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?

This one is for agents, travel magazines, brands and tourist boards

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

I’ve received my own copies of the Gudrun Sjödén sketch diary, and they’re lovely. I hope customers have enjoyed them too.

Myfanwy Tristram: printed Stockholm diaires for Gudrun Sjoden

I really enjoy creating this type of work, so I’m going to actively seek more of it. In fact, over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be approaching agents, brands and tourist boards with this message:

I can create a sketch diary for you.

What’s more, as an introductory offer, if you are the first tourist board to approach me, I will do it in return for my travel expenses and accommodation.

Get in touch and we can discuss the fine details. Meanwhile, here are some examples of my previous work (click to see them bigger):

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary: see the whole diary here.

 

p14 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Madrid sketch diary: See the whole diary here

 

Stockholm Diary p4 Myfanwy Tristram

Stockholm sketch diary: See the whole diary here

 

Frome sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Frome sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Bristol and Frome sketch diary: See the whole diary here

 

p15completefor web

Santiago sketch diary: See the whole diary here

 

Bath diary page 3

Bath sketch diary: See the whole diary here

 

Not exactly what you’re looking for? Don’t worry, I can adapt to your needs — let’s talk.

Things you should know about me

  •  I’m a vegetarian, I don’t drive, and I tend towards the eco side of things. So I’m probably not a good fit for an off-the-beaten-track villa, a Mongolian raw meat restaurant, or that “Jeremy Clarkson meets climate change deniers” event you had planned (although, now you mention it, that does sound like the basis for rather a good comic strip…).
  • On the other hand, if you want to promote your craft retreats, veggie festivals, train rides across Europe, walkable city, or cycling tours, I am all over that.
  • But I will consider anything, so don’t be afraid to ask!
  • You’ll get the ‘real me’: that’s what makes my sketch diaries unique, and what (according to their comments) readers find most compelling. I record the ups and downs of any trip, but of course, I’ll never do so to the detriment of your brand. Unless I find out you are actually sacrificing baby chinchillas on altars made in a sweatshop. Then I’ll sever our agreement and sell my sketch diary to the press instead.
  • I have a husband and an 11 year old kid. If they’re also included in the trip, you’ll get some child-focused content too. And maybe some hilarious marital spats.
  • My main interests are drawing (well duh), design, visiting museums and galleries, shopping (especially at second hand shops and markets), running, cycling, and seeking out the things that make places a bit different from home.
  • Brands I really like include: Marimekko, Seasalt, Braintree, Fitbit, Asics, Nike, Lush, Bravissimo, Doc Martens, Birkenstocks and, obviously, Gudrun Sjödén.
  • I’m pretty good at drawing fashion, people, shopping and buildings. I haven’t drawn, but would certainly like to tackle: factories, industry, ships, manufacturing processes.
  • I’m based in Brighton, UK, but am prepared to travel almost anywhere by public transport. Brighton is close to Gatwick Airport for international travel, and most parts of the U.K. can be easily reached by train.
  • I’m especially interested in Scandi countries, the Scottish Isles, Iceland and Japan. But I am up for visiting pretty much anywhere.
  • Typically, I work on my return, from photographs I take during my trip. While a 2 or 4-pager can be turned around in a couple of weeks, longer sketch diaries may be completed up to 6 weeks after my return (depending on its length and complexity, and my other commitments).
  • Images will be delivered as high resolution jpegs for you to use as you wish – printing and distribution, or adding to your website will be your responsibility.
  • I would also love to work on longer projects. Artists like Wendy Macnaughton, Julia Rothman and my all-time favourite Miroslav Sasek give me hope that there’s a market for this kind of book.

 

Can I be a mother and a successful artist? Hmm, let’s see

mother artist

This piece of graffiti is a fairly new addition to an underpass on one of my running routes. I enjoy graffiti and street art well enough, but my goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of it that spoke so directly to my own concerns. I’d like to meet whoever scrawled this and have a good long chat with her.

I’m not sure whether the big ‘NO’ underneath it is in answer, or whether it’s part of a previous piece of graffiti. Either way, it adds some hollow humour that I also enjoy.

Anyway, with all of that in mind, here’s my review of how I did on the ‘artist’ side for 2015 (the parenting side is always a work in progress, and another matter).

Comics

wild flowers by Myfanwy TristramLots of my work comes directly from motherhood and this year that was reflected in two cartoons: one about the school run, and one about my own mum.

In 2014, I drew Underdog, which relates a true experience of sewing with my daughter, and this year it was placed second in a prize, which is very gratifying.

I once again had a shot at the Cape/Comica/Observer graphic short story contest, but feel more and more resigned to the fact that I’ll never make a dent in that one.

I made a four-page comic about what happens when you take synchronised swimming to an extreme.

Feb 3rd brings the annual challenge of Hourly Comics Day. I’m looking forward to this year’s, although as it’s a working day, I’m a bit concerned as to how I’ll manage it…

Clothes

Clovember - illustration by Myfanwy TristramThe 30-pictures-in-30-days Clovember project was also a motherhood project: I drew everything my daughter wore (far more interesting than my own outfits).

This year I was lucky enough to work on a couple of projects with the Swedish fashion label Gudrun Sjoden, purveyors of beautiful, sustainable clothes. In March, I painted customers in their shop, and then of course in August I had an amazing two days pretending to be a model. This has to be the wildest and most incredible reward that drawing has brought me yet.

The sketch diary I made around that trip has had an amazing amount of comments, likes and shares: it’s wonderful to have had it enjoyed by so many. And that’s not the last of it: I’ll be working with Gudrun Sjoden again this year, and I’ll share more details when that happens.

Travel

Barcelona SagradaFamilia by Myfanwy TristramWe had family holidays in Frome and Barcelona, and I drew a sketch diary for each (16 pages and 26 pages respectively). The Stockholm diary added another 12 pages.

I also recorded a trip to Madrid for work (26 pages). I was particularly pleased to find a way to combine my very interesting day job, and my drawing.

I love having my sketch diaries, and I do enjoy the process of making them, but as my drawing ability improves, so do my ambitions, until I am in the silly situation of having to spend a couple of hours a day on them for weeks after our return.

This time could be used for other types of drawing, so this year I will have to think carefully about whether to continue.

As it happens, my favourite type of sketchbook appears to be really thin on the ground at the moment: I haven’t been able to find any in TK Maxx and Homesense, where I usually pick up two or three at a time.

I have two unused ones in a drawer at home and after that it’s entirely possible I won’t be able to find any more, which is a real shame as I’ve never seen any other sketch book that’s quite as well-suited to sketch diaries. Maybe it’s a sign that it really is time to give up.

Other stuff

petting party birthday invitation by Myfanwy TristramAs I only just posted, I drew my daughter’s stocking and all its contents (twice in one year, as it turned out, as I only completed 2014’s stocking on January 3rd 2015).

I also made my daughter’s party invitation – more happy combining of parenthood and drawing.

People and events

This blog was given an incredible boost by WordPress when they featured it in a round-up post at the beginning of the year, and then in a couple of subsequent features. That recognition has brought almost 5,000 subscribers to my blog. That’s great, and makes me think of ‘success’ and ‘exposure’ in entirely new ways.

But sometimes you also have to meet people in the real world, right? Even if parenthood has put you in the habit of staying in of an evening.

I went to a few excellent drawing-related events this year: an talk put on by the Lewes Children’s Book Group, and the inspiring Graphic Brighton conference.

Then there was the Brighton Illustration Fair which had a strong comics slant. This year, I’m going to try and be on the other side of a table.

Finally, I rediscovered Cartoon County, a group specifically for cartoonists, and right on my doorstep – I really should make more effort to go.

So, can you be a successful artist and a mother? To answer that question quite seriously, I’d say that yes, you can.

I’m not pretending that I’m a successful artist myself – that must depend on your definition of ‘successful’, but I’d bet that most people’s definitions would include making a living from it. I am an artist who’s becoming more content with her work, and enjoying a burgeoning readership though, so that must be a good thing.

If I had to guess, I’d say that the anonymous graffiti artist is probably in the early stages of motherhood (or maybe even pregnant, and thinking ahead?). If that’s so, then my answer would be to hang on in there. The first few years of motherhood do not allow for very much else, but that’s not a permanent state. And motherhood will inspire your art in new ways.

 

 

A week in Barcelona, final part: rainbows, closed doors and iconic pavements

Barcelona SagradaFamilia by Myfanwy Tristram

Here’s the final pages of my Barcelona sketch diary.
You can see part 1 here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

And part 4 is here.

As always, click and click again to see each page at a larger size. Now read on…

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

A week in Barcelona, part 4: giant heads, small press comics, and food colouring

This is part 4.

Part 1 is here

Part 2 is here

Part 3 is here

Click each image and then click them again to see them at a larger size.

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

That blue sketchbook ends up being the one I did my Clovember drawings in.

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Tomorrow: the final installment.

A week in Barcelona, part 3: flea market, Parc Guell and a gypsy’s arm

Click each page and then click again to see bigger.
This is part 3 – part one is here
and part two is here
Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Tomorrow: an incredible stationery shop and a nice bit of Miró.

A week in Barcelona, part 1: it smells of wee

In autumn half term we rented an Air BnB in Barcelona. It was a nice holiday – it gave us an extra little burst of summer weather when the UK was just starting to turn grey and damp.

As usual, I made a sketch diary of our activities; as usual, it took me several weeks after our return to complete it. But finally, here it is.

It’s twenty-something pages long, so, in order to spread the pain of scanning, I’m dividing it into five parts. Here’s the first, which just covers our arrival and a quick stroll around the neighbourhood.

Hope you enjoy it. As always, click and then click again on any image to see it larger.

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram page 1

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram page 2

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram page 3

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram page 4

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram page 5

Tomorrow: a bit of Gaudi, a trilingual boy, and lots of shoes.

Drawing all my daughter’s clothes for #Clovember (week three)

A tricky week: I was away on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday – and as a result, found myself catching up by drawing and colouring  four of these images this morning.

The result is that I’m not very happy with a few of them, but never mind. Part of the #Clovember challenge, I think, like any of the ‘draw every day’ challenges, is that you get used to showing your work, whether it makes you cringe or fills you with quiet pride.

You can guess for yourself which is which in this batch. Click each image if you’d like to see them bigger.

Next week – find out what happens when you embark on a 31-day project using a 24-page sketchbook.

See week four

Drawing my daughter’s clothes for Clovember (week 2)

Here are the pictures of my daughter’s clothes this week (see last week’s here).

Next week is going to be more challenging, because I’m away tomorrow and then again for a couple of days, with work. My husband has been charged with taking the photos, and we’ll see when I have the time to do the actual drawings…

image by Myfanwy Nixon

image by Myfanwy Nixon

image by Myfanwy Nixon

image by Myfanwy Nixon

image by Myfanwy Nixon

image by Myfanwy Nixon

image by Myfanwy Nixon

See week three

Clovember 2015 – drawing my daughter’s clothes

Clovember is a project in which you photograph (or draw) the clothes you wear, each day in November.

A few years ago, I drew both myself and my daughter’s clothes.

But these days, I work from home, and I go for a run almost every weekday. Plus winter’s coming and it’s cold sitting in an unheated house all day.

Drawing endless pictures of myself in my running gear, topped with a rather ratty old fleece and woolly hat does not really appeal (albeit it’s the look I inflict on my poor colleagues during video calls).

So instead I’m concentrating purely on my daughter’s clothes this year. Here’s the first week. Click to see them bigger.

1st Clovember by Myfanwy Tristram 1st Clovember by Myfanwy Tristram

3rd Clovember by Myfanwy Tristram4th Clovember by Myfanwy Tristram

5th Clovember by Myfanwy Tristram6th Clovember by Myfanwy Tristram

7th Clovember by Myfanwy Tristram

See week 2

Madrid/Freedom of Information sketch diary, part 5

This is the final part of the sketch diary.
See part 1 here
part 2 here
part 3 here
and part 4 here.

p22 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p23 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p24 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p25 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p26 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Postscript:

p27 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

If you enjoyed this diary, and you live in the UK, you might want to check out www.WhatDoTheyKnow.com, where you can make your own FOI requests, or browse those of others.

If you live in one of the other countries mentioned, why not visit their sites and give them some support?

And if you live in a country where there’s no online FOI website, take a look at Alaveteli.org: with a little commitment and some help from mySociety, you could set up your own!

Madrid/Freedom of Information sketch diary, part 4

It turns out today is International Right To Know day. Well done me for organising these posts to go out at such an apposite time (let’s pretend it was deliberate).

This is part 4: see part 1 here
part 2 here
and part 3 here

p20 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p21 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p20 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p21 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

The fifth and final part is here!

Madrid/Freedom of Information sketch diary, part two

Here’s the second installment! You can read part one of this sketch diary here.

p6 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p7 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p8 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

[I don’t usually Photoshop my sketch diaries, but I deliberately drew these figures in closed lines, knowing that I’d be able to drop in a background. The floor where we had lunch was this kind of crazy paving – much easier to do like this than to draw laboriously].

p9 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p10 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p11 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

See part three here.

Madrid/Freedom of Information sketch diary, part one

Did you know that in the UK, as well as in many other countries around the world, you have the right to ask for information from public authorities, and by law they must respond?

Wait, you’re thinking, isn’t this a drawing blog?

Well yes it is, and hold tight for quite a bit of drawing: my longest sketch diary yet, in fact, which I’m going to split over several posts in an effort to make it more digestible.

But as long-term readers will know, the reason I get to travel is often because of my job, working for an NGO. I’m extremely grateful for this, but I’m also just as grateful for the very interesting work we do.

Yes, that’s right, I said ‘very interesting’.

And I am indeed talking about Freedom of Information. If that phrase sounds dry to you, I really hope that you’ll read on, and maybe even change your mind. And if not, well, there’s plenty of stuff about Madrid, in between the FOI stuff.

Oh, one last thing: I probably ought to say that what follows over the next few posts is in no way an official account of the work of the organisation I work for, mySociety. It’s my own visual representation of an event from the point of view of an attendee – me.

Click on any picture to see it larger.


p1 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p2 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristramp3 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p4 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p5 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

See part two here.

 

Here we go again – entering the Comica/Cape/Observer graphic short story contest

It’s that time of year again: entries are open for the sixth Observer/Comica/Cape graphic short story competition.

I’ll post my completed entry after the closing date, but for now here are some pictures showing work in progress.

Continue reading “Here we go again – entering the Comica/Cape/Observer graphic short story contest”

Graphic Brighton: Drawing in the Margins

On Friday night and all of Saturday, I was at Graphic Brighton, a conference about graphic novels and comics creation.

The overarching theme of the conference was “Drawing in the Margins”, and it brought together practitioners who represent some form of minority or marginalised group.

Brighton living up to its name

“I’m going out to a discussion on gay manga” may be the kind of archetypical Brighton sentence that makes most of the country mock us mercilessly, but it was very interesting, and I say that as someone with very little knowledge of the form.

mangapanel2sfwNote: I think I got Inko and Chie mixed up in this picture – apologies

There was quite a bit of talk about Yaoi, comics about gay men, usually drawn by women and aimed at a female readership.

One apparent contradiction I found very interesting: it was said that these comics grew from the longstanding cultural repression of women in Japan, and represent women taking control of their own fantasies.

I asked whether women who drew these comics would be frowned upon, but I was assured that that’s not the case; on the contrary, they are celebrated. The comics are available everywhere, even in corner shops.

And yet, I was told, although ‘everyone reads them, no-one talks about it’. I think there’s something cultural there that I haven’t entirely understood.

Difficult lives make good comics

After the panel, there were five-minute talks by 14 different cartoonists. These also acted as a series of enticing previews of comics I’d like to read (I’ve pinned many of the comics mentioned throughout the event on Pinterest, if you’re interested in doing the same).

5mintalkssfw

Subjects here included working with people with learning difficulties (Brighton’s own Joe Decie); having a child with Down Syndrome (Henny Beaumont, of whom more later); being brought up by a single mum (Wallis Eates); working with the elderly as a doctor (Ian Williams), and motherhood and birthing (kudos to Kate Evans for pointing out that this is not really a minority pursuit, although one can certainly see the case for calling aspects of motherhood marginalised).

fivemintalks2sfw

There was only one downside to listening to people talk about all these fascinating, human-interest topics for their work, and that was being left feeling that my own life isn’t troubled enough to base a graphic novel on!

karrieFreesmansfw

Hustling

The next morning, I met up with my friend (and super-talented illustrator herself) Zara for the luxury of another full day of comics chat.

This began with Karrie Fransman in conversation with Tim Pilcher. Most relevant to the topic was Karrie’s cartoon about a refugee, Over Under Sideways Down, but I also really want to read her The House That Groaned and Death of the Artist now.

I did find Fransman’s approach to getting work interesting: it could basically be summed up the single word, “hustle”. She describes sending her cartoons (which she says, in retrospect, were just scrawls in biro) to every national newspaper in the country, then following up with an email a week later. This bagged her a strip in the Guardian.

She also tried pitching for comic versions of newspaper standbys such as book reviews and articles, but found that papers didn’t want to pay any more than they would a written-word journalist, so that was a non-goer in the end. Pilcher also pointed out that these days, we’re used to a much quicker turnaround on a news story than an artist can provide.

Cartoons by the elderly, about the elderly, and for everyone

Next up was a sessions about the representation of old age in comics, with Corinne Pearlman (a cartoonist herself, and also Creative Director at Myriad Editions), Julian Hanshaw (The Art of Pho, mentioned in a previous blog entry) and Muna Al Jawad, who works as a Consultant in Elderly Medicine (the new word for Geriatrics?) and uses comics to educate both colleagues and the wider world about associated issues.

Books I’d like to check out following Corinne’s talk include Paco Roca’s Wrinkles and Roz Chast’s best-seller Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

“Ageing is the new black”, said Corinne, and made the point that a generation of comics artists is entering old age, having become used to chronicling every other stage of life. Meanwhile, Hanshaw pointed out that the subject need not have a limited audience: we middle-aged readers are happy to read comics from younger makers, and there’s no reason that that shouldn’t go both ways.

The Yes! project

yes projectsfw

After lunch, Laura Malacart and Dan Locke talked about a project they’d collaborated on. As you can see from the image above, I found Malacart’s look (and especially her hair) really beguiling to draw, but I just could not quite get it down on paper!

Malacart was commissioned to make a film about a real-life case of a non-verbal person with autism who was found to be able to vocalise through singing.

After filming the footage, she decided that actually, film wasn’t the right format. That’s when she found Locke and they worked together, instead, on a graphic novel, which can be read online at the Yes! project website.

 Challenging the motherhood narrative

motherhood panelsfw

In the final presentation of the day, three women came together to talk about representing motherhood in comics.

Henny Beaumont will shortly have a book out which tells her story of having a child with Down Syndrome. From the excerpts she read and showed in this session and on Friday night, it looks very funny as well as beautifully-rendered.

Beaumont used the Brushes app on her iPad to draw much of the book. Previously, she has worked as a portrait artist, and this showed. There were times when she was standing in front of one of her pictures of herself on the screen, and the posture, face and expression were identical.

This book, like the one about autism, has an interesting side-purpose in that it will inform medical practitioners about how better to approach such scenarios.

Evans (who, I ought to mention, I know from way back when, when we both lived in a Brighton housing co-operative) and Cassavetti both had a similar point to make, really, and that is that motherhood/parenthood can be a massive shock, a time of extreme worry, and an opportunity for everyone to prescribe the One True Way of birthing a baby, keeping them safe, and getting them to sleep through the night.

Given the harsh realities of everything from morning sickness to poopy nappies, it does seem extraordinary, they pointed out, that mainstream publishers still insist on selling us the image of motherhood as a constant source of delight. I have to say, if I’d read Bump instead of Gina Ford, Jools Oliver et al, I might have side-stepped a lot of misery and self-flagellation about the fact that my daughter barely went to sleep for about three years after she was born.

The day ended with a wrapping-up session (plus the question of what topic people might like next year – ‘war’ being mooted), and then I made Kate and Zara come home with me to eat cake and meet the kitten. These being modern times, I knew that the pair of them had hit it off when they followed one another on Twitter.

I could easily have sat through another full day of talks, but it’s probably a good thing that the event ended where it did, as this blog post is already probably longer than anyone will read all the way through.

Finally: my Frome holiday sketch diary

summer dresses by Myfawy TristramWell, this has to be some kind of record: I’ve only just finished my holiday sketch diary, 22 days after returning home. I think we can safely say that it’s time for another holiday now!

I’ve been thinking about why it’s taken so long, and my best guess is that I broke my own guidelines for making sketch diaries: I hardly collected any labels/leaflets/tickets this time, and did a lot more painting. I cared too much about pictures looking right (not that this means they all ended up perfect – far from it!)

Never mind, it’s done now, so here it is, a week in Frome (Somerset, UK).

Continue reading “Finally: my Frome holiday sketch diary”

Women of Lewes and Brighton

Women by Myfanwy Tristram

women by Myfanwy Tristram

These pictures are made by snapping women in the street with my phone, then working from the photos to paint a composite image on a A1 sheet of paper. The painting was done over a period of a couple of hours.

As I’ve just offered this idea to a potential client (painting their customers), I thought I’d better try it out and make sure it works.

I’m quite pleased with the results, and I’ve noted a few ways the whole thing could be easier, so it was worth doing a trial run.

Thank you – and sorry – if I photographed you yesterday! When I looked closely at the photographs, it did look like plenty of the subjects were looking straight at me, doubtless wondering what this strange person was doing pointing her phone at them.

Luckily, if the actual project goes ahead, I’ll be photographing people with their consent, and in a controlled environment.

And if it doesn’t? Eh, well… it’s all practice.

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.