Sunday, 29 May 2011
I've been scouring my bookshelves for copies of the Arabian Nights these last few weeks. I have various editions, for they are stories I've loved for many years, although not one of them is the complete collection "The Thousand and One Nights". Mine are all children's illustrated editions, with pictures by all sorts of wonderful artists, from Brian Wildsmith through Kay Nielsen, to Edmund Dulac (my personal favourite). Whenever I happen upon a different version in a dusty old second hand bookshop I have to have it!
Perhaps I'll post some illustrations here soon, and share with you this exotic, fragrant and magical world of stories and pictures. And music...
For the reason for this current Oriental exploration is part of my preparation for the next Children's Classical Concert with the de Havilland Philharmonic. While I've been sketching the musicians I've also been talking to conductor Robin Browning. And after years of relentless hint-dropping he has agreed to perform a piece of music that is especially dear to me. The clue is in the books. Can you guess what it is yet (as Rolf Harris used to say)...?
It's going to be an incredible concert. But I'll say no more just now. Soon, all will be fully revealed. And it's going to be very special.
Friday, 27 May 2011
I’ve been thinking for a while that I need to do more drawing, and after sketching the conductor Robin Browning a few months ago, I asked permission to return and sketch the orchestra. What was I thinking? Sketch an ORCHESTRA? There were dozens of them flapping their arms and waving bows, fiddles, oboes and trumpets around. All so very hard to draw! And I went through my usual self-critical bashing trying to decide “how” I should try to draw them; with what materials; and who am I as an artist? Then I got over myself and looked and looked and just tried different ways of capturing the lovely shapes of instruments and the concentrated players.
My determination to crack this one has become something of a little goal to aim for. For years I’ve been illustrating and trying to produce “perfect” or at least accomplished images that will be printed, preserved and published. The freedom of a sketchbook is wonderfully liberating. I just need to “let go” and enjoy the ride. Enjoy the mistakes. Be brave.
And what a wonderful environment to sit and sketch in, listening to Beethoven, Strauss, wallowing in the sounds and learning so much about the structure and nature of the works as they are taken apart and put back together again. It WAS hard work, but I loved it. Here are just a few of the sketches. Eventually I would like to work up to larger more expressive pieces. But we will see how it goes.
The concert is going to be fabulous and I’m especially looking forward to hearing the truly great pianist John Lill CBE in the “Emperor” concerto by Beethoven. Lill played at the very first Classical concert I ever went to, in 1982 at the Royal Albert Hall. I was 17 and I loved the whole thing. He played Grieg’s piano concerto and I’ve always remembered it. If you are local, then why not come along? CLICK HERE FOR A LINK.
Thursday, 26 May 2011
This is a picture of Mozart as a child. Salzburg can be glimpsed through the open window, and birds gather as he plays his music - perhaps inspiring the character of Papageno in The magic Flute. These were my ideas when developing this image which is for a Naxos Classical CD called "My First Mozart Album". I've just posted it off to Naxos and fingers crossed they like it! The big blank space is where the text will go.
Remaining in a musical mood, I'm off to sketch my friendly orchestra, the de Havilland Philharmonic, tonight. Unless they are all dreadful I may post a few on here for you to see...
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
A shark's eye! Here it is for all to see. I've had rather a lot of requests for a good close up of this antique curio. So here it is: the lens from the eye of a shark, caught by my grandfather Henry Leighton in the 1930s around Cocos Island in the Pacific Ocean.
It's a remarkable story and I am going to have to think carefully about how it could be used in a book. It's too good to just let go of. I've tried before... but become over-critical. So when I get some spare time...
It's rather appropriate, perhaps, that I told and illustrated this story in Scotland a few weeks ago. The legend of Benito Bonito is thought to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island!
Friday, 20 May 2011
On my way to Glasgow for the Authors Live event, Sarah from Orchard told me the hair raising tale of how they secured copies of "Katie in Scotland" in time. Publication had been scheduled for August, but with the BBC in Scotland and Scottish Book Trust inviting me to speak on camera, Orchard Books decided to do something pretty unusual, and reschedule the book. So Publication day was brought forward to one week before the Meet Our Authors event. Sounds sensible... except the books are printed in China and sent by ship. A few days before the big day, Sarah phoned the Scottish Book Trust who said "they were having trouble getting copies". She then discovered there was NO stock even in the warehouse of the distributor... Even I had noticed that Amazon said the title was not released, even though it was after the new publication date. It all made sense... in a bad way. So Sarah phoned the publisher in China who confirmed the books were mid-ocean on a cargo ship. They arranged to have the ship intercepted and a crate or two lifted off and sent top speed by air!
This all fitted rather well with the pirate story I told in Glasgow. I practised the picture many times as you can see in the photo!
Meanwhile, the next Katie book is well under way. CLICK HERE to see progress being made!
Friday, 13 May 2011
I’m often mindful that I do most of my work quietly on my own in the stillness and calm of my studio. Having to speak publicly in schools at festivals and conferences requires a lot of work and planning and can be quite intimidating. And I’ve never been made more aware of this than yesterday when broadcasting to over 20,000 children for the The Authors Live event from the BBC in Glasgow, arranged by the Scottish Book Trust! But WOW! What an incredible experience... utterly unforgettable! All the people who supported me – from Sarah (Hachette Children’s Books) to all the Scottish Book Trust people and presenter Janice Forsyth and all the BBC people – made everything as easy as possible. My thanks to them all – I’m so very grateful!
I must also mention the school - the children were a wonderful bunch! Thanks for coming and making the day so special...
I was so excited to be there, and truly very honoured to be added to the extraordinarily illustrious list, which includes Michael Rosen, Julia Donaldson, Michael Morpurgo, Charlie Higson, Jacqueline Wilson and Eoin Colfer. Indeed when first invited my immediate reaction was: Why me? surely they've made a mistake!
Most of all, I was really proud to be the very first illustrator to be asked to take part.
The Authors Live programme is a wonderful scheme broadcasting events with Children’s Authors to children in far flung schools who might otherwise miss out. Of course any school can join in the fun – and many others did so, including lots of schools that I’ve recently visited.
The set up was an open space in the enormous new glass building which is the home of BBC Scotland in Glasgow. It was agreeably low-key and much less formal than my fearful mind had anticipated. As usual everyone in Scotland was incredibly warm and friendly and put me as much at ease as is humanly possible.
Here are some pictures to give you an idea of how it was all looked. There were a few hitches. Something exploded on the technician’s equipment; a motorway accident delayed the Book Trust people; the event was 30 minutes not the 40 I’d expected. But all came right in the end (I think) and despite a few garbled sentences I don’t think I disgraced myself too badly.
You can now watch the event - wherever you are in the world - on the SCOTTISH BOOK TRUST website. Just CLICK HERE!
I can’t bring myself to watch it just yet. Perhaps it’s best not to dissect everything and worry. It was a big deal to me and I gave it my best shot. But for now… it’s back to the stillness and calm of the next book.
Tuesday, 10 May 2011
Well, I'll be taking a train from Euston really. Bags are packed, shoes are cleaned, and off I go to Glasgow for the AUTHORS LIVE EVENT at the BBC. I'm incredibly excited. Or is that nerves? I'll tell you all about it when I get back. Wish me luck!
Monday, 9 May 2011
Please can I share some wonderful pictures with you? Illustrator Clara Vulliamy has been working hard on thumbnail sketches for our new collaboration. I thought you'd like to see them, so why not visit Bubble & Squeak's very own website? The sketches are fabulous and this book is going to be very special I'm sure!
BUBBLE & SQUEAK
Thursday, 5 May 2011
In advance of the AUTHORS LIVE EVENT in Glasgow, now just a nail-biting week away, the latest Katie book, number 11 in the series, is published today! KATIE IN SCOTLAND is a celebration of the things I love about Scotland, with Katie, her brother Jack and - for once - even Grandma having the holiday of a lifetime when Scotland's most elusive citizen reveals herself and joins them on their travels. It shouldn't be too hard to guess who that is - here she is in the picture. You can see she's very pleased to have her own copy of the book to read!
There's still time to register for the live internet session next week. So if you are a school or an individual in the UK follow the links here and join in the fun as I tell stories, paint upside down pictures and celebrate stories and art!
SCOTTISH BOOK TRUST
- ► 2012 (56)
- ▼ May (9)
- ► 2010 (35)