Posts Tagged 'Picture books'
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: Brave Squish Rabbit, Giraffe beanie, Inside an illustrator's mind, Picture books, Squish Rabbit, What an idea looks like
So I’ve been working on a new picture book. And for the first time in a while, this one is not about a little rabbit named Squish. The other day my mum asked me what Squish thought about being ejected from my mind for another character. I think he’s coping, but he’s definitely curious about ‘the new guy’ and is reserving judgement.
This is a bit what it all looks like…
It’s a strange thing to have a little blue pig romping around your mind. A strange and wonderful thing. I’m not sure where he will take me just yet, but I’m certainly enjoying getting to know him.
I also thought I’d better put up another photo, in response to this one from my last post:
There’s been a bit of contention as to what’s real. I labelled it as Squish Rabbit reading his own book while wearing a giraffe beanie. After all, it was a cold weekend in Brisbane. Some questioned whether I was being ridiculous (and to be honest, this does happen sometimes) and felt that this was actually just a giraffe toy pretending to be Squish. But here is photo evidence that the giraffe beanie does indeed exist:
I wore it at the Ekka yesterday. In public. And took a photo. I suppose this also serves as evidence that I am sometimes ridiculous.
Tags: Brave Squish Rabbit, Getting Published, Picture books, Squish Rabbit, University of Queensland Press, UQP, Writing children's picture books
I love mail. Bills – not so much – but letters and postcards and invites and … packages. Oh yes, especially packages. Most especially those that come in the shape of books. Or those with little white rabbits tucked away inside. And yesterday I received just such a package.
These are the final print proofs of the Australian version of Brave Squish Rabbit, which will officially be released on October 1st, just after the US release date of September 14th. And this version has a very special difference. Something we’re super hoppy excited about. Which is…
It was all my editor’s idea, who has been looking for the right book to use this effect on. Along came Squish with his second tale, set at night and with luminous little glow bugs on the cover. It couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s taken quite a mammoth effort to get the printing of this book just right, and the UQP editorial team and I have spent much time together in dark cupboards testing glowing samples. Not quite how I imagined this whole publishing thing would work. But a lot of fun :)
The glow effect is on the glow bugs on the cover and the little stars on the back:
l always imagine that because I have spent so long illustrating a project and have seen it every day on my computer screen, that I wont react when I see the final book. But it’s just not true. When I opened the package I might have been heard repeating the words ‘It’s a book! It’s a book!’ like some kind of neanderthal who has just discovered the written word. Needless to say, I was pretty excited. I’m really proud of this book, and so thankful of the support my two publishers have given me in helping bring it to life.
But I wasn’t the only one in this household who was excited about the arrival. You can see what happened below:
Tags: Brave Squish Rabbit, How to make a book trailer, I want my hat back, It's a Book, Jon Klassen, Kate Forsyth, Lane Smith, Making a book trailer, Making Picture Books, Picture book trailer, Picture books, Squish Rabbit, Squish Rabbit book trailer, The Wildkin's Curse
My second book is due out in a few short months, so this topic has consumed most of my creative time lately. Book trailers are much like movie trailers … only about books (duh). They’re short video clips used to advertise books, but for me they’re much more. The illustrator in me loves them as another form of visual storytelling, as well as an excuse to dabble in animation. They’re also a great way to reach an international audience. Being based in Australia, here I can tour schools and festivals, meeting kids and teachers and doing book readings. But when it comes to my US audience, instead I can interact using my book trailer and by doing blog tours and online interviews.
So let’s say you’ve written a book and want to make your own trailer. Here’s the good news: the hard bit is already done. Because the first thing you need is a great story. Once you have that, you have the bones of your trailer. Now the bad news: I can’t tell you exactly how to make a trailer. There are just too many different ways to go about it. But I can tell you what a good trailer needs … and how I made mine … and what I’ve learnt along the way (please feel free to learn from my mistakes).
Where to start…
- Watch lots of trailers: I mean heaps. Good ones. Bad ones. Figure out the difference. Find a few you love and study them
- Make a list: write down all the things you want your trailer to include. My list was: book cover, key scenes, review quotes, publisher information, trailer credits, my website
- Write the script: write out all the words that will appear in your trailer, whether spoken or written. Then edit it. And again. Get the order and emphasis right. Spend as much time on it as you would crafting a passage of your book. Mine looks like this:
- Choose your visuals: for an illustrator this bit is easier. I chose a few key scenes from my picture book to use. If you’re not the illustrator, you need to seek their permission to use their work. If your book is a novel, there are royalty free image sites you can google to find quality images – spend time finding ones that reflect the mood and style of your story
- Choose your music: I’m lucky enough to work with an amazingly talented composer and multi-instrumentalist, but they don’t just grow on trees. Mostly people use royalty free music you can download from various sites. I used such sites to find a few subtle sound effects, and made some of my own (in my extremely low budget recording studio / bedroom cupboard)
- Create a storyboard: this is an illustrating term, which means designing the visuals of the story. Draw out exactly what you want your trailer to look like, a few frames at a time. This is where you can start to think about text and image placement, as well as consider background, transitions, colour, sound effects and music. Mine looks like this:
- Make it: Yeah, not as easy as it sounds. This point could have an entire blog devoted to it. But choose a video editing program you have, or one you can afford, then read / watch every online tutorial you can find. This is exactly how I learnt to use Flash, which is what I used to create my first trailer. This time around I was going to use stop motion animation, but it was consuming too much time so I’ve shelved that idea for another year. My first trailer involved a lot of trial and error as I was figuring Flash out, and it took me forever to grasp what I was doing. But this second trailer has been much easier (and much more fun). I’m now confident enough to play with some more complicated sequences
Things I learnt along the way…
- Keep it short. No longer that 1min 30sec. Modern viewers have short attention spans (most of you probably haven’t made it this far in my post)
- While my book is written in past tense, the trailer worked much better in present tense – it gave a greater sense of unfolding action
- However long you think it will take to make the trailer – double it
- Get the trailer ready to release at least a month before the book comes out. Book review copies are sent out long before the release date, so books often start gathering reviews early. It’s great if you can have the trailer circulating at the same time
Some of my favourite trailers…
- It’s a Book by Lane Smith
- I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
- The Wildkin’s Curse by Kate Forsyth
- And in case you want to see the one I made for Squish Rabbit:
I’ll be launching the Brave Squish Rabbit trailer here in September…