Showing posts with label festivals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label festivals. Show all posts

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Being Sick and Sketching in the Park (Luckily, not Simultaneously)


So far this weekend, John and I have mostly been in bed. No, I know what you are thinking... nothing saucy (far from it). On Thursday night, during the private view of The Great Sheffield Art Show, I suddenly had to rush to the loo to be violently sick. Not, I hasten to add, an effect of the artwork, but of a very nasty tummy virus. I had my head in the loo once an hour, all night long. Lovely. John wasn't actually sick, but felt awful (at least that's what he said... or was he malingering?). Anyway, we both slept all of Friday and still felt decidedly delicate yesterday. 

Thank goodness it was this weekend though, and I was fit and well last weekend, as that was the weekend of my Broomhill Festival eventFor the last three years, the festival have asked me to run a SketchCrawl in the Botanical Gardens. 


Often the people who come are less experienced sketchers than at the Urban Sketchers Yorkshire SketchCrawls I run each month and my role is more to offer help and inspiration than to actually sketch. In previous years, we have had a fairly modest turn-out though, so I have done quite a bit of drawing too. This year, we had a lovely big group, so I only grabbed 10 minutes at the end to do the quickie above.

It was glorious weather and a really lovely group of people, so we all had a good time. They worked really hard too and several of them have now signed up for my regular SketchCrawls, because they want to try it again - result!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Juggling Jobs


Just lately, I have definitely been trying to do too many things at the same time! Amongst other things, I am still rushing around doing educational events while I could do with getting on with my book


This week I spent a day at Lostock Hall Primary School, in Preston, which was absolutely lovely, though a bit of a long haul from Sheffield, especially given a late train on the way, which made me miss my connection, so had me playing catch-up all day. At one point, I managed to lose my train ticket too, in all the rush of being late: 



I can't really grumble though, as mostly my trains are fine: generally on time, and a part of the day which I actually enjoy (probably shouldn't have said that).

Anyway, I was getting a bit stressy about the lack of progress on The Jungle Grumble, as the same two bits of artwork have been on my desk for what seems like ages, so I did a tot up of my available working days up to the deadline of Feb 1st, to find out how tight things are. 


I feel much better for doing it, as I found out I am still on schedule, with just enough time to do everything. Phew. Just mustn't get a cold!!

Anyway, I have pretty much finished the two spreads I was working on (above and below) and now, at last, also got going on another: a single page illustration, still at the waterhole:


I have another studio day today then, tomorrow afternoon, I am travelling up to Northumberland for the Northern Children's Book Festival Gala Day, where I will be strutting my stuff with the fantastic Julia Jarman again. We LOVE Gala Day and we LOVE the NCBF librarians, so I am really looking forward to it. Back to work on Jungle Grumble properly next week - head down every day until Christmas - promise!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Bogey Glue and Luggage Racks...


I am working really hard at the moment, doing all my book events. 

Last week went well, although I was TOTALLY shattered by the time I finally got home at 7pm on Friday evening, after a bit of a nightmare journey, with missed / late / overstuffed trains: especially horrible after you have been so much on your feet during the day. I actually climbed into the luggage-rack at one stage, as my feet were so totally blasted. It's not actually that easy to jump up into the top shelf of the luggage rack when you are only 5 foot 1, as I discovered. I got myself to that point where I needed slightly more arm strength than I suddenly realised I had. Eeeee... It was only the thought of the humiliation that would ensue if I fell into a yelping lump at the feet of my fellow travellers, which provided the extra boost to get me up there.


Anyway, this is me strutting my stuff for Birmingham Young Readers Festival, in a sort of children's amphitheatre in the brand new Birmingham Library on Friday morning. The whole place is very gleamy and interesting. Unfortunately I didn't get the opportunity to look round, so I will have to find a reason to go back.

One highlight of the week was working with poets Paul Cookson and Conrad Burdekin at Sheffield's Bag-a-Book Day. It's a lovely event for looked-after-children, which I do each year. Paul, Conrad and I each had separate rooms, where children could pop in all day and work with us, but we very quickly decided to repeat what Paul and I did last year and pooled our resources, which was hilarious. The most memorable bit was the 'Making Bogey Glue' song: Conrad created a totally gross poem with the children, which Paul then set to music with his ukulele. While they were all singing it, my job was to illustrate it on the flipchart.

The bonkers things I end up doing for my work...

Friday, 4 October 2013

Book Week and 'Off The Shelf' - Come to my Talk!



Yes, it's October Book Week coming up and I have a very full schedule of events (my goodness, I just noticed what a baggy bottom I have in this photo): 


On Sunday afternoon, I'll be hopping on a train to Wales for 3 days of storytellings, workshops and talks in Denbighshire and Wrexham. I am part of an amazing line-up of authors and illustrators who will be taking the place by storm. In the 3 days, I will see children from no less than 14 schools!


Then on Thursday and Friday I am in Leeds, working for their fantastic School Library Service, who will be touring me round the region visiting 4 schools, for lots more high-energy storytelling and drawing at a flipchart. 

It's hard work, but I love it and, to be honest, I thrive on the high-pace nature of these events. I actually hate it when I have nice long rest periods in the middle of the day: the adrenalin keeps me buzzing, so I don't really want the opportunity to wind-down. Once it's over and I'm home, I invariably fall asleep - how embarrassing it would be to drop off in a school staff room at lunchtime!


Then next Saturday (October 12th), I am doing a lecture for the Off The Shelf festival about how I create my books and this one is open to the public, so that's you! 


It's from 2pm to 4pm at Highfield Library in Sheffield and it's FREE. It's aimed at adults, but would also be suitable for children over 7 or 8 - as long as they are mature enough to be able to sit and listen for all that time, I am happy to have them along. The lecture itself lasts around an hour, but I'll also be doing demo drawing at the flipchart, showing you my sketchbooks, signing books and of course answering all your questions. Although it's free, you need to book a place by calling: 0114 203 7204

Hope to see you there x

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Sketchers-in-Residence at the Sheaf Valley Festival



On Saturday, I met up with some of my SketchCrawl chums, where we had a little stall at the Sheaf Valley Festival


It is an annual festival and is held in a fantastic location: an amphitheatre, right in the centre of Sheffield, cut into the steep hill behind the station, with great views down over the city: 


Just like last year, SketchCrawl North were invited to record the occasion in our sketchbooks and were given the stall for free, to help spread the word about Urban Sketching


We took it in turns to man the stall and, in-between, went out drawing the fun. There was plenty to go at. I especially enjoyed the challenge of sketching the dancers. 


Throughout the afternoon, there were performances by lots of different kinds of dancers - all ages, from quite young children up to adults, and all in fabulous costumes, like these majorettes:


The Son de America were particularly good to sketch, in their long, swirly skirts and I loved that massive sombrero:


But possibly my favourite was the Indian dancing, with it's very particular movements. The saris were glorious. One little girl of about 9 did a long and remarkably confident solo dance. She came over to see my drawing of her afterwards and her mum took a photo.


Our stall made a very handy 'base-camp': a place to chat, chill and eat cake between sketching bouts (we were opposite a way-too-tempting cake stall). There was also a massive stall (about 4 trestle tables, laid out end-to-end) celebrating different kinds of bread, all baked and donated by local people and businesses:


I am amazed, looking back through my sketchbooks from the day, that I managed so many drawings, as I seemed to spend quite a long time chatting. It was a really sociable day - more time than usual to talk to my fellow sketchers, plus and I kept bumping into people I knew.


At 3 o'clock there was a dog show. I remembered it from last year and so was really looking forward to it. There were all kinds of dogs, big and small: some beautiful, some cute, some bouncy, some hairy - almost all rather over-excited by the occasion. They had proper judges from Crufts (!) but it was still absolutely bonkers and really funny:


We were very lucky with the weather. Despite threatening clouds and occasional wild gusts which threatened to blow the stall away, we stayed dry all day and had some bouts of gorgeous sunshine to wallow in. 


The day finished off with live music. I have always had a soft spot for barbershop quartets, so especially enjoyed the Manor Tops. I gathered a crowd of children behind me while I was doing this sketch ('Can you draw me and my friend?' 'You're right good, you' 'How'd you draw that so fast?'):


It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon: local people, celebrating local talent and showcasing local produce and community groups, all having a good time, hanging out together in the sunshine - exactly what local festivals should be about. SketchCrawl North collected several new recruits over the day too. 

A big thank you to the organisers: a great success. I'm already looking forward to next year!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Broomhill Festival SketchCrawl


Last Saturday, I ran a special SketchCrawl in Sheffield's Botanical Gardens. It was part of the local Broomhill Festival and, instead of my regular SketchCrawl North chums, the idea was to attract newcomers, people less used to the idea of location sketching.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather. Despite grim forecasts, it was warm and dry and not even windy: perfect for sitting around on the grass, drawing together. It made for a very relaxed and comfy introduction for the sketchers who came along to join in. 


We began with a chat. I shared some hot tips for drawing outdoors (like carrying a walker's, foam  sitting-mat, for a warm, dry bum and using elastic bands to tether your book pages, in case it's breezy) and I talked them through my art kit, demonstrating my favourite materials (Inktense pencils, graphite stick, calligraphy pen...) I also took along a few of my sketchbooks to help inspire them, as well as some tins of coloured pencils and watercolour pencils (thanks to Derwent for the sponsorship!) to help encourage them to use colour and not just regular pencils.


Then we headed out into the gardens and sketched the afternoon away. Simon Clements, another local artist and one of the organisers of the festival, joined us. That was great because not only did he inspire us all with his lovely work, but he has a very interesting technique of painting with water-soluble Neocolors: he melts blobs of the different colours onto a stiff, card palette, which he can then tuck into his sketchbook like a bookmark and use like a watercolour set - compact and ingenious!

I did a little bit of drawing with the others, but then worked my way round, chatting to each person in turn, offering advice and encouragement where it was needed.


We gathered together at the end, to share our work. Everyone had done lovely sketches and had experimented with the different materials. They all seemed to have a good time and quite a few said they would like to join me for some of our regular SketchCrawl outings, which would be lovely!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

NCBF Gala Day with Julia Jarman



I just received a package through the post: a mysterious little jiffy bag that, once opened, proved to be a DVD of photos from the Northern Children's Book Festival Gala Day, where I did events with my good friend Julia Jarman: we've done 4 books together now. 


Gala Day is the big finale, where lots of authors and illustrators perform in one venue. It already seems ages ago, although it was only 3 weeks. It's great fun, although quite an undertaking to organise, which is why the responsibility for it rotates around the region's libraries. This year we were in an extraordinary living museum. Our events, were in a room called 'the ballroom', with a huge crystal chandelier above and walls encrusted with oil paintings. 

As usual, Julia and I had a
 great laugh - we make such a good team. Luckily everyone else seemed to enjoy it too!

After each event, we had to put on big coats and leave our warm, cosy room to walk the length of a Victorian cobbled street (complete with working shops, street urchins and a blacksmith's yard) to the signing tent at the other end. It was so cold, the street was shrouded in icy mist all day long, which leant it an authentic Jack-the-Ripper air!


I just love how excited these little boys are.

There were hot-air blowers to warm the tent and we were lucky - the blower was under our end of the long table, though someone (no names mentioned...) sneakily pinched our prime spot when we came back after lunch!!


Isn't this little girl cute?

I am so pleased that, so far at least, the NCBF has survived the funding cuts. It's a wonderful festival, bringing authors to libraries all over the North East and the Gala Day is something special - you only have to look at the children's faces. 

Thank you lovely library people, for all your hard work (again), and thank you to Tom Kirby for the great photos!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Author Visits to Schools: Writing Workshops.


This week I am back in the studio, trying to get my Swap! artwork finished. Last week I didn't move things forward much, as I was doing educational events, including 2 events for Sheffield's Off The Shelf festival and 2 more days of my new 'writing stories through illustration' workshop.






The writing workshops were at Ambleside Primary School in Nottingham. I had a full day with each set of children. The whole class worked together first, with me at the flipchart, demonstrating how you could use drawing (which the children mostly find quite easy) to generate unusual but cohesive narratives (which they often don't). 



I then helped the children to create their own A3 illustrations, which they used to create storylines, first standing up to tell the story orally, then writing some of it down. 


They had some great (and often rather surreal) ideas... 


One story began at sea: a kitten fell overboard off a ship, floating alone in his basket until rescued from drowning by a snake, who dragged the kitten to a tiny desert island. But the snake just wanted to eat him: it was all for the best, he said, as it would stop him missing his mum any more. Luckily for the kitten, an angel came to his aid in the nick of time, flapping her wings to waft sand up into the snake's eyes so she and the kitten could escape.

See what I mean? 


In case you are wondering, these drawings are of course unrelated to the workshops, but are the sketches I did on the train to and from Nottingham. Hope you like them!

You can see more of my train sketchbooks on my website and read about some of my other school workshops here. If you would be interested in a school visit, just drop me an email.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Broomhill Festival: Children's SketchCrawl



Usually my SketchCrawls are for all comers: mostly adults, but generally with 2 or 3 children too. However, a few months ago I was contacted by the organisers of the Broomhill Festival - they had learnt of the Sheffield SketchCrawls and thought something similar would make a great kid's activity. 

The day came round on Sunday. I was more than a little nervous. We planned to spend the whole afternoon sketching in the Botanical Gardens: normally a pretty safe plan for mid June, even in England. Except that it has been raining stair-rods almost every day for what seems like weeks. I got to up the usual ominous storm clouds and puddles in the garden from a recent downpour. The morning continued to brood. 


Then, miraculously, 10 minutes before kick-off the clouds parted and radiant sun shone down on us! I was actually too hot for much of the afternoon, in my heavy jeans and with a big jumper and a fleece to lug around (I even took my fingerless gloves - in June!!!).

I took along piles of my sketchbooks to show everyone, to help give them ideas, and talked about all the different art materials you could try. Thanks to Derwent's generosity, I was even able to lend out tins of coloured pencils, pastels and watercolour pencils for people to experiment with. Then, to everyone's fascination, my friend and fellow sketcher Jane Horton talked about iPad/iPhone sketching - I went to the private view of her excellent new exhibition of iPad drawings Sheffield Illuminated on Friday - also part of the festival:


At 2.30, we dispersed into the park and I spent the rest of the afternoon hunting people down, so we could chat about their sketches, I could offer any help they needed and then sometimes draw alongside them. The children did some amazing work (I wish I had it to show you). They are such naturals at simplification and abstraction; they do instinctively what adults take years of study and practise to achieve.


At 4.30 we did the usual sharing, then I gave Urban Sketchers a plug and signed as many people as I could up for my regular SketchCrawls. We all had a very nice afternoon, so thank you to Simon for the idea and hello to anyone I met who is looking in!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Linton Festival (and Churchyard!)


John and I just got back last night from my weekend of festival work. To make a change from the train, he chauffeured me around, which was rather nice. I spent Saturday morning doing an illustration workshop for the Derbyshire Festival, then after lunch we hot-footed (hot-wheeled?) it down south, to the very pretty village of Linton. 



It was a gorgeous day, really hot and sunny (a little frustrating seen through the windscreen!), but we did manage to grab a couple of hours for a potter round in the sun at the end of the day. The colours and shadows in the low, golden sunlight were amazing. I sat on a tomb in the churchyard and tried to capture it, whilst my head was bitten to death by midges from the nearby river!



On Sunday, while I spent the day doing my events, John went off walking in another day of glorious sunshine. The countryside round there is very pretty, especially at the moment with the rape and hawthorn in full bloom, so I was rather jealous, as of course I was indoors again the whole time!


It was worth it though, as my events were lovely: everyone was so friendly and appreciative. Since it was a weekend, the Linton Children's Festival were using the local secondary school. I was in the art room, so we were surrounded by all sorts of interesting objects, sculptures and drawings. 

I had a storytelling in the morning, where I read Bears on the Stairs and Stinky! then a couple of children from the school did fantastic job helping me to completely re-organise the room for the afternoon's workshop, humping great wooden tables around and carrying in umpteen stools. 



I had originally suggested about 30 tickets for the workshop, but we stretched it to 40. The thing was, when it came to it, more and more people just turned up. I didn't like to turn them away and besides, it felt so lovely to be in such demand! So I let them all in until the room was bursting. By the end there were even people listening from the corridor - how brilliant is that!?

John and I booked another night's B&B, so we wouldn't have to rush back, which meant I got another hour in the churchyard's sun that evening.


We were going to spend Monday in Cambridge but it poured with rain (typical!) and, since all the museums and galleries were shut, we gave it up and just came home via Ely Cathedral (which is pretty amazing).

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Oh No!!!!!!!


Picture the scene: I'm snuggled under my warm duvet in a guest house in Shrewsbury, dead to the world, oblivious to the early-morning birdsong outside my window. Something wakes me. The unconscious me knows it is something important: someone has just walked past the door of my room.  


I open my eyes. The clock says 7.30am - my alarm (set for 6.45) didn't go off and I am already late.
The 'someone' was author Ian Whybrow, on his way down to breakfast, where he thinks I am joining him and Steve Hartley, to kick-off our day of various Bookfest events. 

I leap from my bed and, in the same motion, leap into the wardrobe. Clothes are on in 30 seconds: no shower, no brushing of teeth. I fluff fingers through hair and spurt head with hairspray (knowing hair is almost certainly pressed pillow-flat at the back), stuff on shoes, whip lippy round mouth (an attempt to fool people into thinking all is under control) and run downstairs for my eggs and coffee. 


It's not a calm way to start the day. Especially when you are due to be picked up straight afterwards, to be driven to a school across town and, in the meantime, you must not only gobble down brekkie, but also pack ready to check out, brush teeth and dash for a pee (why on earth didn't I prioritise that before breakfast?), whilst simultaneously making sure you don't leave anything vital for your day's performance, or your train ticket home, under the bed.

At 8.15 I am in the car of the lovely Yvonne, who reassures me that my hair looks fine (can I believe her?) and that I don't smell (thank goodness for last night's bath!). At 8.45 I am grappling with a flipchart in the hall at Longden Primary School and at 9am I am smiling serenely in front of all of KS2, as if I have been ready and waiting for hours. Phew.

Thank you to all the children at Longden for your wonderful enthusiasm during the day and to Mr Tay for all the tea!  And an extra special thank you to all the amazing Bookfest team, who give so much of their precious time each year, to make sure so many local school children get to spend the day with people like me, Ian and Steve (even if some of us are a bit smelly...)!

Monday, 21 November 2011

NCBF: A Whirlwind of Storytelling!



On Sunday afternoon, just over a week ago, I packed a suitcase and a sketchbook, then hopped on a train to Newcastle, where I was staying right through until Wednesday afternoon, doing loads of storytelling for the Northern Children's Book Festival.


Unfortunately, I didn't get to do any drawing on the way: the train was full of drunken football supporters, so I thought it wiser not to draw attention to myself!! Not to worry: there were other sketching opportunities during the festival, as you can see.




I have done the NCBF many times before: it's one of my favourites. I love spending 3 days steeped in stories; I love all the excited children I meet; I love (and am in awe of) the extraordinary way librarians transport loads of authors and illustrators to vast numbers of children, all over North East of England.


This year, instead of staying in a hotel, I was put up by Ann Key, ex chair of the NCBF. She gave me a bed, cooked me lovely dinners (with home-baked cakes!) and kept me company in the evenings when I got in from my events. We had loads in common, so it was a real treat. Mind you, most nights I was so tired I was asleep by 10pm.


Each morning, bright and early, I travelled to a different part of the region to read my 3 latest books: Dragon's Dinner, Stinky! and Bears on the Stairs


On Monday it was N. Tyneside, where I was looked after by Lesley. We had a great day: I saw 180 children from 3 different schools. Between them they bought 135 books (!), so many, there wasn't time to sign them all on the spot (not drawing a picture too), so I took them back with me and was still signing at 7pm.


Lesley remembered from last time I was there, how much I love the sea so, after the last event of the day, we wrapped up warm and went for a walk along the front. The tide was in and the waves were really crashing down - fantastic!



On Tuesday, Ann drove me to Hexham, where I changed cars, then Kim drove me way up into the wilds of northern Northumberland, where are there are lots of small rural schools, who clubbed together for my sessions. The best of all was Kielder First School, with just 10 pupils in total - that's the whole school! They were lovely (hello guys). 


Kim and I had a gorgeous pub lunch at half time in the pretty, historic village of Bellingham (mushroom madras - yum yum). I probably had garlic breath all afternoon (sorry kids!).



Wednesday was a very early start - I was up at 6am. I had to pack up my suitcase then at 7am Ann drove me to Newcastle station where I caught a train to Middlesborough for the day. Because I was drawing the people, I noticed how at 7.30am the train was full of men, who all got off at Hartlepool for work, which was where at 8.15am, it re-filled with women.

I had a fun time in 
Berwick Hills Library in the morning, then again in Acklam Library in the afternoon, meeting 170 children in three 1hr sessions.




The end of the day was a crazy rush though: the children didn't arrive until quite late, so we got a little behind. It was my own fault - I should have finished earlier, as I had a huge pile of books to sign.  I didn't have time to sign them all properly, as I had a taxi waiting at the library door to take me to Darlington to catch a train home. I just managed to draw a little picture in each book before I literally ran from the library, coat under one arm, suitcase in the other!




We made it in time (phew) and I was able to catch my breath once I was safely underway. Luckily this time the train was full but peaceful, and I was able to get my sketchbook out and draw all the way home.



Thanks to everyone who looked after me, drove me around, humped flipcharts and big boxes of heavy books back and forth, took me to lunch etc and especially a huge thank you to Ann Key for her wonderful hospitality!