Welcome

My Photo
Hello - welcome to my blog about children's book illustration, poetry, animals and way too many other things. I’m an artist in Tasmania, Australia. I recently illustrated 'The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land' by Anne Morgan, and two picture books about traditional life in Sudan (see left). If you'd like to see more, please use the links to my folio page and my profile at The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, or email me at silvergumstudio@yahoo.com.au. Thank you!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Of children's book festivals, Vikings and research vessels


Books in a jar at the launch
Yesterday was the pre-launch of the upcoming Book An Adventure Bruny Island Children's Literature Festival.  The festival will be a fabulous event on Bruny from January 15-18, featuring Viking activities and a Viking longship, workshops with popular Australian authors and illustrators, and a swag of events around the themes of reading and writing for fun and adventure (read Hobart Mercury article here).  I'll be there as a general gofer and illustration workshop assistant.
Norman Jorgensen Skypes us


At the launch yesterday, young Vikings from the Bruny Island primary school arrived (literally to screams of excitement from younger members of the crowd) and entertained us with a great call-and-response performance.  There are some lovely photos of this on the Festival's Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/bookanadventure.  We also had a Skype hook-up with the Norse god Thor, also known as Norman Jorgensen, author of 'The Last Viking'.  Norman fielded questions about his books in characteristic style.  One student asked, 'How did you become an illustrator?'  'Me?' retorted Norman. 'I can't draw to save my life.  I draw stick figures and James Foley turns them into proper illustrations.  He's doing a book without me now.  I hate him.'  After this we had a ukelele singalong about dragons, Lian Tanner declared the festival open, and there was time to eat food and admire the exhibition of illustrations and books in a jar.  I don't know who made these but I thought they were great.



The festival is now open for bookings via its website.  It's very cheap to attend but be quick - space is limited, and beautiful Bruny Island fills up quickly in summer.

Still on the topic of seafaring, I rejoiced this week to learn that the new CSIRO research vessel Investigator has finally earned her stripes and received a nickname.  All Antarctic and oceanographic research vessels in Hobart have nicknames, bestowed by those who use and love them.  L'Astrolabe is GastroLab.  The old Ice Bird was called Ice Bucket.  Aurora Australis, thanks to her striking colour, is the Orange Roughy.  Now Investigator joins these proud ranks.

She's the Procrastinator, and may God bless all who sail in her.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Being watched by animals

I like watching animals.  Apart from spiders, they're soothing.  In 'The Way of All Flesh', Samuel Butler cures his hero Ernest of nervous prostration by sending him to the zoo to be dosed with 'a course of the larger mammals'.  I feel this really could work.  I once watched seals through an underwater theatre for an hour, and came out feeling like I'd spent a week at a Zen retreat.

But do animals get a kick out of watching us?

While doing yoga in the lounge room I happened to glance out the window.  There, frozen in astonishment on a branch, crouched a possum.  It stared at me with deep concern as I assumed the Warrior Two position.  Perhaps it was just hoping for some cereal or sausages. But what about the ibis that followed me round a Sydney park, peering over my shoulder while I wrote a personal letter?  I started to feel nervously that it really could read.

My best experience of being bird-watched was in the Cook Islands.  I was on a cross-island hike when the rare Rarotongan fly-catcher started chasing me from tree to tree along the trail.  I knew it was the rare Rarotongan fly-catcher because I'd just seen a picture of it on a tea-towel in a tourist shop.  I called my partner over and told him, 'Look, there's the rare Rarotongan fly-catcher.'  
'That?!' he snorted. 'That's just someone's pet canary.  It's obviously tame.'  The RRFC does look like a canary when young.  Its strange habit of human-watching may explain its rarity. 

Actually it's a good thing animals like to watch us.  Nobody has to feel boring as long as they've got a dog.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Inside Story in Hobart report

Heather Rose and Danielle Wood
Rachel Tribout and Daniel Patman
Coral Tulloch



Julie Hunt and me
Lindsey Little and twin Lauren (R, or is it L?)
Anne Morgan













‘Inside Story’ at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart (Oct 30th)  kicked off with a flamboyant de-wigging by glamorous author Angelica Banks.  Angelica’s twin alter egos, Heather Rose and Danielle Wood, impersonated their fictional writer Serendipity Smith, peeling off outer disguises to reveal the hardworking mothers underneath.  Next, Captain Blueberry – sometimes mistaken for author/illustrator Rachel Tribout – took us on a voyage of discovery with the Monsters of Tasmania.  And there were gasps as Coral Tulloch produced the 30-year-old dummy that inspired her recent book, The Journey.  That's a book dummy, not the other sort! I told the audience about an African campfire where you can always go to meet a little Girl in Sudan.

Alison Lester
Inside Story at Fullers Bookshop
Lindsey Little was expected to say a few words about her first novel James Munkers: Super Freak, but instead two eerily similar Guardians from another dimension materialised to tell the caustic truth about poor James.  Anne Morgan told us how to fight climate change by listening to chickens and marrying the princess with the Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land.  And as if all that wasn’t enough, North Island of Australia escapee Alison Lester revealed where she got the idea for Kissed by the Moon, leaving the audience in no doubt that inspiration can be found in the humblest of places.  The happy crowd ate food inspired by the books, won lucky door prizes and bought books.  The authors and illustrators had a love-in and we all went home wrapped in the glow that is SCBWI.  Many thanks to Fullers Bookshop for hosting Inside Story in Hobart – we can’t wait for next time!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Join us for Inside Story at Fullers on Thursday, 30th October

Please join us at Fullers Bookshop, Hobart on Thursday, 30th October at 5.30 pm for INSIDE STORY, where children's book authors and illustrators talk about the stories behind their books.

Coral Tulloch, Alison Lester, Angelica Banks (aka Danielle Wood and Heather Rose), Anne Morgan, Lindsey Little, Rachel Tribout and I will share stories about our latest books.  There'll be lucky door prizes ... food from the books ... people in costume ... and audience participation to create a story of our own using elements from all the books.  I can't wait to see what happens.

Inside Story is an activity of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and will take place in cities around Australia around the 1st of November, so if you're not in Hobart, there may still be an Inside Story near you.  Check the website for events here:
https://australiaeastnz.scbwi.org/events/


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

At last, a reality TV show worth watching

I confess!  I've become hooked on a reality TV show - the fabulous Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year.  So far, I've seen two episodes on Foxtel - the London and Glasgow portrait painting heats - and I can't get enough.  In each episode, a group of artists is selected after sending in self-portraits, and brought together in a 'portrait festival' in a UK city.  Three high-profile mystery sitters show up and are posed by the judges, whereupon the artists have four hours to complete a portrait.  The sitters are then allowed to choose a favourite portrait to take home, and the judges select a winner.  The public flock in to watch, and there are various side activities including caricatures, silhouette portraits and workshops.
This is not your average reality TV series.  Given that the Sky website has already posted the winner, there's not a lot of suspense.  Nor do you have to watch any souped-up-for-our-viewers emotional revelations, shock expulsions, long pauses by judges during which finalists squirm and tremble, or terrible makeovers to make the contestants more acceptable.   Instead you get real, solid artwork being created in front of you by real, solid, skilled artists of all ages, backgrounds and levels of experience.  The different approaches and levels of finish achieved by the different contestants in four hours are breathtaking.  The photos on the website don't do justice to the excellence of most of the works, so it is much better to watch the show than to merely browse the gallery.  Well done to the makers of this series - I salute you.
I do miss 'portrait day' at art school.  I try to do portraits during life drawing sessions, but you don't get long, and often the model's back is turned.  This is a compendium of some of my sitters over the years.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Illustrator meetings are back to TUESDAY mornings

A quick post to say that by popular demand, illustrator meetings in Hobart are now back to Tuesday mornings, 9.30 am, every week at Frankies Empire, 129 Elizabeth St.  There might be lots of us there ... or only one.  We might stay 30 minutes or two hours! For illustrators, comic book artists, animators, and anyone in allied fields.  Hope to see you there.

The picture is one I did this week for an upcoming SCBWI children's book event, Inside Story, to be held at Fullers in Hobart on 30th October - more details coming soon.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Wilderness Society’s 2014 Environment Award for Children’s Literature

Planets are like porridge.  From The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land
Holy solar panel, Batman ... we won!
Anne Morgan's book, The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land and other eco-tales, illustrated by yours truly and published by Interactive Publications (IP Kidz), has won the Wilderness Society's 2014 Environment Award for Children's Literature, Young Readers category!  We tied with Bush Baby Rescue: Juliet Nearly a Vet Book 4 (Rebecca Johnson, illus by Kyla May, Puffin).  In the Picture Book category, the winner was Welcome Home by fellow Tasmanian Christina Booth (published by Ford Street). 
Anne was at the awards to pick up a big bouquet and our certificates, and will be over tomorrow to present mine in a mini-ceremony in my kitchen. Our local SCBWI members are very excited, bless them (https://www.facebook.com/scbwianz/posts/712008102212216) and there is an article in Books and Publishing about the awards.  Congratulations to the other winners and shortlisters, and a big thank you to the Wilderness Society for recognising our book and celebrating children's literature.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Chasing atmospheric phenomena

Hobart's sky lights up in a recent sunset.
Since childhood, I've nursed a burning ambition to be completely idle.  That's right, I want to do nothing whatsoever except lie on the lawn in the sun with the dog, staring at the undersides of nasturtiums and the unfolding drama of the sky.  Tragically, this ambition remains unfulfilled owing to other competing ambitions such as being an artist/writer/scientist, eating, living in a house, etc.  But as old age approaches I realise there's still time.  Meanwhile, I content myself with staring at clouds for at least ten minutes a day.

I thought I was alone in this form of woolgathering until I happened upon a marvellous little publication called 'The Cloud Collector's Handbook' by Gavin Pretor-Pinney.  This pocket-sized book is the official publication of the Cloud Appreciation Society, whose membership numbers nearly 36,000.  That's right, these folks love to watch clouds and they make no apology for it. I love this book as an artistic resource, since clouds offer so many possibilities for adding drama to a painting - after all, where would a haunted house painting be without a lurid mackerel sky? or a kite-flying scene without some fluffy cumulus? - but it's also endowed me with a new ambition, to see the fabulous Kelvin-Helmholtz wave cloud formation, not to mention the Brocken spectre (buy the book!)
Coincidentally, I recently attended art classes with Margaret Sonnemann, author of the gorgeous, locally produced Aurora Chaser's Handbook.  The aurora chasers are a group of fellow Tasmanians who spend their nights out gazing at the skies and taking extraordinary photos of our aurora australis.  So much to do, so little time!

The pie below features a cumulonimbus topping.  It may be time to do a little baking...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fire Engine Green


This week I've been working on a picture to promote Castlemaine author Toni Pellas' picture book, 'Fire Engine Green'.  Toni plans to do a crowdfunding campaign to produce this book, which explains red-green colourblindness to children, parents and teachers.  Although this form of colour vision is quite common, little attempt is made to accommodate it in the design of textbooks, software, websites, traffic signals and other vital resources - often leaving a sizeable chunk of the population disadvantaged.

Toni and I bounced ideas back and forth to find an idea that would represent the theme of the book and  be accessible to all forms of colour vision.  In the book's title scene Bartholomew, the hero, enthusiastically paints a green fire engine.  We wanted to use this scene, and Toni asked me to make the fire engine the actual colour that Bartholomew would see.  Toni went shopping with her son Rob, who inspired the book, to select a tone of green paint that he saw as similar to fire engine red.  Then she painted the fire engine.  It looked so great I used her painting in the picture.  To add a bit of fun and confusion, I put in a matching paint jar with only the letters RE left unobscured - red or green?

I checked the picture for tonal values and also ran it through a simulator to see how it would look to people with protanopia or deuteranopia (forms of red-green colourblindness).  I had to fiddle with the colours in Photoshop several times to create something that read clearly in all versions.

There is no cat mentioned in the book but I thought it would be nice to add one - NOT a ginger cat but a bluey white one that would
How the picture looks on black and white TV
look colourful to all types of vision. This has been a brain teaser but a lot of fun.  Toni has started a Facebook page about the project and is putting her own brainpower into networking and generating interest.
How the picture looks to someone with protanopia
How the banner looks to someone with deuteranopia