Posts Tagged 'Oliver Jeffers'

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…



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.

Melbourne Launch + More Reviews

It’s been a big time for little Squish Rabbit. He’s been out hopping around bookstores for nearly two months in Australia and these last weeks have seen more reviews, interviews and an approaching launch in Melbourne…

Squish and I would love to see all you Melbournites at The Little Bookroom for our morning of Squishy celebrations. The book will be launched by talented author (and all-round lovely person) Wendy Orr, who wrote Nim’s Island as well as one of my current favourite picture books, The Princess and her Panther. There’ll also be plenty of fun for cotton tailed kids and adults, with live music, an illustration demonstration, a book reading and craft table. Hope to see you there!

In review news, the delightful Deb Abela reviewed Squish Rabbit on the ABC radio ‘Drive’ segment with Louise Maher. There were moments where Squish had her laughing so much she had trouble getting her words out! Very sweet. You can read the review here or listen to the audio file at the bottom of the page. Here’s a snippet of what she said:

This story is illustrated by a mix of collage and drawing giving it a rich layered texture that is both as inviting and delightful as a long, warm hug.

Over at Hooray for Books!, an independent bookstore in Virginia, one of the staff names Squish Rabbit as one of her favourite picture books (alongside Oliver Jeffers‘ The Incredible Book Eating Boy – huge complement). Hop on over and read the review on their blog. I love this one – it’s so special when a reviewer really gets inside the heart of a story:

It’s always a pleasure to find an author who understands that childhood is not all sunshine and birthday parties; that children sometimes feel loneliness, and feel it deeply. “Squish Rabbit,” however, is not dark in the slightest; it’s matter-of-fact and elegant in its emotional honesty … I highly recommend it as a thoughtful read-aloud, even for the wee ones.

Boomerang Books is my pick of online Australian bookstores, and over at their Kids’ Book Capers blog they’re currently celebrating a week of literary rabbits. The lovely Tania McCartney has just interviewed Squish – she asks some really sweet questions and does a beautiful job of hosting this little cartoon rabbit. If you read the interview you’ll also get a sneak peek of Squish Rabbit’s second book (which should be coming out August 2012). Kids’ Book Capers’ other resident blogger and fellow rabbit lover, Dee White, has also interviewed me as well as done a lovely book review here.

Exciting times. Now I’d better hop back to the drawing desk. Still more spreads to complete for Squish’s second adventure…

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.


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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