I’ve Written a Children’s Story… Now What?

Children reading children books

I often get requests from people who have a collection of stories, or spent months writing a tale and are now unsure of what the next step is.

The first thing you need to do is, give your story to a child. Even if you do stick figures for the illustrations, or whatever, if the child doesn’t get it, then you know you need to go back to the drawing board. The second thing you need to decide is: do I want to publish through a publishing house, or do you want to self-publish?

Publishing Houses

If you want to publish through a publishing house then I suggest doing a bit of research on the internet as well as checking other children books that you think are similar to your own story and  see who they published with. Go to those publishing houses websites and see what their submission guidelines are (it’s usually somewhere on the website). Check if they take manuscripts from authors, or if they only accept through agents. If you want to be published in the UK and USA – most of these publishing houses only take from agents. Here in South Africa, however, they are usually open to accepting straight from the author. If you are interested in getting an agent, then I suggest doing a bit of research in this area. Check who other authors are using, compile a list and then submit to them. Continue Reading

Sketch Prompts – Autumn

A friend of mine is a writer and every Thursday we get together with another writer, to basically, well, write. This was how my first book Pink Camels and Floating Grannies came about. This interaction also exposed a little something called ‘Prompts’ to me. I knew about prompts already, as I follow the #DailySketch and #FridayIllustration on Twitter.  There was something a little more special, however, when someone pulls out a container and slips a little piece of paper that has a word, a sentence, a phrase written on. That little piece of paper was something you pulled out, just for you. It was what your body had chosen, your fingers had sussed out from the container.

I experienced this again, a few weeks ago at the Bodhi Khaya Retreat, where Michelle did a writing workshop. She brought her prompt jar for writing along and it was passed around the table, like sweets or treasures. I realised that the art world was greatly missing out with our short-changed twitter version. I also wanted a special jar with words just for me to draw.  I wanted to whisper out a piece of sketching inspiration for a warm-up illustration before the day started.

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Letting Go and Writing What You are Comfortable With

Illustrator South Africa

Somewhere between being a child and an adult my writing got stifled. I don’t know whether it was all those articles I had to produce for clients, amazing books I read by other people or finding out that other writers always have these epic, deep, character building, thoughts and I just had a few mushrooms and bug-spray, but somewhere, some time, at some point, things took a wrong turn. I keep looking at books that have whole worlds created by authors and thought ‘I can do that.’ I looked at stories with epic endings and thought ‘I can write that.’ I looked at characters that blossomed and changed and thought ‘I have that.’ And it was true, I did have it. But I never finished it. I wrote out story plots with twists and turns, worlds with pink candy floss for trees and orange bumble bees. I even tried my hand at limericks and prose. But did I finish it? Nope.

Well that’s not entirely true, I did finish one here, another there. I then got excited that I had finally completed it and would email it off to publishers. Slowly over months I would get emails dribbling in sort of saying it needs more work. By this stage I wasn’t interested in it any more. The truth was, these stories were not my favourite. Within a month of completing the few I did, I realised I didn’t actually like them much myself. Sure there was a paragraph here, and a chapter there that brought me joy, but the story line just didn’t feel right. Continue Reading

SCBWI – South Africa – becoming a member

scbwi SA

I was recently asked by the SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) to come on board and assist with their website content – content management if you like. For those of you who know me, this kind of thing comes naturally and I was delighted to be involved. I am pleased to announce that in a wonderful partnership with Elaine Ridge, Marjorie van Heerden and Samantha van Riet, the South African SCBWI blog is now beginning to take shape.  In return for my assistance, I was to be a member of their team.

Now I should say, that I have been stalking this group of people for over a year now. In fact, I was there, hanging out, chatting to them, going to events, well before I was even a published illustrator! I had gone to a book launch to meet an international illustration, Jane Heinrichs, who you might have remembered I interviewed that one time.

I had ‘met’ Jane via social media and found out that she was launching a book she was illustrating, with a Cape Town writer (Jane normally lives in the UK), so I went through. It was a little bit of a disaster, as the publisher seemed to have forgotten about it and the venue also were very confused, but in the end the author and Jane still managed to sign a few books, although mostly because of people they had personally invited. It all felt a bit like a flash-mob book launch! Continue Reading

Santa Shoe Box Pledge

To date the Santa Shoebox Project has distributed 551 979 shoeboxes throughout South Africa and Namibia.

Something a little off the topic of illustrating, drawing and getting creative – I thought I would dedicate a post to the Santa Shoe Box Project. I am a huge fan of this initiative and thought to let you know about it. It is a simple idea of everyone pledging to make a shoebox present for under-privileged kids all over South Africa. You can pledge to any one of the thousands of children on their website, and then go about packing together a box for them. Continue Reading

First Year in Illustrating

Racoon Illustration

It is September.

September is a big month for me. It is my husband’s birthday and our eight year anniversary (has it really been that long?), but it is also the time for peer reviews for Christmas bonuses and round about the time I got my car insurance money pay out last year. Therefore, it was roughly a year ago, that I typed up my resignation letter and started the count down, as I had accumulated enough cash to survive for eight months.

Eight months came and went and it is with great joy that I am still here, self-employed. It actually took me just over 6 months to start covering myself (if people are saving for the same journey). Soon I hope to exceed the ‘just covering’ and go into ‘look at me, I’m fabulous!” Continue Reading

Tips to Making a Light Box

Light box

I let Gruffy down

I love watching old episodes of Gummi Bears while I work. It not only puts me in the right frame of mind for illustrating children’s books, but it also provides the perfect background noise of something mildly entertaining, without being distracting. I know that Milt Kahl would have disagreed with me, as Richard Williams said in his book, but sometimes a little Gummi Bears is just what I feel like and I feel nostalgic about these bears.

Recently when I had tea with Paddy, I took an opportunity to ask her some technical questions. Paddy has a fine arts background and has been in the industry of children’s books, as well as an artist for years. For myself – I’ve done a class here and there, but for the most part it has been a trial and tested method, along with a  fair amount of self-learning. One thing that did catch my eye though, was that after the scanning process a lot of pencil marks come through. It’s a simple thing really – the scanning takings out some of the original colour and so to replace it, you need to tweak your illustrations in Photoshop. Continue Reading

Creative Box: How I made the Video

Creative Boxes

Last week, my Creative Box: Colour Mug, went live on Youtube. The object was to test out the potential of making videos and to expand into this medium a little bit. That’s not to say I won’t be writing here, on the blog, but it does mean that some topics can be a little more interactive. I thought I would write up here, a little bit on how I put together the video, in case there are any other creatives/illustrators out there who want to give it a shot. Continue Reading

Life of an Illustrator

Nixie

Ramblings in my house

Nixie is my youngest of five. She has three dads, in the form of cats, and one mom, in the form of Brownie, my highly intelligent street special dog, who has a lot of German Shepard in her. Nixie, according to the vet, has whippet. A breed usually known to be timid, shy, and have their tails in between their legs a lot when in public spaces. Nixie is none of these things.

To give you an idea of her personality, we left her inside (when I went to yoga class, or nipped out an hour or so). At first it was fine. Then she started chewing on things from the bin. But for weeks it was never anything that couldn’t be fixed, or moved before leaving. Until we came home and open the door to an artistic madness. She had found a brown bag, containing a few oil paints from Deckle Edge. Out of the three primary colours, she had decided that the red was her favorite. She promptly chewed the tube, digesting half the paint, smearing pinky red paint all over her face, paws and carpet. She also chewed the oil paper. It took my husband and I an hour to remove the oil paint from the carpet with turpentine. She, on the other had, had no issues at all from eating the paint. Continue Reading

Tips that Yoga can teach us in Illustration

For my new Twitter/Google+ header I thought doing a series of movements of a character would be a great way to fill up that rectangle space, which got me to pull out some books I have on animation. While I was reading through, brushing up on all the fantastic tips and techniques, it got me thinking of how there is an overlap between doing illustrations and Yoga, two of my favourite hobbies (and soon to be professions as I will be doing a Yoga teacher’s course next year – very excited!).

So what can we learn from drawing and Yoga?

Yoga IllustrationYoga: Inhale/Exhale

Illustrations: Stretch/Squash

When you watch a Yogi doing sun salutations, they will inhale when their bodies expand and exhale when their bodies contract. So for example, if they go into a cobra pose, they will breath in and expand their chest. They might afterwards bend inwards, lift their hips, lean forward, touching the ground with their feet and hands while exhaling and go into downward dog pose.

In illustrating we must do the same. Illustrations should never be the phase between poses, it should be the pose. So characters must either be breathing out and squashing, or breathing in and stretching. When they stretch, their full body goes into it. If they were to point it wouldn’t just be a finger, it would the finger, the hand, the arm, the shoulder, the whole moment. If the character jumps, they would stretch as they flew in the air, and then squash as they land on the ground.
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