Friday, 19 September 2014

The Cleo Stories

My daughter has always provided such brilliant inspiration for drawings. I don't know what I'm going to do when she grows out of her childhood creativity. Luckily I can record some of her childhood in my books. And the first of THE CLEO STORIES, written by Libby Gleeson, is one of those books that has benefitted from Ivy's wacky creations.  

The first book in this series contains two stories: The Necklace and The Present and are all about lovely little Cleo and the wonderfully simple, creative solutions she finds to the problems of a five year old girl.

These stories were written in part with my daughter, Ivy, in mind. Libby had seen quite a bit of her when she was in her preschool years and I guess it had served to remind Libby of her own daughters’ childhoods.

Like Cleo, Ivy has always had a lovely creative streak, so these stories became a vessel for me to remember and record some of her little creations. She is most content when surrounded by toilet rolls and sticky tape and has been known to return triumphant from the bathroom, waving a toilet roll 'trophy' about. 

Ivy’s favourite time is spent in her playroom making enormous mess and beautiful creations.

So Cleo’s bedroom is littered with similar creations – a teddy bear with a paper mane or a beak, toilet rolls with wings attached (never butterfly wings, always bat wings), a mask.

Cleo often wears a set of rabbit or cat ears, just like Ivy did for several years, and an odd assortment of garments - she's not into pretty dresses, but the mismatched and inappropriate:

I was thrilled to read that Cleo's Uncle Tom has tattooed arms and that Cleo’s friend Nick wants tattoos when he is older. I have a good laugh when I think what some parents’ reactions to that will be!

I enjoyed finding interesting solutions to page layouts and the challenge of dealing with a lot more text that I was used to. 

For me, the value in these stories is that Cleo is encouraged to be resilient when she doesn't get everything she asks for, and creative, as she inevitably finds her own solutions. Parents are faced with constant requests for things and saying no can bring about ingenious solutions. I see it all the time in Ivy’s playroom!

THE CLEO STORIES, written by Libby Gleeson and published by Allen & Unwin, will be out on 1st October 2014. 

Monday, 14 July 2014


A friend recently bought me a working overhead projector from the tip shop, and projectors only mean one thing to me - murals! I haven't shown the previous mural on this site, so figured it was a good opportunity to show some other work of mine and make sure everyone hears about The Agrestic Grocer on Molong Road, on the outskirts of Orange.

Last year, my brother and his partner were helping a group of Orange locals set up a cafe and produce store at the old Totally Local site. It seemed like a great opportunity to help a worthwhile local business and work with some nice people, so I joined in and painted a very simple, subtle rural scene in silhouette on the back wall of the cafe.

An old school overhead projector was tracked down and put to good use to transfer the sketch up onto the wall:

The final painting is so subtle it looks like a shadow and you can eat an entire meal there and not even see it, which I personally see as rather a success!

If you haven't already visited The Agrestic Grocer, head out there for your weekly grocery shop or a very tasty meal of local seasonal produce. More information about them can be found here.

Now that I have my own overhead projector I suspect it's time to start thinking about painting another mural...

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Orange Tourist Guide for Research Material

Orange has some wonderful places to visit: Mount Canobolas and Federal Falls, Ophir and Summerhill Creek, Borenore Caves, and a multitude of lovely parks, vineyards and restaurants.

But one of my favourite places to visit is The Recovery Centre at the Orange tip, where you can remind yourself and your children, of the repercussions of consumerism while partaking in a satisfying and ethical dose of retail therapy.

The tip shop, as we call it, is always inspiring...

... and provided brilliant reference material for Look, A Book:

It's worth visiting for other reasons too. I have picked up some of my favourite Woodsware crockery out there, a beautiful West German jug, and not so long ago I was lucky enough to inherit a working overhead projector that a friend found at the Recovery Centre. And this brings me to my next planned post, which may or may not, appear soon...

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Adding Colour

I've been meaning to write something about how I use colour for quite some time now, and finally have something I can show with a bit of colour theory behind it.

I must have learnt something about colour theory in my first year of university, but haven't retained the knowledge. So when a friend suggested she'd like to learn some colour theory, we began attending special private colour theory classes taught by my mum at the dining table in my parents' back room. In actual fact, I've only managed to make it to two classes so far, but in the second class we made this colour wheel:

I particularly like how you can turn the arrow around to show opposites and triads.

With my colour wheel on my desk before me, it was time to put the theory of colour opposites into practice with a book called Go To Sleep, Jessie written by Libby Gleeson.

Baby Jessie has moved into Jo's bedroom, but she won't go to sleep. She just screams and screams, and keeps Jo awake. Nothing either parent does seems to work. But eventually, of course, Jo knows just the thing that will settle Jessie.

In my illustrations I tried to create two distinct worlds; that of 'upstairs' where the two children are supposed to sleep and 'downstairs' where the parents read the newspaper, watch television and eat chocolates. It provided the perfect opportunity to test out colour opposites.

So, upstairs in the bedroom it is predominantly blue. While downstairs, where the lights are on and parents are still up doing things, it is orange, the opposite colour to blue on the colour wheel.

Here's the colour test I did...

...a finished upstairs scene...

...and a finished page showing both upstairs and downstairs.

The aim was simply to create contrast between the two opposite environments: upstairs, downstairs; dark, light; quiet, noise; asleep, awake. Regardless of whether it worked, the exercise showed me how I can create a really strong colour scheme for a book.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

My Two Blankets

Due out in February this year (2014) is a book by Irena Kobald called My Two Blankets. An advance copy arrived late last year, amidst the flurry of end of year deadlines and activities. But today, just as I was considering posting something about the book, a whole box of them arrived!

My Two Blankets is the story of a young girl called Cartwheel who leaves her own war torn country for somewhere safe. But the new place is so foreign to her she no longer feels like herself. Cartwheel seeks comfort in a metaphorical blanket of her own words and sounds. When a young girl shows her friendship and begins to teach her new words, Cartwheel begins to create a new blanket from these words and sounds she learns.

The metaphorical blanket was a difficult concept to illustrate and took me a long time to solve. But I was really attracted to the idea of a visual interpretation of feelings, sounds and words. As with any concept requiring interpretation, there are endless different visual solutions and everyone has a different idea of what works the best. This would have been a great book to give to several illustrators to see what each came up with. I'd love to see other peoples' takes on the concept.

Eventually Cartwheel's old blanket became a simple design that Cartwheel was an integral part of. It contains symbols based on African weavings, fabrics and sculptures.

I often use colour to help convey a concept and with this book I used colour as well as the medium to differentiate between Cartwheel and this new country. The new place is pale and cool and painted in watercolour, whereas Cartwheel and her old home are warm and saturated and painted in oil paints.

The story discusses the sensation Cartwheel feels when surrounded by the unusual sounds of this new country. She describes it as a cold waterfall of strange sounds. Initially I intended this 'waterfall' to be thick with symbols that represented words. Like this:

In the roughs, I just showed this as a messy scrawl because I couldn't be bothered drawing these precise little symbols over and over, and the scrawl seemed to work better than lots of symbols. So this is how it ended up:

Here is the beginning of Cartwheel's new blanket, built on a diagonal spiral form:

Published by Little Hare Books, My Two Blankets is out in February 2014.