Catch up! Children’s Literature Festival

So, it’s that time of year again when the winter has silently snuck up on us like a seasonal ninja and we’re caught, rabbit in headlights, totally unprepared for the looming new year. Perhaps it’s the hovering threat of ‘resolutions’ in the back of my mind, or perhaps it’s the fact that I swear it was August less than a month ago, but either way it’s around now I need to take a break, breathe and look over where on EARTH the second half of the year has gone.

The next few posts will be a few snapshots of how my 2016 has developed. I can’t promise I’ve learned loads, but I can promise I drew some things.

September – Children’s Literature Festival

Don’t hate me, but I LOVE Autumn. Yes it cold, yes the days stat getting shorter but I am a sadist and love that I get my city to myself again when the kids go back to school.

Haha suckers, I finished AGES ago.

But September and October are especially lovely because it’s when the Bath Children’s Literature Festival rolls around. Which I love.

bath

Although I didn’t get to see as much as usual (due to, ironically, having too much work to do in the field of Children’s Literature) I did manage to score two wonderful talks by a couple of heroes from the field.

Those of you familiar with Hamish and the World Stoppers by the unapologetically British author Danny Wallace will be familiar with the creative magic of Jamie Littler. His characters are full of subtle details and nuances that are the perfect visual vehicle for Wallace’s tone and the book, in my opinion, is enriched ten fold by his interpretation of its time altering world.

Not that he’d tell you that. I tell you, a more modest talent you will not find.

littlerhamish

littlertriangleBut humbleness aside, Littler did a stonking job of holding the stage, even without his extrovert counterpart. If his flawless live drawing wasn’t magic enough, the interaction with the audience had every kid grinning to ear to ear. Given the rare opportunity to command the hand of a professional illustrator, the creative, imaginative and frankly weird suggestions of the kids were flying as the audience created their own adventurous character for Littler to illustrate.

littler draw.jpeg

Part drawing, part storytelling, part comedy act and part workshop; this talk was inventive and a lot of fun. So really, pretty much everything kid lit should be.

littlersleep

But if that wasn’t enough, I was also lucky enough to attend an event by the infamous Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell.

I’ll be honest, until fairly recently I didn’t really know what  Laureate was. But I was very excited that Riddell had kindly decided to bring his medal. And it was a very nice medal.

chrisridellticketchrisridellmedalHosted in the festivals most grand venue, it was strange to see the small figure of a single man, his projector and a sketch pad in the middle of such a large stage (even if he does have a medal.) But the second that man’s pen touches paper, he becomes the size of mountains.

It comes as no surprise that the prolific Riddell can live draw like a champ, but his ability to ad lib to questions from the audience, while doing so is a thing to behold. Relaxed, funny and frankly, totally charming, performing apparently comes second nature to this guy. His answers to every question was insightful, elaborating on details of his life and artistic journey and expanding even the most simple of inquiry into an adventure worth drawing about. The added incentive of giving away the drawings he made to the questions he answered had kids jiggling in their seats with anticipation each time he reached for a card. The hall was completely silent, aside from the reactionary giggles. We were in the palm of his hand, and I have no shame in admitting it.

There are reasons some people get famous for what they do.

I think that’s enough said.

 

 

 

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Licence To Doodle: My Own, Personal Failings and A Talk I Went To

Inspiration can come from anywhere.

I often find that the smallest, most insignificant occurrence in an ordinary day has the potential to spark whole waves of pulsing creativity inside these little human skulls, that can evolve into ideas, narratives or images that have the potential to turn into something quite special. It’s kind of the beauty of creativity; it’s incredible, organic growth from the midst of drab normality.

 
And then sometimes, it simply comes from seeing super cool, ultra talented people do super cool, ultra talented stuff and appealing to that most disagreeable, competitive part of you that wants to, if not beat them, at least be one of them. The Cool Kid Conundrum.

This is totally what happened to me yesterday.

I went to a talk in London’s St Albans Centre for a Comica organised event where the legendary Quentin Blake (if you don’t know his name you should be shot. And then be shown an image of his so you can go “OOOOoooh. THAT guy, yeah of course I’ve seen THAT guy!” And then, and only then, will I call you a paramedic. For the gunshot wound.) and the phenomenal Shaun Tan, a personal hero of mine and creator of beautiful graphic books like The Arrival and The Red Tree, were having a wee discussion about illustration and things.

It was a pretty awesome way to spend an evening to be honest. It’s wasn’t the most organised event in history, but was a lovely insight into the minds of two truly incredible (albeit very stylistically different) illustrators and their methods and philosophies regarding their work. They took us through a brief history of their careers, bouncing off each other in a mutual interview, before taking questions from the floor, and finally rounding up with a quick, live draw-a-thon and book signing (and Me-Oh-My did I have books so sign.)

I’m proud to say my copy is freshly signed!

And as I sat there, absorbed in the works of both of them as they scrolled through their, deservedly impressive, careers before producing some entirely new and original, flawlessly wonderful, off-the-cuff imagery, I thought to myself:

An example of Shaun Tan’s jaw dropping talent. From The Arrival, his wordless graphic novel about the loneliness and disorientation of immigration.

“Dude, you need to do more drawing.”

And I do. It may not have escaped your notice that there has been a severe lack of it recently. Now, that is, partially due to my broken scanner (BOOOO) and the fact I’ve been tied up in commission work for other people and writing etc, but really, there is no excuse not to bash out a doodle every now and then is there? I mean, it’s not exactly time-consuming. Plus it provides an excellent distraction from things I don’t want to do, like this god-forsaken summer project of mine.

So today I did The Book Look; a phrase I tend to coin whenever I’m feeling a little dry on the creative juices front and need to whack out my rather large collection of graphic novels, fanzines, children’s books and general collection of amazing talent to kick-start my own creative flow.

The result was drawings! Nothing special, nothing truly inspirational, and actually, nothing even remotely good, but drawings nonetheless! And, with my lack of scanner, I even photographed them for you JUST TO PROVE I actually did something. I do apologise for the poor quality, it’s in these times of need you truly appreciate the genius of scanning freedom, but alas. It’s dark times this end, I’m practically medieval.

(Though using photos taken in crappy light does kind of make everything look like it’s from a silent movie, which I kind of like.)

I can draw really, honest I can! But I needed to get back into the swing of things, loosen up you know? That’s what I tell myself anyway, “it’s okay, it’s just a practice…”

I did consider spending more time photoshopping these into better shape, but to be honest, I feel it would have taken away from the wholly organic, slightly shitty and very honest state of my sketchbooks. And what’s the point of even sharing rubbish doodles if I’ve cleaned them all up? Plus it’s pretty late right now and I’m sleepy.

What a gentleman. You can tell from his moustache.
A Raven in a suit. At some point I’ll give him a hat.
This guy is an old hash. When I was working on the research for Tick, I started drawing a lot of these diving helmets and he grew from there, to emerge now, a few years later, with a pet.
A quick fantasy doodle. I find every now and then it’s essential for the soul to draw good looking ladies in obscure situations. What’s she reaching for? You’ll have to wait and see (because I’m not sure yet.)
I’m quite embarrassed to have this on the internet, but this is, unfortunately, how my work begins. This is the first draft of the storyboard for my new comic I’ve been writing. I know it’s shoddy, please have faith. Somebody needs to…

Hopefully this will be the start of something beautiful. Hopefully this will get me back into the swing of things, of doodling for me and not just working on projects in sequence. I’d like to expand on a few of these, and maybe I will, but if they do just fade away, into the oblivion of forgotten sketchbook pages and nonsense spontaneity, I think that’s okay too.

But for now, in the very wise words of Mister Quentin Blake on the last page of Mister Magnolia:

“Goodnight.”

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