Tag Archives: Ann James

Bear’s campfire story

Here’s Bear with Boy.

Bear and Boy came about when I was working on the Share A Story poster with the team from the Australian Children’s Laureate.

bear campfire temp

Ann James and I were initially scribbling away at the same time, tossing ideas around for ways to illustrate themes like ‘grow a story’, ‘hunt a story’, ‘hear a story’. We had few preconceived ideas about how we were going to make the poster concept work and we were playing for all we were worth. During this process I drew Bear and Boy, which I later coloured, because I liked the sketch, but I didn’t bother finishing it off perfectly.

But I was primarily the designer for this job, and it quickly became obvious that for the sake of visual cohesion, Ann’s illustrations would look better throughout; not mixed with some of mine. I moved to the computer and started colouring and experimenting with pattern, until we found something that was starting to work. Justine Alltimes and Ann Haddon provided invaluable insight and art direction.

Asking Ann to produce all sorts of obscure drawings on demand was like popping coins into the Best-Ever-Slot-Machine, and watching exciting and unexpected treats pop out. At speed. So much fun!

While from Ann’s point of view, it was fun to watch her drawings merge with colour and pattern and start to form a composition on the poster.

Ann James' Red Riding Hood and friend wolf (with mysterious dark figure looming behind!)

Ann James’ Red Riding Hood and Friend Wolf (with mysterious dark figure looming behind!) © Ann James 2015

Add classic vintage Australian Stamps

Add classic vintage Australian Stamps

Merge using a bit of digital magic along with some V&A pattern.

Merge using a bit of digital magic along with a V&A pattern in the background. Voila!

Being a fan of blobs, I liked the original inky halo around Mr Wolf. But the consensus was that there was not enough contrast to identify his shape against the background patterning, so he had to have a digital bath… or perhaps shave.

If you’d like to download the Share A Story free poster-calendar, conceived by Laureate Jackie French and illustrated by Ann James, go here. It is a great, open-ended way to engage your children with stories.

Share a Story poster final art web

Federation Square drawing and chatting tomorrow (13th June)

I might see you at Federation Square, if you are Melbourne based. Please say hi, if you are in the area. I’d love to see you.

I’m bringing a small number of limited edition prints to sell at the book stall along with signed books.

Below are some prints from the actual book, that will be for sale. And following them you’ll see some altered book prints which show the inspiration for the medium that was used in the book. But they also show the difference between the artificially created cream and the natural vintage book parchment.

My chance to sing lores JudyWatsonArt Ready Set Go lores JudyWatsonArt Thunder imprint page boat lores JudyWatsonArt Thunder opening spread seascape lores JudyWatsonArt

The parchment is naturally a much dirtier colour… which appeals to my inky nature, but the Allen & Unwin book designer Sandra Nobes very rightly recommended a clean cream for the book itself, and this is where PhotoShop was my ally. Thanks Sandra and PhotoShop.

tabby kitten lores JudyWatsonArt Cornish library tick cat lores JudyWatsonArt

Book Signing Phobia

Here’s a lesser known part of the job of being a drawing machine. When we sign books for people, it  is a nice thing for them if the signature comes with a little doodle, drawn for them, right before their very own eyes. And it’s nice to be able to do that for them. It makes us happy too. If it works.

But the inscription is done in pen and can’t be rubbed out or corrected.

And when we draw during the usual course of our day, we usually do many drafts of any illustration before we get it right.

And if we mess up our inscription doodle we have the problem of either sending a deplorable doodle out into the world defacing the otherwise pristine title page of a newly purchased book, or replacing the book with a new one… which we might also mess up.

Now remember that some of us are very temperamental drawing machines, the kind whose engines won’t start unless the key is turned in just the right particular way, may never run very well on a Tuesday, and if the oil runs low we are likely to smoke. You will now realise that the aforementioned anxieties at the back of our minds can cause a little fumble in the fingers; a wobble in the wrist; a twitch in the felt-tip… and then…

Doom!

That is why I am practising my book signatures today.

With Best Fishes

With Best Fishes – practising my book signing today and this is page four. Ahem. 

I have spoken to illustrators who say they won’t do it any more. They will write anything but won’t draw. (And I’m not even going to discuss the issue of spelling difficult names correctly… or easy names for that matter.)

I have spoken to illustrators who say ‘it’s important to make the mark.’

I have watched with awe, some illustrators who sign and doodle with ease.

I have watched with awe, one illustrator who was CLEVER enough to get a rubber stamp made up in advance! (Yes, OtherJude, that was very clever!)

And I have used my bookmark giveaways to circumvent this problem with some success. (It’s much less stressful to draw on a bookmark, than a $25 book.)

photo 1

Anyway, see you at the next book signing!

I’m ready.

I think.

Enjoy your bookmark!

Enjoy your bookmark!

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.

Japanese ceramics in a baroque Italian city

Here’s a wee snippet of my trip before I forget everything!

Unexpected sunshine in Bologna was followed with unexpected cold in souther Italy. Francesco, David, Ann and me.

Unexpected sunshine in Bologna was followed by unexpected cold in southern Italy. Francesco, David, Ann and me.

Francesco - one of our gracious guides in Puglia. Guaranteed to be able to chat to anyone and get you in to see treasures.

Francesco – one of our gracious guides in Puglia. Guaranteed to be able to chat to anyone and get you in to see treasures.

One of the cities we visited in Puglia was the baroque city of Lecce, which features roman ruins and plenty of over-the-top baroque architecture, as well as some hidden artists’ studios, which you may be lucky enough to visit if you have a local tour guide to introduce you.

On our way in to Lecce, we noticed some colourful ceramic fish set to ‘fly’ above the doorway of a little studio on a corner. The door was closed and locked, the interior dim. But when we knocked and waited a few minutes, what treasures were revealed to us!

This cosy and crowded cavern is the studio of a Japanese ceramics artist Nagase Hiroko, who moved to Italy with her husband many years earlier. She speaks Italian, English, Japanese and is currently studying Chinese at night school. She is lively, loquacious and clearly has a love of knowledge and human interaction.

Hiroko alone

Hiroko wraps treasures for us

Hiroko wraps treasures adn chats

Crowded quarters as Ann Haddon and Ann James talk with Hiroko. David (right) takes up a lot of vertical space but not much horizontal space thankfully :-)

I wish I had taken more photos, but I was afraid both of being rude and of knocking things from shelves, laden as I was with backpack and bag. There were five of us visiting and the space was narrow.

spotty ceramic birds

spotty birds, sugar bowls, little heads, in bloomsbury colours. (I feel certain Vanessa Bell would have loved them.)

Nagase Hiroko

Hiroko kept up a constant stream of delightful conversation, some in Italian (with Fran) and some in English for us. Here she is looking for a particular treasure to show us.

I bought several small items as souvenir gifts for friends, but the one thing I wanted to buy for myself was this bird (below) with a blue head and splashy pink back. I was by no means certain it could survive a trip home in a packed suitcase, but the choice was not mine to make. Hiroko would not part with it. She loved it and did not think she could replicate it, due to the the inconsistencies of the making, firing and glazing processes. She has never managed to get those particular shades of colour again, or make the beak just right. Each piece is fired four times, first to bake the clay and then to get different glazes to do different things. I really respect her for this refusal to sell. She said she has sold some of her favourite things in the past and has always regretted it.

my favourite bird

The bird I wanted (rear). Too precious for the artist to part with. On the shelf below are little owls that hoot charmingly when you blow into them. 

If you wish to see Hiroko’s studio while visiting southern Italy, or to contact her, here are her details.

Nagase Hiroko ceramics- frontNagase Hiroko ceramics- backLater I’ll post photos of the papier mâché artist’s studio that we visited on the way out!

Share a Story

Do you have a child? Share some stories together in 2015!

In fact… you don’t need to have a child. Who says this couldn’t be an aid to writers of any age?

The poster I worked on with Ann James and Justine Alltimes is finished and up on-line for you to download. This is the major project of Australian Children’s Laureate and Senior Australian of the Year Jackie French. I think it’s a great project and will work really well for teachers, librarians and families. It’s open-ended and inspiring.

Share a Story poster final art web

Concept by Jackie French, illustrations by Ann James, design by Judy Watson

As with any poster design, the challenge is for everyone to whittle the information down to a minimum so that the poster can have maximum impact. In this case, the poster is a calendar, so we had to include at least 12 different chunks of information, and of course there was much more as well.

So half way through the design process, I had to delete lots of little birds from the margins for the sake of the poster. I loved Ann’s little watercolour birds so much that I had sneaked them in all over the place, having conversations about this and that; chipping (or chirping) in with their suggestions. Follow a story, hatch a story, feed a story, dream a story… and so on. (I’d love to see how many variations kids could come up with on that theme.)

Some of the birds who flew off the poster. All by Ann James.

Some of Ann’s little birds who flew off the poster.

The illustrations were all done by Ann, and fiddled about by me. We used patterns from the V&A pattern book series, which we were only able to use because this is a not-for-profit project.

from the V&A pattern books © Victoria and Albert Museum. Cannot be used except for personal or non-profit projects.

from the V&A pattern books © Victoria and Albert Museum. Cannot be used except for personal or non-profit projects.

So this page of delicious doodles by Ann,

Ann's delightful doodles

Ann’s delicious doodles – trying out both brush and pencil. We weren’t sure what we would use at first.

Became this.

dirigible - new 1 1

Then this.dirigible - new 2Then this.

dirigible red

Scrumptious red dirigible with inky sky blob. Check out Ann’s pencil work.

Then this, because there was too much red down the right hand side of the poster.

dirigible blue

Although several people so far have mistaken this dirigible for a submarine, it is a magnificent machine either way and it doesn’t matter in the least which it is, for the purposes of NAVIGATING A STORY. Yaay!

Some people may notice a lingering love of Thunderstorm Red and Thunderstorm Blue…

 

 

The writing/drawing process July 2014

At the start of the school holidays, I was invited by artist Rosalie Street to participate in a blog tour… which means answering some questions (below) and getting some other people to do the same next.

Here is Rosalie’s interview response. A visit to her blog to enjoy her lush canvases and delightful merchandise is well worth your while.

gold leaf by Rosalie Street

Gold Leaf – by Rosalie Street

The blog tour topic is The Writing/ Drawing Process. Since as yet, I have found little time to work on my writing projects and instead have been madly drawing, I’ll answer the questions in the context of my artwork.

The first bit (the questions)

1. What am I working on ?

Thunderstorm Dancing, a picture book by Katrina Germein

At the moment I am in the late stages of final art for a picture book by Katrina Germein to be published by Allen & Unwin. The book is called Thunderstorm Dancing and it has been over two years since I first starting mulling over the project.

As soon as I read the manuscript, I thought it would be both a great text and a very difficult text to illustrate. It has indeed proven difficult for me, but I also realise that I suffered from the internal pressure that comes from winning an award; this will be the first of my work to be published since that award and my inner self told me very sternly that it will have to be good. But I now move towards the completion of the book and I’m looking forward to seeing it in print.

An unused sketch for 'Thunderstorm Dancing'

An unused sketch for ‘Thunderstorm Dancing’

There have been many sketches made for this book. A decision on medium was elusive for a while. But it came along in the end, and I’ve really enjoyed the layering and scratching in PhotoShop combined with the earthy texture of the real paint and pencil on Litho paper.

A small fragment of one final illustration from Thunderstorm Dancing

A small fragment of one final illustration from Thunderstorm Dancing

Altered book art

Last year, while struggling to progress with the picture book, I almost accidentally began sketching in old books as a form of relaxation. I say almost accidentally, because I have admired altered book art and found poetry for quite some time, and had always intended to try it. But starting was not a deliberate step into something new. It was a gentle bit of play, while watching my children in their swimming lessons.

drybrush sketches in the bombing zone of the local swimming pool. Ink on vintage book page.

drybrush sketches in the bombing zone of the local swimming pool. Ink on vintage book page.

I began sketching them and other children. And I really loved the effect of the drawn image on the printed page. It also helped me with Thunderstorm Dancing, because I had decided early on that the family in the story would be at a beach house, and the main characters all in swimming cosies.

Altered book art continues to be one of my favourite activities, and I intend to do much more of it, and to explore new ways of using it in art projects.

52 Week Illustration Challenge

The 52 Week Illustration Challenge, dreamed up by Tania McCartney, was something I joined early this year. It requires participants to produce artwork to a given theme that changes each Wednesday, and then post them on the 52 Week Illustration Challenge FaceBook page.

Week 14: simplicity. This was a really enjoyable experiment with ink and watercolour

52 Week Illustration Challenge: Week 14: simplicity.
This was a really enjoyable experiment with ink and watercolour

One of the things I loved about it was that the community of people involved were from varied backgrounds and were supportive and kind to one another. Since early this year the group has grown to over 2000 members, many being expert practising artists and the standard of work has I think, sadly frightened many of the less skilled artists away, but the mood of generosity remains. And it is surprisingly good to have a theme to work to each week… often themes that I find very unappealing until they lead me off into some fun experimentation.

I have deliberately kept this challenge as a low-profile task for myself. I never spend long on anything I do for The Challenge and never worry too much if the work is imperfect or not my best. This, along with blogging imperfect work, has been a really healthy learning experience, and a great way to keep producing lots of other work and exploring as an artist, as well as doing my book project.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ Puppet Challenge

This is an on-line exhibition organised and curated by Clive Hick-Jenkins along with Peter Slight. I’ve not done so well with this one. In contrast to the other challenge, I have allowed this to become larger than life and daunting. I also failed to come to a decision over subject and medium, although my lightbulb moment came today in the shower (they often do happen there) when I may be too late to make it. So I’m not sure if that counts as something I’m working on or not…

Appropriately perplexed looking sketch of Greyfur the kangaroo who was my original subject matter for the puppet challenge

Appropriately perplexed looking sketch of Greyfur the kangaroo who was my original subject matter for the puppet challenge

Graphic design work

Periodically I take up graphic design work if it is not too time consuming. I enjoy this work very much, but too often lately I have had to decline offers of work due to the unfinished book and lack of time. Some of my favourite work is with the Australian Children’s Laureate support team who produce various publications and branding items every now and then. In this context I enjoy using other artists’ work and modifying it to use as part of a design. Ann James drew the magpie who became the Australian Children’s Laureate logo and I have used him in lots of ways.

The Australian Children's Laureate logo in one of its formats

The Australian Children’s Laureate logo in one of its formats

School children from around Australia made artwork that I used in silhouette for the pitch for Boori Monty Pryor’s Storykeepers documentary.

storykeeprs sample page storykeeprs sample page2 storykeeprs sample page3

Family life

This project of course doesn’t belong down the bottom here. It’s a very big part of my life – too big to summarise here. So I’ll simply say that I keep myself busy with two much loved youngsters Arthur and Hugo, husband Scott, the dog Dexter and chickens Hilda, Emily, Poppy, Storm, Stella and Vita.

Vita - Queen of the Backyard

Vita – Queen of the Backyard

My own writing projects

This gets a wee mention at the bottom. In fact there are several projects I’m very keen to get on to, that are waiting in line for me to find a bit of space and time. I look forward to launching into them.

2. How does my work differ from others of this genre/ style?

Watch this space

3. Why do I draw/ paint what I do ?

Watch this space too

4. How does my drawing process work ?

Hmmmm…

I have taken waaaay too long answering the first question, so I’m going to split this up and post my answer to the other questions later. Cheerio for now!