She said Yes!

For weeks I have had a secret project. It all started a few weeks ago when a romantic gentleman, Carlos, contacted me. He informed me that after several years of dating his girlfriend, Zanri, he thought it would be time to propose. He didn’t want to just drop to his knee though. Instead he wanted to pull together a romantic stunt and he needed my help.

Knowing his girlfriend was a huge fan of children’s illustrations (she works as a children’s book publisher) he sought out to have several illustrations drawn of their time together. He wanted to have them depicted as animals (him a monkey, her a snake) doing all the adventures that they had together, including the night they meet at a German October Festival, to parachuting, moving in together, travelling and meeting each other’s families.

Of course I immediately wanted to be involved. It was a different ball game to the usual book illustrations that I do and so I took the project on with great excitement. It was about three weeks into the project that I attended an open studio day with Alex. I was sitting there, making notes and taking photos for my blog post later, when one of the of ladies at the event looked incredible familiar. Read more

Visiting Alex Latimer at his Studio

Last week I got an email from the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) announcing that they were going to have a an open studio day with Alex Latimer. I can’t honestly say that I knew who Alex was before that email. After meeting him, seeing his studio and his work, I am so glad that I now do.

I will admit that in the rush to get to Alex’s studio in the morning, I actually forgot his name (this is a common thing that happens – especially if I haven’t met a person, so it didn’t even bother me that I was going to a person’s house whose name I had forgotten). I was five minutes late when I arrived and had to yell around his house until eventually I found his wife who guided me up the stairs to his studio. I still hadn’t remembered what his name was, as I quickly nodded and did mini waves to everyone apologetically, as I made my way to the back of the room. I had missed the introduction to the open day and just decided that I was going to have to check my emails on my phone at some point to get this guy’s name. As I was standing there my eyes began to wonder to the shelving on the wall.

There were all these books that were written and illustrated by some person called ‘Alex Latimer.’ I thought to myself ‘I need to Google that when I get home – maybe it’s up-coming illustrator or something that this guy is drawing inspiration from.’

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Paint and Sip Review

Paint and Sip

Last week I attended Paint and Sip – an event based in town, where you ‘uncork your creavitiy’ with a local artist, raise money for an NPO, and get a meal (including glass of wine) thrown in. Sounds amazing right?

In fact, it sounded very similar to my Creative Workshop, except for the wine part (and I serve cake, not supper and there is no charity). So I thought it would be a good idea to go and see what they were doing to maybe get inspired for my own workshops, maybe do something like this next year with my ‘creatives’ attendees. I am sure they wouldn’t complain if I replaced their tea with a glass of wine.

My blue-haired friend Tessa came with me to the event. She was a fantastic distraction for all that sat near us, so I could assess everything secretly. The artist that was to be starring at this month’s Paint and Sip was local artist Laura Wenman, who I must say was a delight. She was filled with humour, joy and I just loved her.

The venue on the other hand, I didn’t love so much. Before I tell you all about the good things, I think it best we get the ‘pink elephant’ out the room (why must the elephant always be white?) and tell you that the venue was actually terrible. You enter this weird space that is sort of a bar, but a craft market, with a hotel reception desk. Weird, right? Welcome to 91 Loop street. Read more

Writing Children’s Picture Books

A One day interactive course with children’s author, Alan Durant, on Monday – 12 September 2016 from 10am – 15.30pm

00 Alan

Location: Sasnev (huis der Nederland), 4 Central Avenue, Pinelands, Cape Town.
Cost: R750 – includes a light lunch.
Bookings: alandurant58@gmail.com

Whether you want to write for you own children or relatives, or for publication, this one-day workshop class with award-winning UK author Alan Durant will reveal some of the key tehniques and considerations of writing picture books for young children. Fun, practical and informative, this class will provide plenty of opportunities for writing and is suitable for writers of all levels – and also illustrators keen to learn how to tell their stories through words. Read more

Herschel Girls Readathon with Katya Cat

Hershel Girls Katya Cat

We had mermaids and, of course, mermaid Princesses. We also had pirates and one pirate Princess. Then there were a group dressed up with whiskers and tails. I guess they were ‘Cat Fish’ (well done parents – I see what you did there).

Libary Shark HeadIt was just last week that the sun was shining (you wouldn’t think with the rain at the moment!) and I was off to Hershel School for their Readathon event. Like all Capetonians, I knew only good thing about Hershel School and I wasn’t disappointed. As I entered the reception I was greeted with a great big shark head decorating the door to the library. Apparently they were doing a underwater theme week and the whole library was decked out. 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

Commissioned Painting for TEARS Animal Rescue

Tears Painting

Giving something back, to the awesome team at TEARS

I agreed with joy when Michelle, from TEARS Animal Rescue contacted me to ask if I could create a painting for their new Visitors Center. The very next day I drove over Ou Kaaps se Weg to inspect the new room and do my measurements. By the afternoon, I was at Builders Warehouse asking for them to cut me a board. The outlines where done by evening.

Left to Right: Myself, Dawson the dog and Michelle
Left to Right: Myself, Dawson the dog and Michelle

Michelle asked if I could complete the painting within a week, as they were having their first group of visitors on the 1st of April. As any artist will tell you, a tight deadline puts a little pressure on you. Not to mention, that I haven’t actually painted a proper painting in years. I have painted things, like my beastie pots. I have also painted illustrations, for books, but I haven’t painted a board, to be hanged up, for strangers to see. It is a different type of mind-set, also a completely different type of style. Read more

Post Reading – The Deer Little Market

Reading of Katya

Author, Julia Richman, and I did a reading last weekend at The Deer Little Market, for Katya Cat: The Bacon Chase

Julia and Celeste
Julia and Celeste

There was a certain familiarity when I walked into Deer Park, with a board under my arm, an envelope with colouring-in characters, a sharpie pen, some pastels and what I call my ‘cheat note’ illustrations. After we had located a take-away coffee stall, we started wandering down, following signs saying ‘reading for kids here.’ Under a large pine-tree, we found some blankets that had been rolled out in anticipation of our arrival. I whats-app’d Julia Richman, the author of Katya Cat – The Bacon Chase, to find out where she was. Read more

Interview with the Book Dash Team

Book Dash Interview

Book Dash is an organisation that is committed to getting storytellers, illustrators and creative professionals together in one space, on one day, to create copyright-free books for South African children.

These books are then printed and donated freely to ECD centres, literary organizations , homes and libraries across the country. I had the privilege of interviewing the team this week.
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