30 Apr 2012

Picture This!

These are some pictures of my work at 'Picture This!', an exhibition of children's book illustration. It was at Gallery Oldham, near Manchester.
It was lovely to see Fleabag welcoming everyone in.

I was delighted to find my work displayed beside Kazuno Kohara, one of my favourite new illustrators. 

Other exhibitors included Anthony Browne, Shirley Hughes and Katie Viggers. I love Katie's anteater.

27 Apr 2012

25 Apr 2012

Borrowing Doulas and Ellie

Douglas and Ellie are dogs, but don't tell them it could be a shock, I don't think they know. They belong to my friend Vanessa Cabban. Here's a link to her fantastic blog, an inspiration to knitters and illustrators alike. Anyway, Douglas and Ellie are real characters. I like to think of Douglas as the thinker, and Ellie as the doer. Douglas has a very serious face with a long turned down nose, Ellie is fluffy and sprightly and always ready for attention.

Vanessa lent them to me so that I could draw them. They spent lots of time sitting and lying in a pool of sunshine at the bottom of my stairs. 

23 Apr 2012

Gerry's Work at Bologna Exhibition 2012

Gerry's work was selected for The Bologna International Bookfair Illustration Exhibition 2012. He was one of 72 selected from 2700 illustrators worldwide.

We were so excited, he immediately booked his flights and hotel. We have been to The Bologna Bookfair before and it is the most awe inspiring place. Publishers from all over the world meet to sell each other co-editions. There is also an illustrators forum/ conference area, and an exhibition space. It's a wonderful place to see cutting edge illustration, and work from all over the world.

This is Gerry's work. This isn't a great photo actually, you can see these prints better on his website. They are all screenprints done at Edinburgh Printmakers. He was very pleased with how it looked and has already been contacted by a few publishers about working for them. The exhibition tours Japan next, it will be shown at The Itabashi Art Museum in Tokoyo in June.

This is by Violetta Lopiz.

22 Apr 2012

Where My Ideas Come From

Most of my ideas start with a drawing from life in a sketchbook. These drawing were of a dog at Battersea Dogs Home and were the inspiration for 'Fleabag'.

Some ideas start with a desire to do a book about something, then going out with my sketchbook and drawing things that might be useful. Like with 'How To Hide A Lion', I wanted to do a Lion book, so went drawing at Edinburgh zoo. The lions were always out of sight, or too far away to draw, so the title, 'How To Hide a Lion' was quite apt.

'The Big Adventures of the Smalls' started with the title. I didn't know what the book would be, but I knew that was the title. Then I went drawing at The Bowes Museum, not thinking it might be useful to the book. The Bowes Museum has a collection of baroque furniture, huge guilt harps, gold musical nymphs... I drew lots of ordinary people in jeans and anoraks, walking past this hugely ornate gold furniture. The drawings made me laugh, and I knew then that I had to do a book about 2 small ordinary children living in a stately home.

So, all of my books, in one way or another, start with a drawing from life.

20 Apr 2012

Library Mice

Have you seen the blog Library Mice? It's great, a really fascinating place for anyone who loves picture books. They have a spot called Fabulous 5. It is where an author or illustrator chooses his or her top 5 favourite fairy tales, top 5 picture books about monsters, top 5 books they read as child... whatever they fancy talking about.

This was one of Lydia Monk's choices. Snow-White by Josephine Poole and Angela Barrett. I love this book too. There is an interesting interview with Angela Barrett on this link.
Anyway, back to the point, Library Mice have asked me to do my Fabulous 5 and I've said yes, so watch this space, I'll let you know when it is posted. Here's a link to a Top Ten I did for Babyccino Kids last year.

3 Apr 2012

Easter Reads in The Guardian

The Guardian reviewed The Big Adventure of the Smalls yesterday (below).

Helen Stephens works within a tradition – their are traces of Edward Ardizonne and Ludwig Bemelmans in her lovely, confident illustration. Small Hall is a house to rival Downton Abbey in ostentation and conveyed with merry flourishes. It is about two children spying on a grown-up party. Their interventions are glorious, fantastical and acrobatic (especially the moment of hiding under a silver salver, held aloft by oblivious butlers). And their wonderful sleepless spree goes unpunished. A nice antidote to the more plodding picture books that scheme to get children to nod off. (4+)

I love the Downton Abbey reference. The Smalls was actually inspired by The Bowes Museum in Teesdale. The museum is built in the style of a French Chataux and stands in the middle of Teesdale farmland. It houses the collection of John and Josephine Bowes. Josephine was a Parisien actress, and John, a local businessman. Their plan was to bring their collection of art from around the world to the local people, but both died before the museum was completed. I used to visit the museum as a child, and when I came to write The Smalls, I thought a slightly fictionalised version of The Bowes Museum was the perfect backdrop. It is not an exact portrayal of course, I used some artistic license, but you can recognise the beautiful staircase, and some vases and artwork I think. The Smalls has been printed in France by a publisher called Gallimard and it received a favourable review in French Elle which you can see earlier on my blog. I wonder if it is being received so well in France because of the slightly French look of Small Hall. If you ever get chance to visit the Bowes Museum, it is well worth a look.