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.

The heart of the story with Giuseppe Poli

GiuseppePoliCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been in the industry?

I'm an artist and creative who has been making things for years. The journey to children's picture books has been a long one and being a children's story creator was not what I wanted to be when I grew up (see my website for more details!) My break into the industry came in 2014 when my first book was published. Today I am working on my tenth and have many other stories in development.

Describe your typical work desk.

Like many aspiring artists, I'm still in the process of making my ideal studio. At present, I have my computer adorned with things that inspire me. Next to that I have a makeshift lightbox and all my colour pencils on display. The best thing I've done so far is group my pencils and inks into colour groups. They look delicious! They are like little fields of flowers and grass and woodland...and they beckon me to pick them up and play. Recently I've drawn portraits of my characters and have them around my monitor too.

I've learned something interesting in the pursuit of a perfect workspace. When I'm in the thick of creating, I'll use whatever space I can find (the floor, dining table, wardrobe doors). When I feel the urge to have my own studio I use it as a trigger to ask myself 'Should I be creating? Am I procrastinating?' and once I get back to work, my workspace angst is no longer a problem!

There is one key way I use my work desk. I finish my night thinking about a creative project and what I'd like to do next, and leave one note of action on the desk for the next day. When I wake up, bleary and tired, I don't need to think, I just do.

What made you want to become an illustrator?

I love making art but I love story more. I'm inspired by films and games and when I looked for a way to build skills in visual storytelling, I found that I had all I needed in a pencil and a piece of paper. From this, I realised children's picture books were an incredible medium and a wonderful opportunity to master my ability to captivate, inspire and grow.

How do you go about designing a character when working with picture books? How does the collaboration between author and illustrator work?

For me, all my design and characters for the book come from my intentions for it. I don't bring my past work into my present project, and try and clarify what the heart of the story is. If the story calls for something I don't have in my tooklit, I work to discover how I can deliver that.

I want people to feel something and there will always be movement in my art. It's at this intention level where I think authors and illustrators collaborate best. The beauty of the author and illustrator collaboration is that we give each other room to shine and together we amplify the story.

The other collaborator that's important to acknowledge is the publisher. There is a reason why you as the illustrator have been chosen. That's the magic of passing over the story-baton to the visual storyteller and seeing where they fly.

Who are your illustration idols?

I admire what Shaun Tan has done for the medium of the picture book. Shaun has walked to the top of the hill of high art and literature, planted a flag for picture books and laid out a picnic blanket for all others to join him. I see picture books as galleries and curated exhibitions, each page a blank wall, curated towards a special experience.

I also love Quentin Blake and think his knighthood for his service to illustration is very cool. Both he and Shaun have opened our eyes to the medium as something that is more than 'just for kids'. A picture book is a moment in time.

Which children's book would you love to have illustrated?

The newly illustrated Harry Potter books by Jim Kay. Wow! I can't wait to get that good. Quentin Blake's illustrations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are also enchanting.

Describe your workshop for the Wombat Books Conference.

At the heart of each of my books is my desire to reach a win-win-win: a win for me as a storyteller, a win for the author/publisher and a win for our readers. That pursuit is not easy and I love it, because it forces us to be really creative and in this pursuit we all grow.

I believe that a book that satisfies all these elements can exist, and that product is worth searching for. Finding our way there can be difficult, and this uncertainty is where I feel I can help.

My best successes have come from when I produce work that I love, aspire towards and am proud of. It's not the product, it's the revision that makes art, with taste and with clarity for what you want your audience to feel and you, as a creator, to feel. That's where we push our boundaries.

Every drawing, every thought, every word we write or say is a single step. As a visual storyteller, you are going to be walking a long while. Some of that might be a steep climb, but the beauty of a steep climb is that you are always rising. I can't wait to see you in my workshop, and rise together.

For more great workshops like Giuseppe's, book your tickets for the conference now! Click the image below for more information.

Conference Tiles How to Make Art

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Illustration Challenge Finalists Announced

Phew! It was some tough competition this year when judging our Illustration Challenge. There were so many amazing entries, using so many different techniques - from water-based paints to digital design to collage. Every drawing was so unique that it was hard to choose the finalists. Here's just a brief snippet for you ...

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However, after many hours of going through piles of entries, we've narrowed it down to 31 artists. Congratulations to the following artists who will be featured in our printed edition of Around Australia in 30 Places.

Tommy Clements
Britney Fallon
Layla Gill
Ruby Levitt
Scarlett Papps-Burford
Nathan Kingsley
Lara Tamke
Alexey Luchkovskiy
Kai Caspelherr
Daisy Karner
Anna Rose Gray
Andrew Philip
Teniel Sauer
Rory Smith
Abbey Olafsen
Ruby Wandschneider
Belle Ritchie
Ella Zieserl
Evie Larcombe
Zach Searle
Jack Morris
Blake Ellerman
Sonya Clarke
Aramis Surtees
Caitlin Miller
Berylia Nur'aina
Rebecca Tang
Lara Winton
Amber Liang
Sarah Savige
Samantha Parish

Can't wait to see the final book? You can preorder your copy of Around Australia in 30 Places now here with free shipping.

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Dreaming with Emma Middleton

 Wombat Books catches up with Emma Middleton about her latest picture book, The Dream Bird.

emma middleton 1. Congratulations on such a visually stunning book. Did it turn out how you imagined?

Yes, the illustrations did turn out how I imagined. The story has a classic feel to me, so I wanted to emulate this style in the illustrations. One of the things that excited me about illustrating the story was the transitions between fantasy and reality. I wanted to create layered illustrations where you could almost see reality merging into the fantastical world.

 2. What’s your favourite thing about children’s books?

Gosh, there are so many, I adore children’s books! I think story is one of the most powerful tools that is essential to us in a compassionate society. Children learn, empathise and are entertained by story and it offers a real opportunity to plant seeds of inspiration. The combination of words and illustrations is magical. I particularly love it when the visual narrative is left to tell elements of the story, so the young child can be an active participant in the decoding of the narrative.

3. What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?

The best thing about being an illustrator is having the opportunity to give a child beautiful pictures to absorb and enjoy.Dream Bird finalhigh text5 32

4. What book are you currently reading?

To be honest I always have a few picture book under my bed, but I have just recently started The Shepherd’s Hut.

5. Did you have trouble sleeping when you were a kid? Were there any crazy techniques you tried to get to sleep? i.e. was milk and cookies a fav?

I do remember having milk with honey, but I was actually one of those strange children who often asked to go to bed. Now I realise how lucky my parents were regarding bedtime.

6. On what adventure would you like the Dream Bird to take you?

I would love to go on a tropical underwater adventure. Hopefully the Dream Bird can hold her breath!

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