I celebrated World Book Day with the children of Annemount School in Hampstead Garden Suburb. A few of the children dressed up as characters from the Big Match and one boy, Rafael, completed his costume with a ‘book cabinet’ for guessing the book. The box opened to reveal mini pictures of all of my books.
I couldn’t believe the work that Rafael and his family put into this – two days I’m told. He wanted to give the box to me to take away at the end of the day (with his Mum’s permission, of course) – it now takes pride of place on my studio wall.
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.
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.
Back from Budapest where I spent time working with the kids and staff at the British International School. I was helped by the school’s wonderful librarian who acted as my wing-woman for the entire 3 days and made sure everything ran to schedule.
After my initial school talk, I ran a series of workshops with all classes where I showed the children how to make their own pop-up books.
A pattern for the sessions emerged fairly early on when I matched each class to a mechanism, guiding them through the process so they all had a completed pop-up framework ready to go. Following a discussion about their storyboard ideas – the blank storyboards were sent ahead of my arrival – I used some of their material to demonstrate how to convert mechanism into fully illustrated 3D scene. Some of the images show these, others show the children’s work-in-progress.
The school places huge importance on reading and runs several initiatives to encourage the love of books. At a certain point each day, everyone drops everything to read for five minutes. The doors were also being decorated as book covers while I was there – check out the Detective Paws ‘door cover’.
If you like beards and pop-up books and have young children, then this is the workshop for you.
Make your own beard-themed pop-up creation in my next hands-on, half-term workshop at the Florence Nightingale Museum. For my return visit to this lovely venue located within St Thomas‘ Hospital, I’m taking my inspiration from ‘The Age of the Beard’ exhibition currently on show there to deliver three 1-hour family sessions encompassing 3D paper skills, design and illustration.
Learn how to make pop-ups with moving parts and how to assemble a finished book.
The workshops are suitable for 5+ with parents and carers. Adults will be encouraged to take part but don’t worry, no experience necessary and results are guaranteed. Materials will be provided, you just bring the creativity!
The workshops are free but normal entry fee to the museum applies. Booking is recommended.
Happy Hallloween! Here’s a video of Spooky Ride, my first ever pop-up book, published by Tango Books way back in 2001. Spooky ride was the start of a long and fruitful relationship with Tango Books that still continues. The paper engineer for the project was the very patient Matt Johnstone whom I bombarded with questions at the time. It wasn’t until pop-up book 2 that I took on that role myself, picking it up as I went along.
I’d seen a funfair ghost train in Finsbury Park and wondered how that could translate into 3D book. The final book has one continuous train track running through holes in the pages, out the back of the book, round to the front and back in again – so you can read it over and over and over and over… My brief was to base the illustration style a little on ‘Funnybones’, keep the colours pure and make it scary! – well, sort of, it’s a children’s book.
The video shows pop-ups from the second children’s theatre production I co-created for Wordpepper which finished it’s final tour earlier this year. The show was presented by Half Moon Theatre in association with Apples and Snakes.
I made 19 pop-up books in total for the show, from very small to extremely large constructions which opened up to form the set. The video shows a small section of the smaller ones. These presented a type of illusion, being made to look like full books but often containing only one pop-up design to illustrate a moment in the show.
First school of the year tomorrow at Stopsley Primary in Luton for a 2 and a half day project in pop-up book design.
Day 1 will consist of learning the basics. Each of the 3 Year 4 classes will learn techniques which they will then share between them before my next visit. Images show the ‘manual’ I’ll be leaving to guide them and to show the starting point for day 2 when we develop the books further.
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.
I was back at Britannia Village Primary School last Monday for Day 2 of our paper (cardboard) engineering project. As Year 6 set off for France with their giant pop-up constructions, Year 5s (3 classes) stepped up to the plate to start work on a pop-up reinterpretation of Alice in Wonderland set in London.
I was impressed by the way they took inspiration from Boxpark in Shoreditch, the surrounding streets and graffiti they photographed. I gave them guidance with the construction of the main framework and worked with a small team to get it in place and glued, while the rest of the children got to work on the other smaller components. They were given broad instructions for the painting of the structures but apart than that they were completely free to bring their own ideas to the final surface decoration.
Also very gratifying to see how all the teachers had used what they learnt in the initial inset session to help their pupils create small-scale pop-up pieces before my arrival.