Category Archives: Searching for Cicadas

Endpapers (part one)

Endpapers are a particular favourite of mine, both old and new. I love to create the ends for the books that I illustrate. They’re wonderfully freeing, because they’re not required to go alongside an author’s text, nor do they need to follow along in the exact same style or medium as the other illustrations. They need to feel as though they belong in the same family as the rest of the book, but they can fly off in all sorts of playful directions, and frequently do.

Sometimes it’s lovely to take a purely decorative approach, using whatever medium seems complementary to the book, without direct reference to the story at all. Decorative endpapers may just be stripes, spots or splashes and can look beautiful, as though the reader is opening a brightly wrapped present – which in a way they are!

Mostly, I am so involved with the text that I can’t resist linking the ends to what’s inside. Sometimes I like to refer to a repeating motif in the book such as seagulls, and a little black cat as we see in Thunderstorm Dancing. Or I refer to the setting of the story, such as the forest in Leonard Doesn’t Dance. Sometimes I like to tell a bonus story without words, so that when the book has been read and the story is over, there is somewhere to linger and to imagine our characters in their next adventure or in their everyday lives.

Endpapers for Goodnight, Mice! by Frances Watts and Judy Watson.

Goodnight, Mice! is a bedtime book, so the ends are muted in colour and evocative of a pyjama pattern. But I really wanted to play around a little further with these sweet mice, so I made tiny, simplified sketches of all of the family members. It was fun creating shorthand versions of each of the characters. The twins of course, are causing mayhem with a pillow fight, and there are stylised feathers floating everywhere (made by pressing down hard with my poor, mistreated dip-pen nib).

Mitzi and Billy – up to mischief as usual.
I feel that Clementine will not be happy about this.
Books and bedtime go together like cheese and… mice. So I put lots of books on the ends as well.
I really hope Billy is not going to flush before Mitzi gets off the loo…
This is the original family from the internal illustrations. Still loose, but more fully formed. (That was not a toilet joke.)

The endpapers for Thunderstorm Dancing were originally to have been printed in two colours, which is why I set them up in black and blue, (black and red for the rear ends) but Allen and Unwin decided to print in four colour process instead. In the internal illustrations, I had sneaked in a playful visual gag where the cat is greedily eyeing off all the fish. I thought it only fair that he got to eat his fish in the end. So below you see him washing up after his meal. (The seagulls are not amused.) In this case, I decided to do the reverse of what I had done for Goodnight, Mice! Instead of shrinking and simplifying the characters from the book, I enlarged them and made them more naturalistic in style.

Front endpapers for Thunderstorm Dancing by Katrina Germein and Judy Watson.
Rear endpapers for Thunderstorm Dancing.
This is a detail of the cat as it appears, quite small, in one of the internal illustrations.
Front endpapers for Leonard Doesn’t Dance by Frances Watts and Judy Watson
Rear endpapers for Leonard Doesn’t Dance.

The ends for Leonard Doesn’t Dance are mostly decorative, but they also set the scene for the story. I wanted them to be sumptuous, because I enjoyed making Leonard’s forest world so much. The front and back ends are continuations of the same setting, except that the moon is lower in the sky after the birds have been partying all night. The party lights can be seen in the distance.

Endpapers from Searching for Cicadas by Lesley Gibbes and Judy Watson

These ends are mostly decorative too, but they hint that in this story we will be looking closely at the forest floor. They were a delight to make, involved a lot of glorious inky mess, and they have their very own classroom activity. You can find it here.

Now we get to my latest endpapers – the ends for When You’re Older.

When I was thinking about what kind of endpapers would be best for When You’re Older, one of my ideas included origami sea creatures, and one of them included a paper crown. They looked like this.

There were a few reasons why these ideas might have been fun and effective:

• Firstly, they are bright and cheerful and the scale of the images is large, which made a nice contrast with the fine detail of much of the book.

• Secondly, they are an easy way to communicate to someone choosing a book, that the story is suitable for a young child.

• Thirdly, they help set the opening scene in the homely world of the brother who is enjoying some paper craft. The crown concept shows us a close-up of what he is doing on the title and half title pages. The origami concept gives us an example of something he might do on a different day. And it leads the reader into the theme of sea creatures that repeats throughout the story.

In the end we decided that the treasure hunting scene (below) would be best, because it is truly dreamlike, and hints that we will be entering a world of the imagination. It reflects the illustration style of the adventure part of the book; full of detailed vegetation, creatures real and imagined and with our boys painted in silhouette. But it is subtly different, in that it is rainbow hued and uses blue instead of black for the details of the ship and characters. The blue has a hazy feel and helps to suggest the dream state. The feel of the endpapers is decorative, but it is really a ‘bonus story’.

Endpapers for When You’re Older by Sofie Laguna and Judy Watson

I had a second idea for a bonus story and I hoped to have different ends front and back, telling two dream adventure tales. But it would have taken too long to complete. I hope to make the second illustration as a standalone, and if I do it will be available as a print. (It involves a giant squid, deep sea diving and more treasure!)

In my next blog post, I’ll show you some of the artwork that went into making the endpapers and suggest some classroom activities around them.

Upcoming events to celebrate When You’re Older

Wednesday 23 March to Tuesday 19 April
Colour, Line and Collage: Mixed media works in and around books.
Exhibition of original works including the patchwork paintings featured in When You’re Older. Some prints of the illustrations will also be available to order.
At Streamline Publishing and Gallery
22 Commercial Place, Eltham 3095
Open Wednesday to Saturday 11am – 4pm, Every second Sunday 1pm – 4pm.
Enter from the Town Square.
for telephone enquiries call Cathy on 0409 0887 72
or email info@streamlinepublishing.com.au
Above Eltham Bookshop

Saturday 26 March – kids’ drawing / collage workshops and signed book sales.
5-7 year olds, 10am
8-12 year olds, 1pm
Frankston Library bookings page here
60 Playne Street, Frankston
Phone 03 9784 1020

Sunday 3 April WORKSHOP 2.30pm – 5.30pm
STORYBOARDING – taking a text and moulding its shape on the page.
A book illustration workshop for adults and young adults.
This three hour workshop will be hosted by
Eltham Bookshop and held at Streamline Publishing and Gallery
22 Commercial Place, Eltham 3095 (Above the bookshop)
To coincide with the launch of When You’re Older and the exhibition
Colour, Line and Collage: Mixed media works in and around books.
I will take participants through my process: How I responded to Sofie Laguna’s text and, together with the publishing team, brought her words together with my ideas to create finished art for the book. After a short break, participants will use a sample text to create a storyboard of their own.
Entry $80 includes a signed copy of the book, light refreshments and all materials.
Bookings can be made through Eltham Bookshop
Tel: (03) 9439 8700
Email: books@elthambookshop.com.au

Musings on drawing and architecture from a non-straight-liner

From Tansy Magill by Carol Ann Martin

Some people can draw any building or interior with a sensitivity that invests it with warmth and personality. I truly admire them. For me, all those straight lines are problematic. I don’t feel any love for drawing architectural shapes, even though I love architecture itself. I prefer the outdoors and organic forms, including people and animals. The surface textures, the curved lines and the movement of figures or landscape are much easier for me to successfully express.

Most illustrated books require at least some built spaces to be drawn, and I’ve dealt with this in different ways for different book projects. Here are a few of them.

Cover design by Sandra Nobes for ABC Kids (HarperCollins). I remember getting emotional when the publisher suggested the mice could be printed with a spot varnish. I felt that being soft and velvety creatures, they shouldn’t be made hard and shiny! I get quite attached to all the characters in my books and become a bit protective. Embarrassing, but true.

In Goodnight, Mice! By Frances Watts, I made the house organic, the walls, doorways and furniture curved. I took my inspiration from straw bale homes, wattle and daub homes, and hand-crafted furniture. Using a dip pen and ink, there was little opportunity to be overly fussy. Drawing with a dip pen sometimes feels like trying to control a half wild pony that’s running away with me.

The opening scene from Goodnight, Mice! showing a very small house with an enviable chimney.
Getting ready for bed, and selecting a book from a rather quirky bookcase.
The kind of bed that inspired the mousy furniture. (The mice must have used much smaller sticks!)
Sandra Nobes also designed this cover, for Allen and Unwin.
The book has just been re-released in paperback. Hooray!

With Thunderstorm Dancing by Katrina Germein, I was happy with the small drawing I did for the back cover (below). Perhaps it worked for me because of the loose lines of the dip pen but especially because of the small size. There’s no room to fuss with a 30mm wide building. Snuggling the building into the hill and embedding it in a stormy sky helps to give it a certain ‘rightness’. It takes on the personality of its surroundings.

A small windswept beach house and matching chook shed for the back cover of Thunderstorm Dancing.

The veranda was perhaps not as successful as I would have liked, being rather stiff, but I made the focus the stormy lighting; the contrast between dark clouds and the golden late afternoon glow of the beach and figures. I added texture to soften it a little. Eep!

A lot of straight lines for a non-straight-liner! Hopefully the focus remains firmly on the atmosphere.
An interior that had to look warm and cosy, yet storm-lit. My selection
of furniture reflects again my need to put curves in wherever possible! And it is funny to me
to see how often my colour scheme is a soft, bright red and a greenish teal.
This lovely cover design is by Amanda Tarlau, for Walker Books.

My garden shed from Searching for Cicadas by Lesley Gibbes, was created in a similar way. Mostly pencil and wash, but with added texture and digital colour. (Note the soft red and greenish teal colour scheme!) My architecture leaves room for improvement, but hopefully the warmth of the characters on the page, the light, foliage and pets set the right tone. And on the next page, we happily marched off into the bushland away from human structures! Phew!

Another black cat. I have a one-eyed black foster cat climbing over my drawing board as I’m typing this
and my three-legged dog Noodle appears in the illustration, proudly flourishing four entire legs.
Off into the natural world.

I also have an unpublished project, where the my buildings again reject straight lines. Based on the trulli of the Puglia region in Italy, they have lovely domed roofs and soft curving interiors. I even stayed in a glorious trullo here, and did some research for my illustrations.

Trulli from a dummy book
Trulli homes in Ostuni, Italy.

But it was exciting to take a different approach to the house in When You’re Older by Sofie Laguna. Here I used the straight lines of the room and other man-made objects to my advantage. I accentuated them, taking inspiration from the marvellous Ezra Jack Keats and pared them back to simple blocks of colour that mimic paper collage. Now they acted as a foil to the scenes beginning on the next page, where the story moves into the imagination and benefits from a strong contrast in style.

I know you’ve seen it already, but here is the cover of When You’re Older,
designed by Sandra Nobes for Allen and Unwin. Out 1 March 2022.
Straight lines, no regrets. The opening bedroom illustration in When You’re Older.

In the bedroom at the start of the narrative, we have animals and ships on wild seas contained in frames that have been reduced to a series of rectangles with no attempt to suggest a hook or a natural hanging angle. The boy too is sitting, waiting in a rectangular room like the paintings in their frames. But the small animals dotted around the room, the houseplant and the two kinds of boat (origami and painted) have fed his prodigious imagination which breaks loose as we turn the page.

Rampant curves and movement take over the book from here. (Do I spy soft red and greenish teal?)

Here everything has broken out of its containment and we see the beginning of an undulating landscape, teeming with life and with an exaggerated forward slant like a slingshot that has just been released to propel our characters forward into the world.

I’ve used the solid graphic shapes here and there through the book, most often for man-made things like bikes, ladders, tents, and the fanciful double-ringed shape that suggests a view  through binoculars. So the contrast between rampant texture and solid graphic shapes continues. But on the pages dedicated to the immense power of nature, it is not really in evidence at all, and expressive brushstrokes set the entire scene until we return at last to our original bedroom.

Upcoming events to celebrate When You’re Older

Wednesday 23 March to Tuesday 19 April
Colour, Line and Collage: Mixed media works in and around books.
Exhibition of original works including the patchwork paintings featured in When You’re Older. Some prints of the illustrations will also be available to order.
At Streamline Publishing and Gallery
22 Commercial Place, Eltham 3095
Open Wednesday to Saturday 11am – 4pm, Every second Sunday 1pm – 4pm.
Enter from the Town Square.
Above Eltham Bookshop

Saturday 26 March – kids’ drawing / collage workshops and signed book sales.
Frankston Library
60 Playne Street, Frankston
Phone 03 9784 1020

Sunday 3 April WORKSHOP 2.30pm – 5.30pm
STORYBOARDING – taking a text and moulding its shape on the page.
A book illustration workshop for adults and young adults.
This three hour workshop will be hosted by
Eltham Bookshop and held at Streamline Publishing and Gallery
22 Commercial Place, Eltham 3095 (Above the bookshop)
To coincide with the launch of When You’re Older and the exhibition
Colour, Line and Collage: Mixed media works in and around books.
I will take participants through my process: How I responded to Sofie Laguna’s text and, together with the publishing team, brought her words together with my ideas to create finished art for the book. After a short break, participants will use a sample text to create a storyboard of their own.
Entry $80 includes a signed copy of the book, light refreshments and all materials.
Bookings can be made through Eltham Bookshop
Tel: (03) 9439 8700
Email: books@elthambookshop.com.au

Two picture books out and about in a strange new world

This year, while I’ve been lurking in my home studio during Melbourne’s lock-down, two of my picture books have been going around all over the place doing things without me.

CBCA Book Week 2020

Searching for Cicadas has given me a wonderful inside look at the CBCA awards this year, by being shortlisted for the Eve Pownall award. I was intending to get out to schools this Book Week to enjoy the buzz among teachers and students, but due to the lock-down, any school visits would have been via Zoom, and that’s a bridge too far for this phone-phobic introvert. (Although I don’t rule it out later on.)

fabulous Book Week artwork by Gwyn Perkins

But I enjoyed the Book Week buzz on line – the costumes, the amazing books, the teachers doing their thing. I loved the YouTube video presentation of awards. It featured insightful comments from school students of all ages and intimate presentations from book creators; all the more special because of their personal setting in people’s homes. Indigenous Australia—both the people and the land—had a strong and resonating voice. You can view the entire thing here. The judges’ report and a description of all the winning, honour and shortlisted books can be downloaded here. Thankyou CBCA, for the sterling work you do.

Above, Bruce Pascoe talks about Young Dark Emu, a Truer History which won the Eve Pownall Award, and about Australia, our children and the future.

White Ravens 2020

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blutenburg_Castle_in_the_West_of_Munich,_2014_(deux).JPG

A couple of weeks ago, a rather different bit of recognition came my way and I confess to feeling a bit emotional about it when I heard. Far from here, in Obermenzing in the western part of Munich, is a castle full of books. It’s called Blutenburg Castle and is the home of the Internationale Jugendbibliothek, the International Youth Library. It was founded in 1949 by Jella Lepman and it has become an internationally recognised centre for children’s and youth literature. Its central purpose is to ‘promote global children’s and youth literature of high aesthetic and literary quality and of significance for cultural literacy.’ And each year a team of experts select books from all over the world to be named White Ravens and to be presented at the Bologna Children’s Books Fair and the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Of five books from Australia to be named in 2020 The White Ravens – A Selection of International Children‘s and Youth Literature one is Leonard Doesn’t Dance! I’m deeply happy that this warm story by Frances Watts and me has received some recognition. And since Leonard is to dancing, what ravens are to singing, it brings some delightful images to mind…

The gorgeous artwork on the cover of the White Ravens catalogue is by Emma AdBåge. You can see more of her work here.

Dancing with the ravens… a scene from Leonard Doesn’t Dance.

Royal Zoological Society of NSW Whitley Awards 2020

Oh boy! What is a RZS, NSW Whitley award? It’s a celebration of all things nerdy and naturalist. That sounds like my husband. But nope. It’s a book award, this time from the Royal Zoological Society of NSW. ‘Awarded annually, the Whitley Awards are presented for outstanding publications that profile the unique wildlife of the Australasian region.’

I’m happy to say that Searching for Cicadas is a recipient of the award in the children’s story category.  You can find the full list here. The beautiful sticker features a sugar glider, who would probably eat my cicadas, but that’s a price I’m prepared to pay. Thank you Royal Zoological Society of NSW.

Curious Creatures Wild Minds (Activity)

It’s nearly, nearly Book Week 2020! Hurrah! And I love the theme this year.

Perhaps you are at school. Perhaps you are at home school. Either way, here is a game you can play with family, friends or classmates. It’s a drawing game, a writing game, (or could it be an acting game, a dancing game or something else?) and it’s based on something I have found to be true for me. Sometimes it’s easier to start with something, rather than nothing. Sometimes you need a little leg up, before you can go galloping off on your creative journey.

It’s very simple…

Step One. Download the pdf with all of the pages I have prepared for you. (Here is the pdf.) Or download the jpegs if that works better for you. (They’re at the bottom of this post in the Downloads section.)

Step Two. Chop them up and stick them into some bowls or hats or boxes. (If you are a keen scissor user, you will enjoy lots of cutting up beforehand. If you are not so keen, you could do the close-your-eyes-and-stab-with-a-pencil technique, which is similar to the pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey technique.)

Step Three. Close your eyes and pull as many or as few selections out as you want. I suggest one head, one body, a couple of personality traits and anything else you want is extra. (But free!)

How many prompts should you choose? Probably you’ll find it easier if you pick only a few prompts. If you have too many prompts you might get into a tangle. Important note: if you don’t like what you pull, chuck it back and try another one. It’s meant to be fun.

Step Four. Draw your Curious Creature and write about its Wild Mind.

Step Five. Teachers and parents are SO GOOD at thinking outside the box, so they will immediately see that this is an open-ended activity and can be used in lots of ways. For example…

  • Pair off with another person and see what happens when your two Curious Creatures meet. Write about what happens.
  • Pair off with another person and swap heads. (Not yours, silly. Just the picture.)
  • Play the Exquisite Corpse game using the word prompts or the picture prompts. If you don’t know how, read this.
  • Is your bit of writing worth re-writing into a longer story, shorter story, poem, comic strip, same story different character, play or skit?
  • Stick all the Curious Creatures up on display and choose whichever one you like to write about or draw.
  • Vote for one of them as President or Prime Minister. Talk about why you chose him or her. What personality traits might be useful for a leader?
  • Form a group and make a Great Big Very Curious Creature with lots of heads and bodies. Add wings, extra legs, tails, hair, whatever you like.
  • Make a jungle for all your Curious Creatures.
  • Which personality traits do you think best describe you? Do you know what all of them mean? (I added some of my favourite words and you might like to look them up.)
  • Think of a book character in one of your favourite books. Which personality traits might match that character? Can you write a scene that didn’t happen in the book, showing those personality traits?
  • Can a Curious Creature or a person have two personality traits that don’t seem to match? (For example: cautious and fun-loving, bossy and sensitive, fierce and warm.) Explore!

To show willing, everyone in my family had a little go at this activity last night. And here’s the proof. (One of them wasn’t very willing actually.)

The Chocolate Cat-Astrophe (A Halloween inspired story about a cat-duck at Easter.)

Sidney heard his mum calling and opened his eyes. He was feeling a little sick. He wiped the tell-tale chocolate from his bill. Probably everyone would have mistaken it for mud anyway. 

‘Coming, Mum’ he groaned, not sure his voice would carry down to the kitchen. He rolled off the bed and noticed that his furry tummy, usually a graceful 3cm off the floor, was dragging uncomfortably on the shag pile rug as he swayed towards the door. 

He opened the door and extended his head out into the corridor. His sister skipped past and grinned at him. 

‘Dinner smells great!’ she said. And scampered down the stairs. 

‘Burp’ replied Sidney, and dragged himself to the top step. His belly had rolled the lint from the carpet into a fuzzy ball under his belly button. It felt a lot like someone was poking him in the tummy. He tried to ignore it. 

‘Hope you haven’t eaten all your chocolate already, Sid.’ she called over her shoulder. ‘It’s apple pie for dessert.’ She disappeared into the kitchen.

Sidney took one step down. 

His stomach stayed on the top step. 

Sidney took a second step down. 

His stomach settled with a sigh on the landing. It refused to move. 

Cat bodies are stretchy so Sidney was able to take a third step down. His stomach countered by making a move in the opposite direction. There was an uncomfortable twisting sensation. 

‘Sid!’ called a voice from downstairs. 

‘Coming’ squeaked Sid. 

His stomach took another determined step along the corridor. Away from the stairs. Behind him he felt his back paw open the bathroom door. 

He stretched his neck downwards and took in a long, loving sniff of roast dinner. 

Then he felt a sharp jerk and his chin bumped the stairs as he was dragged upwards. One, two, three steps. 

Sidney grabbed the carpet with his claws. 

He saw a blue bathroom light glowing on his white front paws as they clung to the slowly buckling carpet. 

Then in a smooth, powerful movement like a heavy sea swell, Sidney and the carpet were pulled backwards into the bathroom. 

The door slammed shut.

Downloads

The PDF with all the pages in one document is here. (You might need a pdf reader on your computer to open and print the pages. If you don’t have a pdf reader of some kind you can download one of those free from here.)

The jpeg versions are below.

Leaf Litter Endpapers (activity)

You don’t need to own Searching for Cicadas to do this activity. But here’s what the book looks like.

It’s written by Lesley Gibbes and illustrated by Judy Watson. Published in 2019 by Walker Books Australia.

It’s about the life cycle of cicadas, but also about family and connecting with nature, and it’s set in Australia.

You can make the activity as simple or as complex as you like. It’s suitable for all ages. Take an hour, or take a week on it. Budding field naturalists may like to make a life of it.

Part One: How I illustrated the endpapers for Searching for Cicadas

These are the endpapers (or ends or end sheets) for Searching for Cicadas. They are a decorative element binding the cover of the book to the first page, but they also hint at what the book is about. Here, they are all about leaf litter and the natural world beneath our feet.

First I went outside into the garden. I took photos of the leaf litter under some trees. I gathered up samples of twigs, leaves (both green and decomposing ones), seeds, cones and feathers. I also walked into our local nature reserve and collected other samples.

I spread these samples out on my work bench, and began drawing and painting them, attempting to capture the character of the plants: the branching patterns, the blobs of lichen on the stems, the angles and curves. I had no particular method. I was just playing, and seeing what might come out of it. I knew I would be using the best bits, discarding lots, changing some up on the computer.

This collage of an acacia twig (wattle) was made with scissors, glue and some paper I had printed with a linear texture. I wanted to suggest the longitudinal nerves seen in some wattle leaves*, and to arrange the leaves on the stem in a recognisable way. *see note in Additional Information at the bottom of this post.
These are some of the twigs and leaves that I painted with ink and watercolour on cartridge paper. I was pleased with the apparent ‘movement’ on this page of twigs, as they seemed to be dancing across the space together. So I used them in their original arrangement as they had been painted. (You can see them in the endpapers, in red.)
It was important to paint the less classically graceful twigs. These broken or awkward little elements have their own beauty, and give an authenticity to the artwork that can’t be achieved if everything is too pretty.
These small leaves were painted in ink and had a simple centre vein incised into them. I changed these on the computer later, to make them multicoloured. They add a playful jewel brightness on the third layer down in the final artwork.
This was my favourite assemblage to paint and draw. It had a lot of awkward little sticks with lots of character, knobs and jutting bits. It had a couple of rosella feathers and some decomposing leaves. And it had some gum leaves with all sorts of beautiful blemishes.
This is a monotype of paint ’blobs’ – they were to suggest the shadows and holes in the soil for the bottom layer of my collage. I made several of these pages of blobs. The red and blue swishes of texture you can see in the background of the finished endpapers, were monotype prints as well.

The next part was scanning and assembling the artwork in PhotoShop. It’s not so relevant here. Except for one thing. My job was to find the music in the arrangement of pieces. They needed to fill a rectangle, but also more. They needed to dance across it using the power of their shapes, their colours and their textures.

Now it’s time for you to make stuff!

Part Two: beginning your leaf litter project

Peg out or choose a small area of your garden where nature is evident. If you don’t have any natural, growing parts in your garden, perhaps you can walk to a local park? Or can you borrow a neighbour’s bit of garden?
Take a look at your chosen space and see what’s there. You can make an artwork but you can also make a field naturalist’s study of the area! Take photos if you have a device. Or draw on the spot if the weather is good. Try to notice as much as you can from the bottom most layer to the very top. Look for tiny animals like bugs, tiny plants, leaves (old and new) shells, skeletons, feathers, seeds, nuts, flowers, holes, rocks and even little footprints! What can you find? Your area will be different from mine.

Part Three: making a leaf litter collage

Make a collection of anything you can bring indoors to study and draw. (Try not to damage your garden or park and leave living creatures where they are.)
Now you can go for your life with pencils, crayons, pastels, paint. Whatever materials you are lucky enough to have at hand. There are no rules. You are going to study and draw or paint the things in your collection. If you have a favourite leaf or shape, that you find easy to draw, do lots of that thing. You will be able to use it as the repeating element in your collage to hold the whole composition together.
Be inventive! You could paint or scribble on torn paper to represent bark. Or use bits of newspaper or something else.
Don’t forget to look at your photos too. There might be bits that you couldn’t bring indoors. I’ve made this photo very contrasty (black and white) so that you can see the music in the shapes. Can you see how the white leaf shapes are dancing across the dark background? There is a she-oke cone as well. It is a focal point in the image – something for the other shapes to dance around.
When you have painted and drawn and scribbled and torn all the bits and pieces that you like, you can begin to make your collage. You aren’t making endpapers for a book, so you can make any pattern that you like. Hooray! This is the original collage I made for the front cover of the book. I used scissors and glue, just like you. No computer was involved.

All you need is a piece of paper or cardboard to stick things on, scissors, a glue stick and whatever art materials you like. You can begin by drawing on the paper to make a background. And after that, keep adding layers until your collage feels just right.

At the end, don’t forget that a good trim can make a world of difference. Is there a bit you don’t like? Cut it off. Your collage can change shape; become smaller. YOU are the boss of your artwork. (Not Mum, Dad or a sibling. And especially not the cat.) Enjoy!

Bonus Challenge: what is that?

• See how many plants you can identify. 

• Are they local or exotic species? 

• What are some of the ways that botanists or horticulturalists identify plants?  

• How many insects or evidence of other wild animals did you spot? Can you find out about their life cycle? 

• Do you think any of the plants and animals depend on each other? (In Searching for Cicadas, we find out that the Black Prince cicada is found mostly on She-okes near a river.)

• Are there feathers? What bird do you think they came from? (use your detective skills) 

• Make a poster and draw (or glue onto it) all of the things you found. Are some of them connected to each other? (For example, does a beetle live in a rotting log? Why do you think he lives there?) What have you found out about nature in your chosen space?

Bonus Challenge: Focus on one element (as an illustrator)

Pick one creature or plant and make a special study of it. Read about it and draw it lots of times until you can do it fairly easily, without copying a photo. (This is what I had to do with cicadas.) 

I had to draw cicadas over and over again before they looked right. All those legs and wing veins! This was one of my early drawings of a cicada nymph. It is just fine as a drawing, but it didn’t fit in with the style of the book.
I had to draw more nymphs to make them look friendlier. Then I had to make them look less cartoony!
Here’s part of a final illustration. You can see some of my favourite twigs on here! And the nymph from above, in full colour and with her eye changed to make it less cartoony.

Have you mastered a plant or animal? Now make your special plant or animal into a character and write a story or comic strip about it. Hooray!

Bonus Mini-challenge: seasons

At a different time of the year, what do you think you would see in the same space? Would it be different? Make a drawing to show what you think it might look like.

Additional information

For a book that teaches children about the anatomy of a book, including endpapers, try Parsley Rabbit’s Book about Books by Frances Watts and David Legge.

For general information about endpapers, you could try this, or this blog post.

If you’re in Victoria, Australia, and you love plants, animals and the natural world, you can join the Victorian Field Naturalists Club. There are meetings and great activities for kids and adults, and you can meet people who love the same stuff! If you’re somewhere else, you can probably find a club near you. Get your hands and feet dirty!

My acacia (wattle) ‘leaves’ in the collage above are not really leaves. They are actually phyllodes. My next activity wanders into the anatomy of acacias. You can find it here, later today.

Searching for Cicadas

Searching for Cicadas by Lesley Gibbes, illustrated by me. Published by Walker Books Australia, 2019. I’m thrilled that this book has been shortlisted for the Eve Pownall award for information books, CBCA Book of the Year awards 2020.

Hello! I hope you are getting some time outdoors, even if it’s to dig around in a little bit of garden or a pot plant. Or walking around the block with your dog, or cat, or ferret. Every time I go outside and breath some outdoor air I feel so much better.

Searching for Cicadas was recently shortlisted for an award. Hooray! I have never been shortlisted for a CBCA award before so I didn’t realise I would be getting emails with interview questions. Today I had to get myself organised and answer some of them and one of the questions was:

“What are your top tips for parents who might be teaching their kids at home with this book?”

That’s a big question, and it would take me about a week to answer, so instead, I suggested an activity for kids and parents. It’s based on the endpapers for the book. (Here are the endpapers, below.)

Making the endpapers was the most fun part of illustrating ‘Searching for Cicadas’. It’s no secret that I love endpapers.

Because people might like to skip my chatting and get straight to the activity, I will upload it as a separate blog post. As soon as it is uploaded (tomorrow) I will add the link here.

You can make the activity as simple or as complex as you like. It will be suitable for all ages. Take an hour, or take a week on it. Budding field naturalists may like to make a life of it, and if they do, I send them a big hug.

I will endeavour to edit the activity as I receive feedback from teachers.

Cicada images from ‘Searching For Cicadas’

Free to download

Feel free to download these cicada drawings and use them in your home or classroom. You might like to make a bushland collage and paste cicadas onto your trees or have them flying through the air. Some need colouring, and some simply need to be printed, cut out and pasted down.

I have posted pdfs and jpeg versions of the same three pages. Use whichever format is easiest for you to download and print.

These nymph images appear in colour on various pages within the book. The eyes were modified to make the pupils less clear as I realised that nymphs that are about to shed their carapaces (or exoskeletons), are peering through a mottled pair of ‘spectacles’. When they shed their shells and emerge as fully fledged cicadas, their eyes are shiny and bright with clear pupils.
These are the drawings that became final images on one spread within the book.
These colour sketches were used to design the cover of the book and replaced with finished drawings.

To buy the book, go here, or support your local bookshop.