Posts Tagged 'digital art'


For the last week or so I have been working on the final illustrations for a new picture book of mine. You may remember back when I was developing the characters for it, and even when I was storyboarding it out. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m now mourning the fact that it’s all done and I no longer get to frolic with the characters. That said, there’s nothing quite like the feeling when it all finally comes together. I love seeing an idea materialise on paper after it’s lived in my head for so long.

Like many of my stories, I often can’t see where they’ve come from until long after they’re written. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I believe this is actually the story of my fiance and I. Can you guess which character I am? (hint: it’s probably the opposite of your initial instinct…)

Illustration Monday

For the moment I’ve vacated my mind of rabbits (a tough job) all to make way for a rather stubborn duck – the star of my latest picture book project. Although his title of ‘star’ is contentious. He may well be thrown from his throne by a character that is definitely, 100% NOT a duck. These two have been waging a little war in my head for the last few weeks, both competing for attention in their own unique ways. Duck is demanding and difficult but endearing in his own way. Not-Duck is free spirited and willful and also a little loopy. The project is still in the character design phase at this stage, but I’m almost ready to do up a storyboard. I’ve made the images below using ink, watercolour and digital collage.




Little Monsters

It’s that time of year in Brisbane again. Festival season. Every time I turn around, there’s another writer’s event to attend. Cocktail parties, conferences, dinners, talks, debates and everything in between. Not that you’ll find me complaining – any excuse to mingle with others passionate about children’s literature – but I may be a little quiet on this blog over the next week. You can be sure that when I do get back I’ll have plenty to talk about…

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some images from my latest picture book project: a few little monsters who have literally been running riot around my mind.




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)

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.


Illustration Monday

I’m playing with a couple of picture book ideas at the moment. Today I’ve been breathing new life into an old one I’ve rediscovered – the idea was fun, but the delivery was awful. So it’s been completely rewritten, and now I’m experimenting with illustration styles and character design. This is really my favourite part, because once the characters have come alive on the page, the story and words change too. In fact, the text often halves once I know how the images will work. I’ve gone through a few different styles and versions of the characters, but these are my favourites (although still very rough). Its working title is ‘The Not-Duck’.






Illustration Wednesday

Many prefer illustrating in full colour.  And yet there’s something striking about the stripped back palette of black and white art. With their carefully balanced tonal qualities and the bold use of contrast, they hold an appeal which possibly has something to do with evoking memories of the past (like an old photograph).

That said, it’s a very different skill to working in colour, but it’s something I really enjoy. Working in black and white forces you to spend longer in the designing phase, focussing on contrast and laying out the elements. Although I always design an image by hand, I often construct it digitally, using Photoshop curves and channel mixers to adjust the tones of each component. I also use texture as an extra element – as a way of adding contrast – which, combined with positive and negative space, gives me a little more flexibility.

Below are some images I finished today. My goal was to illustrate three scenes that evoked entirely different moods.




Picture Book Baby

Rabbit - runI must apologise. I’ve been neglecting this blog horrendously. But that’s because I’m a new mother … of a picture book baby.

As mentioned previously, I’m currently taking a break between novel drafts to focus on a picture book project. She started off small and pink, wailing for attention, and once I gave her some she demanded it all. Over the last month or so she has grown in fits and starts, and is slowly blossoming into all I know she can be. At times it’s been joyous. Other times painful. But so worth it in the end.

In many ways, illustrating can be tricky. One illustration may take an entire day, and even then it may not be working the way I hoped.  After spending so many hours of focussed attention on one image it’s easy to get too close, making it impossible to pinpoint what isn’t working. Each time this happens I have to remind myself to go through the following steps:

  1. Get a non-illustrators opinion: their unbiased eye is often the best at spotting problems (my fiance is an absolute star at this)
  2. Get an illustrators opinion: it’s easier to talk craft with other illustrators
  3. Try illustrating the scene from a different perspective: this can make a flat scene more dynamic
  4. Jot down a series of words about the scene, focussing on character motivation and emotion: it helps to pinpoint exactly what the image should be capturing
  5. Go back to the drawing board: get away from the scene, pull out fresh paper and start playing

Just today I finished assembling all the text and images – there are only a few fiddly things left to do before it’s ready to be sent off into the submissions ether. Below are a couple of scenes I’ve been working on over the last week, using watercolour, collage and digital art.




Illustration Friday

For me, when drawing, there is nothing more rewarding than when the ideas are flowing onto the page and they’re matching up with the images in my head.  This doesn’t always happen.  Certain projects take longer to come together, and sometimes what I envisioned in my mind doesn’t always work when it gets down on paper.  Luckily the former is true for my latest illustration project.

Below are some images I’ve been creating for the picture book concept I mentioned in my last post.  This project has been a dream to work on – a wonderful vacation for my mind each day,  in between the hard work of redrafting my novel.  Instead of wrangling with words, I’ve been tickling colours and shaping stray lines, enjoying the way it all comes together on the page.  It’s nice to have a project with no external pressures – right now this is just mine, folded away inside my mind, where I’m allowed to enjoy the ideas just for myself and dabble for the simple pleasure of creating.  In these images, I’ve been playing with how to express the story and emotions of my main character, Squish.





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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