Tags: Canada, Cuba, Maple syrup, Montreal, Moraine Lake Lodge, Moving overseas, Ottawa, Picture books, Squish Rabbit, Writing picture books
Tags: Brave Squish Rabbit, Ideas, Picture books, Squish Rabbit, storyboarding, storytelling, writing for children
It’s not possible to get overconfident as an artist. Because every time I feel a little like I know what I’m doing – every time I get the inkling that I may have something of this whole storytelling palaver figured out – an idea comes along that makes me a beginner again.
This is no coincidence. If I truly knew what I was doing, then the project would hold no challenge for me. It would mean I wasn’t learning, and such a project wouldn’t be able hold my attention. New ideas fascinate us because we have unanswered questions that float around them – things we don’t yet understand that we attempt to grasp by carrying the project through to its conclusion.
With Squish Rabbit, it was the first time my voice and visual style really started coming together, which was such a thrill. Of note is the fact that a significant feature of my illustration style is white space. Then along came Brave Squish Rabbit … which is set at night. So much for white space. I suddenly had to create spreads using full bleed colour – deep blues and blacks, which was a real challenge.
Next comes my latest project. It’s about a little bird on an isolated island. It has a single character (the bird) and a single setting (the island). Not a lot to work with in terms of creating a rich visual world with variety enough to carry an entire book.
I’ve spent the last few weeks storyboarding it out, and it’s certainly tested my creative problem solving. I’ve used more playful perspective, point of view and colour schemes than in any of my books yet. It’s been challenging and mind contorting and wonderful, and I certainly feel like a better storyteller for it.
Not that this will help me with my next project. Which, judging by my track record, will likely be about a limbless lion who lives in a tree…
Tags: children's books, Europe, Picture books
It is a well known fact that I have a bit of thing for rabbits. What is lesser known is that I actually love animals of all kinds. All picture books I write feature animals, usually as the main characters. In fact, recently I have begun working on my first picture book featuring kids, but even then they are all dressed as animals.
A few posts back I did a photo diary about all the rabbits I encountered during a recent trip across Europe. As rabbits feature a lot on this blog, I thought I owed it to all the other animals to give them a bit of blog time. So here are some of the non-rabbits that crossed my path in Europe:
These suspicious geese on a Scottish loch:
This dog (dug) at an Edinburgh pub:
This grumpy bird (eyeing all the Geordies in Newcastle):
This graffiti pig in Venice:
This bizarre bronze zoo in the misty hills of Eze (France):
This snarly lion:
This Scottish house for elephants:
This most enchanting stray dog on the drive from Barcelona:
These fish in a Berlin blizzard:
This delightful stray cat in Niguelas, Spain:
These noble once-dogs at Edinburgh Castle:
These hungry goats and sheeps in a Spanish village:
These wild-eyed things:
You can be sure there will be picture books to come inspired by these animals. They were all quite unique characters in their own ways.
Especially the cranky bird. He had spunk.
Tags: Literary tattoos, Oliver Jeffers, Picture books, Shaun Tan, Squish Rabbit, Squish Rabbit tattoo, Teachers
I haven’t got a tattoo myself, but I’ve long admired them as an art form. And being a bookish type, I particularly like literary tattoos. There are some amazing tats out there, based on work by some of my favourite illustrators. You only have to google about to find them. There are lots of Shaun Tan tattoos, based on images from his beautiful and often melancholy books. Also Oliver Jeffers, with his ‘boy’ and ‘penguin’ characters popping up regularly.
In a way, someone choosing your character as a tattoo always seemed like the highest form of compliment – that someone could so connect with something you have created that they would get it permanently etched onto their skin. I always said that I’d know I’d ‘made it’ as an artist when this happened to me. But I imagined if it ever did it would be 10 years or so down the track. But earlier this year I got an email.
From Ben. This is what he had to say:
I am currently studying Primary Education, and intend to specialise in ESL (English as Second Language) work. As a part time job I provide teacher’s-aide support at a local primary school. Last year I had a magnificent experience with the first Squish Rabbit book. I was tutoring a South American boy in year 6 and we used his interest in art to render his own edition of your picture book (which was played on a power point as he read it to the class). Since then, the boy came out of his shell, started socialising and developed so much confidence that he is almost fluent. This experience was immensely rewarding and confidence building in terms of my own professional development.
Thank you sincerely for your book. It brought great joy to my life and at least one other child’s. In the future, I also aspire to write books for children with such fundamentally simple yet such eloquently expressed messages. I think the message in Squish Rabbit bridges all cultural gaps (it certainly won my heart).
Based on this experience he decided to get a tattoo. The pictures below are evidence of the first Squish Rabbit tattoo out there in the world…
It was truly an amazing message to receive. Quite overwhelming to be honest. I’m constantly in awe of the work teachers do with kids, and feel honoured to have been a part of that in any small way.
But as to whether I feel like I’ve now made it as an artist? Well, no. But it does feel pretty awesome.
Tags: Austria, Berlin, Easter, Edinburgh, European rabbits, Frightened Rabbit, graffiti art, Graffiti rabbits, Pedestrian Verse, Squish Rabbit, St Andrews, Tiergarten, Venice, Winston is Watching You
I promised you some European rabbits, and here they are. I didn’t have to look very hard while overseas. Everywhere I turned there were rabbits. Big ones, titchy ones, blue ones, fashionista ones, paranoid ones, even chocolate ones. I was starting to think Europe was particularly bunny obsessed, until I clued onto the fact that it was nearly easter (the chocolate bunnies gave me my first hint – I know, I’m a genius).
Either way, Squish Rabbit was proud that his European brethren were so prolific. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
St Andrews, Scotland:
Big Brother bunny, Venice:
Frightened Rabbit, Edinburgh:
I might have also been given a Frightened Rabbit album:
Old etching bunny, St Andrews:
Real bunny! In the Tiergarten, Berlin:
And my favourites, graffiti bunnies. These were all found in central Berlin:
If you want to see the bunnies I spotted on my last trip, hop on over to my post on the Year of the Rabbit.
Tags: Alison Lester, Ann Haddon, Ann James, Bologna Book Fair, Bologna Children's Book Fair, Books Illustrated, Briony Stewart, children's books, Children's publishing, Edelvives, Isobelle Carmody, Literary agent, Penguin USA, Viking Children's Books
I’ve been wanting to attend the Bologna Children’s Book Fair for several years now. It’s the biggest annual event in children’s books, making it an incredibly exciting place for a writer / illustrator. Now I knew it was a massive event, but this was purely an intellectual concept. It’s a bit like being told about a stampede, as opposed to standing in the middle of one. A glorious stampede, mind you. A stampede of colourful stuff from a child’s imagination.
The fair is “the most important international event dedicated to the children’s publishing industry”, and includes authors, illustrators, literary agents, licensors, packagers, distributors, printers, booksellers and librarians, all meeting up to sell and buy and meet and produce and discover all things to do with kids books. Sound exciting? It was.
There were 1200 exhibitors. From 66 countries. With 5000 professional trade representatives. And the exhibition covered over 20,000 square meters of floor space. Plus the fair was celebrating its 50th year. Now I may specialise in words, but those numbers sound pretty impressive to me. Here’s the sight I walked in on – this is one fifth of one side of one hall out of four, on the first and quietest morning:
I spent three inspiring days wandering around the fair and being involved in all its amazing busy-ness. I got to meet up with the head of my American publishing house (Viking / Penguin) who was passionate and humble and funny and charming and all things you would want from a publisher. I also had an amazing meeting with my American agent, talking picture books and characters and lots of ideas for new projects to come. I got to spend time with the incredible ladies from Books Illustrated, Ann James and Ann Haddon, who are super supportive of Australia children’s book creators and who ran the stand that became my home for fair. They ran a live illustration table where I made art alongside some very talented Aussie artists (Alison Lester, Isobelle Carmody, Briony Stewart and of course Ann James). While illustrating I got to meet passers by who stopped to chat – other artists and publishers from all over the world. But none of this quite captures the spirit of the fair. No, that is best done with photos.
Here’s my US publisher’s stand. It was full of books and well-dressed-important-types and take away coffee cups. This was a quiet moment captured on the first morning of an otherwise bustling stand:
Here is the Books Illustrated stand, and the two awesome Anns setting it up. See if you can spot the Brave Squish Rabbit cover and the feature illustration from the book:
Doing live illustrations (with my terrible paintbrush grip – such a lefty):
More live illustrating, using papers I’d collected on the trip so far (you can just see a couple of the drawings I’d already done in front):
One of my favourite stands, a European publisher called Edelvives who make gorgeous books:
There were quite literally hundreds of different publisher stands. So many books! Some funny:
But mostly just awesome. Lots and lots of awesome books:
And more. How cute are these guys?:
But it wasn’t all just a bunch of people standing around talking about books. Sometimes it was a bunch of people standing around drinking and talking about books. Here we’re preparing for the Australian Publisher’s Association party (while Boori gets in some sneaky self promotion):
And here we might be at the Irish Publisher’s Association party drinking whisky (all in the name of being culturally appropriate and warming the winter chest plate):
I’d heard about the famous ‘illustrator wall’, where you can pin an illustration that people peruse throughout the fair. All up there were actually about eight walls. Here is one on the very first morning:
And here it is again on day three:
And this is what an author looks like after three days of wandering halls, reading, illustrating, meetings, being inspired and overwhelmed and just generally feeling like a very small fish in a big pond:
Tags: Bologna Children's Book Fair, Europe, Home, Overseas, Seven Stories, Squish Rabbit, Travel
Yes, indeedy I am. I arrived home a few weeks ago and after a short detour (hopping off to Alice Springs for their writers festival) I have caught up on sleep, unpacked and am back into the swing of things. After two months away, ‘back into the swing of things’ really means that I have had to remember what it is to be a responsible adult, pay bills and relearn how to operate my vacuum cleaner.
I had such an amazing time overseas and I have a million things to blog about (Bologna! Seven Stories! European rabbits! New projects!) all of which I will do soon.
Oh, and I may have had a change of hair colour…
Someone pointed out that it’s kind of carrot coloured. I think Squish would be proud.