Kinder kids

I went to my local kinder for my fortnightly reading session this morning. I was running late and grabbed a handful of books to take with me. One of them was I Spy with Inspector Stilton by Judith Rossell.

Usually my main audience is girls with a couple of boys flitting in and out as their restless legs will take them, but today the balance was different. They LOVED Inspector Stilton, boys and girls both. I had boys fighting over the right to find the things on the page and several times had to halt the ‘finding’ to get the boys to remove their heads and bodies from the page!

After Inspector Stilton the boys stayed too, for me to read different books, ones from the kinder bookshelves. That led to a conversation about me having to go home and do some work, that work being writing stories.

I’ve been going to the kinder with this group all year, and it’s the first time most of those boys have come to join the reading with me, let alone ask questions about who I was and what I do. They were intrigued with the notion of someone actually writing stories as a job, and also with the idea that I’d brought books written by people I knew.

One other link…I’d taken Sally Murphy’s ‘Pemberthy Bear’ illustrated by Jacqui Grantford and also another story ‘Squeezy Cuddle, Dangly Legs’ Jacqui has illustrated. They were very interested to see a picture of ‘Pemberthy Bear’ book in ‘Squeezy…’ It seemed to make sense of the notion that books are created, do not merely appear.

CBCA at the Convent

My friend Jackie Kerin and I went along to the CBCA Book Week gig at The Convent in Abbotsford. It’s a great venue and I like going back there because before it became an arts precinct and after it was a convent, it was part home to Lincoln Institute and I studied there. But…back to Sunday…

Jackie was storytelling, based on her book, Phar Lap the wonder horse. I had no official function and as I had no copies of Sheep, Goat beyond my own, was keeping a low profile. I did catch up with a few people (hello Jacqui Grantford, Ann J) and meet some new ones (hello Sarah Davis, Mark Austin and Richard Mordern) and ended the day reading Sheep, Goat to a few people (Jacqui G had painty hands)

L to R…me, Jackie Kerin, Mark Austin, Pemberthy Bear and Jacqui G. To those who know Sally Murphy’s Pemberthy Bear, this is Pemberthy, taking a bow.

Squeezy Cuddle Dangly Legs

Touring a new book can be difficult, particularly beyond the area where you live. Try to cover four states in a week, while still maintaining a home presence, that’s almost impossible. But a virtual tour…now that’s not so hard. My interview with Jacqui Grantford is part of such a tour. Six blog stops in six days, this is Day 5.

Claire: Today, I’m ‘talking’ to Jacqui, illustrator of the newly released, ‘Squeezy Cuddle Dangly Legs’ written by Peter Whitford and published by New Frontier Books.

Welcome to my blog and Day 5 of the Blog Tour. Jacqui, as previously mentioned you’ve illustrated 12 books, 6 of them picture books. Which elements of the process become easier with experience, and which, if any, become more difficult?

Jacqui: It becomes easier to let go the more you do….sometimes. With my first book I fussed with tiny little details to an obsessive degree, often with things that weren’t important. These days it’s much easier to evaluate what’s important.

You also understand more quickly what will and won’t work to keep the flow and momentum of the story going.

Claire: You’ve worked with New Frontier on other picture book projects, as well as with other publishers, where presumably your contact with the author was less. How is this experience different, where the author is also the publisher?

Jacqui: It hasn’t been greatly different. Peter very much kept his roles separate. His book was entered into the slush pile without a name, so it had to get past Sophia unbiased. He also didn’t tell me it was his manuscript when he approached me with the project, although I sort of guessed when I started working on it.

I was given as much freedom to give my input as an illustrator as on other projects. Although I must admit that the anxiety levels about not mucking it up were higher than normal.

Claire: Wishes for One More Day, which you illustrated, was for a US publisher. Squeezy Cuddle Dangly Legs and your other books have been published by Australian publishers. Did that have any impact on your illustrating in any way?

There are odd little things that you have to change when working for the US. I had to lower the girls skirt on the title page of ‘Wishes’ and there was a huge attention to the tiniest of details in every spread. As far as style, however, it didn’t change anything. They picked me for the book based on some of my examples, so I really had to draw how I normally do. That does of course, leave less room for experimentation. I have since decided that I should be experimental anyway.

Claire: You’ve illustrated your own work as well as illustrating the work of others, as in Squeezy Cuddle Dangly Legs. How does the process differ?

Jacqui: The advantage to illustrating your own work is that you can change the text slightly if you have a great idea for an illustration and it doesn’t quite fit. Very handy. I think you create a more complete creative package when you’re the sole creator, but you can get too insular and not see the bigger picture. I would be more aware of that next time I illustrate my own ms.

Claire: Are your illustrations the same size as the books they appear in? What do you do with the artwork once the images have been scanned?

Jacqui: It depends on the project. The illustrations in my earlier books were much larger than in the book, but in my later books I’ve tended to illustrate size for size, mainly due to time constraints.

Also, it gives you a more realistic idea of how the illustrations will look in book format. I’ve discovered that some very detailed illustrations that look amazing large, lose a lot of power when they’re reduced. If I do it size for size then I know exactly what I’m getting.

I exhibit and sell the art after it’s been reproduced. Although there are always one or two from each project that I can never bear to part with.

Claire: The process of illustrations fascinates me. How do you move from reading a text to visualising what illustration style you’ll use, and what characters will look like? Do you do detailed storyboards?

Jacqui: I start with thumbnails that involve stick figures as a guide. I’m about the only person who can actually tell what they’re meant to be showing. After that I move into storyboards that show where the text will be and in this way I’m able to see if the flow of the story works. I also do character sketches and play around with clothes, hair etc. It’s a fun process and always involves input from family and friends.

Thanks so much for the interview Claire. Lots of fun.

Thank you, Jacqui. It’s been fun to learn more about how it all works. Good luck to you and Peter and ‘Squeezy Cuddle Dangly Legs’.

Tomorrow, Jacqui will appear on Tina Marie Clark’s blog:

Day 6 – Thursday 15 November – Tina Marie Clark’s “What is Happening in my Office?”

And in late-breaking news, we now have a seventh blog-stop:

Day 7 – Friday 16 Nov – Sally Odger’s http://spinningpearls.blogspot.com/

Previous blog-stops on this tour:

Day 1 – Saturday 10 November – Bren MacDibble’s “Beast of Moogill”
Day 2 – Sunday 11 November – Sally Murphy’s “Scribblings”
Day 3 – Monday 12 November – Robyn Opie’s “Writing Children’s Books”
Day 4 – Tuesday 13 November – Pemberthy Bear’s “Pemberthy’s Ponderings”