Category Archives: books and reading

Leonard Chooses His Hues

I have given the medium for Leonard Doesn’t Dance a lot of thought over the last few months. I knew that I wanted the style to be very different from Thunderstorm Dancing, quicker, looser, lighter in touch and for some reason sherberty… Ahem. Don’t ask me why.

And during my time in Italy, I was immersed in so much illustration at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair that it was the perfect time to consider what I did and didn’t want to do, and what was already done too many times elsewhere.

Ann James and I talked about illustration styles, strengths and weaknesses too. She told me that the key to good illustration is authenticity. When she looks at a folio of work, if the expression of line or character feels genuine, as though it really comes from the illustrator’s inner self, then technical weaknesses don’t matter so much. You can see the kernel of the artist in the work and it’s good. I’m re-phrasing of course, because I can’t remember the exact words that either of us used. But this is the gist of it.

So where does that leave me as a wandering artist, prone to changes of style? What is my kernel?

I came to the conclusion that I am very comfortable with my pencil, and my line is probably most expressive of my style or styles. Most me. I had decided that I would use pencil or fine liner (for the lightness of touch), white backgrounds on most pages, and colour the drawings swiftly and joyously in bright, (sherberty) digital colour.

Here are some old artworks for the sake of discussion of medium. None of them were drawn for Leonard Doesn’t Dance

parrot purr judywatsonart lores

fine liner with quick sherberty digital colour. (originally drawn for 52 Week Illustration Challenge – theme WORDS)

Perhaps this parrot cartoon isn’t a perfect example of what I had in mind, but it’s me, and it has the fine line that I want, the simple, swift colour and the white background. And it’s playful. Playfulness is key to this book.

new hat judywatsonart colour lores

loose lines with digital colour (originally drawn for 52 Week Illustration Challenge theme – LINE)

This continuous line drawing is a little heavier in line (a thicker fine liner) and heavier in tone too, on the cream background of a vintage book which was the very thing that inspired the work for Thunderstorm Dancing. But even so, it is me at my most comfortable with a wandering line… making it up as I go along.

So there I was. All decided.

Then the discussion of clothes came up with the Frances Watts and the publishing team.

Do these birds wear any clothes? Should Leonard be wearing those breeches? Or should he not?

During the course of this (somewhat cheeky) discussion I whizzed through some ‘Trouserbirds’ as evidence of the way my bird drawings had been going in recent times. Most of them were wearing trousers. The examples I sent were from my series of blob birds; all painted by starting with a pale grey washy blob, and then transforming it into wacky creatures with watercolour.

stork seaside 2

Fine liner, white background, sherberty. Paint instead of digital colour… (a blob experiment from 2014)

blob birds lores

fine liner, watercolour, trousers… why not? (These blob experiments from last year are darker in tone, but that is mostly about the shade of grey used in the original blob. Partly too about their wintery clothes which seemed to ask for deeper, more tweedy tones.)

Frances Watts was taken with the watercolour. Which gave pause for thought. Because I really enjoyed making these blobs and was already planning a book for them of my own. But there’s no reason why they couldn’t launch with Leonard…

More soon.

Leonard Doesn’t Dance: A Bird of Character

In between racing around madly organising for our auction this coming Saturday, (I refrained from using hysterical capitalisation there. Did you notice?) I have REALLY enjoyed (emphatic, enthusiastic capitalisation) doing a few character sketches for Leonard.

Leonard is the main character for my upcoming picture book with Frances Watts, to be published by HarperCollins next year. Just to put you ever so quickly into the loop, Leonard started in my head as a little fellow with a disastrously swishy tail, inspired by our Australian Willy Wagtails, who swish their tails from side to side constantly.

Leonard Doesn't Dance

The colour sketch I drew for a spontaneous cover, the first day I received the manuscript

Leonard doodles2 judywatsonart lores

further tail wagging doodles drawn during a HarperCollins Author workshop

Then I found out that Frances had only one request: that Leonard be a bigger, galumphing kind of bird, and not a little tweety-bird type. So this sent me off in other directions and I did some galumphing doodles over a period of time while I was finishing Thunderstorm Dancing.

I continued with my doodles while I was travelling in Italy during April.

In the back of my mind there was a memory of a wonderful, lanky bird from Africa called the Secretary Bird. I looked him up and found him to be wonderfully elegant, wearing short black breeches to below the ‘knee’ and a fancy headdress (from which he got his name) and a wonderful set of wings for flying to bird parties.

His beak is quite different from the one I had imagined. I thought I might alter him to make him a unique bird bearing only a partial resemblance to the Secretary Bird. But as sketches continued, I found I enjoyed him very much, just the way he is.

Leonard

Leonard  1 Leonard  2 Leonard  3 Leonard  4 Leonard  5 Leonard  6

If he won’t work on the page for me with all those smaller birds, I may have to re-think him, but I am quite attached to him already.

More on this process soon, and I will tell you about the decisions about my medium.

Meet me at Federation Square

If anyone is in the vicinity of Melbourne on Sat 13 June, I’ll be drawing at the Books Illustrated stall in Federation Square Book Market and the fabulous Ann Haddon will be selling signed copies of Thunderstorm Dancing by Katrina Germein, illustrated by me. Some of my other books will also be on sale.

drawing and signing at Bologna Children's Book Fair

Drawing and signing at Bologna Children’s Book Fair (In front with the green scarf, the lovely Sonia who has been attending the fair every year since she was a child.) 

Come and say hello. I’d love to meet you! I love people to talk to me when I’m drawing… not sure what I’ll be drawing… but it’ll be something. And I’ll try to bring along some stormy craft sheets for you to take away and use to have some arty fun with your little ones… or by yourself. I’m all for that too.

Sketch for dancing scene with Poppy, from Thunderstorm Dancing by Katrina Germein

Sketch for dancing scene with Poppy, from Thunderstorm Dancing by Katrina Germein

At this stage it looks like I’ll be starting at around 1pm and drawing for a couple of hours, but I’ll try to remember to update you on that a little closer to the time.

Strong words

Proving that I’m back.

Another doodle from the bathtub on Saturday afternoon. Here’s a note from the back of a vintage Pitt Press Shakespeare edition of Julius Caesar.

Amaz’d is not the only word that was a stronger word then than now. Words and Christmas stocking fillers have suffered from inflation over the years.

Amaz'd - A stronger word then than now

Amaz’d – A stronger word then than now

Flying by the Seat of my Pants

A Fleering Cat, painted in the bath

Fleering … Shakespearian for grinning. Who would have thought? Do you know that you can paint in the bath using your ArtGraf water-soluble graphite block in its handy tin and a brush. Just add bathwater. 

My apologies for my long absence from posting. I have been flying, not fleering.

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair was an eye-opening and fabulous experience. More on that later.

Elizabeth Honey, Ann Haddon and Judy Watson enter The Fair

Elizabeth Honey, Ann Haddon and Judy Watson enter The Fair

Puglia was beautiful, and the trulli were as lovely as I could wish them to be. More on that later too.

trullo with red doors and grapevines

trullo with red doors and grapevines

While I was flying to Italy, my husband Scott bought a house for us at auction and when I returned home two weeks later, I was thrown into a whirlwind of preparation for the sale of our current house. Whirlwind notwithstanding and with our auction two weeks away, it’s back to work today. And this is a marker post!

Leonard here I come.

Ophelia

Here’s Ophelia, my wee scrap of a girl who appeared when I was working on my Imago Mundi canvas. She found a home this evening on an even tinier canvas. This one is 7cm x 10cm. 



Imago Mundi

The Imago Mundi web site says:

Art is born from a complex direct relationship with its surroundings and culture.
Imago Mundi’s ambition is to unite these diversities of our world in a common frame of artistic expression.

I am lucky that a friend opened the door for me to participate in this wonderful international exhibition. (Thanks Juliet)

Here is my tiny canvas for Imago Mundi.

women in politics judywatsonart 2015

‘Seen and not Heard’ (dedicated to Gillian Triggs)

I’m endlessly fascinated with vintage cabinet card portraits, so this came out of that space, and also from my interest in the cladding of women under layers and layers of ornament. There is a drawn woman under the coat. It’s a strange thing to add layers of clothing to a drawn woman and slowly hide her from view. (Something I explored earlier here.)

But I was also thinking of Professor Gillian Triggs trying to be heard in the Australian Federal Government arena as I made this artwork.

It’s made with acrylic paint, indian ink, felt tip, watercolour and collaged book pages on a very small canvas.

scraps of girls who will go somewhere else

scraps of girls who will go somewhere else

#IStandwithGillianTriggs

Hello from Australia: exhibition catalogue

Here’s the Books Illustrated media release for the Hello from Australia 2015 exhibition catalogue.  I’m really delighted to be included in this exhibition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and looking forward to attending the fair in person at the end of next month!

I’m also lucky to be going in a year when so many other Australian authors and illustrators will be attending.

click the cover to go to the on-line catalogue

click the cover to go to the on-line catalogue

This is the spread that will be exhibited.

This is the spread that will be exhibited.

#HellofromAustralia #thunderstormdancing

 

Trudy and Dodds go to class

Tomorrow I’m lucky enough to have a spot in the Faber Writing Academy Picture Book Masterclass. I’ll be taking Trudy and Dodds, roughly formed as they are, to have a little work out.

To recap on Trudy and Dodds, this is a picture book project that I received a grant to develop back in mid 2012. The grant was part of a new Children’s Picture Book Illustrators’ Initiative managed by the ASA and funded by the Literature Board of the Australia Council for the Arts.

One of the images I included with my grant submission. A little pen and ink sketch with digital colour.

One of the images I included with my grant submission. A little pen and ink sketch with digital colour. (Trudy in a purple shirt. Dodds on the billy cart.)

I drew dogs as the characters at that time because I have been drawing dogs (with and without clothes) for as long as I can remember. Has anyone else read The Lives of the Monster Dogs? But all along I really thought, I’d rather they were doggish than dogs: doggish, because dogs are part of human history, and if we aren’t mortally afraid of them, most of us love them. But not exactly dogs, because… just because. They are human really.

Unfortunately for Trudy and Dodds, the grant came just after I had accepted the manuscript for Thunderstorm Dancing and they got caught up in a delay of nearly three years! (Thank you to Lucie Stevens at the ASA for her patience in extending my timelines several times.)

But NOW, it’s time to move forward. And I’m excited about the masterclass tomorrow, and a little nervous. Not nervous about writing, because I love writing. But nervous about sharing my writing aloud for the first time since I left school back in the ’80s. Ahem! 

So this week I…

• Had lots of ideas about the medium, style and setting.

And got lots of inspiration for the architecture and setting from looking at Puglia and the trulli there. (See my earlier post on those here.) The architecture and setting are very important to me for this story, and were a big part of the original concept that I submitted to the Australia Council way back at the start of 2012. At that time, my inspiration was Mexico. But now! I’m going to be researching and recording the setting while I visit my friend David Capon in Puglia during April. I am so looking forward to it.

Trulli in a rough scene to open Trudy and Dodds

Trulli in a rough scene to open Trudy and Dodds

 FINALLY finished the first draft of the manuscript. (Hooray!)

I was having a lot of trouble getting the last quarter to work, even though I knew what was to happen at the end. What I didn’t want was a story that leaps into action and then sort of… peters out…. blaah. Yeah well… so then… hmmm…

• Started a DUMMY book for it.

I had my usual problems with this. I have trouble drawing the loose, loose, rough things to begin with that show the shapes on the page. I need somebody to stand over me tapping their foot when I am doing this, and looking at their watch. That actually works. If I don’t have a timekeeper I get all distracted with details in the pictures. And then… well then you need to change something because THAT isn’t going to happen on THIS page anymore. And then you go… errm… why did I draw that in so much detail? Doh! 

For a glimpse at how it’s supposed to be done, go here!

• Started making rough models for Dodds

And then bounced off those to make drawings for Dodds.

1 found bits Dodds

Dodds – Take 1

5 tape and wire karate 2

Dodds Take 2 – skeleton and sinew (of sorts). Is this a karate pose?

2 take 2 tape and wire

Dodds 1 and Dodds 2

11 head close

Dodds found his smile when the paper jaw went on.

7 full trousers

Dodds with paper bag trousers added

An initial sketch of the model. Finding my way

An initial sketch of the model. Finding my way

Dodds sketch

Dodds sketch with the nose, jaw and gentle expression starting to settle into place. He’s a gentle giant. I looked at Wrestlers from the 1940s for inspiration.

Tell you later, how we get on at class.

 

Thunderstorm Dancing, coming soon

Hello! It looks like you can pre-order a copy of Thunderstorm Dancing now on Booktopia. And probably lots of other places too.

Plans are afoot to have some celebrations throughout April to mark the release of Thunderstorm Dancing, and I’ll post more on that soon.

Huzzah!

Thunderstorm Dancing by Katrina Germein, illustrated by Judy Watson. To be published in April 2015

Thunderstorm Dancing by Katrina Germein, illustrated by Judy Watson. To be published in April 2015

Wet your toes!

Wet your toes!