Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Bologna Children's Book Fair 2014

This year, Bologna Children's Book Fair was special for me. I got to experience this huge event a year ago, but it was this year that I participated in the Cambridge School of Art stand. It took a lot of time to prepare for it, which included submitting two A2 portfolio sheets, an individual A3 portfolio, three dummy books for "Mysterious Book", business cards and the online portfolio. It was an extra work on top of the MA Diploma Project, but I'm glad I pushed myself as I'll know what to expect next year. I did some volunteering in the stand too, although it wasn't so busy on Wednesday morning. On the other three days, it was full of visitors, publishers and agents.

Dummy books of 78 current and graduate CSA students (you can see mine in the first photo)

Digital printmaking discussion with our three graduate students and the course leader

Bologna Ragazzi awards 

Brazilian illustration display

Exhibition of Italian illustrator Ugo Fontana

Illustrators Exhibition (you can find the selected artists here)

Promotion wall with one of my A3 posters (made four different designs)

Meeting with celebrated picture book artist Oliver Jeffers

The new bookstore in the fair

It was exhausting to stay for all four days in the fair, but I spent some lovely time in Bologna with my course-mates and my sister, brought back some beautiful books and memories.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Mysterious Book

Here is a rather late reflection for my latest picture book project called "Mysterious Book", which I created during the first semester at Cambridge School of Art. I am posting some developmental work to illustrate my creative process.

The first half of the semester of the MA Children's Book Illustration course was dedicated to observational drawing and experimentation. I focused on the interaction of people, animals and their environment during that module as we had to choose a drawing theme. Mine was a bit too broad, but allowed me to discover new places. I challenged myself by drawing people in their environment as much as I could and this prepared me for the Sequential Image module.

I chose museum as a theme for my sequence and decided to do some research in the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences. The story is based on the interaction of museum exhibits and visitors. The inspiration for the main character of my sequence came from the observation during the first module. A girl reading a book turned into a boy, who was so immersed in his book that he climbed over the dinosaur skeletons without noticing it.

The following are some character studies for my story (family was later reduced to five members):

The story making was probably the hardest part because it was to be told entirely in pictures. This meant that the narrative had to be clear and simple as I found out with the help from tutors. My initial idea was a transformation of a quiet natural history museum into an action packed jungle, where reality mixes with imagination. It sounded exciting, but there was too much going on in twelve spreads. Consequently, I focused on making strong compositions and playing with reader's perception. The exhibits are acting as a stage but they also contribute to the drama and tension in the story. Walking over the dinosaurs doesn't make them happy! Below is my early storyboard, which included exhibits turning into creatures and chasing the boy for his mysterious book. 

After this storyboard, which was actually my second attempt, I turned to making small dummy books. I used them to work on the pace and flow of the story and how it reads with the page-turning. It was quite hard to come up with interesting compositions and angles so the sequence doesn't look static. I tried breaking it up in panels, but stayed with large double-page illustrations in the end.

The sequence didn't have to be narrative, but I love storytelling so I wanted to challenge myself and create a wordless story. This required more detailed drawing and an intriguing sequence to hold the reader's attention. I wanted to explore the landscape format and emphasize the continuous linear story. To create a dark and mysterious atmosphere of the museum, I used charcoal and created tonal drawings. I experimented with sepia at first as you can see in the observational sketch below. I tried drawing on tracing paper too, but found it too messy and decided to focus on black and white drawings on paper and worry about colour later. The end result had a sepia tone added digitally. The main character with a red hoodie contrasts with his environment, which he is not aware of until he finishes reading the book. Eventually, the family is reunited and coloured to suggest a happy end.

Here you can see more spreads from this book. The title "Mysterious Book" describes this wordless story quite well since everything in it is mysterious, the boy with a hood, his intriguing book, the museum and the fact that he was not noticed by other visitors while wearing his bright red hoodie!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse 2013

Last week, together with my sister, I visited Children's Book Fair in Montreuil. In this post, I'm sharing some photos I took on the last day of our three-day trip. The first day we spent wandering around the book stands spread over two floors of the building. It was crowded and buzzing with kids, but the range of books was fabulous.

Next day, we finally discovered the ground floor with a stunning display of illustrated superheroes observing visitors from all corners of the hall. That day was also dedicated to meeting several French publishers and showing our portfolios on scheduled meetings. It was a great first time experience for both of us.

In the evening, we attended a private view of the exhibition with student books from the European competition "A Picture Book for Tomorrow". Our collaborative book "TWO" was among the 24 projects which were selected. Below is a photo of it. The top row displayed the three winning books.

 Some of my favourites from the Superheroes exhibition:

The stands were very bright and colourful with loads of beautiful books:

You can find more pictures of the exhibition and the fair on Margarita's blog. Thanks for reading!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Gesture Drawing

I'm enjoying my vacation and having a good rest after my graduation. Here are my current thoughts about the willingness to continue studying and learning new things. I feel that there's lots of things I can improve upon. I need to come back to observation from life and master gesture drawing.

I realized the value of gesture drawing only this year, after I read Walt Stanchfield's notes on it. Everything in life has gesture to it, even still objects. Gesture expresses movement and feeling and that's why it's so important in animation. Animators capture character and emotion so well. Anatomy can aid in understanding action but gesture helps tell a story. Here are my 10 favourite bits of advice from this great Disney animator:

Draw ideas, not things; action, not poses; gestures not anatomical structures.
We learn drawing by studying parts; we practice drawing by assembling those parts into a meaningful whole.”  
Drawing is really your reaction to life—to the bits of life you are sketching. It is not merely a collection of parts being put down on paper.     
What is a pose or gesture but an orderly arrangement of body parts to display a mood, demeanor, attitude, mannerism, expression, emotion—whatever. 
A sure way to keep from making static, lifeless drawings is to think of drawing “verbs” instead of “nouns.”    

Most important to the success of a drawing is that first impression. If it is perceived wrongly, the preliminary sketch will be off and all the work put in it from then on will be a waste. 
Using a touch of story in your drawings can quicken them into life—like zapping them with a magic wand.   
Everything on the drawing is there to help stress the story. Every line drawn should help direct the eye to the theme.  
What is going to make an artist out of you is a combination of a few basic facts about the body, a few basic principles of drawing and an extensive, obsessive desire and urge to express your feelings and impressions. ”
Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. We all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better.”   

I started practising quick sketching and created a Tumblr blog for that. Last month, I visited a couple of zoos and tried sketching live animals. You can see a few examples above. It was challenging but I can't wait for my next visit to a zoo. I'm also watching online live cameras, videos, documentaries, reading books on animal drawing and analyzing animals in motion. I'm trying to carry a sketchbook whenever I can and be ready to sketch.

Nature is so rich and surprising and there's so much to learn about it. It feels like the imaginary creatures you create can actually live somewhere and are yet to be discovered. There are so many amazing species people don't know about. We are so used to seeing the same animals in picture books and animation that we don't appreciate other types of animals, those that are unusual and mysterious both in their looks and behaviour. Such an inspiration for artists!

Here's a video of the world's smallest endangered deer species - Pudu. Please enjoy!