Archive for July, 2009

Gone Fishing

Well, not exactly fishing. Tomorrow we head off to the land of ice, New Zealand, for a ski trip. Should be hilarious really, considering I have no idea how to ski. You can be assured that comical photos are to follow.

This little ski bunny will be back in a week and a half. Wish me luck, but don’t tell me to break a leg … or an ankle … or a wrist …


Developing a Style

Rabbit - lonelyA friend of mine recently asked how I found my illustration style. What I like about this question is that it made me realise how far I’ve come. Not long ago, I still felt I was struggling to find myself as an illustrator. But when I stood back, I realised that I am starting to develop more of a brand – a consistent style that could become uniquely recognised as mine (I hope).

But how did I get here? At school I loved drawing cartoons, copying Loony-Toons and Warner Brother’s characters and even creating a few of my own. As my art developed it became a lot like my personality – quite finicky and perfectionistic, something that drove my senior art teacher mad. He taught me to loosen up and explore other techniques, which I’ll be ever grateful for.

When I first became interested in illustration, my beginning years were spent imitating (not intentionally) the styles of those whose art inspired me. People like Stephen Michael King, Oliver Jeffers, Lauren Child and Tohby Riddle. I can still see their lingering influence on my work. My mum inspired my use of watercolour, a medium she’s always been passionate about. My use of collage comes from having always loved textural art that draws you in and makes you want to touch it. I’m also influenced by anime and manga, an art form and style of storytelling I adore. Studying graphic design and learning about art history also helped. Along the way I picked up things I liked and left behind those I didn’t. The more I drew, the more my own style began to emerge.

I always say that I use the computer to construct my art because I’m an anxious illustrator. In the end, that finicky part of me has crept back in and actually helped to develop my style (my art teacher would be disappointed!). The computer allows me to experiment with colours and textures while being able to go back, or move the composition around if I change my mind. It takes away my anxiety of doing something ‘wrong’.

I hope my style never truly stops developing. I know each project I tackle challenges me in new ways. Someone once said that the day that your craft becomes easy is the day you should stop. I’ve posted my latest project below: a few early sketches of some monsters who’ve been running around my head.


Festival Fanfare (part 2)

Rabbit - climbI have now officially unpacked after the Whitsunday Voices festival (orderly Andrew was very restrained, and never said anything over the last few days). While unpacking my suitcase, I was also mentally unpacking, thinking through all I experienced and learnt. My favourite thing about the festival was that I had plenty of breaks, which allowed me to sneak into several of the other author / illustrator sessions to watch them work their magic…

  • Michael Gerard Bauer: Even with a tough crowd (well over 200 mid-graders) Michael had them captivated with tales from his childhood, revealing events that influenced scenes in his books. He’s a natural storyteller and had us all in stitches, and ignited a love of literature and stories in even the most reluctant reader
  • Sally Rippin: Sally is just delightful and discussed the evolution of several of her books, followed by an illustration workshop. She cleverly broke down the drawing of complex forms into simple shapes, and had the kids marveling at what that they could create with her help
  • John Marsden: John is a master at audience participation and used several clever games and volunteers from the audience to demonstrate how stories are created. I find his passion for stories and good writing is catching (the audience clearly felt the same way)
  • Boori Pryor: If you ever get the chance to see him speak, don’t miss it. He’s like the rockstar of kid’s literature. Storytelling is clearly in his blood, and he has a wonderful way of making every child in the audience feel like he’s speaking to them alone. He naturally involves the entire audience in his performance, reeling you in with his energy and humour. Then he whipped out his didgeridoo and had the kids doing dance interpretations of australian wildlife. I laughed so hard I actually cried when one little boy did a hip-hop style butterfly (the kind of butterfly you wouldn’t confront in a dark ally)
  • Matt Ottley: Matt ran an illustration workshop that literally had the audience wide eyed and gasping in awe. He started with simple shapes, then the audience marveled as, with a few lines, they emerged as characters from his books. He had kids draw ‘Mr Squiggle’ style doodles on the board, then transformed them into funny animals and fantasy creatures. Every child in that room left with the desire to learn to draw like Matt.

After all that, on the final day we had the big literary dinner. When I say ‘big’ I mean it – over 400 people attended. There was much chatting, socialising, eating and drinking. Even some dancing (although not on tabletops, as Michael Bauer would have you believe). Below are some photos of the night, which prove even us ‘reclusive’ writer and illustrator types can scrub up alright for a party.


Michael and I (we may be on a table at this point - you'd never know)

Robert Newton (writer), me and Steven Herrick (poet)

Robert Newton (writer), me and Steven Herrick (poet)

Marc Macbride (illustrator), me, Matt Ottley (writer/illustrator) and Sally Rippin (writer/illustrator)

Marc Macbride (illustrator), me, Matt Ottley (writer/illustrator) and Sally Rippin (writer/illustrator)

Festival Fanfare (part 1)

Rabbit - floatAs mentioned in my last post, I was invited as an emerging author to speak at Mackay’s Whitsunday Voices youth literary festival. I returned to Brisvegas many days ago, but after several days of festivities followed by the big literary dinner, I’ve only just caught up on sleep and rejoined the land of the living.

The festival itself played out over Thursday 16th and Friday 17th of this month, and was run by a bunch of delightful teachers, volunteers and students. I had the opportunity of speaking with all the kids from prep through to grade three – kids who were enthusiastic, engaging and full of both thoughtful and hilarious questions. They truly made little-old-me feel like a rock star (I was even asked to sign many drawings and school diaries!). Several of my talks were in my original grade 4 and 5 classrooms, which brought back some very vivid memories of my childhood self.

While each talk varied slightly depending on the class, they looked something like this:

  • Storytelling: I introduced myself as someone who tells stories through words and images. We also discussed the history of storytelling and how it has evolved
  • Reading: The classes were my first test audience for Squish Rabbit. It was such a thrill to see how they responded to the story. I was constantly amazed at how their minds unpacked the characters and events
  • Discussion: There were lots of questions about how I made the images and where the ideas came from
  • Illustration Workshop: I went in armed with a cartooning workshop on people, but all the classes requested I teach them how to draw Squish and his Squirrel friend Twitch, which was great fun
  • Characterisation: After the drawing workshop, the kids created their own versions of my characters by adding colours, clothes or props. They were so imaginative that I had to share some





Agent Twitch


Daddy Squish, mummy Squish and baby Squash :)

Even though I was invited there to talk, I feel like I left with more than I contributed. Everyone was so generous and the kids filled me with energy and self-esteem, as well as many ideas for future stories…

Whitsunday Voices

The Mackay Festival of Arts is growing into a distinctive regional QLD presence.  This week it presents the annual Whitsunday Voices youth literature festival, which each year is attended by over 5,000 students.  2009 sees a stunning cast of authors and illustrators; people like Michael Gerard Bauer, John Marsden, Emily Rodda, Matt Ottley and Sally Rippin.

And me (*cheeky grin*). I’ve been invited to attend as an emerging author and illustrator, and will get the opportunity to be involved in the festival events and talk to a number of junior classes. The festival itself is held at my old school, so it will be an interesting experience standing up in front of kids in the very same classrooms I sat in as a student. Even some of my old teachers still work there. No doubt the experience of running into them in hallways will make me unconsciously duck away guiltily, feeling like a troublesome school girl again.

The festival itself runs on Thursday and Friday, but I’m in Mackay a day early. I had the fortune of being invited into the local ABC Tropical North studio to do an interview with the delightful morning show host, Aaron Stevens. It was lovely having the chance to speak about the great work the festival does in introducing a new generation of kids to books and reading, and to also be able to speak about my craft. While there I got to catch up with an old school friend, Melissa Maddison, whose dulcet tones present the news each day.

The Whitsunday Voices festival launch is tonight, and I’m all amped up for the beginning of what will be several days of writing and illustrating mayhem. I’m going in equipped with stories, art and even some little bookmarks I made for the kids I’ll be speaking to. Bring it on!


Red Nose Blues

Rabbit - exclamationI love working from home. You’ll never hear me complaining about it – writing and illustrating is my absolute dream job. But since cutting back on my other work commitments, I’ve realised there are some things about working from home I hadn’t considered.

Like the fact that home becomes your office and it’s near impossible to take time off without feeling guilty about not working. Now I have to leave the house if I want time out.

And the fact that weekends and weeknights are no longer sacred – work is all pervasive. Even bed time isn’t mine – ideas run rampant in the dark wee hours.

And the fact that even when I’m sick and need time off to just lie around the house trying to get better (and trying to breath), I still find myself at my computer attempting to work. Silliness, I tell you.

But not this day. I was made stubborn for a reason: I’m going to take my red nosed sniffling self downstairs, away from the office, and watch an old favourite movie (as recommended by a friend of mine). Writing can wait until another day.

But there’s no stopping the ideas … (wicked Dr Claw style laughter)

Bouncing Manuscript

As of yesterday, Squish Rabbit is officially on submission. He’s off bouncing around editor’s desks, hopefully behaving himself and making some friends. I wont know anything for a couple of months yet, but keep your paws crossed for me…


Note: Bunny courtesy of Dee White, photo courtesy of Sheryl Gwyther

How to Make an Illustrator

Rabbit - balloonThe other day, Kathleen, a writing friend of mine, asked how I got into illustrating. This got me thinking.  My path has been quite a meandering one, which has happened in a few stages. I suppose it started back in the ice age (when I was at school):

  • School: I was always known as the ‘arty’ one, who people went to when they needed something drawn, designed or an assignment decorated (if I was more enterprising I would have started charging). However it took a new high school art teacher to really open up my creative mind – he pushed me to explore new mediums and techniques, and got me really excited about communicating visually
  • University: I considered studying graphic design, but for a creative person I’m also painfully practical. The thought of trying to earn a living creatively terrified me. So I took my love of people and science, and studied occupational therapy instead. At uni, where exams and assignments (and a little partying) took over, my art became more practical, only happening when specifically called on: ie. making people cards or creating posters for events
  • The Real World: I’d always wanted to work with kids, so as an OT I specialised in paediatric counselling and play therapy. For over six years I worked with children experiencing emotional and behavioural difficulties, a job I adored, but it was draining and left me with no creative energy. I reached a point where I was working in my ideal job but just wasn’t happy. So I started drawing (and writing) again, and after a while realised that everything I was doing was aimed at kids. It made sense – through my work I was passionate about kid’s needs and their world, and had been collecting kids books for years. After dabbling in a few art courses, I decided to take the leap:
  • BACK to University: I studied graphic design part time at the QLD College of Art. It was strange to be back doing what I’d always imagined when I was growing up, but this time I had direction, and the thought of pursuing something creative no longer terrified me. I got to study art history, art theory, digital design, visual communication, typography and book design / binding, which only concreted my goal: I wanted to create books for children
  • Genes: There are a lot of creative souls in my extended family, which I only truly realised in the last few years. I grew up in a house with the art of my mum (gorgeous water-colours), grandfather and great-grandfather lining the walls. My brother had an instinct for music, and both plays the guitar and sings. My American aunt and uncle are children’s singers – The Battersby Duo – who have performed on Sesame Street and in the White House. My English uncle is a film editor and aunt is both a fine artist and author. My two New Zealand aunts are highly talented artists who work in oils, mosaics and jewellery. Even my dog is creative (see image below). So I suppose it seems obvious that one day I’d listen to the creative call of my genes

So that’s how this illustrator was made. Everyone’s journey is different: there are many ways to bake a cake. Personally, I prefer to think of myself more as a chocolate brownie, although I have in the past been described as a strawberry shortcake. Make of that what you will.


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:


Author Talks

Speakers Ink
Creative Net