Saturday, 19 April 2014

I Made a Cat!

Now that the book is complete I can start to make 3D models and scarves! I have bought some wood to make magpie pegs to hang my scarves in the exhibition and I have bought fimo which I haven't used since I was about 8. The magic of the oven baking never gets old!

I used to love collecting little figures when I was little. My sister must have had nearly the entire collection of the Silvanian Family.


I now have website that I recently up-dated so check it out at:

Hopes Fears and Opportunities

I have been really inspired by the work of Paula Rego during this last project. I find her work incredibly atmospheric and dark. Her work has been relevant to my project especially through her use of black and white. She will continue to be an inspiration in future projects. She has illustrated Nursery Rhymes published by Marlborough Graphics in 1989 which are beautifully executed. She plays with the size  of the characters making the animals much larger than you would expect giving the images a more sinister quality echoed by the strong contrast in dark and light giving the impression of moonlight (and often candlelight). Everything is scarier at night and it is often the time children are told these rhymes (bedtime). Children were often told scary stories to get them to behave which isn't as popular now (for obvious reasons) and Rego's images seem to hark back to this era.

Here is a good example of Rego's Nursery Rhyme illustrations using chiaroscuro and this contrast in size between the child and sheep gives it a sinister edge. Also weirdly sexual the way the sheep is posed and embracing the girl.

In an interview for The White Review when asked why she stopped writing stories her reply was :

" Because I’d rather draw them! It’s quicker. When you write your story you know what it’s about — it’s normally about your father or something — but invention comes when you do a drawing. As you are drawing something, it very often turns into something else, and you can go with it. It develops in a  completely different way, it’s organic and it’s done with the hand. The hand makes it change and so on. It’s much more interesting than having to think everything."

I have found that my story developed through my images/sketching. The story wasn't set in stone and as I drew I made adjustments as it developed. 

The image that influenced the page where the magpies flew down and the sky turned black came from this image of a crow by Rego.

I have about 5 years worth of ideas and a five year plan to achieve them so hopefully I will be able to achieve a good balance of working at home/studio and working in the community and schools in the future.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Hopes Fears and Opportunities

I have several avenues that I wish to pursue on completing the course. I have been in touch with Creative Partnership an organisation that runs projects in communities and schools linking artists and other creatives with their projects. They have asked me to send a CV to them and seemed really interested. I would also like to work in schools running my own projects in consultation with head teachers and provide help and advice on the art & design curriculum and planning. I will be creating my own fliers over the summer to send out to schools in the area. I worked with creative partnership and was coordinator at a previous school and have a lot of experience in this. I was also art coordinator for several years and am aware of the curriculum requirements in primary schools.

At a children's birthday party I discovered that my friends sister is a book promoter/publisher of children's books in Wales. My husband and his family are welsh and it is an important connection for us. I was thinking that it would be a good contact if I were to get my book translated into welsh.

When in London visiting Illustration Ltd a comment was that I didn't have children in my portfolio and agents would want to see this. As I really intend to write my own stories rather than illustrate others it hasn't been a pressing for concern for me but over the summer it is something that I intend to develop and add to my portfolio.

I have managed to collect a large amount of books during the last 3 years that I find to be a great source of inspiration and I intend to refer to these whenever (if) I am out of ideas. I also want to continue to develop my knowledge of art and design techniques and history as well as contemporary art. (I love to take a day out visiting the Tate in Liverpool). An example is Oranges and Lemons Rhymes from the Past by Karen Dolby. I would like to create some of my own illustrations for these and also use this book as inspiration for a school based project. In the book she has taken rhymes and included the history and background to them which is fascinating. I think it is a great way for children to study art/design and history in a creative cross-curricular way. They can also share these rhymes and images with younger children in the school who can act them out as well as combine with music… I could go on……

I was very inspired years ago by a course I went on led by Paul Johnson who specialises in pop-up card/image making. I would also like to spend time creating more 3D imagery for children and expand my knowledge of these techniques. It is a great way for children's work to be displayed and when I have worked with children on 3D cards etc.. it has really encouraged their writing both fiction and non-fiction.

Hopes Fears and Opportunities

The last two weeks have been an incredibly intense time where I have worked solidly for hours everyday determined to get my book finished so that it would be ready for the college deadline rather than the exhibition later on.
I emailed 3 images to a very talented children's book illustrator called Lynne Chapman and asked for her advice. I asked her particularly about my character and his eyes and other features and whether she had found there were restrictions or guidance given by publishers. This was her reply:

3. Characterisation is key. Yes – cuddly and lovable, but not too saccharine is the balance. Eyes have never been an issue for me and your eyes look fine. Looking at your work below though, the background is gorgeous and interesting, with lovely use of colour, but the character definitely needs work. He is not drawn well enough – look again at the body / arms / paws in particular. Simpler lines / mark-making, but with more believable structure to him.

I totally agreed with her and had been discussing the issue with my tutor earlier that morning. She had said such lovely things about my backgrounds and her opinion of my character was right. The problem was that I had a very short amount of time to change every cat on every DPS. It would have been easy to carry on and ignore the advice but I wanted to be proud of my book at the end. The next day I produced a particularly large amount of horrendous cats and cried a lot of tears. I kept looking back to my original sketchbook drawings of cats and trying to find a way to combine the characterisation with the mark-making and simple lines Lynne Chapman had described. 

Early Sketches

The next day I started a fresh and the first cat I did worked! I then continued through the day to produce 13 cats for the story and had only a couple of images left to change. I was absolutely over the moon and saw light at the end of the tunnel. The cats fitted so much better with the backgrounds and I liked the style so much more. I've never really looked at cartoons and that style, I am more into 'Fine' art  and mark-making. My book isn't one that would be considered in this way it a very commercial style but I feel I have found the right balance for what I want to achieve. I saw another mature students work yesterday and she had created the most beautiful images for her children's book combining mono-printing with painting. I had loved doing this in the first year but hadn't found a way to do it without a very messy result. She had created the painting and min-print separately and the added them together on photo-shop and the results were stunning. I would definitely like to experiment with this in future as my images for this book include mono-printing as it is a technique I am always drawn to using.
I have had advice on my portfolio from 7 different professionals in the industry including Fig Taylor, Emma Reynolds, Illustration Ltd, Lynne Chapman… It has all been really helpful Ema Reynolds advice helped me to ensure my characters were consistent in size, Fig Taylor,  IllustrationLtd gave me confidence to show my portfolio and was very complimentary about my images, Lynne Chapman encouraged me to develop and improve my work. Dayjob advised us all to enter as many competitions as possible and so far I have entered the AOI competition and MacMillan. When I finish I will continue to do this even if just as a brief to work to every now an again (a source of inspiration) I will definitely continue to seek advice from others and will be attending the Draw Northwest meet ups.
I am feeling incrediblly positive and excited about the future and hope that I continue to do so!

My main aim over the next few years (I have a 5 year plan) is to earn as much or nearly as much as I did in my previous career so that I can move to a beautiful cottage in the countryside like Jill Calder and wake up, take my son to school, dog for a run and then settle down to a days drawing and painting. Persistence is the key. Malorie Blackman was on radio 4 a few months ago talking about how she became such a famous author and explained that it was the 83 time that her book was finally accepted by a publisher so I think I'll have the number 100 in my head as the time to have a rethink. Persistence persistence…
I will definitely continue to seek advice from others and will be attending the Draw Northwest meet ups.
I am really excited about the future and am looking forward to spending time on my own projects and competition briefs.

The next steps I plan to take with my book are to try it out in schools and see what response I get from the children. My son liked it and it was lovely to listen to him reading a story I have written. His favourite page was the one with the magpies all flying down. I think this would make a great iPad app where children have to tap on all the little magpies (like tap the frog) before they get to the cat. My husband suggested I look into finding someone who could do this for me as it would be quite a simple game but effective if tap the frog etc is anything to go by. Here is another example that gave me the idea by NOSY CROW:

I have a friend who suggested that when my portfolio is ready I send it to him as he has links in the children's book industry. I would like to try and write and illustrate my own books at first and enjoy a bit of calm after this busy time. My son is very important to me so being able to work each day and the deadline being my decision (just for the summer) would be nice. I have a couple of story ideas already in mind and wish to continue to develop my characters. I may write a sequel to Copy Cat as the ending leads into a new story.

I have entered the MacMillan book Competition which in the world of illustration is probably like buying a lottery ticket (except skill is involved) but it has been a good experience. All the illustrators I have spoken to over this project have suggested entering competitions as a way to become recognised.

I have joined the SCBWI which is a good support network with lots of opportunities to network and meet up. I will definitely be joining the AOI. My subscription to Varoom ran out and I have missed having my own copy (instead of reading the college one). It is free with AOI subscription so another good reason to join.

Once the madness of college deadlines is over - or maybe next week as I am quite far ahead in the schedule - I plan on sending my portfolio out to publishers and agents. Here is one I found while searching the internet for agents linked to publishers I particularly like. She has a great deal of talented illustrators on her books and appears to have the perfect life living in a beautiful cottage and looking at children's book images for a living! (I'm sure its not really that simple) 


Book Cover

I hope people will judge this book by it's cover and want to read it to their children!

I looked at many front covers as it is important to see what is out there and I also wanted to know whether it was worth creating new images, or whether they use images from the inside of the book. The majority used images from the story inside or very slight variations.
Here are some examples of covers I looked at for ideas.

The font is clearly a very important aspect with the vast majority having a large type for both the title and author/illustrator. I created my font by printing the title onto cheap printer paper and when I added ink it bled over the line and created a furry effect (like the cat) and I added a couple of splashes of paint to fit with my style.

I wanted to make sure the cover also included the strong black and white with very bright colours. I wanted it to be as eye-catching as possible.

Here it is! 

I chose the images of the cat and magpie as the ones which best fitted/echoed the title.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


My children's book introduces the idea that there are many layers to our personality. The cat is lovely cute and cuddly indoors but changes as soon as he leaves the house. I want children to think about how they change and adapt in and to different situations and environments. Our personalities aren't simply black or white good or bad we are much more complex. Here is a good diagram that I found.