31 Jul 2012

A typical morning in our house...

I did these very quick sketches after very little sleep, a few weeks ago. They keep making me smile.

30 Jul 2012

Advice for Writers and Illustrators

I'm afraid I can't accept manuscripts or illustrations for advice, as I have started to receive too many, and much as I love seeing them, I spend more time emailing than actually working! I hope you understand.

But here is some, hopefully, helpful advice for would be writers and illustrators:

I used to teach on the MA in illustrating for Children at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. It is a wonderful course, and Professor Martin Salisbury, who is the course leader, has written a few books about illustrating for children. One of my favourites is 'Illustrating Children's Books'. It is a treasure trove of useful and enjoyable advice for anyone interested in writing and illustrating for children. It explains everything, from where ideas come from, to how to get published. It's worth it's weight in gold!

My friend Juliet Claire Bell writes a wonderful blog all about the life of a writer, and the process of making a book and getting published. It is a great blog, very funny, and full of good advice. She wrote a piece called, 'Increasing the Chance of your Picture Book being Published', and another one called, 'How *Not* to Write a Rhyming Picture Book'. Both very honest and funny, and full of valuable advice. She will even read your manuscript and give you some advice for a small fee.

'Words and Pictures' by Quentin Blake is a brilliant book, one of my all time favourites. It's not a guide to writing and illustrating, but it gives a brilliant insight into the creative process and should get any would be writers or illustrators going. Sadly it's out of print, but maybe you could get it second hand, or borrow it from your local library? I've looked at my copy so many times, it is falling apart!

A trip to Seven Stories is a good idea. This is how they describe themselves:
'Britain's national gallery and archive that celebrates the wonderful world of children's books.'
They have fantastic exhibitions for adults and children, often displaying original manuscripts and artwork and letters between publishers and authors and illustrators. It gives an wonderful insight into the world of children's books. Well worth a visit! I feel renewed with excitement and inspiration every time I go.

Hope this helps, and good luck!

16 Jul 2012

My love for Sempé

One of my favourite illustrators is the great French illustrator, Jean Jacques Sempé. This passion for his work came quite late for me, when I was at art school I pretty much ignored Sempé. I always preferred reportage drawing, and the scratchy lines of people like John Piper or John Burningham. 

But about 8 years ago my partner, who was the children's book buyer in a bookshop at the time, came home very excited. He had just placed an order for the newly republished 'Le Petit Nicholas'. He had loved reading the 'Nicholas' series when he was a child and the illustrations had been etched in his mind forever, but he could never find a copy. They had been long out of print. A few weeks later the books arrived in his shop, and he brought one home. That was it, I was hooked. We bought every book by Sempé that we could find.

A couple of years after that we were lucky enough to see Sempé being interviewed by Quentin Blake at The French Institute in South Kensington. We took along our collection to be signed, and he did some little drawings too. I also took my much loved, 30yr old copy of 'Sixes and Sevens' for Quentin Blake to sign. He was amazed to see my rather dog-eared copy, I was amazed to see the great QB in the flesh. 

Anyway, back to Sempé  This picture from The New Yorker is one of my favourites, I've had a little postcard of this image up beside my desk for years. I like how the limited colour palette and the use of white space draws your eye to the skipping girl. It is just so clever. 

I love the emotional pull of his work. He can be very funny, and sometimes touching, wise or sad. And his use of scale, small things beside huge things to exaggerate the smallness of the small. He said,

“I think that I often draw little people that are a little lost, because everything is very big. The universe is very large; the houses are tall.”

1 Jul 2012

Seven Stories

This Saturday I visited Seven Stories to do a reading of The Big Adventure of the Smalls. After my reading I drew for the children and asked them to guess what I am drawing, and much to everyone's amusement, I was heckled by my 4yr old daughter at the back who was shouting out 'Fleabag', 'Lion' before I even put pen to paper! Very funny...

After the event we looked around the exhibitions and dressed as the mouse and the fox from the Gruffalo.