Book for Illustrators: The Animators Survival Kit

book reviews for illustrators and writers

Author: Richard Williams
ISBN: 978 0 571 23834 7

As most illustrators, I am always on the look out for books that will show me something new and thought it would be a good idea to share my findings and my top books. Please feel free to make your own suggestions and share in the comments.

The Animator's Survival KitThe Animators Survival Kit is targeted at animators, hoping to learn a thing or two from the ‘greats’ about space, anatomy, and weight (to name a few). But I found this to be one of the most usual reference books for illustrators as well. Animators have to know from frame to frame, but as illustrators we always have to capture the moment of action. We have to enhance the drawing and bring with it the full potential, as, unlike animators who have endless frames to show movement, we only have one.

What illustrators also tend to do is stick to a ‘formula’ where once we have mastered a look, we stick to it. For example, when drawing a person running, we might stick to the classic, one leg stretched out, the other bend, one arm forward, the other behind. But that is not the only post in running. What about the body shape of the person? Are they a large person, or a skinny person? What happens to the large person’s belly when they run? Does it not move? Where is the weight? What happens to the skinny person’s back? Are they leaning forward? Does their neck extend? Read more

Post Event: Illustrating for Young Readers in Franschhoek

Franschhoek LIterary Festival

Goeie Môre Mevrou Julia en Mevrou Celeste”

Before the big book festival in Franschhoek on the weekend, there is a wonderful adventure called the Franschhoek Literary Festival (FLF) for Young Readers, where authors are driven around the schools in the area to read their stories to the children.

Bridge House
Bridge House giving me a present for visiting!

I was honoured to be invited by one of my authors, Julia Richman, to join in. Julia and I have done several readings together of her delightful story The Bacon Chase, and so it felt like family as I arrived at the the first school, Bridge House, with Julia and her characters, Kayta Cat, Freddie the Seagull, Auntie Bea, Princess  Flowers and Chubbs (the chubby hotel cat).

Julia started reading to the grade one class, as I whipped out my Sharpie pen and started illustrating Katya, Auntie Bea and Chubbs on paper for them.

The children were giving opportunity to ask questions and I was overwhelmed with, not only the deep profound perspective of the questions, but also the detail. They had really absorbed every little bit of what Julia had read.

“But why does Chubbs steal?” they asked, and “How did Katya get her magical tail?” Read more

Post-Event: Book Dash Celebrates 2nd Birthday

Book Dash Birthday

“Isn’t it nice to be with people who understand this kind of geeky talk!”

I was honoured to be invited to the second birthday of Book Dash. It was held at the Kalk Bay book store, which is a beautiful quaint shop by the ocean, filled with that wonderful smell of books, nostalgia and salty air. My first encounter as I walked in, was a table filled with past Book Dash printed books. These gorgeous little square books were full of colour and magical stories about children, animals and their adventures.

"Bathtub Safari" one of Book Dash's books that I picked up.
“Bathtub Safari” one of Book Dash’s books that I picked up.

Soon, I heard the familiar sound of my own name from Julia Norrish, the organiser, who exclaimed that she didn’t realise I was so tall from my photo. But soon we were ushered to the comfortable couches where Athur Attwell, the founder, started his speech. After all the acknowledgements of authors, copywriters, supporters and supporters in the room, he informed us that while we were all there sipping our juice, wine and champagne, 15 stories where currently being printed in 11 different languages, to create 48 000 books.

And that was just the beginning! They are hoping to distribute into other parts of Africa, as well as into the digital realm, by partnering up with an eBook distributor.

He also announced that in the beginning they only had two stories.  The first one was printed within a month and the second one was only finished a few weeks ago. Julia then announced that ‘Celeste is here!’ Apparently the story I took over from my illustrator friend (I won’t mention his name) in February had been sitting on the his table for two years! I quickly corrected everyone and said that it wasn’t my fault – I had only gotten it this year. I had no idea that Penguin Palace by Helen Brain had such a great back story.

Arthur started telling us all about the feedback they had gotten from the schools and I felt really humbled by the stories from children and teachers who were so grateful for the books. Made me feel really proud that I had contributed (in a small way) to this magical literary fairy tale. Read more

Interview with Caroline Pedler

Caroline Pedler

I have two sides to my creative personality.

Celeste: Hi Caroline, thanks so much for taking time out to chat to me today! I just love your work! I understand that you have done a lot of illustrations for children’s books over the years. Can you tell my readers a little about yourself and how you came into this industry?

Character Sketch from Little Bear's Big Jumper
Character Sketch from Little Bear’s Big Jumper

Caroline: Hey Celeste, Yeah thanks…. I was living at home in Cornwall after a disastrous gap year and bad health and worked on my illustration folio. I had a lucky break showing my folio to a card company in Bath and from there on in I started illustrating greeting cards for a company called Gordon Fraser, under the umbrella of Hallmark Cards in 1997. I worked for card companies for a couple of years, illustrating numerous ranges and making a living from that and bar work. I loved it. I was then offered my first children’s book around the same time, for Oxford University Press, and then another for Readers Digest in Bath. From one of the the first ever greeting cards I did with Hallmark, a company called Parragon wanted me to do a book based on that card, of Father Christmas. I did 7 more books in that range, plus another 6 over the next few years. That started my career. I also took part in exhibitions in local galleries at that time and got an agent via that connection. So for a while I did various illustration work and then I started working with the children’s publisher Little Tiger Press in 2005. I have been on a rolling book contract with them ever since. Meaning I am contracted to do 2-5 books in one contract, spanning over 12 months – 2 years in advance. I prefer a two book contract so I don’t feel trapped. Little Tiger are a great company and really look after me. To the extent of taking me to business parties and taking me out for dinner in Palaces and lovely restaurants in Bologna, Italy, while at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Read more

John Kelly on Pirates, Processes and Illustrations

John Kelly

I don’t like cheese. Hate the stuff!

Celeste: Hi John! Thank so much for chatting with us today! I just love your Beasty Pirates book and I am so excited I can pick your brain for a bit. First of all, can you tell my readers a little about yourself?

Munch, Crunch Prirate Lunch
Munch, Crunch Prirate Lunch

John: Hi Celeste, So glad you like the Beastly Pirates, especially as there’s another one coming this summer. It’s called ‘Munch, Crunch, Pirate Lunch!’ And tells the tale of Heartless Bart, the pirate leader, who is exceptionally annoyed that the Beastly Pirates have eaten all of his pirates and sets out on a dastardly plan of revenge.

Well, I’ve worked in publishing, firstly as a designer, since 1990. Most of that was in children’s reference non-fiction. I found out very quickly that as I was a designer who could draw I naturally gravitated towards doing books about explaining things. My niche was deconstructing technology, buildings, animals, maps, and films. I’ve always been interested in taking things apart and putting them back together again to show how they worked.

But I’ve also worked in licensing, doing books about Star Wars and Pixar for a company called Dorling Kindersley.

So I spent a big chunk of my career drawing things for other people to then illustrate. I never considered my own drawings to be artwork or illustration as such. They were always just the ‘blueprints’ for a ‘proper’ illustrator to come in and finish off properly.

Over the years I did illustrate some books, but in the early 2000’s (long story) I ended up getting involved in children’s fiction. The rest, they say, is history. Read more