Posts Tagged 'illustrating'

The Measure of Your Dreams

How do you measure success? It’s not an easy thing to do. Plus it looks different for everyone. Yet when you’re working really hard at something, like writing and illustrating, it’s really important to know what you’re striving for. Would big book deals and flashy literary parties really make you happy? Would fancy-pants awards and fame make you feel valid? I can’t really say I’d say no to any of this, but it’s important to define what success really means to you.

I was reminded of this recently at a Pogues concert in Sydney, when swaying away to their awesome Celtic punk ballads. While that may sound like the tangent of the century, I wont make you try to follow my mind and will make the link for you: one of their songs, ‘A Rainy Night in Soho’, has the lyric the measure of my dreams

It took me back a few years, to a time when I’d been throwing everything I had into writing and illustrating, yet didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Or at least that’s how it felt. I was incredibly unhappy. This beautiful creative thing that used to make me feel so free was falling flat. I was even starting to begrudge it a little. Embarrassingly enough, it took stumbling across one of those naff kind of sayings (you know the ones that circle facebook) to wake me up. It was typed up on a little cue card and stuck to a friend’s cork board:

It’s not about the destination, but the journey

At the time I’d never seen this saying and for some reason, at that particular moment, it cut through something in me. I realised I had my focus all wrong. I was so focussed on things mostly out of my control – namely getting published – and it was making me miserable. I suddenly realised that if I didn’t enjoy the actual writing (the journey), then nothing that happened from there was going to make me happy. So then I had to redefine what success would actually look like for me. I had to really think about what I was aiming for and what might make me happy.

I came up with the following, which are kind of goals and (for me) a more healthy focus:

  1. Work on the projects I’m called to: I don’t ever want to focus too much on what I think the ‘market’ might want from me. Instead I hope to make the art that calls to me, so I keep enjoying my writing and illustrating and make more honest art (I hope)
  2. Be respected by my peers: I realised I don’t actually need to have my name recognised by the general public, or even book lovers. But having my work respected by other writers / illustrators (especially in my field) does mean something to me
  3. Get to work with those who enjoy me / my work: be they other artists or publishing professionals
  4. Be able to do this as some sort of career: not necessarily live off it (as nice as that would be), but have it as my main focus

These are all things I have more control over, and they’re still true for me today. I’ve had each of them happen for me in different ways, some small and others more obvious. And after shifting my focus I started to find joy in my art once more.

If you’re honest with yourself, what would success look like for you?

Happy Squishy Day!

It’s finally here. It feels wonderful and surreal and a whole mix of different things. It all began back in 2006 with the first spark of an idea. It’s come such a long way since those first baby rabbit steps. Today it’s emerging from it’s burrow, all grown up and ready to enter the world. And with a hop, skip and a jump…

Squish Rabbit is finally in bookstores.

Only in the US so far, but it will also be available here in Australia by the end of the month. I’ve been spoiled with some lovely reviews so far.  Kirkus Reviews says:

Battersby’s expert, ample distribution of white space provides room on each page for readers to luxuriate in her impressive, evocative ink, watercolor and collage illustrations — and to absorb a small rabbit’s feelings. Minimal, moving and adorable, little Squish makes a big impression.

Publisher Weekly also had some encouraging things to say, as did a lovely mummy blogger over at Baby Centre.

I’ve been busy organising the Brisbane book launch (Saturday 3rd September) with my wonderful Aussie publishers, UQP, and the amazing indie bookstore, Black Cat Books.  All are welcome – kids and adults and anyone willing to go back down the rabbit hole. I’d love your company if you can make it. I’ll have the official invite up soon, and have a facebook page all about the launch that you can check out too.

Now this little cotton tailed writer is off for a day of celebrations … welcome into the world Squish!

Storylines Exhibition

Squish Rabbit might be a little shy, but he can occasionally be drawn out into the spotlight. He was just days ago when he made his debut in a local exhibition called Storylines 2, which is being held at Gallery M (Adelaide) until the 29th of this month. The exhibition has been described as:

An exhibition of original artwork exploring the illustration process from concept sketches through to the final publication of children’s picture books

Hop on over if you’d like to see some fabulous art from illustrators such as Sally Heinrich, Claire Richards and Amanda Graham as well as a special installation by Marianne Musgrove and some of Janeen Brian‘s playful poetry.

Squish Rabbit and me

Claire Richards with her gorgeous art and books (she was also the creative force behind the exhibition)

Janeen Brian and Claire Richards being silly over one of Janeen's poems

Illustration Workshop

At this year’s Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature Festival I’ll be doing a series of talks for all different ages. I’m super excited, as getting the chance to connect with my audience is easily one of the most joyous parts of being a children’s writer and illustrator.

I’ll be doing several book talks with grades 2-5, where I’ll discuss the role of author / illustrator, read Squish Rabbit and talk about how the story and characters developed. I’ll also read my story Monster Music, teach the kids how to draw some of the characters and together we’ll create our own monster. Can’t wait to see the results!

I’ll also be doing a series of illustration workshops with grades 5-8 and 9-12, for those specifically interested in art. In these I’ll read my short story Haunted (from the anthology Short and Scary) and discuss how an illustrator would go about illustrating such a tale. Together we’ll then illustrate a single scene from the story, using collage and mixed media. We’ll also be making our own textured paper, using paint, oil pastels and certain tools. Yesterday I had a go at making the scene myself, which you can see below. There were some happy accidents, like the trees’ canopy – I had intended to keep the image limited to the rectangular canvas, but before folding back the overhanging trees I realised I quite liked them the way they were. I also figured out a few tricks in speeding up the whole process, and even discovered how not to do certain bits…

It should be fun. Kids are so creative, and I love hearing all their big ideas. I also know high school artists are incredibly talented, and am fully prepared for many of them to be better at drawing than me!

PS. The competition in the last post is still open, so remember to comment if you want a chance to win…

Competition Time!

This July I’ve been invited back to the Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature Festival, which is held in tropical Mackay (north Queensland), my old home town. I’ll be doing a series of book talks and illustration workshops, along with a number of other wonderful authors and illustrators. I had such a fabulous time at last year’s festival and am thrilled I’ll get to be involved again.

Unfortunately Squish Rabbit will not quite be published in time for the festival, so instead I’ve created a series of postcards and bookmarks featuring my characters. They’ll be for sale through the festival bookshop.

COMPETITION: For your chance to win a signed copy of one of my postcards and bookmarks just leave a comment on this post, telling me which ones you’d choose if you won. Once I return from the festival (21st July) I’ll draw a winner out of a hat and announce it in the comment thread. Make sure I have some way of contacting you in case you win!

22/07/10 UPDATE: Thanks for all who entered and said such lovely, supportive things. I decided to draw three winners, and they are – Lynne the Lurker, Meg McKinlay and Susan Bonaci. I drew the winning names using an online random number generator (I wrote a few names out on pieces of paper, wanting to stay true to my above promise to draw the names from a hat, before giving up – clearly I’m too impatient). In a strange twist of fate, each person chose a different character. I’ll contact you each individually to find out where to send your prize…

Power of Suggestion

I finished editing a story the other day. It’s an early reader I first wrote a few years ago and it’s been through many drafts and rewrites. Settings have changed. Characters have been edited out. Darlings have been murdered. I sent it off to my agent and planned to put it out of my head until I heard her thoughts. I was going to be incredibly sensible about it all. ‘I’m not going to draw the characters,’ I told myself. ‘I’ll wait and see if there’s any interest in it first’.

Along comes my writing partner. ‘Have you started illustrating it yet?’ she says. I told her no (loudly), and repeated that I was being horribly sensible about it all. But my characters heard her. After that simple question, the mere suggestion of illustrating, they wouldn’t leave me alone. Talk about a riot. They pestered me until I had to draw them just to get them out of my head. And who would have thought, after I got over the self-doubt this illustration project stirred up (see my last post) I actually had some fun too.

Who needs ‘sensible’ anyway? And if the story doesn’t go anywhere, I’m still practicing and developing my style and getting more confident with each pen stroke. You’ll find some of the riot below…

The Illustrator who can’t Illustrate

Care to join me while I wallow? The word of the day is Self-Doubt, that wily fog-like creature that creeps in to disrupt all creators’ work. If anyone has a deterrent spray, please let me know…
I’m not sure why, but I’ve never felt particularly confident as an illustrator. There’s something about the process that brings out all my insecurities. Something about putting my work out there that still makes me feel like that ten-year-old who was terrified to show anyone her drawings for fear of rejection. I’m comfortable enough to call myself a writer, but when it comes to the label ‘illustrator’ I’m not always certain I deserve it.
Sound a bit silly for someone who has a picture book coming out next year? Yeah, I know.
It seems to be a cycle I go through. It’s usually triggered when I see other people’s art, especially those who work in different styles to me. I start to worry that I should be able to draw like Shaun Tan or Anne Spudvilas or Aaron Pocock. That unless I can create beautiful, emotional, realistic characters like they do, I’m not a real illustrator. That my own silly, cartoon-like figures just can’t stand up next to their creations. Then I start to worry I’ll be found out to be the fraud that I am – the illustrator who can’t illustrate.
But then the cycle comes around and I realise that I enjoy my own brand of illustrating. That it’s ok to work to my strengths – everyone does. That it’s unreasonable to expect that I could work in every style or that I could illustrate any type of story. Reflecting on this, I now have a song called ‘Clockwork’ stuck in my head, which features a great sample from the ‘Windmills of my Mind’ song. So I’m back at my drawing desk, scribbling and inking in my own silly style, singing:
Life is but a cycle
Round, like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending, nor beginning
On an ever spinning reel
Does anyone else get caught up in a negative spiral?

About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

Released Sept 2012:

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