Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The times, they are a changin'

When you work in a microcosm, it's sometimes easy to pootle along, believing things aren't changing. A book might take several months to do, and a couple of years to actually see on the shelf. And when you're pinning your life on this somewhat lackadaisical time structure, you often get a little lost in your daydreams. It's quite disturbing, for example, to see what other people have been up to whilst you were picking crayola's, or absentmindedly dipping your paintbrush in your tea (again).

'Look!' you cry, 'I've managed to make my characters' face look less like the backend of a horse!' Or, 'See here! I've created a triptych using only a pizza box and a vermillion hue!' And upon looking up to receive your *surely quite substantial* praise, you gasp... because what you find is that your best friend's holding a- no, surely not- is that- oh, but it can't be! That's not... a BABY??? Yup, you were unaware that a) they wanted a baby b) they were pregnant (well, ok, so you did know she was pregnant, but surely it could only have been for more than 5 minutes!) and c) that the baby is now almost a month old (in baby terms that's at least a teenager, isn't it? Or is it only dogs this applies to?) So, unless you missed a very important lesson in sex ed... or have somehow confused the gestation period of babies with that of kittens... you've somehow missed 9 months of life... Indeed, you've missed so much life, that your friend's gone and created a whole other one in that time! Crazy!

Ok, so let's cut the 'you' part. I think we can both see through my ruse here. Possibly, 'you' wouldn't be so shortsighted to miss these things. But, me? Well, I'm in shock. Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased, but I'm very much in shock. I'm in shock that I could possibly get to the age that the word, 'pregnant' is not followed a hushed, 'OMG! what are you going to tell your mum?!' I'm in shock that time seems to be going so FAST! I'm in shock that I'm suddenly sounding like my Mum saying things like, 'time seems to be going so fast!!!' Man, I can't take it!

Anyway, here's a picture to take all of our minds off it!

In other news:

The London Book Fair was excellent. It was a rather airless event, with many people not making it, due to things exploding in foreign parts. However, it was brilliant to catch up with old course friends, Kay Bainbridge, Jennifer Miles, Emma Malfroy, and Rosie Brooks, and my lovely Hodder editor too. It was also very exciting to meet the spiffing Jon Davis
who was also lurking in the Illustration Corner. I'm not sure the event itself was worth the £25 entrance fee (I think I'd have to go on a normal year to see) but the company was (in the words of a certain credit card company) priceless.

I've resigned at Waterstones. It wasn't an easy decision to make on a personal level, as I really enjoy working with my colleagues there, but it was quite straight-forward from a business point of view. It's illustration all the way, from now on! (Well, that and stopping child A from inserting a toy giraffe into child B's nostril at the nursery...)

The book event went well- Mara made cupcakes, so of course I'm going to say that! Pictures to follow, as soon as I work out how to get photos off the phone...

Lively Elizabeth reviewed. Yay! I love this one!


Possibilities of a new project to tell you all about soon- very exciting. Please watch this space!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

a bit of a whinge and a whole lot of thanks!

It's been a while since I wrote... again. You see, it's been quite quiet of late, but also far too stupidly complicated for me to get my pea-sized brain around.

Since starting work at Waterstones and the nursery, I don't feel like I've stopped. I also don't feel like I've done very much illustration- Yah boo sucks. It's a strange thing. Combined, the two jobs take up two and a half days; a piddly amount, really. However, since I started a couple of months ago, my role as an illustrator seems to have changed too; becoming very much about promoting 'Lively Elizabeth'. When all the admin-typed stuff that that demands is also deducted from my week (plus, all the regular, boring, house keeping stuff) I reckon I have about 1 and a half days to actually draw. Now, I have to confess, even 1 and a half days a week of proper illustration work is more than I've been doing of late. There has, I'm afraid, been an enormous amount of navel-gazing going on.

Now, my navel is of average shape and size. It doesn't sing or dance. I don't remember it ever having produced a haiku or a sonnet, and I'm pretty sure its' views on current affairs lack depth (if not belly button fluff). By all accounts my navel is average. It does not warrant fixation of any kind. And yet, since the beginning of February, it's been enjoying the sort of limelight, I normally reserve for a semi-naked Christian Slater, or a particularly gooey chocolate cake. Why is this?

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that I defy science. Not in any useful way, mind. I can't fly or turn invisible. I can't even conjur a cup of tea, using only the power of my mind (ahh, how cool would that be?) What I mean is, I'm female, and I'm not a multi-tasker. ALL women are multi-taskers, right?! Well, not me. And to add insult to injury, I'm as spatially aware as a drunk, partially-sighted moth- obviously my brain has no blokey compensations either!

But it's not just that I can't turn my brain to two tasks at one time- dear god, that (to me) would be as exciting as invisibility! It actually seems my brain very much rejects the idea of doing two, or more, tasks per week! No, I tell a lie. I must give my poor, weary neurons a break. It's not really the tasks themselves, it's the way of thinking that's the problem.

Working in a shop, working in a nursery, promotion, and drawing all have very different thought processes behind them, and it's the swapping between these that sets me all of a dither. For a start, I'm not used to having to make sense verbally, dagnammit! Normally, as long as things make sense in my head, that's good enough for me. I don't have to use too much reasoning with illustration. I just know something has to be done a certain way, in order for a picture to work. I have kids at nursery who think it's fun to cover themselves and everyone around them in pasta sauce and snot- strong powers of reasoning are necessary to avoid a bad case of coagulation!

So, here's what's been happening. I've been going to either job, wrapping all my wits about it... (for all my flaws, I do try damned hard to do any job to the best of my abilities). But unfortunately, these are wits I'm not used to using (I guess you could say, up until now, I've been a half wit) and upon arriving home to do my regular work, I've realised that my brain has fried. Yes, fried. And scrambled. And boiled. And poached... no, maybe not poached (but by heck I'm hungry) Hence I end up navel-gazing my time away. The navel-gazing turns to stress, as I realise the weeks are going passed and I've done nothing. And because I've done nothing, the work's mounting up, and the stress gets worse.

Now, I think it's usual to expect a period of adjustment, and let's not forget I've been my own boss for over three years now. However, what I forgot is, part of the reason I love illustration is because I've always been rubbish at dancing to anothers' tune. I don't mean I'm some kind of militant rebel, and I actually really love the nursery and Waterstones. I just mean that I'm so much better with a routine and doing things in my own time. My illustration is better when I have time to daydream about it, and sort of 'live' with the characters a bit. And, above all, illustration is my passion... so... anyway, some further thought needed, I think.

In other news

I want to give huge levels of thanks to everyone who's been in support of me the last couple of months. I got news that 919 copies of 'Lively Elizabeth' had sold before 28th of Feb- that's 2 weeks before it was officially out. At one point it actually ranked about 8,000th on amazon- that's out of ALL the books in all the world! Since it wasn't in the shops then, I know most of those purchases were by you, dear blog readers. I can't tell you how completely chuffed I am. You're all amazing!

'Lively Elizabeth' got its' first book review at the bookbag here. It's a lovely review. We got 4 stars, thanks to Keith Dudhnath. I was going for Tank Girl, rather than Shirley Hughes, but I can't complain at the comparison!!!

I also think Jessica Sage at Waterstones Guildford High Street deserves a huge shout-out, for putting up with Mara and I's demands, arranging the event for Saturday. We haven't quite asked for blue M&M's, baths of Evian water, and private trailers. However, she's been an absolute star for calming our nerves with her fantastic organisational skills. I also want to thank Emma Swabey at Hodder for doing some fantastic activity sheets for the event. I'm going to try and find some way of sticking them up here, as it'd be brilliant if everyone had access to them.

Right, I'd better get on with stuff- I've a shepards' pie to take command of! Applogies for the lack of piccies. I do have some to pop up, but since it's been ages since I've written, I think it's more important I get this post out- I'll try and add some images later.