Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Sharing Ideas with Julia Jarman


Generally speaking, authors and illustrators don't get together to chat through new book projects. I get the text from the publisher, not the author and, as I work on my illustrations, I talk with the art director and designer, not the author, sending my ideas, roughs and eventually my artwork to the publisher, never once having had any contact with the author. It surprises people, but that's quite normal.


It's a bit different though with Julia Jarman. When an author and illustrator team up for several books, they can become friends and often start to work more closely, certainly at the start of a project. Julia and I have done 5 books together now and are a good match - we think alike and we laugh at the same things. Which is why we work so easily together and why we get on so well too.

Julia often emails me stories she is working on and would like me to illustrate, asking for my input. Julia's writing is very visual: as I read one of her texts, I can immediately see illustrations in my head. This gives me a slightly different perspective to Julia and my take on things can help her to fine-tune the wording, before she sends it to the publisher. 


We were working on a new story last week and several drafts of it went back and forth between us by email. I'm not actually drawing anything at this stage, but Julia knows my work so well, it only takes a few words for me to paint a picture for her of what's in my head. 

I can't tell you anything specific, but I think it's going to be a good one and am really crossing my fingers that the publisher takes it. 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

ESL Workshops - Something a Bit Different


Tomorrow I am of to Leeds for the very last visit of the Spring season. After that, I am back in the studio for quite a while.



John re-visited his role as Chauffeur recently and drove me to the tiny (and lovely) Scamblesby Primary School in Lincolnshire (it was just one of those places that was a nightmare on a train, even though it wasn't really that far). He dropped me off and then went to the coast.


It's a good system, but I get to do no train sketches of course. Not to worry though: I spent 2 days at a secondary school in Nottingham last week, working with ESL students at Djanogly Academy (I still have no idea how to pronounce that), so I got my train-drawing fix, as you can see.


Djanogly was a very interesting booking. For those who don't know, ESL stands for English as a Second Language. I had really small groups, anything from 4 to 12 students, because some of them had not been in England for more than a few months and had only a very basic grasp of the language. Some of their confidence levels were, understandable, quite low, although many of them were obviously pretty bright. 


I was really pleased that we managed to work so well together, and they all clearly enjoyed the session. I took lots to show them and forced myself to talk slowly and clearly (not easy for me!), keeping my sentences short and my vocab simple. They all worked really hard and produced some smashing drawings.



The staff were very complimentary afterwards, which felt great, as I was in completely new territory. They said that the students weren't used to sitting and listening for anywhere near that long, so they were really pleased with how focused and enthusiastic they all were, right to the end. 

I really enjoyed working with young adults too. Even when I am in secondary schools, I rarely get the older students. They are usually caught up with the exam syllabus, but Djanogly were having an Arts Festival, with various visitors and creative workshops going on, so students could opt out of regular lessons, or spend their lunchtime / after-school doing different activities. What a great idea.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

More Than 20,000 Views - Yippee!


I just went to my YouTube channel to reply to a lovely comment about one of my films and discovered that the filmed demo I did of me drawing a piece of artwork from Swap! has recently gone over 20,000 views. How exciting is that?! It's kind of weird too, to think that 20,000 people, probably all over the world, have watched me drawing.

If you haven't seen the demo already, here it is again:


Do 'like' or 'share', if you find it interesting - every little helps in this business!

Since we did this film, John and I shot another demo film in the studio: this time it's me creating some artwork from Jungle Grumble. It's a larger illustration and so, when it's ready, it will be a longer film. We recorded pretty much the whole way through the illustration, from first marks to completion, which means lots of footage, so it needs quite a bit of time spending on editing, to get it down to a manageable length. That's a tricky business, as I am talking about process all the time, so we need to cut big sections, without losing too much that's interesting. 

Trouble is, things have been so busy ever since we filmed it, there has not been time to finish the editing process yet. We are about a third of the way through, I reckon. 

It's another thing on the 'to-do' list. Life is quieting down though, now we are out of the main school-visits season, so hopefully it won't be too long before I can share the new demo with you. In the meantime, here are a couple of films we made of me talking through how I drew the roughs for Jungle Grumble. If you haven't watched them already, you might find them interesting:



Wednesday, 2 April 2014

SCBWI SketchCrawl at MOSI in Manchester


I spent Saturday in Manchester, sketching in and around the fantastic Museum of Science and Industry (yes, this is me in action - thanks to Adelina Pintae for the lovely sketch):


The Society of Children's Book Writers and IllustratorsSCBWI, asked if I would run a sketchcrawl workshop day for them. The idea was to make it very much like the sketchcrawls I do each month with my Urban Sketchers group, Sketchcrawl North but, because SCBWI represents authors as well as illustrators, we incorporated on-the-spot writing too.

I kicked off with a talk in the Learning Loft, because the concept of sketchcrawling was new to many of the participants, in fact several of them had not done location sketching before, or not used a sketchbook in years. I took along lots of my sketchbooks, told them about Urban Sketchers, talked about reportage sketching and the various techniques I use. People were very interested in the contents of my kit bag, because I have got it down to a fine art now. I carry quite a range of art equipment, but can pack it all into a little zip-up case, just 10" x 6":


MOSI is spread over several buildings. Our first sketching spot was in the Air and Space building. I concentrated on a replica of an old tri-plane, although I was also very interested in the iron architecture behind:


I could have stayed there all day, but after an hour we moved on to the Power Hall. It was certainly a baptism of fire for the new sketchers. If our first venue was pretty tricky, the second spot was fiendishly so! It was all pumping pistons and spinning wheels. I got quite interested in the patterns that the various structures and machine elements made so, rather than concentrating on one machine, I went for a general view across one end of the room.


We had a lunch break up in the Learning Loft. It was a wide, bright space, up at the top of the main museum building, with fabulous views out over the surrounding area.  We spent 45 minutes sketching the views. I picked this one, down over the 'train' part of the museum, complete with working steam trains. This is the sketch I am doing in Adelina's drawing at the top:


We were intending to stay within the museum, but it was a lovely warm sunny day, so we went for a little walk instead, to a really good outdoor location, called Castlefield. The canal meets various railway lines as well as the road, so there are lots of different bridges in a small space, creating some great shapes and contrasts:


There are also canal boats and geese, as well as a lovely variety of old and new buildings. I made a mental note to take SketchCrawl North back there as soon as possible.

We went back up to the Learning Loft to share the work. As usual, it was fascinating to see all the different styles and approaches to the same subjects. The two writers who were with us didn't read out, but they also passed round their notebooks. They had both chosen to capture words and phrases, to take away a sense of the place, rather than write a narrative.

I enjoyed walking back to Deansgate station through the same area we had drawn in. It was very visually exciting. Even the grotty bits were interesting. I had a fun journey home too. the train was rammed. Luckily I got a seat and started to draw. 


A family, who were standing behind me, were all watching. Their little girl, about seven I should think, had her head just above my book and was fascinated. Incredibly, despite all the attention and all the little girl's questions ('Are you drawing that?'), the people still didn't appear to realise they were being sketched!

A big thanks to Anna at SCBWI for organising the event and for inviting me to lead it. I met some lovely people and had a great time.