Category Archives: General news

Shop window top tips

I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to illustrate two shop windows lately – the first at Sheen Bookshop, and the second at the House of Illustration. I’d never done one before, so I asked around amongst my illustrator friends and was given lots of good advice. So to return the favour in the future to anyone else who gets the opportunity (and to remind myself if I do some more), I thought I’d note down some tips.

  1. Ask the shop to send through a photo of the window. This gives you the chance to layer in some different design ideas in photoshop and see how they look in the correct proportions of the window. Keep different elements in different layers and move them around till it feels right.
  2. Print it out, and then flip it and print out again in reverse. This will help massively especially with text, as you will most likely be working from the inside for something to be seen from the outside so will be working in reverse.
  3. I used Posca pens, though I know some illustrators favour acrylics. The benefit of the Posca pens is they are so clean and easy to use – but the drawbacks are that they are expensive and don’t last long, and it’s hard to get large flat areas of colour (I solved this problem by smudging with a clean cloth immediately after applying the paint, then letting it dry, and then adding a covering of little marks. Looks good for fur but painstakingly slow! You can blend two colours eg. yellow and red to get an orangey effect, but you have to work really quickly with the blending cloth.
  4. The window will need to work both ways – from the inside and from the outside. One difficulty I found was that in bright light black tends to become almost invisible from the outside. I got around this as best I could by taking the infill colour right up to the edge of the black.
  5. Start with the black lines (if you’re using black that is) and give them a good half hour to dry really well. Blue by the way shows up really well from the outside.
  6. Have plenty of clean cloths or rags to wipe away any mistakes.
  7. Back to the pens – they come in many sizes. I found the 8mm chisel tips PC-8K were good, and also 4.5-5.5mm bullet tip (PC-7M). The 2 windows shown above used up the best part of two pink pens, and the yellow and white had pretty much run out too.
  8. Keep nipping outside to check how it’s looking.
  9. The Sheen Bookshop window took about 3 hours, the HOI one 4 hours.
  10. If you get a chance, go for it! The shops really appreciate it and it’s great promotion for your work, as well as fun to do. Good luck!

The Amazing Harvest Machine

With secret doors, knobs to twiddle and control panels galore, this harvest ‘machine’ was the focus of a Big Draw activity I organised recently for a lovely local community event, Southfields Harvest. This year’s Big Draw theme was STEAM Powered – bringing together Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths.

Children drew fruit and veg to drop in the hoppers at one end, added dials, switches and various secret ingredients through the little doors, and then created some imaginative finished products to appear in the ‘output’ hatch. The doors in particular kept many little fingers busy for much of the afternoon – and even the mayor dropped in to participate.

Many thanks to Southfields Harvest, and to St Barnabas Church for hosting the event – and also to Work and Play scrapstore for plenty of paper and the rather classy doorknobs.
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Wings!

coversWings! is published on September 1 by Otter Barry Books, with words by best-selling author Paul Stewart and pictures by me. It’s the story of a penguin who wishes he could fly, tries all sorts of inventive ways to learn – and eventually, with the help of his friends, discovers his true element (published in Dutch too, by C. de Vries-Brouwers).

Paul Stewart’s warm and funny text was a dream to illustrate – though it was a little daunting working with someone known for collaborating with the multi-talented Chris Riddell. We met up just as I was starting work on the roughs, and I asked Paul what he had in mind for the Grand Gathering of All the Birds, at the start of the book. He said he was happy for me to choose. Soon after, conversation turned to music and we discovered we were both big fans of the End of the Road festival, and I had my answer – the Grand Gathering became a music festival for birds, with Swan on a Gibson semi-acoustic guitar and Eagle on penny whistle while Duck takes care of the circus skills area.

festival

All the pages are hand-made collage, and I’ve included some secret snippets of maps showing some of my favourite places, as well as some lovely mono-printed scraps leftover from a project I did last year with a school in Twickenham.

gower_JPI’ve also sneakily slipped in a few favourite places – when Penguin ‘flies’ with the help of his friends and some string, the background is the golden sands of Oxwich Bay in the Gower, south Wales.

mountainsAnd when he has his moment of despair, it’s against a backdrop of two mountains inspired (somewhat loosely) by Glydr Fawr and Glydr Fach in Snowdonia, north Wales.

swimmingMy favourite page to make was the one where Penguin finally ‘flies’ in the sea. I spent some time sketching the penguins in the glass-walled tank at Marwell Zoo to get a sense of the correct movement.

Co9C6iEXYAE2F5T
Co9C8JFWgAA4dvJI love sewing, so it seemed natural once the book was finished to make Penguin into a puppet. Paul, Penguin and I will be appearing at The Book Nook in Hove on Saturday 24th September – there will be a story reading and a craft activity. Do come! We hope to add more bookshop dates in the autumn.

Barbed wire and twisted trees

20160526_142344_resizedI’ve just finished a project for Twickenham Museum – a large canvas backdrop for their forthcoming exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. I worked with a lovely group of Year 9 students from St Richard Reynolds Catholic College, also in Twickenham, over two days.

Day 1 began with a visit to the museum, after which we looked at the paintings of WW1 artist Paul Nash. Although Nash didn’t reach The Front until 1917, I felt his striking and intense battle-scarred landscapes would be a good starting point for the students. We then made collagraph plates by sticking string, rice and corrugated scraps onto cardboard – this was to represent barbed wire, shell explosions, and torn duckboards. We then used mixed media to create a reduced scale collage to plan the composition for the final backdrop.

Day 2 saw the students cutting blasted trees from black felt (sourced from the wonderful Work and Play scrapstore) and then getting stuck into some embroidery. I must admit I had wondered if this would be the least-favourite element for a group of teenagers, but in fact they couldn’t put those needles down, and the detail of the stitching on the trees is one of the best things about the finished work. We also printed the collagraph plates onto fabric – a mixture of linen, cotton and various satin samples in a muted colour palette. Keeping to the paper plan as much as possible, I then finished the piece by assembling on canvas with a mix of PVA glue and Bondaweb.

Many thanks to Twickenham Museum for inviting me to take part in the project, to the Richmond Arts Team at Orleans House, and most of all to the staff and students at St Richard Reynolds Catholic College for all their enthusiasm, ideas and careful stitching.

World Book Day

Last year I was lucky enough to be picked for a special training programme for new authors – 21st Century Authors – run by the National Literacy Trust and delivered by Author Profile. We covered all the stages of planning and delivering a school visit, from preparing the content to tips from an actor on how to stand and deliver. The final part of the programme was an actual school visit – and mine was yesterday, fortuitously on World Book Day, to Wessex Gardens Primary School in Brent Cross, north west London.

Although I’ve led creative workshops in dozens of schools over the years, it’s the first time I have visited one as an author, so I was excited and a little apprehensive – I feel much more comfortable encouraging other people/children’s work than talking about myself. However I looked back through all my notes from the training, found the talk I had prepared, and realised I was actually ready. Best of all, although the publication date is still some way off, I was able to read the children my first picture book as author and illustrator, Pink Lion – a world premiere!

The school, staff and especially the children couldn’t have been more welcoming. I spent the day with Year 1, talking about how I wrote the story with and developed the artwork – and was rewarded by a big spontaneous round of applause after I read the story out loud! Since the children were all dressed up for World Book Day, it was lovely to be told by the Mad Hatter, Robin Hood and several princesses that the book was a hit with them.

The remainder of the day was taken up with workshops – the children created their own stories using a mix of collage and drawing, with some very imaginative scenarios developing as well as gorgeous artwork. I love the idea of the snake being happy about his present – beneath the flap is a tiny, curled up sleeping bear. Nice to see my little flier getting embellished and incorporated into some of the books too!

Huge thanks to NLT and Author Profile for preparing me so well for this event – may it be the first of many.

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Hats, feathers and ink

artkraken1artkraken2I’ve been a fan of Viviane Schwarz’s wonderfully inventive and interactive books for a long time, so when I spotted that she was offering a one-day workshop looking at illustration from a theatrical perspective, I thought it was too good to miss.

Art Kraken is a creative studio run by Viv together with Ellan Parry and Sarah Grange, both of whom have theatre backgrounds – all of which added up to a very inspiring, playful and invigorating day. I won’t go into too much detail about what we did – but it was a huge amount of fun, involved experimentation AND costume changes, and I really recommend booking on the next one if you get a chance.

A box of eyes

penguinI’ve been very busy with my scissors lately, working on spreads for a brand new picture book to be published by Otter Barry Books next year. It’s a charming text by Paul Stewart about a penguin who wishes he could fly – with many other bird species included in the story, so great fun to illustrate.

I’m doing the book entirely in collage, so have been racing through the Pritt sticks. My studio is covered in colourful swatches, and I even have a box of eyes of all sizes ready to be used. It’s a medium I really enjoy working in – I’m using all sorts of scraps, some made with paint, others ink, and some are fragments of monoprinted textures left over from my community art project in Twickenham earlier in the year.

The Frame is launched!

theframe1theframe1After six months of research, planning, workshops and tonnes of scanning – it’s finally here! My community art project with Sue Edkins was launched yesterday at Diamond Jubilee Gardens, Twickenham, under a blazing hot sun with many of the participants – from age 8 to over 80 – there to see their work on public display for the first time.

As I posted when we first began in January, the project is Twickenham’s version of the ‘Fourth Plinth’ – a public work of art that changes every couple of years. In Twickenham’s case, however, it also involves the community, and the work of many, many hands can be seen in the three finished pieces.

Four classes of children from St Stephen’s Primary School took part, producing the most characterful set of drawings based on stories and postcards showing Twickenham’s involvement in WW1, from sporting heroes at The Front, to the Belgian refugee community, to Richmond Park as a training camp and convalescent hospital. They also made monoprinted textures, and experimented mixing paint to create panels for collage.

We also had a huge number of collage motifs, created by two groups of older people and also by members of the public who came to a drop-in workshop in the park. These form a decorative border around the three panels.

With a red-hot scanner burning up from working so hard, we pieced together these hundreds of individual elements digitally to create three colour-keyed scenes telling the story of Twickenham’s War.

The frames were appropriately covered up with camoflage netting to increase excitement as we waited for the big moment – then the children helped whisk off the net and then immediately rushed around spotting their own work – a lovely moment we’d been waiting for a long time!

The work will be on display until 2018 when the centenary years of WW1 come to an end – so if you are near Twickenham, do go and take a look – there’s an excellent cafe in the park and a lovely river view into the bargain.

Many thanks to the many people who made the project possible – to the Arts Team of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames at Orleans House especially Rachel and Carla for commissioning us, giving us studio space and being fantastically supportive, to everyone who helped with the research, especially Helen Barker, and to Ruby, Anna, and Ashley who all helped with the workshops, to St Stephen’s Primary School for taking part so enthusiastically, and to the Greenwood Centre in Hampton and St Stephen’s Church Monday Fellowship Group for producing beautiful motifs. And finally to Jagon, Chris, Luke, Roger and Mark for helping install the work in Roger’s amazing Frame!

 

 

 

A football, a fez, and a Belgian or two…

drawingsI’ve been very busy processing all the drawings produced during workshops earlier in the year with Sue Edkins at St Stephen’s Primary School, Twickenham – and the final work is now taking shape.

We’re putting together three huge images for display in Diamond Jubilee Gardens, Twickenham, all inspired by Twickenham’s role in the First World War.

The launch is planned for June 26th, so I can’t show any more now – but here are just a small sample of the wonderful drawings produced by Year 4 and Year 5, which I have coloured digitally. They are full of such freshness, life and character, I am rather envious of the children’s drawing skills…

 

Colour confections and Belgian delicacies…

coloursThe project I’m working on at Orleans House Gallery with Sue Edkins is taking shape: we’ve started sketching out how the content of our big panels might look. The three panels are all inspired by Twickenham’s WW1 stories: the largest will look at The Front, while the other two will be based on the East Twickenham Belgian community from 1914-1918, and the role of Richmond Park in the war as a training ground and home of a military hospital.

We’ll be working with St Stephen’s primary school, where children will help make the ingredients of the work – drawings, monoprinted textures and sheets of colour for collage. Their challenge will be to create a range of colours using a very limited palette – we’ve been experimenting to see how many shades you can make with just white, blue and yellow.

On Saturday April 25th we’ll be holding a free drop-in event where families will be able to help make motifs to form a border around the work – we’ve been experimenting with some inspired by our main themes. More on this soon!