Illustrators Panel at the Illustration Conference

Chaired by Margaret Hamilton.  Alison Lester, Sarah Davis, Leila Rudge, Briony Stewart & Mike Spoor.

Margaret introduced the panel members.  We found out that Mike has illustrated 350 books.  Leila’s first book, “Duck for a Day” was short listed for the CBCA Book Awards.  When Briony is not writing, you can often find her building dragons.  Sarah Davis’ work has been short listed for 20 awards and Alison is the 2012 – 2013 Australian Children’s Literature.

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Mike’s slideshow attempted to answer the question, “why does he illustrate?”  He was brought up in the Lakes District in the UK.  From the age of 7 he felt deeply moved by the beauty of the area and would go home and draw what he saw.  He was intrigued by movement.  He admitted to getting excited about cracked paving stones and told us that uses his camera to capture all sorts of images on his adventures.  Upon finished high school, he was advised to study geography and leave art as a hobby, but he ignored that and studied ceramics.  He became a teacher for the QLD Flying Art School.  In his pottery, he loved to capture the movement of clay during the pottery process.  He took us on a journey through his work.  Some of his characters are amazing, and I can’t wait to to see them in Mike’s books.  Yet more books to add to my wishlist.

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Mike spoke of capturing feelings and movement in characters. Mike spoke of a book called “The Intelligence of Feeling” by Robert Witkin.  He recommended it to the aspiring illustrators in the group.

Leila was next.  As a newbie, she decided to talk about how she got into illustrating.  Leila’s mother loved books almost as much as she did, reading to her and her 5 siblings constantly.  She told us how illustrator Jan Lewis was a family friend and that Leila and her siblings always drew when they visited her.  Leila was inspired by Jan, and realised that being an illustrator was an actual job.  Leila explained that she never stopped drawing, and turned every activity in her studies, including woodwork, into a book’ish venture.  Leila encouraged aspiring illustrators to collect all the sketches that they do, even if they are on the back of receipts.   She showed us a folder of her work, I would have loved to have flicked through it.  We heard about Leila’s collaboration with Meg McKinlay, which she thoroughly enjoyed. I look forward to seeing her work develop over the next couple of decades.

Briony explained that she came into the world of children’s literature as both an author and illustrator.  Her Dad was a zoologist and her mother a graphic designer, so she grew up surrounded by drafting paper.  Throughout her childhood she constantly drew.  Briony began writing on the train on the way to school as she did not have a disk man or Gameboy, thank goodness she didn’t have such distractions.  At the end of a school year Briony submitted a journal that she had written throughout the year.  Her teacher had run after her and told her that her writing must be published, and she must be an author.  Despite her Dad wanting her to study science, she enrolled in a double degree in fine art and creative writing, she simply could not choose between the two.  “Kumiko and the Dragon” was her final assessment for university.  She submitted it to the Voices on the Coast manuscript competition and won.  UQP approached her and her book was published.

Briony shared some of the experiences from the 9 months she spent in the UK on a British Council Arts Grant, including a one month stay at the Seven Stories Children’s Literature Festival.  She delighted in having access to the archive where she saw original images by legends such as Quentin Blake.

Sarah opened by sharing an original art work from her childhood, an ‘essay’ about seagulls.

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Sarah admitted to being a bit naughty at school, wagging most of her final year, and then putting together her portfolio in 1 week.  Sarah went into teaching, which she discovered she was very passionate about.  Until her late 20’s she did not illustrate.  After meeting the man of her dreams, she had the opportunity to explore illustrating as a a job.  She has been illustrating for 4 years, and has illustrated 29 books.  She has a particular passion for picture books as it is possible to create a narrative with images.  ‘Ooooohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ from the crowd flowed freely as she showed us a large collection of her illustrations.  Sarah is an amazing illustrator, who can adapt to any style necessary.  She also gives really engaging presentations, so if you need an illustrator for a school or library visit then book her now!

She continued by sharing the development of the illustrations for “Sounds Spooky”.  She made models of the different rooms in the haunted house, and of the characters, which she then photographed.  If you are in Ipswich, make sure you get down to the Ipswich Library where the models are on display.

Alison finished the session by walking us through 3 projects she has done in Indigenous communities.  She works with the children and they write and illustrate a story. These stories were a hit with the audience.

Margaret closed the session by announcing that she will have her first book published soon, congratulations Margaret!

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