Sunday, 20 April 2014

Huddersfield SketchCrawl

We had another SketchCrawl just over a week ago: this time we went to Huddersfield for the day. I was hoping for warm weather, as I really fancied drawing outside, but unfortunately it was decidedly chilly, with a bitter wind. Our first stop was drawing in and around the station. 

It's a lovely old building but, what with the cold and the unlucky timing  (we discovered the whole facade was covered in scaffolding) a few of us headed back into the station to draw on the platforms. This is the view from platform 8 where I was lucky enough to find a train that was not in service, so stayed where it was for the 45 minutes we had:

Next we went to Byrams Arcade. One of the locals said we might get a good view out from the top, so about half the group headed upstairs. We weren't sure if we were supposed to be there, as it was all empty shop on the top storey. To get to a window, we had to be in one of the shops. I tried the door... it opened. I'm totally sure we weren't supposed to be in the shop itself, but nobody was there to tell us off, so we all huddled together in front of the big window and drew this amazing array of chimneys:

Next stop was lunch - hurrah! There was a fabulous cafe in the arcade which luckily had a back room. We pretty much filled that. We had coffee and, while we waited for our food (which was gorgeous), I sketched my cup:

We headed for the market next. It was a big area, crammed with all different kinds of stalls, selling everything from fruit to guitars. There was a lovely Victorian cast-iron roof in red and blue which I was tempted to sketch but, in the end, I found a little corner with a step to sit on and a view out to the street. I was next to a stall selling CDs, so I got great music while I worked. I also captured a few of the group on the other side of the road:

Several people stopped to chat to me. One man got very excited and said over and over that I should go onto Britain's Got Talent! 

Our final sketching stop was Huddersfield Library. It was raining by now and most of the group had got cold, so they headed inside to get warm and dry, but there was a shopping centre opposite, which had an overhanging roof, so I sat in a closed shop front, sheltered under the overhang, and drew the building itself:

A small girl and her mum came by and watched for a moment on their way to the shops. On their way back they stopped again. They didn't say anything,  but the little girl gently passed me one of her sweets. Cute.

We went to another cafe to share the work. They were selling very tempting cakes, but I resisted and just had a mocha. As ever, there was a great variety of very interesting work to look at. We chatted around a big table, passing the books round, oo-ing and ah-ing and occasionally holding one up: "Who did this?".

Thanks so much to Matthew and Peter for their help in choosing the sketching venues. Another smashing day out in great company! If you want to join us some time, drop me an email.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Sharing Ideas with Julia Jarman

Generally speaking, authors and illustrators don't get together to chat through new book projects. I get the text from the publisher, not the author and, as I work on my illustrations, I talk with the art director and designer, not the author, sending my ideas, roughs and eventually my artwork to the publisher, never once having had any contact with the author. It surprises people, but that's quite normal.

It's a bit different though with Julia Jarman. When an author and illustrator team up for several books, they can become friends and often start to work more closely, certainly at the start of a project. Julia and I have done 5 books together now and are a good match - we think alike and we laugh at the same things. Which is why we work so easily together and why we get on so well too.

Julia often emails me stories she is working on and would like me to illustrate, asking for my input. Julia's writing is very visual: as I read one of her texts, I can immediately see illustrations in my head. This gives me a slightly different perspective to Julia and my take on things can help her to fine-tune the wording, before she sends it to the publisher. 

We were working on a new story last week and several drafts of it went back and forth between us by email. I'm not actually drawing anything at this stage, but Julia knows my work so well, it only takes a few words for me to paint a picture for her of what's in my head. 

I can't tell you anything specific, but I think it's going to be a good one and am really crossing my fingers that the publisher takes it. 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

ESL Workshops - Something a Bit Different

Tomorrow I am of to Leeds for the very last visit of the Spring season. After that, I am back in the studio for quite a while.

John re-visited his role as Chauffeur recently and drove me to the tiny (and lovely) Scamblesby Primary School in Lincolnshire (it was just one of those places that was a nightmare on a train, even though it wasn't really that far). He dropped me off and then went to the coast.

It's a good system, but I get to do no train sketches of course. Not to worry though: I spent 2 days at a secondary school in Nottingham last week, working with ESL students at Djanogly Academy (I still have no idea how to pronounce that), so I got my train-drawing fix, as you can see.

Djanogly was a very interesting booking. For those who don't know, ESL stands for English as a Second Language. I had really small groups, anything from 4 to 12 students, because some of them had not been in England for more than a few months and had only a very basic grasp of the language. Some of their confidence levels were, understandable, quite low, although many of them were obviously pretty bright. 

I was really pleased that we managed to work so well together, and they all clearly enjoyed the session. I took lots to show them and forced myself to talk slowly and clearly (not easy for me!), keeping my sentences short and my vocab simple. They all worked really hard and produced some smashing drawings.

The staff were very complimentary afterwards, which felt great, as I was in completely new territory. They said that the students weren't used to sitting and listening for anywhere near that long, so they were really pleased with how focused and enthusiastic they all were, right to the end. 

I really enjoyed working with young adults too. Even when I am in secondary schools, I rarely get the older students. They are usually caught up with the exam syllabus, but Djanogly were having an Arts Festival, with various visitors and creative workshops going on, so students could opt out of regular lessons, or spend their lunchtime / after-school doing different activities. What a great idea.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

More Than 20,000 Views - Yippee!

I just went to my YouTube channel to reply to a lovely comment about one of my films and discovered that the filmed demo I did of me drawing a piece of artwork from Swap! has recently gone over 20,000 views. How exciting is that?! It's kind of weird too, to think that 20,000 people, probably all over the world, have watched me drawing.

If you haven't seen the demo already, here it is again:

Do 'like' or 'share', if you find it interesting - every little helps in this business!

Since we did this film, John and I shot another demo film in the studio: this time it's me creating some artwork from Jungle Grumble. It's a larger illustration and so, when it's ready, it will be a longer film. We recorded pretty much the whole way through the illustration, from first marks to completion, which means lots of footage, so it needs quite a bit of time spending on editing, to get it down to a manageable length. That's a tricky business, as I am talking about process all the time, so we need to cut big sections, without losing too much that's interesting. 

Trouble is, things have been so busy ever since we filmed it, there has not been time to finish the editing process yet. We are about a third of the way through, I reckon. 

It's another thing on the 'to-do' list. Life is quieting down though, now we are out of the main school-visits season, so hopefully it won't be too long before I can share the new demo with you. In the meantime, here are a couple of films we made of me talking through how I drew the roughs for Jungle Grumble. If you haven't watched them already, you might find them interesting: