt famous!

At the Short launch I ran into a good friend of mine who is involved with a certain book publisher who publishes a certain Shaun Tan and she told me about the book launch on Friday. Lucky or I would have missed it!

Shaun's new book is Tales from Outer Suburbia, a set of 15 stories (you can see a sneak peak here) If you don't know Shaun Tan's work you MUST check him out. He is totally out of this world, literally. He is an Aussie illustrator, and wins awards for almost every book he does - it's pretty obvious why, because not only are his ideas so original and often very heartwarming, but his execution of painting/drawing/collaging is simply first rate! There is so much detail and texture in his work, that's what I love the most besides the fact that it's technically amazing, you could just stare at one illustration forever looking at all the little details.

I also bought his previous book The Arrival which I had been drooling over for quite a while but hadn't made the "investment" yet. I thought it about time when I could get it signed! It is a wordless book about immigration and again, indescribably amazing. He said it took him 3-4 years to finish. good work takes time, obviously.

The night was a mini who's who of Australian illustration. The book was officially launched by Ron Brooks, and I also saw Lorette Broekstra (who I took a children's book illustration class from a few years ago) and met Craig Smith. Yikes! The heavyweights! (what was I doing there?)

So I think tonight I will settle into bed early and get stuck into some amazing picture books...

SCBWI New York catch up

Well I'm back from the big apple. I had hoped to do a big write-up/sketch-up of the conference but very punctually lost my notebook on the last day! But thankfully, Leeza has pretty much covered everything, and she even did it live - yes, direct blogging from the conference, so go check it out!

So instead I'll just write some general thoughts, which is probably better anyway.

I think the best thing about the whole weekend was meeting fantastic illustrators, some of whom I knew already from bloggy land, namely Courtney, Jannie (aka chickengirl), the aforementioned Leeza, Jennifer E. Morris, and Monica.
And it was an absolute and total pleasure to meet and spend most of the weekend with the wonderful Alicia Padron. It was one of those meetings that you just know will feed a friendship for years to come. :-) I feel very lucky (and slightly unworthy!) to be rubbing shoulders with these great gals, so thanks for a wonderful weekend ladies! I hope we meet again soon. LA conference 2009, perhaps??

And the other best thing was hearing totally inspirational out-of-this-world speakers. I realised that having only started illustration after moving to Australia, I don't know many contemporary american illustrators... so it was a treat to discover, most of all, David Wiesner. His specialty is the wordless picturebook, and when you see his illustrations you can understand why. Not only is his art absolutely incredible, but his concepts are completely original and just so creative. He showed his entire process from initial thumbnail sketches through to polished finished art. He'd also show things like how he went through a dozen different cover ideas for Flotsam before arriving at 'the one'. His way of working reminds me a bit of Shaun Tan, who has also just come out with a wordless picture book. I bet they'd love being stuck on a deserted island together.

If it's one piece of advice I take away, from hearing panels discuss the market trends to what publishers are looking for in an illustrator, it's that they want to hear what YOU have to say, in YOUR way. they look for illustrations of QUALITY. a book of quality will sell itself.

Here are some other highlights of the SCBWI conference for me:
-Seeing fellow illustrator's inspiring folios, in a big circle of about a dozen in the hallway of the Hilton (until they kicked us out)
-Walking from the conference down to Times Square for a coffee on a break
-Hearing speakers Nikki Grimes (poet) Carolyn Mackler (YA writer) and Susan Patron (fiction writer) speak - realising that they speak like what they write.
- laughing at Harry Bliss's dry wit as he non-chalantly flips through all his new yorker cover art.
- yummy food (especially cheesecake) at the Saturday brunch
- picking up some great books: Wiesner's Flotsam and FINALLY Writing with Pictures by Uri Shulevitz, which every aspiring book illustrator must have. One other thing I learned from the conference is that all good work takes time. You can't expect to create a masterpiece in an afternoon - even David Wiesner had to go through a dozen cover illos to find the right one! it's okay if you don't get it right the first time, you just have to keep going... so I figure I know I want to write/illustrate a book someday, even though I don't feel ready for it yet. But i'd might as well start thinking about it.... so I got Uri's book and it's great - I'm halfway through it already!

These were all the great things about the conference. In other ways, I must say I was disappointed. I found that overall, everything was focussed more on writers than illustrators, and geared towards more established illustrators at that. Not much time was spent on how to break into the market, which is where most people were coming from, from what I could tell. I was told that the LA conference in August is much more workshoppy and hands-on that way, so I think I might shoot for that next time (which is actually easier for me to get to anyway!)

That said, I can't even imagine how much work it was to put together something like that with registration, 3 days of speakers, 1000 people attending, food for everyone, etc. so well done to all the organisers! - thank you, thank you, thank you.

Some of the girls have been saying they've got the post-conference blues. I think I got them WHILE I was there. Our little evening of casual folio viewing sent me into a headspin because the quality of everyone's work was so high - the self-doubt, "what am I doing here" thoughts started skulking into the corners. Luckily, my best buddy from Montreal arrived that night so a quick margarita fixed that!

But back home now I must admit I am feeling better. I know I still have a long way to go but I am excited to work hard and take baby steps down my path. It's the journey that matters after all, and what a fun one it is. You just can't let the fear grip you you know? you just have to keep going at it. When the 11th cover idea doesn't work, just try the 12th.

Since I don't have any of my sketches from the conference, I'll leave you with what I drew on the front of my portfolio, which i think is apt:

I-F: Stitch

acrylic on paper with some collage, ink, coloured pencil, photoshopping

I've been sick the last few days. (poor me) sometimes colds seem worse in the summer. This one seems to be dissipating quickly though so hopefully it keeps going that way.

I slept pretty much all day yesterday, under a quilt which my friend made for me as a wedding present. Isn't it beautiful? I think it was the most amazing present we got. It's obviously my inspiration for this week's IF.

And I just wanted to thank everyone who commented on my last post, and helped me with my colour crisis - BRIGHT definitely took the cake!

Since then I got a book on colour theory which I have been reading in my sickie-half-awakeness, and I think i am soaking it in by osmosis (ie. falling asleep on top of the book!)

all the best for a creative week everyone xx

new blogsters

I've added two wonderful illustrators to my blog list - both happen to be from South America! (my blog needed a bit more latin spice anyway)

go check out
Alicia Padron (sorry Alicia I don't have the "o with accent" character for your last name!)
beautiful soft watercolours with such warm colours and characters - even when playing in the snow!

and Valeria at La Casuni with her cute little funky illos. i love them!

IA's Festival of Illustration

This past weekend was Illustrators Australia's inaugural Festival of Illustration. Hopefully it will become a yearly thing because it was hugely successful. Not only was there the 9x5 exhibition on Thursday night which was great for rubbing shoulders with other illustrators and members of industry and seeing great art, but then the weekend was filled with seminars and talks from interesting and talented people. I was happy to be able to help out with some of the organisation for the weekend, and below is a lil wrap up:

9x5 - some great work auctioned off and some still for sale! Check here if you want to pick up some original art at the bargain price of $195 (australian bidders only). I would have to say without a doubt that this one by Michelle Katsouranis was my fave:

2 days of talks by some damn fine people

first was Bill Wood who talked about his website and how he set it up to mostly target US markets. Interesting, but not very relevant for me personally I guess - he works in a very commercial world.

then it was Mark Wood who was a very dynamic and funny speaker, on all the legal stuff illustrators should know - mostly copyright and our rights. made me realise i should probably have better contracts in place for some of the stuff I do.

Next was Andrea Innocent of Otoshimono who was fantastic. She lived in japan for a while and has carried over a lot of that japanese aesthetic into her art, which of course I love. She also talked about how all her marketing has been online and she has gotten great jobs through doing collaborative projects like Mail Me Art or joining online communities like Illustration Mundo. Very comforting to know that you don't have to spend oodles on promotional postcards and folios (they just end up in the Art Director's heap anyway) - and that if you do something unique, and you put it out there, it's just a matter of time before it's discovered. one of Andrea's pieces:

Phil Small from Watermark talked about the brilliant artists' collective they have and how illustration is more respected and "everywhere" in NZ (and everywhere but Australia, apparently!)

And lastly but not leastly was Nigel Buchanan, a stalwart of Australian illustration. All he did was show and talk about his artwork of the last 30 years, and that was enough. amazing work, go check it out.

Today (sunday) I missed the first two speakers, Dean Gorissen and Beck Wheeler, who both have incredible work in their own way. Dean is quite commercial but incredibly refined and detailed, and Beck's work is innovative and quirky. I bought her children's book (below) which is just so fun.

Next was Barbara Kitallides from Pearl Creative, one of two illustrators' agencies in Melbourne. Interesting to hear her talk about what she looks for in a folio - more of a distinctive style than a diversity of styles, so that clients won't be 'surprised' at the outcome.

Then was an accountant talking about how to please the taxman but still have money for paint and brushes at the end of the day. never simple...

Lastly was a panel of people discussing the state of illustration in Australia, led by heavyweight australian illustrator Ned Culic. again the overarching theme seemed to be that you needed to have your own distinctive style, and once that is defined and unique, that becomes desirable, and I suppose, ultimately, successful.

So the whole weekend was extremely inspiring but at the same time has sent me into a total headspin and identity crisis about my own work. I feel like I need to enter into another stage of experimentation, as i did 2 years ago when I started this blog. (actually, Novemeber 8th is my blogaversary, perhaps I'll have to give it a cake.) Anyway, I think I reached a good point then with my style and have ridden that for a little while now, but I feel like it's time to take it to the next level.

so. deep breath. chin up. plunge.

Pixar: 20 years of animation

We went to see the Pixar exhibition today at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) - the last day - phew! It was mostly about the preliminary stages of creating their films, so more about the character development and general look and feel than the computer side of things. So very inspiring naturally. such talented people they are. the way they can visualise an object/person from any angle, get across a certain feeling with minimal lines or make an incredibly detailed painting. I think above all Pixar is great at creating (or emulating and romanticizing) worlds. They make underwater so magical or an ant's perspective beautiful.

it makes me realize that my work could really have so much more dimension - i really need to work on lighting and perspective to give them more feeling. Naturally there is always something to work on! I guess seeing an exhibition like that helps you look at your own work with a bit more perspective...