Posts Tagged 'Shaun Tan'

Ink (or literary tattoos)

Rabbit - floatAs an illustrator I work in ink every day. I’m very familiar with it as a medium. And while my canvas tends to be paper, some artists use skin.

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…

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2013-07-04

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.

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?

Short and Scary

Up for a bit of creepiness? I hope so, because Black Dog Books is just about to release their latest anthology, Short and Scary. It’s a book that promises to be full of ‘a whole lot of creepy stories and other chilling stuff’, and it’s not wrong. Ghosties and ghoulies and monsters and all sorts of freakiness crawls over each and every page.

How do I know? Because one of my stories is featured between the pages. Just today I received my advance copy, and enjoyed seeing Haunted alongside stories written by so many authors and illustrators I admire, such as Shaun Tan, Sally Rippin, James Moloney, Gabrielle Wang, Carole Wilkinson, Andy Griffiths, Terry Denton, James Roy and the list goes on. It’s also thrilling to share the pages with many good friends of mine (girls, you know who you are). I encourage you to go grab yourself a copy, not just because it’s a great read, but also because all proceeds will be donated to a really worthwhile charity called Big Brothers Big Sisters, who provide a much needed youth mentoring program.

As an aside, I haven’t blogged much lately because I’ve been quite busy – not with my usual writing, but writing articles and preparing talks…

  • I was recently the featured author in Writing Queensland, the QLD Writers Centre magazine, which involved an interview
  • I was approached by the ACT Writers Centre and asked to contribute an article on picture books to one of their upcoming magazines
  • July 14th-16th I’ll be speaking at Whitsunday Voices, giving talks and illustration workshops to grades 2-4 and 9-12
  • July 17th I’ll be doing a talk on Making Picture Books for the Gold Coast Writers’ Association (non-members are welcome to attend too)

There’s nothing I enjoy more than speaking about writing and illustrating, and I’m really looking forward to doing some more speaking events. So I’ve been busy, but happy. Although I will enjoy getting back to my new novel…

The Forgotten Illustrator

I have been drawing a lot lately, for the exact reason Sherryl Clark so eloquently discussed over on her blog.  It’s in a vain attempt to fight a phenomenon that occurs after finishing a large writing project.  For the last few months I have trained myself to be thinking about a certain set of characters, having their scenes roll out in my head and gluing my bum to the chair each and every day to write some more of it down.  Then last week I finally typed the final word and that was it.  Done.  Finished.  Kaput.

But the characters are still there in my head.  They are still running riot and demanding my attention, but I’m finished with them for now.  There’s nothing more I can offer them.  Yet the routine I’d developed has the unfortunate side effect of making me feel guilty when I’m not on my computer and I feel pressured to jump straight into the next writing project.  But as Sherryl discusses, it is healthy to have a break.  I was complaining to Andrew about this phenomena and how I didn’t have anything to ‘do’ to distract myself.  He looked at me and said, “What, have you forgotten you’re an illustrator?”  Well, yes, maybe I had.  Writing can do that to a person.

So here I am, drawing and sketching and painting and forcing those other characters out of my head like a landlord on a rampage.  Today I have just done some sketches and experiments (which are of little interest to anyone outside myself) so I thought I’d post another image I did recently:

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This is the climax scene for a picture book I’ve written, and I created it using my favourite combination of media.  I sketched the girl and her toy, then live traced them in Illustrator to get that wonderful bold chunky outline.  I then painted them using watercolour – which I love because it forces me to free up and not always be so controlled (which us Virgos need sometimes).  I scanned this in and combined it all in photoshop, using textured paper for the comic book style rays in the background.  My goal was to capture the heightened emotion of the scene.  Oh, and I love hand made typography (which people like Shaun Tan use to great effect) so I’ve created my own.


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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