The pandemic lockdowns made us rethink how we work, play, and learn. Authors and illustrators had to adjust, just like the schools and libraries which relied on them visiting in person.
In the end, we learned what we like, or don’t like about being more in charge of our days. This change to hybrid working might be long-lasting. Working in front of a camera is now so normal that we don’t even think about it. I’ve broadcasted to more people than ever before from my living room! However, not being in the same space as readers is challenging.
The Centre of Literature in Primary Education (CLPE) runs several courses for teachers and publishing professionals. CLPE’s Charlotte Hacking and author/illustrator and CLPE Patron, Ed Vere devised The Power of Pictures project. It helps teachers choose and use picture books across the primary school, understand the process that goes into developing a picture book, and develop meaningful relationships between authors and schools.
I came across Officina do Cego, run by a group of crafts and art people in Lisbon, thanks to Kristine Martinova. She introduced us to the president of the Association, Nuno Ramos, who explained how they teach and make work using screen and letterpress printing. They make their own books, so also teach bookbinding.
Walking into the place I found machines that fondly reminded me of my early days in graphic design. I started young, around 15 years old, working during school holidays in the Maviyane Project.
These were the days before computers in the office and we did all the artwork by hand. I mean, totally by hand. We traced letters to make layouts and stuck things down with hot wax. We calculated the size of type that would work for a book using a formula and then sent that to the typesetters who sent us back rolls of text on photographic paper. If it wasn’t right the whole process had to be done again, causing delays, among other things. Attention to detail meant a lot more than it does now- it could end a project, or worse still a job.
We carried all of that experience to the computer age, thankfully.
It was a wonderful trip down memory lane. I might take one of their courses next time.
There were many children online for the live reading, which was followed by a discussion about the book Astro Girl. Many more will watch the recording of the event on the San Francisco Public Library YouTube page. All in all, it’s been a good few months for the book. It was also featured in the South African Festival of Children’s Literature and the insights section of Communication Arts Magazine.
If it were any other time, I would still be recovering from jet lag, but the pandemic meant harnessing the power of the internet.
Here’s a link to the recording on San Francisco Public Library’s YouTube channel:
Stars With Flaming Tales won the CLiPPA award for poetry!
The CLiPPA (Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award) is solely presented for published poetry for children in the UK. Established in 2003, the Poetry Award encourages and celebrates outstanding poetry published for children.– CLPE
I enjoyed working with poet Valerie Bloom on the anthology of poems for children called Stars With Flaming Tails. It was the first time I have illustrated poetry, and hopefully not the last.
A few years back during a literary event, we had talked about possibly working together, but neither of us knew how exactly that might happen… the catalyst turned out to be our publisher, Janetta Otter-Barry.
I worked digitally in black and white. Together with the team – Valerie Bloom, Ariana Osti (designer), and Janetta Otter-Barry (publisher and editor)- we created a very powerful, meaningful book.
But don’t take my word for it, the reviews from Achuka and the blog of the live event hosted by the University of Manchester give a really good idea of what to expect if you get a chance to buy the book.
Illustrating digitally meant that I could use the time-lapse feature to great effect during the live event. This was a great alternative to trying to do a live drawing in front of a camera!
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Early in 2020, Scoop Magazine asked if was interested in illustrating some stories in a comic strip style. I have secretly wanted to do something like this for quite some time so jumped at the chance. Furthermore, the strips were to be activist or historical, which is a space that I follow regularly. In fact, many of my books are inspired by some sort of activism.
I am looking forward to finding a digital style. That medium requires a slightly different way of thinking to paint and canvas. I chose to use a tablet, which meant taking a chance and buying one. So it’s more expensive than working traditionally and more time-consuming learning how to make the digital tools do what you want.
The overall effect is that it feels like being a fresh new illustrator who is risking a lot to make this work. When there is a lot at stake it can be easier to focus and stay focused, which is a good thing. Still caught up in the excitement of each project I can see a bigger picture… a graphic novel one day, perhaps, or some other grand project involving telling a story frame by frame.
The work hasn’t gone unnoticed. One of the assignments was to tell the story of John Blanke, an African in King Henry’s court. It has led to a commission for the John Blanke Project. So on some level, the results are exactly as hoped. And it seems like Scoop readers are enjoying the stories too. Working with a team of people that have the same goal is always a pleasure ad they have been patiently supporting and fine-
tuning each story. Long may it continue