A Month of Talks

I don’t think I’ve given a talk for a while now. Somehow, November has become my Month Of Talks as I will be doing FIVE in the next few weeks.

Quickly they are:

The Inside Story Event this weekend – Nov 1st 
Come hear the story behind the story of some recent children's books by 12 authors and illustrators

KOALA Kids Books session
I'm pleased to be the Guest Illustrator at these upcoming sessions, working with some wonderful children.
Royal Children’s hospital – Nov 7th
Monash Hospital – Nov 19th  

Books in Homes – Nov 28th 
My first school assembly as a Books In Homes ambassador! BIH is a fantastic organisation providing books to families and children living in remote and low socio-economic circumstances

SCBWI Xmas meeting – Nov 29th
I'll be speaking about the journey of becoming a children's book illustrator, and building a career in publishing.

And on top of it all, I’ll be doing my first ever Artists Market at the Abbotsford Convent Pop Up Shop in November and December.

Phew! I think I’ll be ready for a cup of egg nog and a good rest after that.

To this end, I have added a new “NEWS” section to my website. (Just in case Facebook, Twitter and Instagram weren’t enough) And also you can sign up to a brand spanking new baby Newsletter too! 

Blog hop around the world

I have been tagged by the very talented designer Simi Gauba to participate in the Blog Hop Around The World. You can visit her post here to go back in time through the hops: http://simidesign.blogspot.se/2014/09/artists-around-world-bloghop.html

Simi has been a pattern and product designer for 14 years for many different markets. You can see her products popping up in all sorts of shops and catalogues all over the world!

Here are a few of her amazing designs, which you can buy from her Society6 shop among others.

Part of the blog hop is to answer a few questions about your work and process:

1. Why do I do what I do?

I have always loved drawing and painting, it has just been one of those things that has always been present in my life, and a way of expressing myself in many ways. The fact that it has also turned into my career is a total bonus, as it is something I would be doing anyway. I illustrate children's books because the thought of my illustrations being a gateway to reading for children is just incredible. And getting into pattern and surface design is exciting because it is a chance to focus purely on aesthetic appeal and have a bit of fun!

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

That is a difficult one to answer! Everyone has their own style which is of course unique. For me, I guess a combination of different techniques, from watercolours to collage to hand-carved stamps is probably what sets my work apart from others.

3. How does my creative process work?

Generally I sketch a lot in the beginning which helps me generate ideas. I will choose the best composition and then scan it in and possibly touch it up or refine the composition in Photoshop. If it’s for a client I’ll send it to them at this point for feedback. I’ll then print out a clean version and trace onto watercolour paper and paint away! Just recently for personal pieces I have started creating elements separately and then scanning each of them in and arranging them all in Photoshop in layers, which is a new way of working for me.

4. What am I working on now?

I'm currently working on my 2nd fully illustrated picture book with Scholastic, as well as animating a children's app which is due out later this year. Busy busy, fun fun, happy happy!


The next blogger on the blog hop is another super busy and super talented illustrator Danielle McDonald. Besides being a good friend, Dan and I also took Make Art That Sells course together where I was privileged to see her fun playful style children's book style successfully expand to include surface design as well! Go visit her blog for the next hop around the world!

Here are a few examples of her inspiring work:

SHOP! + Exhibition

I've finally done it - I've jumped onto the retail therapy bandwagon. It's one of those things I've been 'meaning to do' for a while. And luckily a little opportunity courtesy of Illustrators Australia and RedBubble gave me a little boot up the rear end.

So TA DAAAAAAHHH! Please say hello to my brand spanking new RedBubble shop where you may purchase to your heart's content: prints, cards, T-shirts, tote bags, it's all there. There isn't too much on the racks at the moment, but I'll be adding more as I go along, so stay tuned shoppers.

In my RedBubble shop!

The images below are currently available on a variety of products:

Wear Art Thou

The opportunity that made me get my act together is an upcoming exhibition entitled 'Wear Art Thou' which I am very excited to be included in. Opening is this Friday!

Juicy pattern

Just because I didn't have quite enough to do, I decided to sign up for Make it In Design Summer school (or Winter school for me!), which is quite simply a series of prompts for creating new designs and patterns– an area where I really want to improve and increase the number of pieces in my portfolio.

The brief for this first round was 'Tropical' - think pink flamingos, palm trees, swaying fronds. Except my mind went straight to fruity cocktails haha! But I decided to make a virgin edition and kept it to juicy fruit. :)

This was all done with hand-carved stamps, except for the lettering which I drew then digitised in Illustrator. Fun!


I recently completed this hand-lettering job for the Teacher Learning Network who offer Professional Development opportunities for teachers (and I also do their design work) The content theme for this journal was 'Gifted and Talented' and the visual theme was 'Words' so a hand-lettered cover seemed perfect. This was a lot of fun and I hope is well received!

The Portfolio

Well I've put the finishing touches on my folio and I'm ready to rock into the SCBWI conference in Sydney on Sunday.

I put a lot of thought into my folio this year, and I thought I'd give you a run-down for anyone who might be trying to do the same and not knowing where to start!

Which illustrations?

Deciding on the pieces you are going to include is naturally the hardest part. The best piece of advice I have heard about this is: Less is More. And: only put in your strongest pieces. Don't fall for putting something in just because it was published once. That doesn't mean it's your strongest work. It's better to omit weaker pieces than to have a bulging folio filled with mediocre work.

I chose to put in about half published work, half personal work. Often personal work is where our joy, love and passion come out the most anyway.  

Keep it flowing

Once you have made your selections, arranging them in a sequence that flows is paramount. Think of it like laying out a book and you should have no problem!

The Book

Next, it's time to put them all together. Your display book should have a professional look about it. These days I think an A3 size is fairly standard. I also feel that a binder system which lets the pages sit flat is really important. Some of them have a bit in the middle that clasps shut which makes it hard for the folio to sit open, and could even potentially damage the prints. I actually made a dash out this morning to buy a new folio to avoid this problem!

Here is mine:

My new little black book - 'Colby Art' A3 portfolio.

My new little black book - 'Colby Art' A3 portfolio.

And here's how my folio looks:

(I have made notes on each image as to some things to think about so if you're interested make sure you scroll through!)

I hope this gives you some insight into putting together a successful (I hope!) children's book illustrator's portfolio.

I would also suggest looking at these posts from illustrators who have won, yes WON the international SCBWI folio contest:

Juana Martinez-Neal

Molly Idle


Have fun!

Conference countdown...

Well it's T-minus 1 week to the SCBWI conference in Sydney. This time next week I'll be settling into my hotel room ready for the conference to start. This conference takes place every two years and is the only major SCBWI conference in Australia. I have never been before so am very excited to attend!

I'm slowly but surely getting all my goodies ready...

I picked up my updated business cards and new promo postcards recently:

Promo postcard and updated business cards (2-sided) for the conference

Promo postcard and updated business cards (2-sided) for the conference


I'm very happy with how they turned out. I think they are all tying in nicely together, along with my newly redesigned website too. The giraffe is a bit of a mascot for me (as you may have noticed!) and he has always been on my business card. It just so happens that my latest book features a giraffe as well, so she has made in onto my postcard this time.

So this is the baby and toddler... next is... the Mother..... The Portfolio!

How much can one obsess over an inanimate object? A fair bit it turns out.

I decided to squeeze in a new portfolio piece. Since most of my work is sweet, cute and happy, I wanted to do something a bit more moody with some darker emotions. Here is the sketch:

new portfolio piece!

new portfolio piece!

I have just finished it and did another time-lapse of me painting it (woo!) so if I get a chance to edit it together before I go I will post it soon.

Either way I'll be doing another post about this piece and my conference portfolio soon so stay tuned....

Wally the Whale

I missed one Lilla Rogers "Bootcamp" assignment (which I wasn't very excited about anyway) but managed to fit in last month's which was to do some wall art with a nautical theme. I seem to end up doing whales a lot. Whales are good.

I think I'll call him Wally, and he might have to be the first in an animal alphabet series I've always wanted to do...

I went for a stampy effect again, which I coloured in Photoshop, and other stampy and watercoloury background elements. I'm really loving doing this. I also got a copy of Mary Kate McDevitt's Hand-Lettering Ledger and had my first 'real' go at hand-lettering. Really loving this too!

*update* I redid him a bit with some Wally the whale text. 1 down, 25 more to go! ;-)

Here are some other recent whales...

Exhibitions on the go....

I've got some prints in a couple of exhibitions coming up...

These four trees are winging their way across the seas to fair Italia, to be part of an exhibition entitled "L'incanto del creato' in Rieti, Italy. I was very touched to be asked to be part of this international exhibition! The exhibition is to mark the 50th anniversary of a temple of St. Francis of Assisi, and the art is in response to the 'Canticle of the Creatures'.

Unfortunately with my current commitments I didn't have time to make new art. But the Canticle talks of seasons, of suns and moons, earth and fire, of sisters and brothers. It's quite beautiful actually, you can read it here. So I thought these pieces I had prepared earlier fit the bill, and work well together:


And then a bit closer to home I am very excited to be part of the 'Lucky 13' exhibition, being held back at the Hill Of Content bookshop in Melbourne. I feel honoured to once again be featured along so many talented contemporary children's book illustrators.

I'll be putting a framed print of the illustration from my latest book up for sale:


MATS Wrap up

Well the flurry that was Make Art That Sells finished a few weeks ago, and here finally is my wrap-up post.

Overall it was a fantastic experience and just looking from the first assignment I submitted in MATS-partA to the last in Part-B I can see how much I have developed, grown and how my eye has improved, especially for things such as patterns which I had never done before.

First assignment - Fabric market (eek!)

One of the areas I feel I grew the most in is the use of colour, especially neutrals, which was stressed a lot in the courses. I think coming from a children's book background I tend to think 'Everything Must Be Bright'! but of course that is not true. In fact having a few neutral colours and just one or two colours that pop give pieces a certain sophistication which I really like.

Ohn's beautiful work and delicate palette

I feel like I put out much better work in MATS-PartB and once I finally get some time, am ready to dive into trying to get more into licensing! I would love to dive into the Paper market most I think - greeting cards, journal covers, stationery, that sort of thing.

Here are the pieces I put forward:

Week 1 - Paper (greeting cards)

Week 2 - Babyware

Week 3 - Scrapbooking

Week 4 - Editorial
Last assignment - Partyware
And 'Bootcamp' continues, which is MATS relaxed - a monthly schedule instead of weekly. I hope I can keep up with it while working on a new book. We will see... Thanks for following along!

Book Launch & Exhibition Opening!

Well it's been a pretty exciting week for me with the book launch of Mummy You're Special To Me as well as the opening of an exhibition featuring the illustrations from the book.

I think I've probably said enough about these events in various places lately so I won't go on too much about them and just let the photos speak for themselves. I will just say they were both lovely events and I was very happy and touched to have so many friends and lovely people come to both... But especially my good friend Jody Pratt, President of Illustrators Australia, who launched the book for me, and my new friend Leith Walton whose amazing work shared the gallery with mine.

Held Sunday May 4th at the Hill Of Content bookshop in Melbourne
see on Facebook

Opening Friday May 9th, runs until June 8th
Hunt Club Gallery, Deer Park
with Leith Walton (woodwork, metalwork & watercolours) & Emilly Milosevska (papercut)
(see more on Facebook)

I love Leith's octopus in the centre and he had a time lapse video of him doing a watercolour painting, on the right

Emilly's paper cuts were fantastic, she had her pieces in the foyer.

nice to see all of my illustrations together!


Well this is another special Mother's Day for me. Last Mother's Day was my first Mother's Day as a mum, and I was illustrating a book at the time. This year, that book is available, and I am so proud it is out there in the world!

It is such as special book to me as I was working on it during a really lovely time in my little boy's life. I started it when he was 8 months old, so the real difficulties of having a newborn were over, things got a bit easier and more fun. He went through incredible changes in his little life like crawling, turning one, walking and starting to talk! what an amazing time. Truly a time of marvel. I feel like I was able to put a lot of emotion into this book, and it will always remind me of this time in my life.

This is the next to last illustration in the book, and I said to my husband when I finished it that this is my son and I :)

I hope you like it. And as a little treat for following along and reading this post (does anyone read blogs anymore?) here is a bit of downloadable goodness:

mother's day card

colouring-in page

If you are interested in buying the book you can get it here: booktopia or bookworld
(only in Australia, unfortunately. With any luck it will be available in other countries/on Amazon soon....)

So happy mother's day to all the mums out there! I certainly enjoyed my special day :)

One Word One Day

In the middle of all the Make Art That Sells mayhem, I made time to go to the ASA's One Word One Day event, to benefit the indigenous literacy foundation. This is the third year they have run this event and the first time I've been able to make it, so I was determined to go.

Basically illustrators get together for a few hours and illustrate a word. This year was 'Pounce'. You can make as many images as you like, in any medium you like, and there is a plethora of beautiful art supplies supplied by Zart.

For me, it was a time to see some friends, have a bit of fun, and play with some new materials. I think when you are constantly producing art for deadlines, it is difficult to give yourself the time to just play and be free and not worry too much about the outcome.

I was sitting next to Ann James from Books Illustrated who has a very lovely loose way of working and I think this was influencing all of us at the table. I played around with some 'Magiclay' which is like mouldable paper which then dries and you can paint it, plus some collage, feathers, leaves, buttons, watercolours, oil pastels, charcoal, fingerprinting and even mud!

I didnt know where I was going with this when I started, and that was part of the fun. Here's the craziness I ended up with :

Make Art That Sells : Editorial

I'm running a bit behind in my blog posting, so here's a little catch up!

MATS continues and this week it was looking at Editorial Illustration, mostly work for magazines. I have done some editorial work in the past and have to say it isn't my forté. I am not one of those illustrators who comes up with the clever concepts to illustrate difficult topics. But over the course of the week Lilla showed us a lot of her personal work from her many years as an illustrator, and i realised that there is a lot more to editorial than illustrating a headline. (or there was anyway, I'm not sure how healthy the editorial market still is for illustration these days...)

Anyway, I was sort of dreading having to illustrate an article, but was very happy to find our assignment was to illustrate a map!! which I love doing. We were supposed to do a map of our current city/town, but because I already did one of Melbourne for They Draw and Travel (click here to see) I decided to illustrate Montreal instead, my birthplace, and first love :)

I first did a bit of a sketch to figure out which elements I would be including (and also canvassed my Facebook Montreal friends for suggestions, which was very fun and interesting!) I find I can get a bit too detailed with doing maps. I love it, but I'd also like to try doing something a bit freer and more abstract. anyway, here's the sketch.

then I did the background in watercolours.

and added lots of little icons in a few styles:



and stampy...

 and then the lettering.

I put it all together in Photoshop and voila mes amis!

Next week is the last week of the Make Art that Sells class, which is sort of hard to believe! We are focusing on the party paper market (paper plates, cups, wrapping paper, etc)

Make Art That Sells: Scrapbooking

So this 3rd week in the online illustration course I'm doing 'Make Art That Sells' focussed on the Scrapbooking market. I can't say I was terribly excited about this market - even though I often use scrapbooking papers as collage in my work - but in the end I really enjoyed the process of creating this piece and it was one of my better received in the MATS community! So there you go. Open minds, people, open minds...

Our 'mini' assignment this week was to sketch ink bottles, vintage ones to be specific. This was fun. I actually went straight to carving some stamps. I've really enjoyed doing this for previous assignments, love the texture they create and am loving improving my skills with practice. So here is what I did for the 'mini':

Then we got the main assignment which was to create a design for a scrapbooking paper using the theme of 'correspondence', again with a vintage slant. I think the stamps really helped me with that look.

Thinking about how this piece would sit in my portfolio, I decided I wanted to do something that was more of a pattern which could be used in many different markets, as opposed to something suited only to scrapbooking, which might have text like 'my memories' or 'that summer' etc etc.

I went for a 'love letter' correspondence vibe, and when you think looooove, what else do you think but Paris?! So some French crept in there too. I did some more hand-carved stamps, ink work, fun splatters, and some hand-lettering:


I even managed to use a pressed flower I did in university!!

plus a photo I took of the Eiffel tower when I was there a few (ok many) years ago. Here's how it turned out...

As I said, really happy with this one. I even managed to finish early so that I could have the weekend doing easter egg hunts and gardening in the Autumn sunshine. perfect end to the week :)

Next week: Editorial.