hello april! you are really summer

Friday, 13 April 2018

Um, what's happening with this endless summer? A 30-degree week in Canberra (???) and only a small selection of our trees are even thinking about putting on the ritz with orange, red and gold. Some are still full green but scraggly and tired, you know? This ugly garden phase is kind of doing my head in, as is my chomping desire to slip boots and gloves on. Come on, 'summer', enough already!

To cheer myself, I've been hiding inside with the aircon on (in April???), painting up a storm and working hard on my next illustrated book (a sneak peek coming in this post). I've had many requests to sell giclée prints of my Flora series, and you'll notice, above, I'm putting a bulk order in so they'll turn out cheaper to buy (just $35 including postage; on my Etsy store, they are $50).

If you want a Flora print, email me with what you'd like, or head to my Insta page where you can leave a comment. Sorry for the short notice, but orders close at midnight on Sunday 15 April. I can only post to Australian addresses.

You'll notice I've created some slightly different illos in the series... using collage. When I created Australia Illustrated, I spent a lot of time monoprinting backgrounds for use in the book. Endless monoprinted pages have been sitting in my cupboard and they're just too beautiful to throw away, so I've been snipping away, creating shapes...

I kind of knew what I wanted to do with them (but not really) and this is what I came up with...

I can't even tell you how relaxing collaging is. I always sleep well after a collage day! I have a lot more planned, including a picture book idea (though, as is the way with me, I'm not really 100% sure of what I'm doing until I start!).

I also created this for a friend's 50th birthday, as part of the original Flora collection...
Speaking of prints, I'm about to wrap up orders for my A Bear a Day prints. You can see the range on my A Bear a Day Insta page, right here. Orders close tomorrow, Saturday 14 at midnight. Coordinating these sales has been some feat! so get in quick, as I won't be doing it again anytime soon.

A Bear a Day finished on 31 March and it was SO much fun. Honestly, I had a ball, and it's still quite surreal that people wanted to own my bears. I'd love to do another down the track, but I'll be busy with books right up to December. Maybe something for Christmas?

Here are the final bears, all sold:

Right--now for my latest Insta crush. Meet Jane Newland. Here is her Insta feed. You will curl up with delight. It's love.

Don't you want to go live in that cottage and dip your toes in that creek and go running with those deer?

See Hear was released on 1 April and it's been so lovely to see reviews popping up online. You can see some of the reviews here...

See Hear review on Early Childhood Book Reviews
See Hear review in the Daily Telegraph
See Hear review on NZ Booklovers 
See Hear review on Kids' Book Review
See Hear review on My Book Corner
See Hear review on The Bottom Shelf

It's extra lovely to hear about how kids are engaging with the book. It's everything.

And now, a peek at the latest book I'm illustrating - it's for the National Library of Australia and it's all about Australian animals. It's kind of different to the style the NLA have done before, and I'm very excited about it. Here is a section of one page, all done digitally, though using mono printed colours and textures...

You'll see the sneak peek image was inspired by one of my A Bear a Day bears...

LOVE that graphic-design-style look. This book has been in production for several years now and took a lot of research. I've loved every minute, and now I'm illustrating the pages in earnest. They take quite a while, and I'm hoping to finish in the next few months. Will show more peeks down the track.

I've also been squirreling away on an illustrated chapter book series. Pleased to introduce you to: Mr Preston Pooch! Will reveal more on this as time goes by.
Below is a commission in memory of a kittykat called Lizzy. It was such a beautiful thing being asked to create this image, and I swear I could feel her purring next to me as I painted. The family's reaction was priceless, and I cried when I heard a young lad burst into tears when he saw her! So precious.

You may remember I did a post last month on foraging in your local neighbourhood. Here is a primacolour pencil image I did of a protea leucadendron I found. What a stunning plant that thing is. Its pink leaves are fuzzy. I had it in a vase for weeks and wanted it to last forever. I wish I had more time to create these images... they take so long; perhaps in retirement!? Then the question remains, will I ever retire? I'm thinking no.

Friends and I were chatting on Facebook about going to Bologna Children's Book Fair in 2020. We always say things like this, but I've realised I'm super serious about it. What an incredible opportunity it would be--could you imagine? Our daughter finishes year 12 this year, so there should be enough in the coffers by then to snaffle some flights to Italy and perhaps even stay awhile. Watch this space. I will report every single step!!

A shout out to Books Illustrated for their tireless annual trek to showcase and support Australian kids' books. It was a joy to see three of my books in this year's catalogue (Smile Cry, Merry Everything and Australia Illustrated), and to see them featured in person, too. My new book, Mamie, was featured in the HarperCollins catalogue, but I can't give you a peek yet... sooooon! Out this December.

Jess Racklyeft and I are working busily on a new book for Windy Hollow. It's called Hip Hip Hooray! and you may be able to guess what it's about. It's a sequel to Merry Everything, though the animals will be different this time round. Here is a peek at a page of narwhals...

Wait till you see Jess's colour palette; it's unbelievable. This year's Pantone Colour of the Year is Ultra Violet and I have to say, I've never liked purple. I went through a hating-yellow phase, but I'm way out of that now, as you can see by many of my books! But Jess has completely converted me to purple and all its various hues. I'm completely in love. My current fave is this colour:

I don't even know what you'd call it. Orchid? Isn't it just perfection?

Right, let's move away from illustration (briefly). I want to give a shout out to Dimity Powell and the Kids' Book Review team for continuing to take the site to new heights. We averaged around 80K hits a month for years and things have gone gangbusters recently with a stunning peak in November 2017 of 249,395 hits! While that was a freak thing, the site continues to climb upwards in regard to audience, and had over 110,000 hits in March 2018.

Kids' Book Review

Biggest congrats to Dim and the team for continuing this amazing kidlit legacy, with exciting and varied posts and fabulous reviews. Anastasia Gonis has stared a 'Look What I'm Reading' series and I was featured recently. You can read it here, and look out for more in the series (I, for one, am ever keen to hear what others are reading).

And now, speaking of books... BOOKS! Here is my latest purchasing stash. All utterly fabulous.

a wordless book

I have every one of these divine books!

A gorgeous book but a little annoyed because this is almost identical to my own book idea!
But then, that's the way of the author/illustrator

Not a kids' book, but since Bill Gates endorsed it,
it's been hard to get a copy, and I'm in love!

Perennially obsessed with Nordic culture and way of life, I'm loving this

My World map will be out this June, and I can't wait to see it printed up. I should be seeing creator copies next month and I can't wait to share some peeks with you. In the meantime, here's a little peek at some illos (told you the diversion from illustration would be brief).

Goodness, this post is getting long. Sorry.

At the start of the month, SCBWI ACT held another sensational Pro Development evening at ALIA House, all about grants and indie publishing. It was just wonderful. Irma Gold and I spoke (below) on grants and Nicole Godwin, Genevieve Hopkins, Jacqueline De Rose-Ahern and Kerry Malone spoke on indie publishing. Irma published a great summary on her blog.

Cate Whittle and Nicole, below, and Jacqueline, Kerry, Genevieve and Nicole, bottom. Cate has done a glorious wrap-up of the evening on the SCBWI blog.

I can't believe I'm even saying this, after 30+ years as a staunch Microsoft girl, but I converted to Mac this month. It all began with Windows 10. It caused the purchase and repurchase of five PCs in the past few years, and after just 18 months with my last one, I was officially done. Microsoft would be losing millions in sales over their woeful, damaging, abominable Windows Updates, and I can no longer afford the time, cost and pain.

So I bought a Mac and I couldn't be happier. I actually posed the question on Facebook last month, about Mac conversion, and I was shocked to see 95% of my friends and colleagues recommend a conversion. And indeed, designer and illustrator friends are slack-jawed when I tell them I haven't been using a Mac. Although I used Macs in the '80s and '90s, it's taken a wee while to get used to the (ridiculous) keyboard command, file finder and windows structure of the Mac (Windows does crap all over Mac when it comes to these things), I'm really happy, and creating illustrations in Adobe Illustrator has been hugely quick and wonderful. Fingers crossed this baby lasts me more than 18 months.

School holidays are almost upon us and I plan to lie in bed a lot. I need to read, so desperately, and bed just happens to be where I'll find quiet, peace, sunshine and miraculous cups of tea borne on the wings of a Divine Husband. This will be interspersed with dashing to the computer to work on my book, and a quick run around the block or a yoga mat session to loosen muscles*. Gosh, muscles get tight when you get older. We won't be going away (daughter in year 12 this year) so it will be lots of R&R at home.

*Did you notice the absence of 'housework' in that sentence?

I also plan on watching some--gasp!--films. I was chatting with Jen Storer recently about French music and it reminded me of one of my fave films of all time--Mon Oncle. It's a Jacques Tati film and if you've never seen it, OMG. See it, won't you? A visual and sensory delight. It's like Japan. It just makes you cry from the beauty.

The music alone... the click of the mother's heels on cement, the house. It's from 1958. You can imagine the Mid Century Modern heaven you'll be in. Here is the trailer...

To finish, my favourite local bookstores have been sharing pics of my cards and of See Hear--below is Dymocks Canberra Centre who have my bear card range in... and it's so lovely, as ever, to be sitting alongside the cards of my friends, including Jess Racklyeft, Nicky Johnston and Susannah Crispe.

Harry Hartog in Woden also have my bear cards and James recently sent this pic of See Hear in #1 position on their Top Sales shelf. I mean--I know it's only one store and one week, but I'm celebrating every scrap out of this!

I hope you have a fabulous school holiday period and a well-earned break. May it be sunshiny where you are, but cooling down enough for boots and gloves!


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