Return to the low-tech zine

colouring book cover by Myfanwy Tristram

make a zine

Above is a picture of a print that my husband picked up at Comica London. Sadly, my pedantic side will not allow me to hang it above my desk until I’ve added that missing apostrophe, but the message is a good one nonetheless.

As it happens, in the week running up to Comica I was already rediscovering the joy of self-made comics, unprompted.

It is a lot of fun to have your comics made by a proper printer, and have them arrive with their lovely silky covers and their professional binding, that’s for sure. But it can be expensive too, and I wanted to have something on our stall that customers could pay a little less for.

And so the Slightly Annoying Animals colouring book was born. Quite what possessed me to go into production the week before Comica, while also trying to hold down a full time job and all the other aspects of a busy life, I’m not sure, but never mind: I did.

Don’t leave the house

I work from home during the week, so couldn’t easily go out to buy new materials. So I decided to see if I could make something with only what I already had at home.

When I looked into my stock of paper, it was clear that – even for a print run of just ten copies – I would need to mix and match. As I pulled out tracing paper and sugar paper, along with nice thick watercolour paper, I realised that this could be a deliberate design feature, adding to the book’s quirkiness.

Fortunately, the inks in my printer were pretty full (such is my faith in printer inks that I am always surprised when they manage to print a single page, let alone a project like this). I quickly drew several animals, not thinking too hard about the theme nor stressing too much about making them my best drawings ever. After scanning these in, I chose a limited colour palette that I hope is reminiscent of the so-trendy-right-now riso printer, and changed the line colours.

Then I made a small dummy book so that I could remember which pages backed onto which others. That, and a label I stuck to my printer many moons ago, to remind me which side of the paper it prints on and which way up is the top, were my saving graces.

To the joy of my inexplicably printer-obsessed cats (seriously – the three of them came into the room at a trot), I switched the printer on and then fed the pages through mostly singly, by hand, to ensure there were no snarl-ups.

colouring book by Myfanwy Tristram

Then the next night, I bound them. The household machines were still clearly on my side, because when I got my sewing machine out, absolutely certain that last time I’d tried to use it, it had been irrevocably jammed, it was working like a song. That meant I could do some really quick and really rather pleasing stitched spines, and while I was at it, I sewed a silly little label on the back, too:

silly label by Myfanwy Tristram

Overheads were so low on this that I was able to sell them for just £3 at Comica: well within pocket money budgets, I reckon. Most of the paper had been sitting unused in my drawer for years, so the price really just reflected the time spent drawing, scanning, and worrying.

OK: so you always learn from making anything, even if you’ve done it before. What did I learn this time?

  • I have to admit it – tracing paper is a fun material but it’s not really great for comics because (obviously) the picture on the next page shows through. Perhaps this could work if the subsequent pages were mainly blank, with an invitation to draw something for yourself.
  • Having said that, I think the mixture of different kinds of paper is really appealing and if I was going to do this again, I’d go and invest in some squared paper or something else with an interesting texture or pattern.
  • The pictures weren’t my greatest works of art. I’m not the sort of artist who does her best work within a tight timescale (unfortunately. I’m working on it) and in fact the whole concept could have been refined. I like the idea of ‘slightly annoying animals’; with a bit more time I reckon I could have worked up their personalities into something that would amuse adults while their kids enjoyed the colouring bit.
  • So maybe I’ll do that one day.
  • But the main thing that I learned was that, for low runs of cheap comics, it’s still totally practical to do it yourself at home. I mean, when you think about it, of course it is: the whole zine culture grew up before people had computers and printers at home, with copies made at print shops or on photocopy machines, so it’s a lot easier now.

So, here’s a pen and some paper and a typewriter scanner, printer, and sewing machine. Now what are you waiting for?

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An evening in Lewes

 

Lewes Children's Book Group by Myfanwy Tristram

[Click to see bigger]

An evening featuring five children’s book illustrators and writers in conversation lured me onto a train to our neighbouring town on a dark and cold evening last week.

I was already aware of Miriam Moss and Leigh Hodgkinson: the former has written some excellent children’s picturebooks, including Scritch Scratch, a book about headlice (illustrated by the fab Delphine Durand) while the latter has an enviable and eclectic track record that includes working on Tiger Aspect’s TV adaptation of Charlie and Lola, as well as writing and illustrating her own books. She also does laser cut pictures, one of which is on the wall right in front of me as I type.

The others were new to me: writers Julia Lee, Jon Walter, and Dawn Casey. Between them they spanned writing for a wide age range, from toddler picturebooks to almost young adult fiction.

No doubt many were there to gather pearls of wisdom about breaking into children’s books themselves. I did not keep comprehensive notes of everything said, but here are a couple of points that stood out for me:

Writing for children means being true to yourself. It’s not ‘pretending’ to be a child. We were all children once; some of us still are, to a greater or lesser extent; you need to find that part of yourself.

Write something that makes you feel excited and alive. But then the craft comes in containing that passion and pulling it into a coherent form that works as a book.

There were also some amusing differences in approach: while for a couple of the writers, characters’ names were the very first thing to emerge, with stories unfolding from there, Jon Walter said that he used his writers’ software to generate names, has been known to change them for the final draft, and would be hard pressed to tell you the surname of some of his central protagonists.

Casey, who has worked in a publishing house, gave a rather depressing view of the slush pile: ploughed through only by interns, and unlikely to yield the next big thing. Her advice was that you can get the competitive advantage by having won a competition or been previously published in some form or other: that way, you’ll be on the commissioning editor’s (smaller) pile rather than on the gargantuan slush mountain.

As always with these evenings, you felt there was good advice, but that they could really only explore the tip of the iceberg within the short time allowed. All the same, I’ll be keeping an eye on the Lewes Children’s Book Group: it was a really interesting evening.

 

People-watching and people-sketching on the Level

Sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

Have you ever tried to draw while your pages are gently splattered by the spray of a water pistol? Me neither, until last week.

Sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

Here in the UK, we’ve had an unusually consistent, hot summer, and for residents of Brighton, one obvious place to find some relief is at our new playground, the Level, where, every half an hour, fountains spurt up from the paving slabs.

They run for thirty minutes, and then, in some sort of energy-saving or equipment-protecting policy, they disappear again.

level sketch2sfw

You can tell when they start up, because there’s a ragged cheer and children run from every other part of the playground. Toddlers walk blithely through the columns of water; cheeky kids figure out how to obstruct part of its exit so that it squirts violently in unpredictable directions; hot kids just stand blissfully on top of a fountain and let it soak them to the skin.

character sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

As a sketcher, it’s a blessing of a subject but also an immense challenge. Kids, especially excited ones, never stop moving. And it was hot, which makes one feel lazy.

Sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

My friend Giuseppe – who happens to be an art teacher – and I sat in the only bit of shade, and we had a go at sketching  anyway.

I gave up on the actual children pretty early, and started drawing the adults around the periphery of the area instead – they were far more likely to stay still (well, relatively speaking.. under normal circumstances I’m sure I would have been complaining that they were moving too, but compared to the comet-like accelerations of the children, they might have been statues).

Afterwards, Giuseppe said that what he liked best were my small sketches showing parts of children before they had moved off. I looked at his sketchbook, and he’d managed much more complete compositions, including the actual fountains themselves – quite a different approach.

Sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

I think if I’d been less lazy that day, I could have made some composite children that wouldn’t have represented any single one of the kids who were really in front of us, but which took some generic stances and movements and put them together. Hmm, maybe next time.

Meanwhile, back at home, I have been doing some first exploratory character sketches in watercolour, for a children’s book idea.

character sketches by Myfanwy Tristramcharacter sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

 

When illustrators speak instead of draw

satoshi

Above: one of several quotes from illustrators I’ve collected together in a single browsable interface.

You can learn a lot about drawing by looking at the work of your favourite illustrators. Certainly you can make conscious deductions about their use of colour, composition, or media.

But there are some things that no amount of staring at pictures is going to tell you. While you can guess at things like inspirations or working methods, only the illustrator’s words are going to tell you the answers for certain. Perhaps it’s ironic that we need the written language to understand a visual artist properly?

In any case, I’ve found myself reading a lot of interviews with illustrators lately. I suppose it’s the same instinct that makes me pay for a ticket to go and see them speak: I want to lap up their thoughts, note down their insights, and learn more about their processes.

Every artist has different inspirations, methods and routines, and so it’s not – it can’t be – a hunt for the magic formula. A great deal of it may just be reassurance: these people have doubts, too. They have pictures that go horribly wrong, and days that they hate everything they draw. Sometimes there are nuggets of advice, ways of dealing with setbacks or generating ideas.

With all this in mind, I have started a collection of spoken snippets from my favourite illustrators, and you can see it here. I hope you’ll have a sniff around, and find a quote or two that interests you.

In short, it’s a collection of statements with an emphasis on working methods, inspiration, and truths about the art of illustration. These are statements I’ll want to visit again and again, and read for reassurance, enlightenment, or even my own inspiration. And I’ll be adding more snippets regularly.

 A note about the software I used

As with my Chile sketch diary, this post represents a fortuitous link between my day job and my interest in illustration. The software that I’ve used is called SayIt and in its current iteration, it’s a bit like a Pinterest for the spoken word: it was developed by my workplace as a piece of civic/democratic software that would enable people to publish transcripts of the spoken word.

It is envisaged that it’ll be used for publishing what was said at council meetings, or major trials, et cetera. The great thing about it is that, once transcripts have been imported, they can be searched, browsed in different ways, and linked to easily.

It certainly wasn’t developed for collections of quotes from illustrators, but it’s beautifully flexible and it certainly works for my needs in this respect.

The secret thing about picture books is that they aren’t for children at all

Mini Grey, Chris Riddell, John Vernon Lord and Emily Gravett by Myfanwy Tristram

I’ve got rather a busy couple of weeks coming up, thanks to the flurry of booking I indulged in a few weeks ago when the Brighton Festival programme came out.

Tonight, I went to see a panel of children’s book illustrators: John Vernon Lord (revered illustrator, to quote the blurb on the back of his Nobrow book) led the conversation and Mini Grey (born in a mini, or so she claims), Chris Riddell (author/illustrator of Goth Girl) and Emily Gravett (Rather Good At Rabbits), all Brighton graduates, chimed in with their experiences.

 Click to see bigger:

Mini Grey, Chris Riddell, John Vernon Lord and Emily Gravett by Myfanwy Tristram

 

Mini Grey, Chris Riddell, John Vernon Lord and Emily Gravett by Myfanwy Tristram

In case you can’t read my handwriting (who could blame you) here are my take-away snappy quotes:

Vernon-Lord (talking about whether he uses digital media): “I like the noise of the nib scratching across the page”.

(talking about how writers can sometimes interfere too much): “I like illustrating dead authors”.

(talking about inspiration): “It’s a lifetime of looking. Looking and listening should be on the school curriculum.”

Riddell: “I’m addicted to Tumblr”

“Kickstarter is a very 18th century way of doing things” (ie, get your sponsors to commit to the work before you make it).

“You can watch people walk past Carluccio’s” (because the branch in Brighton has a huge window you can sit at and observe people walking by, and this is a good source of inspiration).

Grey: “The secret thing about picture books is that they aren’t for children at all” (they are also for the adults who buy and read them, and there aren’t any other channels where you can match illustration and text so perfectly. She was a bit doubtful about graphic novels – too much on the page).

“Sometimes your best ideas come from playing with your food.” [Shows slide depicting a toy dinosaur with a hat made from a raspberry] “Lots of my books feature food going out of control”.

Gravett (talking about where to find inspiration): “What do I fancy drawing?” – ie, draw whatever you feel like drawing.

Crows flying over the island. In vibrant technicolour.

All things colour are killing me at the moment. This looks much more muted in real life, but on my monitor right now, it’s looking almost garish.

Oh well, I’m just trying to concentrate on those birds, and whether they distract too much from the landscape – which I’m still perfectly happy with… IN REAL LIFE. ;)

Birds island by Myfanwy Tristram

 

Birds island by Myfanwy Tristram

[As ever, click to see bigger – including teensy weensy boats made out of tickets and Green Shield stamps]

Work in progress – more aerial views

It’s such a funny thing.

Or perhaps I should call it a highly irritating, baffling thing. You can plug away for weeks on a picture, and not be sure that it’s working at all. Then one day, you can start a new one, and feel absolutely confident that it’s heading in the right direction from about five minutes in.

I feel good about this one: still work in progress, but I can just see it’s going to come out the way I want it to. Gullholmen aerial view - work in progress by Myfanwy Tristram

[Click to see it nice and big, and count how many versions of the Queen’s head you can see]

Which is a relief, because of course the side-effect of going down a few dead ends is that you start losing all belief in your abilities.

Hmmm. Does this mean I should ditch all work that I *don’t* feel good about right away?

Actually, I already know the answer to that, even though I seem to have trouble acting on it: it’s to experiment more before setting off down the route of a finished piece. I wonder how I can make myself stick to that way of working.

A few details: it’s a collage of stamps and tickets again, with inked additions, like my previous aerial views.

It’s loosely inspired by a real place: Google the name ‘Gullholmen‘ and you can see lots of pictures of it. It’s funny to spend all afternoon drawing somewhere, and only then look at images taken from other sides, or showing you the view from down amongst its little roads.

I think one of the most fun times you can have while drawing is to create little worlds that you’d like to visit yourself: this is something many of us do as kids, but perhaps not so much once we become adults.

I’m really confused now about whether I want to visit the real Gullholmen or my own version, although I suspect the real one would hold up to the weather better.

Stamps don’t really make great roofs in real life.

Katie Morag, and how illustrators can make a difference

katie morag breastfeeding image

It was great to hear an illustrator on Desert Island Discs yesterday – Mairi Hedderwick, who created the absolutely peerless Katie Morag series.

I was shocked to hear that some libraries actually banned the books for depiction of breastfeeding (?!) but it’s also really heartening that an illustrator can make her own quiet difference by standing ground over such issues. There are actually quite a few breastfeeding images across all the Katie Morag books, as part of the busy jumble of the family’s everyday life.

I also enjoyed hearing about how a grandad was turned into the much more interesting, butch, overalls-wearing, sheep-wrangling grandma character, just by changing her head. When I make modifications to pictures instead of starting from scratch, it never feels quite right, so it’s good to know that in this case, it paid off. The basis for doing so may have been ill-founded (publishers in a certain country weren’t comfortable with seeing a little girl sitting on a male relative’s knee), but the result was a character that perhaps Hedderwick wouldn’t have come to without intervention.

You can listen to the episode here.

Over egging the pudding, flogging a dead horse, etc

Sea collage WiP by Myfanwy Tristram

I haven’t shared any collages with you recently. There’s a reason for that, and it isn’t that I haven’t been making any.

No, I’m kind of stuck on one theme that keeps going down dead ends. With my previous collages, the stamp paddyfields, forest and valley, I had an excited feeling almost right away – I just knew they were going to turn out well.

I’m floundering a lot more with this one. Half of me thinks, if you keep on flogging it and you’re still not sure, it’s time to set it aside. The other half thinks there’s a glimmer of something.

While modern technologies such as Photoshop have brought amazing benefits to artists, I have to say that they’re also our worst enemy sometimes. With Photoshop, I know I can take out one blue and substitute it for something darker, or excise whole sections that aren’t working. It gives me hope that there’s still something worth saving in the image, where in simpler times I’d perhaps have screwed it up and put it in the bin.

Of course, the trouble with collage is that it takes forever, as well, so the longer I keep forging on, the more incentive there is to see it to the end. Hmm. Grumble, mumble, snip, glue, snip.

Stamp forest

Stamp forest by Myfanwy Tristram

This is another of my aerial view collages – click the image to see it bigger.

Birds fly over a forest at twilight, taking messages to a loved one. Between the trees are little houses and lakes; on some of the lakes are boats.

This one is almost entirely composed of stamps; the sea and the birds are tracing paper, put through my printer* and superimposed with wavy lines from postcodes. The beach is made from manilla envelopes.

Notice that each bird is now carrying a tiny little letter, too.

It accompanies others in the series: Green Shield stamps paddyfields and Stamp Valley (which I am eventually going to redraw now that my style has developed a bit on this project).

* Yay for the uncomplaining HP 5524 – you might change your IP address far more frequently than anyone would think necessary, but you aren’t afraid of a bit of non-approved paper stock going through your innards.

On the other hand, if Santa is listening and has any extra space in his sleigh, I think an A3 scanner is currently top of my wishlist. Sorry HP 5524, I still love you, I just hate aligning multiple scans of a single picture.

Green Shield stamps paddyfields

Stamps landscape by Myfanwy Tristram

In the last few days, I’ve put the finishing touches to a complex collage of paddy fields. It’s made of tickets and postage stamps (many contributed by kind friends) and maps (including one I used to navigate around Japan, before the advent of smartphones in my life). These elements symbolise travelling over great distances.

I also used Green Shield stamps, which don’t symbolise anything, but which seemed so right for the landscape. Then there’s a bit of ink.

You might remember my first drawing of these steppes, which was a simple version in painted inks, from this post.

Paddyfields by Myfanwy Tristram

Then came this valley, also populated with random stamps.

stamps landscape by Myfanwy Tristram

Now the two ideas come together in a new landscape. I’m really pleased with it: from a distance, I think the details of the stamps and maps make it look like an aerial photograph.

I’ve been fiddling around with placing birds over the top of it*, and then I went away for a while and had the idea of just showing their shadows.

Stamps landscape by Myfanwy Tristram

This is all still work in progress, and I am going to have to get the original collage scanned professionally. As you’ll see if you click and view it larger, this is a composite of several scans. Why don’t they ever match up?!

* These are drop shadows, created from the airmail label bird I showed earlier. That took a bit of thinking through: once I decided I wanted the shadows, but not the birds themselves (because the background is so fussy, it’s really hard to make out any detailed birds, no matter what colour they are), I had to figure out how to do that. Make the bird layer invisible, and the shadow becomes invisible too.

In the end, I expanded the canvas, put the birds outside the main frame, pulled the drop shadows way out from their ‘parent’ shapes, then flattened all the layers and chopped off the margin with the actual birds in it.

I bet there’s a more conventional way to do this. As a self-taught Photoshop user, I am aware I often go all around the houses to do something that a pro would be able to do without thinking.

Airmail bird

Airmail bird by Myfanwy Tristram

Here’s a little collage bird I made while I was at my illustration class last night. Next week is the last session. We’re going to the pub, so I guess my learning  has come to an end.

At least, the kind of learning you do in a class. One of the tutor’s maxims was that we should keep on looking, and learning, and finding stuff out about oneself, and I hope I can carry on in that spirit.

I recommend the tutor: if you’re local to Brighton, you might be interested in his upcoming course. And in fact, the Phoenix always has loads of exciting and inspiring courses going on. A Xmas present for the one you love, perhaps? Even better if you are the one you love…

Trying things out

Work in progress by Myfanwy Tristram

Here is a small bird I made from some Brighton bus tickets.

We’re all switching to pre-loaded cards and mobile phone tickets these days, so it’s not as easy as it used to be to get hold of paper bus tickets. It’s funny to think that  maybe in a couple of years’ time, this picture will look really dated.

In any case, I need to make more of an effort to collect tickets while they’re still around. Our daughter still requires a 30p one for each journey, at least, so I can nab all the ones she hasn’t folded into paper boats.

bus ticket bird by Myfanwy Tristram

He stands pretty well on his own – I could see this image working for a simple Christmas card. But I have bigger fish to fry. I’m getting towards the point where I want to do some full pages for my children’s picture book.

Now, what follows is all still at the ‘trying things out’ stage; it’s not finished work, but it’s getting nearer to it. And nearer to saying ‘this is the style I’m happy with’. You’ve already seen a phone snap of the below:

Work in progress by Myfanwy TristramI’m enjoying the collage, but it’s flippin’ time-consuming.

Other things I am enjoying include:

– Ink (especially *on top of* the collaged paper – see how it seeps into the tissue, but misses out the gold birds?);

– Deciding the girl’s hair is pink because she’s *just that wild*;

– Loosely basing the dad on a Nick Cave type of figure, for all the mums who might appreciate that as much as I do (though a friend told me he looked more Frank Zappa-esque).

Oh, and although you can’t see it that well here, the girl’s top is collaged from this beautiful old shoebox I found. Triangles – they are very now, you know. I’m trying not to use it too fast, or maybe I just need to scan it so I can always sample from it. Or – here’s an idea – I could just buy more shoes. That’s always a good solution to most problems.

On top of that, lovely friends have been sending me tickets and stamps to cut up and glue and generally muck around with.

I got to the stage where I didn’t feel like I could go much further without having a text to work to, even if it’s not the final one. I’ve mocked up the dummy book, and that did help a lot in knowing where the double page image spreads should go, and where there will just be small vignettes, etc. So the next thing I did was to put together one of those spreads.

Bear in mind that this is very much just trying stuff out. Also forgive the scanner lines – it’s a big picture, my scanner is small, life is short, etc etc.

birds-carry[Click to see bigger]

There’s a lot I like about this picture, but for my money it isn’t doing its job.

To start with the positives:

– I like the window acting as a frame within a frame, and I like the extra 3D-ness the collage gives that effect.

– I rather like the colours, especilly the curtain rail being such an impertinent pink.

– And the curtains, despite being overly gothy (perhaps suitable for our Cave/Zappa dad?) are looking rather lush.

But what’s not working is the scene beyond the window. That little red ticket bird that was so clear in the first picture of this post just gets lost in all the detail behind. Faring even worse are his smaller pals on the telephone wires (which incidentally seem to be emanating from Dad’s mouth – layout fail). The idea is that birds will all be composed of tickets, but at this scale, they just can’t be read clearly. This page is a big reveal – birds! – so they really need to be much more prominent.

It all comes down to the background. I must say, I was having a lot of fun doing all those rooves and chimneys and smoke (tracing paper collaged on), but this isn’t the place for it. It doesn’t matter – it’s all a learning process, and perhaps I can use those ideas somewhere else.

I thought I’d try Photoshopping in some previous birds, and then cloning my little ticket bird, but I can’t say anything’s perfect just yet. Trying quick fixes like this rarely works – I reckon I’ll be better off taking everything I like about the picture, and using it to inform the next version.

Birds at the window by Myfanwy Tristram

Birds at the window by Myfanwy Tristram

In summary: it’s not perfect, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all good learning. And blinkin’ heck, inks are lovely.

sketch by Myfanwy Tristram

Drawing characters – and two kinds of eye-openers

I’ve had a couple of eye-openers this week – one artistic and the other cultural. Let me try to explain…

birdkid by Myfanwy Tristram

Eye-opener one: mess

So, it’s time to think about the protaganist in my picturebook – the one who’ll be telling the story. Here’s what I know about her so far: she’s very, very sad because her mum’s gone away on business, not just for a day, but for LOTS of days, AND THE NIGHTS too.

And that sadness is manifesting itself in a wild, uncontrollable rage. It is ALL NOT FAIR.

Well, that unfettered emotion fits in rather well with this week’s class, which was all about mess and letting your water-based materials go with the flow – literally. The tutor showed us various methods of creating textures and backgrounds that might kickstart creativity.

Sure enough, when he painted over an old painting with black ink, then rubbed a little away, it was – shall we say? – miraculous.

In portait orientation, I could see a cartoon cowboy’s head. In landscape, I saw a spooky marsh, lit by a single light. Either way, I could have grabbed that paper and started drawing. That was eye-opener number one.

The tutor went on to show us things we could do with window-cleaning squeegees, edges of cardboard boxes, emulsion paint, acrylics, squirty water bottles, bleach, and more.

Ideally, I’d have come home, taped tarpaulin on every surface, and gone wild. But I use the same desk for my day job as I do for painting, and I haven’t yet found the time to prepare that thoroughly for a painting session.

All the same, I would definitely say that I was inspired to let myself go a bit, to unfurl plumes of ink into water-sodden patches of paper – and that suits the wildness of this particular kid very well. I will be pushing it further, and I’ll report back.

birdkid studies by Myfanwy Tristram

Eye-opener two: feathers

I posted an Instagram snap of the page these two sketches come from, and a friend, who is from the US, asked me about the feather headdress. My first response was, well, the book is about birds, and I want to weave in as many visual references to birds as I can in every image, plus, in this picture, she’s meant to be wild, and being dressed up in warpaint and feathers is kind of a visual shorthand for that.

But then I took a couple of moments to contemplate why she had asked. And I understood why. Because in the US, there is far more sensitivity, and indeed understanding, around the whole issue of the Native Americans’ culture, traditions and ceremonies being appropriated for children’s play.

When I was a kid, in sunny Devon (where, funnily enough, my American friend has settled now), we were untroubled by such issues. I suspect most of the UK was, actually. I’m pretty sure you could buy ‘cowboys and indians’ costumes in Woolworth; I know I had a Ladybird book with an exquisite painting of some lovely middle class children playing ‘Indians’ in a toy teepee. The phrase ‘Native Americans’ had not percolated to our corner of the universe, and indeed I don’t think I heard it until well into my 20s.

But when I thought about it, well, I realised that I probably should steer away from using a feathered headdress in the final images. Not just for reasons of self-interest, though goodness knows, no-one would want to draw a book that would be reviled in the States. And perhaps avoiding what was, to me when I sat down in class and started doodling this picture, the ‘obvious’, I will find myself driven to greater creativity.

You never know.

Landscape with stamps

Landscape by Myfanwy Tristram

I am having *SO MUCH FUN* drawing birds’ eye view landscapes and playing about with ideas. Above (click to see larger) is as far as I’ve got with the latest one, actually physically on paper.

The plan is to collage some stamps onto it – the insomniac eBay shopping I mentioned in my last post – but although I’ve done this digitally, I haven’t yet taken the plunge and stuck them on for good, because I really like how it looks now. Eep. I might stick them on a transparent layer and take it from there.

Landscape with stamps by Myfanwy Tristram

Here are a couple of blurry phone shots of the work in progress:

blurryphone-pic2

blurryphone-pic1

EDITED TO ADD: Here’s the ‘final’ piece – as it’s only an exploratory drawing it’s not exactly final as such, but it’s as far as I’ve taken it. I decided not to wimp out with a layer of acetate and stuck the stamps (ie stamp scans) down on the page. I experimented a bit with trying to bring out the perforations on the scanned stamp images: I tried a threadless sewing machine, and in the end settled for a not-very-realistic but symbolic frilled pair of scissors.

I dithered about that final piece of map leading off to the horizon, because I liked the image just as much without it, but in the end I liked the vision it gave of endless worlds to be explored.

I also cut round the various trees and bushes where the stamps overlap; perhaps I should have just painted them over for a neater finish.

I’m quite pleased.

stamps landscapefini

Birds

After the first week of the course, I went away and started thinking and drawing and thinking some more. I’ve had this one idea for a children’s picture book for ages (along with many others), and now seems like a really good time to explore it.

It’s a funny thing: the course itself? It’s just three of us in the room with the tutor (one of the women who was there for the first week didn’t turn up this second week). That’s all.

But I know that I am going to get more done, and with more freedom and a better chance of success than if, say, I’d decided I was going to draw at home for three hours every Tuesday night until I’d made a book.

Plus, there’s something about speaking an idea that shows it up for what it is – naked, shivering against the wall, nowhere to hide. And there’s something about people answering back to your idea that catapults it off into new directions.

The book I want to make is about a bird.

So after that first week, I went home and I drew these:

birds

Well ok, so far so good, but, y’know, I’ve drawn something like this before.

And I doodled a lot – I had to work in London on one day, so on the train up there and back I could draw.

And at the weekend, I sat down and I drew this:

kite

(You can click on all the images in this blog to see them bigger – or, in this case, to see how poorly I have stitched together the various scans it took to get this large image in.)

And, while they were fun to do, I didn’t feel happy, or like I’d discovered anything new, or happened upon a style I wanted to use for the book.

I felt, I dunno, like they were really constrained, and flat. I wanted to scale them up six times bigger and work with a paintbrush the size of my arm.

The night before the next class, I started thinking, well, kites are made of paper, right? And I started piecing together this:

Fevvers by Myfanwy Tristram

And, ooh!

That, that has lit a firecracker under me. A slow-burning one, sure, but put that together with some ill-advised insomniac eBay purchasing, and I have thought of a route that I find really, really exciting. All will be revealed, at some point…

Meanwhile, a couple of us actually cracked open the paints at the class this week. I started drawing without much thought, but I like what came out.

Oddly enough, it is the opposite of the huge, splashy, free painting I thought I wanted to do.

Paddyfields by Myfanwy Tristram

Someone saw it on my Instagram feed and said that at first glance, they’d thought it was a rug. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Me-er than me

http://www.etsy.com/uk/people/emilyruthplays?ref=owner_profile_leftnav
Having slagged off motivational Pinterest aphorisms in my last post, hey, what better than to feature one in this post?

But at least it’s from a children’s book illustrator – some might say the children’s book illustrator, Dr Seuss.

And it’s very nicely done, isn’t it? It’s by Emily Ruth on Etsy and I know nothing more about it than that it popped up on my Pinterest stream, a rather gorgeous presentation of a quote that is much bandied about over there:

You are you, this is truer than true. There is no-one alive who is youer than you.

And – let’s get to the point here – this was my main learning from (as the tutor likes to style it at the beginning of each class):

*swoosh* *swoosh* *swoosh*  (cinematic voice ahoy:) “Children’s Book Illustration…. week TWO“.

See now, last week, we were talking about style a bit. This week, I happened to mention that I never know if it is good for me to see so much excellent illustration.

Again I referred to Pinterest. I follow some fine illustrators on there, not to mention some fine connoisseurs of illustration, and the net result is that every morning when I bring up my browser, if I wish to, I can gorge myself on a smörgåsbord of amazing work. That other people have done.

And if you’re not feeling that resolute, it’s all too easy to think one of three things:

First (if you’re me):

I’ll never be that good.

And second:

Ooh, maybe I need to be looser/use more ink/channel my inner child more/**insert other trends here ad infinitum**

Then lastly: (I haven’t got there quite yet, but I can see the beguiling path of logic that leads there):

Well why bother, when there’s already so much good stuff out there?

The tutor gave me an excellent new spin on this, and one which I will be endeavouring to live by. “Admire the work. Be glad that it exists. Because now, you don’t have to do that.”

You know what, the course might be worth the money for that little insight alone.