Briony Stewart – creating vivid written and visual narratives

Briony got straight down to business.  She encouraged aspiring writers and illustrators to constantly challenge themselves, such as doing writing and illustrating games.  This is something Briony has done since childhood and she finds it very useful and productive.  One of her favourite illustration games is a version of “Mr Squiggle”.  Research is key too she stated.  She talked us through the research she did for “Kumiko and the Dragon”.

Next up was an activity that involved Briony drawing a guinea pig, then eliciting ideas from the audience as to how to make it look like a dragon.  She explained that this is how she created the dragons in the Kumiko series.  Some of the dragons started as sheep, some as lions, and one even started as a platypus.

Briony shared a tale from her high school days where she had submitted a written assignment to her English teacher.  He was so impressed that he had run after her and asked if she had considered being a writer as her work was so good. This was the first time she had considered the option of being a writer full time.

Tim Winton completely inspired Briony, she actually wrote to him for advice.  He wrote back with publishers names and other tips but the stand out piece of advice for her was, “no guts, no glory!”

Briony told us how she was inspired to write “Kumiko and the Dragon” from a story told by her Japanese grandmother.  She read an excerpt from the book, it was so good that I felt transported back to childhood, like I was back at school and my favourite year 1 teacher was reading to the class.  This is a definitely going on my list of books to buy.  Briony told us how she had entered the first chapter in the Voices on the Coast competition.  She ended up going to Voices on the Coast and was approached by the Children’s Editor from UQP who wanted to publish “Kumiko and the Dragon”.

Briony explained that all her characters are based on real people.  Not only do her characters share personality traits with real people, but she also draws them to resemble the people she knows.  This allows her to connect with the emotions of her characters on a deeper level.

Briony shared a writing game that she plays with us.  Creating visual language is someone she loves to do.  She gave an example of having to describe a doona, without using the word ‘doona’.  Briony uses a lot of metaphors and similes in her writing, she suggested that drawing is similar to using words to paint a picture.

Briony shared the process she went through to illustrate her upcoming book, “Here In the Garden”.  She likes to show the cycle of things, so all 4 seasons featured in the illustrations of the garden.  She showed us roughs of the layout of the picture book as a great example to gauge the layout of the entire book.  We saw examples of her character development and how she developed the front page.  Briony pointed out that the finished product of a book illustration does not convey the amount of work that has gone into it.

The members of the audience were almost in a trance as they listened to Briony.  It became evident that she puts a huge amount of thought into everything that she does, and she gave some great examples of this to inspire others to do the same.  I feel blessed to have sat in on this session.

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