Writing & Illustrating a Picture Book – With Tania McCartney

Today my very good author/illustrator friend, Tania McCartney is joining me on the virtual deck for a cup of tea and a chat about how to write and illustrate a picture book. At the end of this post, she’s also offering readers the chance to win some great prizes.

Check out Tania’s great writing and illustrating tips at the end of this post. image011

Tania, tell us about Australia Illustrated.

Australia Illustrated is the very first picture book I’ve both written and illustrated and it was an incredible learning experience. The process was unusual in that I had pretty much carte blanche (with a pre-approved outline from publisher, EK Books). You may already know that in publishing, this is highly unusual.

Having this freedom was a real gift. Having written, edited, laid out, designed, collected, studied, read and enjoyed picture books for two or three decades now, I had zero experience in the actual process required to combine my own writing with my own illustration. In fact, to give you an idea of up how-ended my process was, I did the book cover first!

With this lack of experience, it would have been almost impossible for me to take the ‘roughs, storyboards, mock-ups, colour-palettes, character studies’ route that most picture book illustrators undergo. I didn’t have the know-how or skill, and given that Australia Illustrated is 96 pages and I had scant idea of what I was going to include in the book, having to do all that would have been my undoing!

Thankfully, I muddled my way through, and the end result is something pretty unusual—and something I’m actually proud of.

DEE’S REVIEW OF AUSTRALIA ILLUSTRATED

If I could think of one word to describe Australia Illustrated … it’s joy.

T00a-cover-pastelhis book exudes joy on every page.

It’s clear that Tania enjoyed creating Australia Illustrated … and this book reflects her joy in being Australian.

Each page is full of vibrant, active illustrations that reflect well thought out and researched text.

Each state and territory of Australia is featured along with the food, flora, fauna, sport, customs people and places that make them unique … oh and did I mention food? There’s a lot of food in this book.

From the First People to washing lines and crocodiles, football and sunshine, koalas and akubras, skyscrapers and beaches that squeak, this 96-page picture book is a glorious tribute to this wide brown land and its rich and varied multicultural communities. Vibrantly illustrated with watercolour, ink and mono-printing, Australia: Illustrated not only celebrates the more ‘typical’ Australian flora, fauna and landmarks, it also showcases the everyday quirks and idiosyncrasies that make Australia unique: the many types of rain, Greek street food, Sydney ferries, cattle breeds, the plants of the Daintree. Even the quokka selfie epidemic is featured! 

One of the things readers will love most about this book is that it’s so relateable. For adults it will conjure up childhood memories, for young readers it will inspire them to create them.

Australia Illustrated is beautifully produced by EK Books. It comes in a hard cover and with 96 pages will provide hours of entertainment and joy for readers of all ages in the classroom and home.

TANIA’S WRITING & ILLUSTRATING TIPS
What I Learned During My Picture Book Muddle.

  1. I learned that the best way to illustrate a book is to have courage and not think about it too much. There were moments on this journey when I was filled with absolute terror over how my images would be perceived—in terms of skill, style, content.

au-diverse-kid-girl-japaneseI also began questioning how things were unfolding and if I was on the ‘right track’. Whenever this happened, I had to shut this thought down, otherwise, I probably would have given up. And how did I shut the thought down? I told myself what ALL creators should be telling themselves—that I’m creating this book for me first, others second.

Many creators will tell you that they write for the reader but we HAVE to write for ourselves first. If we don’t, we wouldn’t enjoy the process (sorry, but I don’t want to write about boy superheros who live on the moon, even though millions of kids might love that!). We have to write and draw what WE personally love—to give us creative satisfaction and to do our best work. Then, as a massive side-bonus, if kids or adults or monkeys fall into our stories or our images and have a wonderful time there—that is what makes it doubly worthwhile. In fact, they say that once a book is published, it ceases to be yours—it becomes the reader’s. So I say make it yours while you can, then let it go!

  1. I learned that a creative process should be an organic process, and that while having a plan or outline is important, allowing story and images to unfold has an intense magic in it. Good publishers know this. They know that stories can morph over time, and picture ideas can change and grow. The very best books come from trusting that organic process, and not stripping it of its essence with over-editing and over-thinking—or bowing down to what other people want or might expect.
    027-nsw-sydney-ferries
  1. I learned that illustrating books is an immense emotional, mental, physical and time investment (arguable even more so than writing one). You cannot be in this for the money. A hundred-thousand dollars probably wouldn’t cover the hours I put into Australia Illustrated, but the creative satisfaction and joy its creation brought me is priceless. It can’t be about money. If you make it about money, it will crush you with the fiscal unfairness of it all.
  1. I learned that children’s book illustrations really do need to be highly professional and beautiful. I mean, I knew that already, but I learned it all over again on a deeply personal level. I have only just rekindled my love for illustration these past few years. My skills were rusted over, and I’ve had to relearn so very much. During the twelve months it took to create Australia Illustrated, my skills, naturally, bettered themselves, and I found myself looking back at my first images with some disdain. Luckily, I had also developed digital art skills during that year, and I was able to touch up first images to the standard I knew the book needed.
  1. I learned that you Just Have To Throw Yourself In. During my [many] moments of self-doubt or angst of fear, I found the only way out was through. Just do it. When you do that, things unblock and flow. It worked for me every single time.034-vic-mel-icons
  1. Dee asked me for five points, but I can’t resist one more—sorry, Dee! I learned that I want to do things differently next time. There are some splendid illustrators who keep the same style of art their entire career long—and it works beautifully for them. For me, I think creating in the same style forever would send me to the loony bin. I still love the style I’ve done in Australia Illustrated, but I’m ready to try something new for my next book (in fact, I’m currently creating several fully-digital works) and I can’t wait to see what style that will be. I have some ideas but I’ve not settled on something yet. Perhaps I’ll just let it unfold—pretty much like Australia Illustrated.

act-arboretum-boy-3See more of Tania’s work at www.taniamccartney.com or follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @taniamccartney

Australia Illustrated is published by EK Books and will be on sale 1 November in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US, with a release date of 28 November in the UK. Hardcover, clothbound, 96 pages, AU$29.99, ISBN: 9781925335217 www.ekbooks.org

WIN GREAT PRIZES

  • WIN a copy of the book (There three to give away, thanks to EK Books)
  • WIN an original watercolour image from the book (two to give away)
  • the chance to name some of Tania’s book characters!

Enter here at Tania’s Blog

australia-illustrated-launch-poster

Advertisements

Withering-By-Sea – Writer/Illustrator Jude Rossell Shares Her Tips

Judith Rossell photoJudith Rossell is the author-illustrator of  Withering-By-Sea, a truly beautiful book set in Victorian times and presented in hardback with stunning illustrations and a royal blue ribbon bookmark.

It was part of hotly contested auction in the US, and sold in a lucrative two-book deal to Simon and Schuster America.

Jude is the author of 11 books and illustrator of 80 more, and a colleague and friend, and I’m thrilled to welcome her to my blog to share her writing and illustrating tips, and more about her new book.

 Jude’s Tips

  1. It’s going to be difficult. That’s ok. Keep going.
  2. Ignore that voice in your head that tells you it’s too hard, or that you’re not good enough, or that you should be scrubbing out the shower instead. Whatever it’s saying, it’s not helping. But at the same time, be tough on yourself, and always look for ways to make your writing better. Keep going.
  3. If you’re mainly an illustrator, avoid writing scenes only because you want to illustrate them. The characters and the story should always come first! Also, I’ve found that making little drawings of characters and scenes along the way is helpful and inspiring. And keep going!
  4. Sometimes you’ll find you want to completely rewrite whole sections of your story, and you’re resisting because it took so long to write in the first place. Remember: if in doubt, chuck it out. Probably. And keep going.
  5. When you finally get to the end, you’ll want to send it off straight away. If you can make yourself wait for a few weeks (or a bit longer) and come back to the story, you’ll find heaps of things you want to change. And this will make your story better.

ABOUT WITHERING-BY-SEA

withering front coverWithering-By-Sea is a beautifully illustrated junior novel that lovers of intrigue and adventure will not be able to put down.

Eleven-year-old Stella Montgomery leads a miserable existence with her three awful aunts, Aunt Condolence, Aunt Temperance and Aunt Deliverance, living at the damp and dull Hotel Majestic.

But things become far from dull when Stella witnesses a murder.

This sets in motion an adventure more terrifying and more wonderful than she could ever have hoped for.

What’s in the bottle that Mr Filbert hid before he was killed and why does the Professor want it so badly?

Will he find out that Stella now has it, and come after her?

Of course he will, and that’s where the action for Stella really starts.

There’s so much to love about Withering-by-Sea apart from the great tension and fast paced action.

Stella is a very likeable character. Readers will have sympathy for her circumstances, but will also admire the courage with which she tackles her unexpected adventure, and the fact that witnessing the murder and prior events, have put her life in danger.

She is a smart and very level-headed young woman who struggles to cope with her aunts’ attitude that ‘children should be seen and not heard.’

Withering-by-Sea is a dreary coastal town, but this story is far from dreary. The town provides a perfect setting for intrigue, adventure and betrayal.

Set in Victorian times, this book is full of atmosphere, enhanced by author/illustrator Jude Rossell’s gorgeously detailed pictures.

There are so many great characters for readers to connect with apart from Stella. There’s feisty Gert who is captured along with Stella, the evil Professor, and clever Mr Capelli and his singing cats.

Withering-by-Sea is an historical adventure with a hint of magic. There’s also gentle humour, and authentic and endearing relationships between Stella and Gert, and Stella and Mr Capelli and his cats.

I’d love to see these characters featured in future Stella Montgomery intrigues.

Withering-by-Sea is a book of substance – it’s entertaining and hard to put down but there is also some complex exploration of relationships, and the vulnerability of children and their openness to things that adults often close their minds to.

While this mystery comes to a satisfactory conclusion, the reader is left with unanswered questions that will make them want to pick up the next Stella Montgomery book. For instance, who was Stella’s mother and what really happened to her, and how did Stella end up living with the dreadful aunts? Stella also has a special ability that she must have inherited from someone.

I can’t wait to read what Stella does next.

It’s easy to see why Withering-by-Sea was so sought after when it went to auction in the US.

It is published in Australia by ABC Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Judith Rossell is represented by Jill Corcoran Literary Agent. You can find out more about Jude and her works here.

 

 

 

HISTORICAL MOMENT AT DEESCRIBE WRITING – ILLUSTRATOR, DAVID MURPHY VISITING TODAY to talk about Snowy’s Christmas

Constable Wombat - a wonderful illustration by David Murphy
Constable Wombat – a wonderful illustration by David Murphy
Snowy's Christmas cover
Snowy’s Christmas cover

Today is a very special day for me. I have NEVER had an illustrator visit my blog…until NOW!

Talented and modest Dave Murphy is here to talk about being an illustrator, working on “Snowy’s Christmas” with author, Sally Murphy, and some of the personal stuff that’s always interesting to know.

David, seeing as “Snowy’s Christmas” is such a beautiful and unique story, I thought I’d start with some Christmasy questions.

What is your favourite part of Christmas?

Sharing it with my family.

What was your favourite Christmas story when you were a child?

As a child, and even now, my favourite Christmas story is The Night Before Christmas. I read it to my boys every Christmas Eve.

What is your favourite Christmas memory?

Lying awake on hot summer evenings the night before Christmas; listening for the bells of Santa’s sleigh through the noise of the cidadas and crickets.

Dave at work
Dave at work

What was the best present you ever got for Christmas?

Books. My favourite presents were always books. My father once gave me a collection of Henry Lawson stories, which is still pretty special.

I just happen to be a fan of Henry Lawson too (even wrote a book about him), so I can understand exactly how you feel. I have to confess at this point that I’m totally in awe of illustrators, so I’d really like to know how you do it

David, can you tell me what your favourite part about being an illustrator is?

(Aside from being a dad) my favourite thing in the world is when my pencil moves across the page bringing a story to life.

What was your favourite part about illustrating “Snowy’s Christmas”?

Watching the characters spring to life and interact with each other – then watching others interpret my illustrations.

What is the thing you like most about Snowy, the character?

Snowy popped out of my brain and onto the page almost fully formed. Even so, he grew and developed as I led him around Sally’s story. As his character emerged, I saw the sense of joy he had discovered in his own uniqueness and strength.

What is your favourite part about turning a writer’s words into pictures?

Everyone imagines stories differently, no matter how descriptive the text. It is a privilege to be asked for your own particular vision. It is even more gratifying to be able to add to the world created by a brilliant writer like Sally.

Do you have a special tip for aspiring illustrators?

Another great Dave Murphy illustration - Kids from school
Another great Dave Murphy illustration – Kids from school

Bruce Whatley once challenged me to try using my left hand. The results were so amazing it completely changed the way I illustrate. I now do all my sketching exclusively with my left hand, and all my technical work with my right.

Thanks for some wonderful insights David into you and your work.

To find out more about David, visit http://www.davidmurphy.id..au

You can also catch David, and author of Snowy’s Christmas, Sally Murphy at these other great locations on their blog tour.

Week One – October 4 – https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com

(That’s here!)

Week Two – October 11 – http://livejournal.com/users/orangedale

Week Three – October 18 – www.soupblog.wordpress.com

Week Four – October 25 – www.letshavewords.blogspot.com

Week Five – November 1 – http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com

Week Six – November 8 – http://aussiereviews.blogspot.com

Week Seven – November 15 – http://samantha-hughes.blogspot.com

Week Eight – http://www.robynopie.blogspot.com

Week Nine – http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com

Week Ten – http://aussiechristmas.wordpress.com

Week Eleven – http://belka37.blogspot.com