Wombat Books Blog

Wombat Books blog is the place to keep up to date with all the goings-on in the world of Aussie kid's books.

A chat with illustrator Liz McGrath

A chat with illustrator Liz McGrath

As part of the inaugral Wombat Books Illustration Challenge, we will be running a series of blogs featuring successful illustrators - to offer advice and inspiration and help budding illustrators learn from the best in the 'biz'.

Liz McGrath is the illustrator of the new Happy Pants, due for release in May 2014.


I'm Liz McGrath, the illustrator of Happy Pants, a bittersweet story of a little boy whose life is turned upside down when his new baby brother arrives. The boy is very confused by his mum's changed mood. It's a sad time for him, but the story shows the family finding support, and ends as we glimpse a brighter future for them all.

Question 1: When did you start illustrating and what was the first book you ever illustrated?

I've always loved to draw and paint, and became an art teacher. Over the years I've illustrated lots of books, but most of them don't appear in bookshops. They are the sort of books or booklets that you are given for free. For example a multicultural songbook that was given to kids when they visited their maternal and child health nurse. And a book showing non-English speaking mums ideas on how to be active with their kids. Even a kit used in schools used to encourage kids to walk or ride to school. I've also done lots of posters, postcards and magnets. In fact my own kids used to say "you may not be famous Mum, but you sure are on a lot of fridges!"

Question 2: What is the most challenging part of being an illustrator?

Understanding someone else's idea, and bringing it to life. It's a shared journey, and that can take a lot of talking and listening.

Question 3: What is your favourite part about being an illustrator?

I feel very lucky when I spend time at my desk working with paints and pencils. It's like a dream come true. And I get really excited about seeing the finished product.

Question 4: When given a story to illustrate, what is the first thing you do to get your ideas flowing?

Rough sketches, and lots of them. Look out for the bits that work, and think about what makes them work.

Question 5: If you could give one piece of advice to a budding illustrator, what would it be?

Listen carefully, read lots of great picture books, and have fun.

Find out more about Liz McGrath

Find out more about the Illustration Challenge

 

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A chat with illustrator Sandra Temple

A chat with illustrator Sandra Temple

As part of the inaugural Wombat Books Illustration Challenge, we will be running a series of blogs featuring successful illustrators - to offer advice and inspiration and help budding illustrators learn from the best in the 'biz'.

Sandra Temple has previously illustrated Puggle's Problem by Aleesah Darlison (who is the author of the Illustration Challenge book - Zoo Ball) as well as a range of other books - many of which feature zoo animals from around the world.


Sandra Temple is an international award winning wildlife artist. She is passionate about conservation and the environment. Usually she is asked to illustrate books that require a lot of animals and birds in them. Sandra is also an author, multi media tutor and a body painter for events and film.

Question 1: When did you start illustrating and what was the first book you ever illustrated?

I started drawing as soon as I could hold a pencil properly. In nearly all the photos of me as a child I am colouring, drawing or reading. The first book I ever illustrated was in Primary school, it was about a little fawn who was afraid of being alone. I even laminated it.

Question 2: What is the most challenging part of being an illustrator?

For me, it's trying to make my pictures are not too different from what the writer sees in their own version – usually in their head, and also keeping the publishers ideas there too.

Question 3: What is your favourite part about being an illustrator?

When the illustrations are finished and they are all approved, I get a feeling of satisfaction, but my favourite part has to be when children enjoy the story read out loud and it becomes their choice to read over and over again.

Question 4: When given a story to illustrate, what is the first thing you do to get your ideas flowing?

I always read the book aloud a few times to see how it flows. Then think of each page as a picture and sketch small thumbnail sketches of the pages very roughly. After that it's lots of scribbles until the characters develop. The pictures need to match the words so if the kangaroo is wearing a red spotted scarf I make sure that it IS wearing a red spotted scarf and things like that.

Question 5: If you could give one piece of advice to a budding illustrator, what would it be?

Draw, and draw, and keep drawing. Study human bodies and movement, and if serious, find a good teacher. It is possible to teach yourself (after all, I did) but much quicker to be guided by someone who can help you with shortcuts and tips.

Find out more about Sandra Temple

Find out more about the Illustration Challenge

 

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A chat with illustrator Shannon Melville

A chat with illustrator Shannon Melville

As part of the inaugural Wombat Books Illustration Challenge, we will be running a series of blogs featuring successful illustrators - to offer advice and inspiration and help budding illustrators learn from the best in the 'biz'.

First up - Shannon Melville, she has previously illustrated a number of books by Aleesah Darlison (who is the author of the Illustration Challenge book - Zoo Ball) including the new Little Meerkat and Little Good Wolf. She has also illustrated a number of author picture books.


 

Shannon Melville - I live near the Canning River in Perth. I have illustrated eight books. I love animals and enjoy illustrating them. I love all the colours of the rainbow. I enjoy walking my caramel and chocolate coloured kelpie Hugo down at the park, he loves chasing balls but doesn't always bring them back, a bit annoying when he drops them in the river or ocean! I have a new baby daughter who is keeping me busy and a kind, supportive husband. When I am not illustrating I also work as a graphic designer and Disability Arts Worker.

Question 1: When did you start illustrating and what was the first book you ever illustrated?

I received my first illustration job in 2006, in the final year of my TAFE course but the first book I illustrated in 2009 was called ‘My Arms Your Legs’ written by Kim Rackham, I only had 5 weeks to illustrate 70+ illustrations!

Question 2: What is the most challenging part of being an illustrator?

Promoting my books and encouraging people to buy them. Drawing things out of my head that do not exist in real life can also be a bit tricky such as a meerkat swimming; you can’t just ask a meerkat at the local zoo to jump in a pool for you and start swimming!

Question 3: What is your favourite part about being an illustrator?

Researching new subject matter on the internet, at the zoo, a park, around the neighbourhood and learning interesting facts that assist with my illustrations. I also really enjoy getting to work with various types of media, in particular pastels and coloured pencils.

Question 4: When given a story to illustrate, what is the first thing you do to get your ideas flowing?

I draw a few small thumbnail sketches on the author’s manuscript. I also write a list of all the references I am going to need to illustrate my story. I usually find most of my photo references on the internet but will also use books too if I need to. I visited a zoo to try and draw platypuses once but they swam too fast to draw them!

Question 5: If you could give one piece of advice to a budding illustrator, what would it be?

Draw as much as you can, sketch objects from life (right in front of you) as well as from photos. Try to work on your unique style and don’t compare yourself to others too much, we all have different ways of seeing and different ways of expressing ourselves which makes it interesting. Publishers don’t want to see everyone illustrating the same way, they like variety. Be prepared to change your work, none of us draw a masterpiece every time we draw. You need to realize a children’s book is created by numerous people: an author, illustrator, publisher, art director, editor, graphic designer, printer and so on, so there will be other people’s opinions to consider.

Find out more about Shannon Melville

Find out more about the Illustration Challenge

 

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