Friday, February 27, 2009

Life drawing

I thought I'd be bold and try doing a 'Lynne' on the train today. By now, I'm sure you're all familiar with the pretty smokin' lifedrawings that Lynne Chapman seems to sneeze out on an almost daily basis.

I, on the other hand, have been a very naughty girl and haven't really done any life-drawing since the first year of my MA. I mean, I have occasionally been known to doodle on trains. However, for some reason I always seem to be sat so that I face the winning composition of the back of a chair, an unattached hair tuft and a rogue ear lobe... not interesting viewing, no matter how large the ears or how hairy the hair.

Either that, or I'm sat nose-to-nose with my muse. Quite frankly, that's just not the way to get to know someone.

Anyway, today I was lucky. First off, a rather attractive, but more importantly (ever so slightly more importantly!) nearly stationary bloke. I love drawing action, but it has to be big actions to be fun. E.g. someone playing tennis or dancing. Someone consistently alternating between one elbow and another, interspersed with periods of nose-picking is just annoying... and grim....

On the way back, I had a range of backs of heads to choose from. This, in itself, might have made a nice study but I couldn't get a good angle on it. Eventually, I was engaged in a conversation about 'The Specials' and 'James Brown' with some merry Liverpudlians and gave up on the drawing altogether.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Character Studies and the Cass Oscars...

I thought I'd begin to post some of the preparatory work I did for 'Lively Elizabeth' so you can see how I've been working.

There are an awful lot of little characters to keep a hold of in this book, so I'm afraid several forests were felled in my efforts to get to know them. I have literally piles of these studies. I know I shall have to ditch a lot of them. My work, as we speak, is stealthily creeping out of my studio and is edging its' way to towards total house domination... It's quite the dictator, I can tell you. Fears that I may one day lose the dog amongst hoards of tiny, 2-D children are well-founded.

I have never tried to sell work before, but I may be driven to attempting to give it a whirl this spring. I've no idea even how to go about selling work. I know some folk put stuff on Etsy, but does that work? If anyone uses the site, could they please let me know how well it does for them?

In light of the weekend's Oscars (and since I appear to have some space to fill next to the picture), I thought I'd award my own.
Most Stand Out Picture Book goes to:

Kazuno Kohara - The Haunted House Published by Macmillan. Kazuno's work is quirky, feisty and really stands out on the shelf. I'm impressed that it was published, actually, as the colour scheme alone makes it a bold and gutsy choice. Bravo, Macmillan!

Funniest Picture Book goes to:
Melanie Watt- Chester's Back
Published by Kids Can Press. Ok, I confess; I haven't actually read this one. It's a bit of a leap of faith really. But I loved her first one so much, I'm sure the second is just as great. I'd never heard of this publisher before, but they've obviously got their heads screwed on the right way around.

Funkiest Picture Book goes to:
Jill Lewis and Deborah Allwright- Don't Read This Book
Published by Egmont Books. I love the styling on this one- great to see some anarchy in kids books! Probably for the older end of the market (as it's quite wordy). I'm lucky enough to have seen it at proof-stage and have been not-so-patiently waiting for it to come out ever since. Brilliant madness. Out now.

Best Book of last year goes to:
Chris Riddell- Ottoline Goes to School
Published by Macmillan. I may be biased on this one, as I loved Ottoline. The format was ingenius and the pictures astounding. It's true, this one just isn't as good- mainly the plot is a little sloppier, which makes it slightly harder-going (given that it can't be over 1000 words, that's no real problem, mind!) The pictures are still incredible though and since this is the first Cass Oscar Presentation, let's call it a political move!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A new beginning...

So, my first book is unofficially finished. Whoop! Whoop! -'Unofficially' because, whilst I'd never admit to being something as daft as superstitious, I certainly don't want to tempt fate! (yeah, yeah... I know. Well at least I stopped counting magpies- Mainly because I don't know the correct prediction for a person who spots a flock of 27 of the little blighters. I'm pretty sure it can't be good. I have a suspicion it's along the lines of, 'you're a sucker who should spend more time out of your studio and in the company of others' and/or a sign that the world is at an end... Either way... best be sensible about stuff, eh? Just don't step on the cracks whilst doing it.

So, the cover does still need doing (of the book? You remember, that's what this post was supposed to be all about!) However, we think that might not be until after Bologna Book Fair, where the book will be making its' debut (eek!) Apparently, sometimes publishers take a cover mock-up with them to get feedback before commiting to a final design. This, I think, is what's happening in my case.
Of course, I knew how important a book's cover was, but I had no idea how many things needed to be considered when doing one. It seems to be quite a science, and a mini-project all of it's own. Apparently it can be a pretty contentious topic and I've been imagining Bridget Jones style publishing/sales punch-ups over font choice etc. We shall see what wins out.
I found out that the title isn't just a title either. I thought the writer just picked something that sounded right, but apparently those 3-ish words almost have to work like a strapline, describing both the story and it's character so as not to confuse an audience. I'm told many books change titles a couple of times before hitting the shelves.

With that in mind, this book's going to be called Lively Elizabeth- I'm guessing you know where we're going with this one... Mara Bergman's text is all about a little girl who's a little too OTT for her classmates and who finds out there are consequences to her over-bumptiousness.

The title describes the process of illustrating it pretty well too. I've often had days when I've felt like putting Elizabeth to bed without her tea. However, she's been an awful lot of fun to have around too. She's taught me a lot about how to work with a text, the process behind making a book and about living with a character. I hope it does really well for Hodder and Mara because (here comes the cheesy part!) it really has made me a better illustrator attempting to rise to the level of Mara's text. Thankfully, everyone seems pleased with the end result. However, it's now upto Elizabeth to stand on her own two feet in front of the rights buyers at the fair, next month- Please, please let her behave herself!

(The first pic is the second colour character sketch I did. The second and third pictures are from spreads in the book).

Anyway, in the name of something which is most definitely NOT superstition, I haven't yet had my official post-1st-book celebrations (although I have allowed myself a quiet and ever-so-sophisticated 'whooping' session, whilst dancing around the table)

My main nod and a wink to the whole 'finishing' affair so far has been to un-teather the beauty that is my brand new Ikea 'desk of dreams'; which just this day, emerged magnificently from its cardboard cuckoon. A few rather colourful utterances and 2 sore thumbs later and Huzzah! I am now working ACROSS DESKS on the next project. There's something so fabulously grown-up about working on multiple desks; makes me want to drink espresso, look carefully windswept, don a pencil behind my ear and call everyone Larrs... Next move is to get a phone in the studio, but I don't yet trust myself with the responsibility... I'd probably end up prank calling my downstairs phone and giggling myself silly.

So, onto the next book. I'm not sure how other artists like to do things, but I've realised it's necessary for me to have a face-to-face thrash out of ideas at the beginning of a project- It helps make sure everyone's on the same page (it's so hard to avoid that pun, isn't it?) Anyway, I popped my thumbnails, pants and toothbrush in a Sainsbury's bag (classy, eh?) and dashed down to Londers for meeting with my editor and art director.

The second book's going to be the absolute opposite of Elizabeth in style and tone, which keeps me on my toes and is great, as I'll have a lot of variation early on in my career. Elizabeth is minimal in backgrounds, naughty and nicely girly. The new project is thoughtful and melancholic, with a boy as the lead. It will have loads of yummy full-bleed backgrounds and probably completely OCD amounts of detail.

We covered a lot of ground in the meeting (not surprising really, given that I was in there for over 3 hours, and we only paused to look vaguely awkward as I dribbled sandwich pickle down my chin...) We finalised layouts and I've since done a colour character study too, which has really brought the project to life for me.

I'm going to aim to hand-in worked-up roughs next week and if all goes to plan, it will go to Frankfurt in October. Damn it, it seems my work has a more exciting travel life than I do!