Saturday, 31 January 2015

Run, Librarians, Run!


On Tuesday, the new mural was kicked off to a flying start, when I met the two Y4 classes, from St Joseph's Primary and Smawthorne Henry Moore schools in Castleford, who have been chosen to help me to create the artwork. We worked in Castleford Museum, just upstairs from where the mural will be housed. I had each group for less than two hours, so we had a lot to achieve in a short time


You may recall, I decided on a tiger theme, because of the local rugby team and it was a small step from that to having tigers rampaging among the librarians and children in a 'jungle library'. So, I asked the morning group to focus on tigers. I demonstrated various quick techniques to help the children structure their animals and give them movement, then they were off!


They were so into it and all drew like demons for the entire time. I just love the one at the top by Riley Farrar from St Joseph's! Those that finished their tigers early, had a go at librarians. I showed them how to use body language and eyebrows to get across emotion. Not everyone finished colouring, so I will be getting out my Derwents soon!


For the afternoon session, I changed things slightly and asked children to be more general, drawing other jungle animals. We had some interesting discussions: 'Miss, can I draw a penguin?', 'I don't think you get penguins in the jungle, do you?', 'Well, how about a shark?'. Thank goodness for Jungle Grumble, to get some idea of the animals you might actually find in the jungle!

I also asked them to think about background details for the jungle library, whist being careful not to actual colour the background, as that will of course be done digitally by me, once the design is sorted out.


The afternoon group drew me some children and a few more librarians too. Bethany has definitely got to win the prize for best librarian illustration. Look carefully and you will see that she has also featured one of the library's 'talking books':


As well as having a well known rugby team, Castleford is an important archeological site (the museum is full of Roman artifacts, including the wheels of a chariot), so I have been asked to try and feature the Romans in the mural too. It's a hard match to the existing theme, but I wondered if a few Roman soldiers might come to life from the Ancient History bookshelves. They could help restore order and fight off the tigers perhaps. With this in mind, a few children drew Romans for me:


I did the return journey to Sheffield with a lovely, fat package of amazing illustrations. This week I have been scanning them into my computer, just as low-res images for now, so I can play around, dropping them into the templates I created, trying to combine as many of them as possible into what will ultimately be one big illustration, rampaging around the walls of Castleford Children's Library.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Sitting on the Stairs in Castleford Library



I took the train to Castleford yesterday, to work in the library for the day, running the drawing workshops I was telling you about, with local, Y4 school children. They did me proud and I'll show you some examples next time, once I've sorted through them all.

In my lunch break, I sat in the glass stairwell and sketched the view from the window, using my favourite Sailor Pen and some watercolour. I'm not much into drawing cars, but I liked the long view right across the car park, across the shopping street, towards a river and distant hills: 


I was using an A5, grey-paper, concertina sketchbook which a fellow member of Urban Sketchers Yorkshire, Lucie Golton, made for me as a present, because I loved my tinted-paper Strathmore so much and she noticed how I've recently been getting into the extendable space of the concertina format. How lovely is that? Concertinas are great for longer views like this, when there's loads to fit in, especially if you don't like drawing small.

Ignore the candlestick by the way: that was part of some sketching I did during a recent SketchCrawl day in Buxton.

I did everything but the white, pastel highlights on the spot, but ran out of time before I could get them added (white chalk really lifts things when you are sketching onto a tinted ground). I added the pastel on the train and so got into a lovely conversation with a young man and his mum who were sitting across the aisle. They had been talking about his baby daughter previously so, with an apology for ear-wigging, I signed him a copy of Baby Goes Baaaaa!, passing on the present vibe:


Monday, 26 January 2015

I've Started Work on My New Mural



Regular readers will remember the excitement of the 13m long mural I created for the shiny, new Wakefield Library, working with local school kids. To be completely honest, I was really apprehensive about taking on the project, as I had never done anything at all like it before, but the results far exceeded my expectations, so I'm really glad now that I took the plunge.


Wakefield have had such amazing feedback (hurrah!) that they want me to do another mural, this time in Castleford Library, which is having a refurb. Again, I am a little nervous. This time it is even more complicated, as it is a whole room. Also, instead of a simple (albeit BIG) panel, I have to work on the whole space, designing around bookshelves and windows etc. 

How to begin?! 



Well, I started by taking photos of the various walls in the space then, with a bit of jiggery-pokery in Photoshop, montaged them together to create a single flattened-out view:


So far so good. 

I then asked the caretaker at the library to take his tape measure and note down every dimension. This was more complex than you might think, as I needed to know the exact size of obvious things like windows and bookshelves, but also the exact positions of objects like the alarm on the wall, the depth and width of the wall pillars, the height of the book-bag rail, the desk...

To organise that information into something that made sense, and thereby minimise the number of mistakes I was likely to make, I plotted all this information on top of the photo in Photoshop:


Then the even more fun job: I had to create a scale drawing of the space to act as a template: the shape to design the illustration into. 

This is where it gets complicated, because the space is obviously VERY big. Eventually, I will create the high-res, digital artwork at 25%, but that's still going to mean working with massive files and, to stop the computer taking it's ball home, I will chop it up into 6 sections. Designing something in 6 bits is near impossible, so I am doing the designing at 10th size, so I only have to work in 3 sections.

This is what the template for section 1 looks like (the left third). You can see the pillar between the first 2 bookcases, the alarm and the first computer desk:


The next step is a bit more fun - a couple of illustration workshops with Y4 classes from local schools, to generate the children's drawings which I am going to build the design around. The workshops are tomorrow and the theme is: tigers loose in the library! 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Bears on the Stairs: Lights, Camera... Action!


When I read my picture books to children, I always add at least one fun activity, to make the experience even more memorable for them. Bears on the Stairs, written by my favourite partner, Julia Jarman, is the perfect book for all sorts of added-value fun, so I almost always read it at least once during a school visit. 

I read it to a KS1 class in the lovely St Andrews Infant School in Brighouse last week. When we got to the end of the story, I asked the children if it was okay for me to be a bit silly. Luckily, they said yes. Even more luckily, one of the teachers filmed the next part of the session on her iPad, so I can show you exactly what I mean by 'added-value' and just how silly we can get!

I wrote the poem 'The Bear on the Stair' to fit with Julia's story and the whole class performs it together. Before we start though, I ask for volunteers. First, I need someone to be the bear: to roar and eat the children at the end of the poem. Then I need a volunteer to do a big burp (I once had a Head Teacher volunteer for this role!), so I asked the class at St Andrews what noise you might make if your belly was really, really full of children. Instead of a burp, one little boy rubbed his tummy and made a fabulously deep, bear-like 'Mmmmmmmm....' sound. So, as well as the burper, I added him to the mix.



I was delighted that it was this particular session which was filmed, because it was an especially good one. The children were so engaged and the 3 guys at the front really went for it. It makes me laugh every time I watch it, to see them making up all the actions to go with the poem. Watch for yourself and see.


After all the noise and silliness of the poem, I quieten things down with a mock-serious award ceremony, giving a little Bears on the Stairs badge to each of my volunteers. Unfortunately, I have almost used up all the badges that the publisher gave me - just a handful left.