Picture Books: Discover and Be Discovered

Recently, I went to the SCWBI event, Picture Books: Discover and Be Discovered, at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education CLPE where American illustrator, Paul O. Zelinski, spoke about his journey from being a compulsive child drawer to critically acclaimed children’s illustrator and Caldecott winner. During his time at Yale College, he took a class on the history and practice of the picture book which was co-taught by Maurice Sendak and it was this that inspired him to become a children’s illustrator.

Borrowing a line from an earlier talk about websites, “ It’s not about you, it’s about them,” Paul O. Zelinski tweaked and applied it to the job of illustrating. “It’s not about you or them, it’s about it,” he said, referring to the fact that each picture book cries out for its own style of illustration (or writing). Paul O. Zelinski is happy to oblige, successfully breaking the golden rule about maintaining a consistent, recognisable style.

Paul O. Zelinski’s cover illustration for his hugely popular Wheels in the Bus

 

The topic then switched to the marketing side of the business. Candy Gourlay focused on the target market and getting an understanding of just who actually buys books. She divides these into three categories; hot (dead certs – family and friends), warm (the ‘maybes’ who know who you are but haven’t got round to buying your book) and cold (those who’ve never heard of you). She stressed the importance of shifting efforts from the hot to the cold in a bid to move those on the outer reaches further down into the purchase funnel. Interestingly, independent bookshops feature high on the list of places where books are bought for all age groups up to 10, in addition to charity shops (0-4 and 5-7),  children’s book and toy shops (0-4), and bargain bookshops (5-7).

She also talked about what she termed as ‘eggs in your basket’ – what you’ve got, what you can control and what you can create? You’ll probably have a blog, website and archive, social media platforms, research, a publicist perhaps… All of these you can control, including your publicist with whom you should be building a relationship – he or she needs to get to know you. She stressed the importance of online content, especially useful information which helps to attract and grow a fan base. On Amazon, you can control the write up as well as create an author profile with an obligatory photo of yourself from ten years ago. You can create how-to videos in order to engage with fans and, if you visit schools, teachers will often show these to the children before you arrive. She added that the resources you create will also be appreciated by teachers who always need them.

It’s important to build and join communities and visit schools, if that’s your thing. And it’s always useful to re-purpose existing material, create content that will increase your presence, and build and maintain relationships.

For the final segment of the afternoon, Candy put on her interviewer’s hat and spoke to Hilary Delamere who promptly dispelled the myth that agents are a tough, ruthless bunch, before discussing the search for representation and what happens once you’re taken on. Here are some of Hilary’s dos and don’ts:

 

  •    Think of approaching agents in the same way as a job interview.
  •    Don’t lie or be rude to the agent’s assistants.
  •    Make sure what you’re presenting is the very best it can be.
  •    Have a fantastic title and opening line and end on a brilliant line
  •    Don’t over-explain what your project is.
  •    Authors, don’t get your own illustrator on board – it will end in tears.
  •    And go for rhythmic rather that rhyming texts.

 

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Park Theatre Exhibition

IMG_5798smlGiven my work on two children’s theatre productions presented by Half Moon over the last 3 years it seems fitting that the current venue for my touring exhibition is also a theatre. Park Theatre in Finsbury park has kindly agreed to host the show for the month of December to coincide with their production of Rapunzel.

The other connection for me is that the pop-up books seem quite theatrical in their own way. Just like stage sets, all is not what it seems, the illusion can be broken by deconstructing the constructions or going behind the scenes.

Motor Mouse sp 05 forest

The work on show are examples of flat illustrations from the books or those pop-up spreads that can be easily merged.

The artwork is produced using a combination of traditional and digital media. Most start as pen and ink outline drawings which are then scanned and further developed in photoshop where the colour is also added. Because of this, the final artwork exists in digital form only.IMG_5801sml
What you see in the exhibition are signed and numbered archival prints, produced at the London Print Studio on 290gsm A2 Ilford Gallerie Pearl paper in editions of 25 using Epson Ultrachrome pigment inks.

The exhibition runs until 10 January 2016 and can be found in the theatre’s stalls and mezzanine corridors. All the prints are for sale.

Its magic big and small with side panels

 

Treasure

What I like about Illustration Friday is that it gives me the chance to revisit some of my past work. This week’s word is ‘Treasure’. The picture shows, what else, artwork from pop-up picture book no.2, Pirate Treasure Hunt, published by Tango Books.

pirate treasure hunt cave

cave spread treasure

World Book Week 2015

Back-to-back schools last week for the week of World Book Day. A lot of advance planning is always required for these but the enthusiasm of the kids and their eagerness to dive in and get creative always make it all worthwhile. This year’s schools were St. Pauls in Friern Barnet, All Saints in Fulham, Coppermill Primary in Walthamstow and St. Pauls and All Hallows in Tottenham. Here’s the montage:

book week 2015