Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Adios, November... you will be missed...

Cripes, it's been a wee while again. My internal clock tells me it's 10am two thursdays ago. I'm not going to be happy to see November go, I can tell you. I shall be clinging on to it's fluffy woollen coat tails and mittens (strung on elastic, naturally), yelling, 'COME BACK! I feel like I didn't even get the chance to know you!'

On the plus side, I'm quite justified in thinking about Christmas now. We've reached that Christmas Danger Zone; the one when it first appears a nice, healthy, 'look-forward-to-able' distance away, then you blink and suddenly it's there, slapping you upside the head. I've noticed the odd Christmas song has sidled nonchalently past my lips, disguising itself as an advertising ditty (and let's face it, these days, they are pretty much one and the same...) The pitch of my yowling (yuleling, indeed) gradually increases in hysteria as the days until my deadline shrink away.

I think it worth noting, for the me of a few months ago's sake, that publishing deadlines are not to be considered too lightly. What I mean by this is, although my final deadline isn't until February, I failed to take into account the interim deadlines that would allow the hand-in in February to take place. For example, there is the minor matter of the biggest office holiday of the year right slap bang in the middle of my work time. From now on, I will consider any picture book deadline to be a full month before it actually is. I'm fairly certain that I'll finish in time, but I like the idea of having that last few weeks for feeling smug... or redoing the whole thing!

So, what's news? Well, firstly, I got my proofs back. It wasn't the Edvard Munch, finger-through-nearest-eye socket, horrific experience I'd prepared myself for. My art director, Claire, did sophisticated, understatedly chic stuff with the type and the paper made it all look snazzy. I think the main help of this interim proofing process was it allowed me to think of the project as a book for the first time. Previously, as much as I THOUGHT I was thinking of it as a book, I wasn't actually really even thinking of it as a sequence of images. I think this is quite a common problem for art graduates, going into publishing. It's easy to concentrate on getting one image right, only to forget you've got another 6 gazillion to do. Certainly, it is a common complaint from publishers, that an artist cannot carry off an entire book. Anyway, it was quite a revelation to finally get my head around what it might look like on the shelves.

Secondly, I got a chance to go to my first publishing party. I've been asked to work for Egmont a couple of times. Once on my own project and once on a fiction project. Sadly, due to timing of prior work engagements, neither actually happened, so I was really chuffed and surprised to be invited to their Christmas do. I did feel slightly like an imposter, having to explain to everyone I met that I wasn't actually currently working for them, but everyone was so lovely it didn't seem to matter- I was accepted with open arms and a vol-au-von or twelve.

The gig was held at the London Transport Museum and I have to confess it made for a very surreal night. I'm sure you can imagine the scene, but let me waffle on anyway. The thing about the London Transport Museum is it's filled with... London transport, right in the centre of London which is filled with... London transport. Effectively, the museum is like some sort of Escher/fractal-esque situation. It even has commuters... stuffed for realism! So, in the middle of this heavy traffic jam, traffic lights flashing and buses set ready to collide, there was this huddle of folk in posh frocks, eating truffles on sticks. Very odd indeed. Incredibly enjoyable, nonetheless. I have found that different publishers have different 'feels' to them. The Egmontians seem to have a very 'family' sort of a feel, which is very welcoming.

I got to meet the amazing Shirley Hughes aswell. She's the closest I think I'll ever come to meeting a real-life Agatha Christie character. I can quite imagine her deftly solving the odd, cosy, fireside murder in between drawing kids.

One of the best bits of the night though, was catching up with fellow illustrators, Lynne Chapman and Ellie Sandall. Lynne, I met for the first time just recently, but already feel I've known for years and Ellie was a course mate at Anglia... and quite the star of the night. Her book, 'Birdsong' went down a storm at Frankfurt. As with publishing in general, it's ridiculous for me to tell you to watch out for it when it comes out, as that won't be until 2010, but in a year or so when she's famous, I'll say, 'I told you so!'

My trip to London was topped off nicely by a sighting of local hero, Simon Pegg, walking his pooch, 10 mins away from my house. What a man! What a dog! I thought briefly about kidnapping him and taking him home to live in my cupboard. I know I'm home when I catch a glimpse of the great Mr Pegg.

Other than that, I'd like to put out a book recommedation. I feel this book deserves to be talked about, but I'd never heard of it before a random pick at the library.

I, Nigel Dorking- by Mary-Anne Fahey
I can't recommend this book highly enough. I haven't read a book for this age group in ages that I've enjoyed as much. It's got that perfect blend of painful and laugh out loud honesty and observation. About a young lad coming to terms with his parents break up and life around him... but far more subtle than that!

Right, I had better go get on with making my Christmas card. I thought I was doing well, but I have been told that the child I drew looks like it might just eat other children... not an appealing character trait in children's publishing, cannabalism... Hence, I may go back to re-work an old image... I shall attempt to post my efforts tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Picture Book BBC4 9pm

Just a quickie to remind you all to watch it tonight.

Now, I must go and decide whether the green, furry thing in the bathroom should be kept... I KNOW it's mould, but it's quite cute really....

Monday, November 10, 2008

Jack of no trades

It's a strange and painful revelation that there are people who outstrip my meagre creative output miles and miles over... even before they've had their morning wheet-o's or done their daily ablusions (sp?). Obviously in illustration but in so many areas PLUS illustration.

I am head expodingly, mind-bogglingly, thumb-twiddlingly flummoxed about how to feel towards those people that not only illustrate more profusely and better than me, but also make their own jumpers... out of handspun wool, grow their own vegetables, have four children AND keep pigs! Good grief!!! What time do these people get up at?!

It is not that I don't get certain urges... Gosh, I fancy making a papier mache mask, painting glass and learning to crochet table mats today... but I 'somewhat' lack in focus. And the simple result is that in a Robinson Crusoe-like situation, I'd be as useful as deodrant to a sewer rat.

So, I have come up with a cunning plan to prove my worth to all of humanity. I wish to share my new found exploits with you in a one-time only opportunity (cos, darnit, this creativity stuff is just too blimmin' tiring...) I have decided to INVENT something. Something which will be my offering to the world after I've gone.

Here it is; my remedy to the rising prices of gas and electricity in the home. I call it 'The Hot Botty Pappousse' (patent-pending)

If you look closely, you might be able to see the rubbings out where I've perfected my design... I'd like to thank my mum and dad for allowing me to dream big. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

temporary proofed

I want to say hi to two new 'followers'- that term is just a wee bit sinister isn't it? I promise I haven't contaminated either of them in any way! Alex T and Eric Orchard, I'm really excited to have you both aboard, you ridiculously, ridiculously talented individuals! (See my 'Illustration Site' links to view their work). I also want to put a plea out to everyone else to put the 'follower' gadget on your blog. It does sound a tad cult-like, but it makes it much easier for us to get back to your blog once we've found and enjoyed it the first time.

Well, I'm happy to report that things have been a trifle more Cass-friendly this week. I got three pieces out to be 'temporary proofed' (at least I think that's what it's called. For some reason, publisher's always seem to call when you're in the middle of chomping on an apple the size of Brazil.... and then you spend the whole phonecall trying to strategically swallow. Or, when you've just dashed out of the shower and have to 'aha!' in all the right places, whilst your dripping hair attempts to electrocute you and your towel slips around your ankles... and it's only then you realise you forgot to close the blinds the night before...!) Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, the good people at Hodder have sent my work to the printer so that I can see what it'll look like when it's all jazzed up. I think my art director thinks I need (and it'll give me) confidence... I can't think why she'd think that, can you???? I really hope she's right and that it doesn't just throw some sort of prison break-esque spotlight onto all of my bloopers... (not that there *ahem* ARE any mistakes, of course...)

Is it just me, or have an insane amount of brackets crept into this post? It's worse than Homebase in here and just like the the worst kind of DIY-ers, I haven't the faintest idea how to use them...
Other than that, I hope everyone watched Picture Book on Wednesday on BBC4? Part 1 of 3 is available to watch here. The programme was really enjoyable and very well put together, though I would perhaps have liked it to be a bit more indepth. It is a surprisingly big area to cover in 1 hour slots though and possibly they'll dig deeper now they've covered the history of picture books. However, it is well worth celebrating that the medium is finally being offered this sort of recognition.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Splishy Splashy

I'm going to avoid waiting until I finish work before I post it. I have a sneaky suspicion old age might set in otherwise.
So, here's a piece I started a couple of days ago, based on the theme, 'Things I Like'. If I can get it together in time, it'll be entered into a competition. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Book Worm

The rather fabtastic Louise Arnold, author of 'The Invisible Friend' (which you should really all read- if you haven't already) did a wonderful blog post on her life in books, itemising each book that had made a difference to her and writing about why.

Go to her myspace page and read her blog here- Oi! Not yet! Stay right here and read mine first!
Anyway, I thought it was such a great idea that I'd do my own (I'm also loving the excuse for another one of my lists too- some sort of psychological throwback from writing letters to Father Christmas, I think....

Trouble for Trumpets - Peter Cross

My Dad bought this book for me when I was two and, looking at Cross's lavish images, I knew from then on I wanted to 'do that-' Okay, okay! There was a five-minute madness when I wanted to become a fashion designer... and a barely mentionable insanity when I wanted to go into advertising... but for the most part, I remained faithful to my fantasy to create fictional worlds, just like the great Peter Cross. Looking at this book again and again, still has that effect on me.

Faeries - Brian Froud

This book met me when I was in my early teens. It had a diary-like/sketchbooky format that so appeals to that age and it had the most beautiful artwork, worth keeping secret. This was the book that introduced me to a new love; Dadada-DAHHHHHH! Introducing..... THE PENCIL! It was one of the first books I'd seen that contained black and white drawings and I fell totally and utterly for the purity of these pictures. There were colour plates too, but I wasn't nearly so interested in these. I've had a deep and ongoing 'love affair' with my pencil ever since.

The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster

I remember listening to this on audiotape, sat on a sunny floor and eating tutti-frutti's. This was one of the first audio tapes I ever listened to and one of the most perfect memories I have. There were the Famous Five and Narnia, of course, but this is the first one I remember listening to for the sake of it, with nothing else in the world I needed to do.

Oddly, I'd just discovered how grown up 'being bored' made you feel. It's a strange thing, as people almost never actually feel bored as adults, do they? There you have it though- and this book was all about (and completely was) the antidote to boredom.

I re-read Phantom Tollbooth recently and it's just as good without the tutti-frutti's.

I'm going to continue adding to this list as I think of necessary additions.