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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've just illustrated 'The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land' by Anne Morgan, and am now illustrating two picture books about traditional life in Sudan. If you'd like to see more, please use the links to my folio page and profile at The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, or email me at silvergumstudio@yahoo.com.au. Thank you!

Monday, March 24, 2014

By firelight

One of the challenges of the 'Girl in Sudan' book has been to paint several scenes by firelight - something I've never attempted.  This scene is at a distance, but I need to do a border design closer up showing firelit people with long shadows and a firelit village.  Perhaps some of those lovely chiaroscuro paintings by Rembrandt and Caravaggio will give me clues.  Coincidentally last week's Illustration Friday theme was 'spark'  - unfortunately, I missed it, but I plan to go and check other people's pictures.

For this dancing scene, I've just used some silhouettes and suggested a firelit ground, but perhaps I need some shadows here, too.  But there must be room for the text on the left!  These and other problems.

Illustrator meetings are now on Thursday mornings

Just a quick post to say that our drop-in meetings of illustrators, animators and cartoonists are now on Thursday mornings at 9.30 am, Frankies Empire, 129 Elizabeth St, Hobart.  All welcome!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

I've just picked a few kilos of tomatoes from the garden - coincidentally, while waiting for this painting to dry.  Of course, it's for 'When I was a girl in Sudan' - the main character is the girl in the centre.  They are growing bananas, okra, pumpkins, passionfruit and beans.  This book is set in a steamy and tropical part of South Sudan.
I could have put in some tomatoes, but I was determined to have a green and purple colour scheme, and tomatoes would have ruined it.
The picture goes with this border of passionflowers and chameleons:

One of the authors, Terry Whitebeach, photographed the chameleon standing on the road on her visit to South Sudan.  I was dying to get it in somewhere, and it was just perfect for this page.

SCBWI meeting in Hobart on March 24th


There will be a meeting of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) in Hobart for the first time ever on Monday 24th March. I highly recommend SCBWI as an organisation for children’s book authors and illustrators – I’ve been a member for four years, and I love it. It’s an international organisation with a huge membership, numerous big conferences (including one in Sydney this year), and lots of resources (competitions, website, newsletter, publishing guides). Members get their own profile page on the website to show their art and sell their books (here’s mine as an example: http://www.scbwi.org/members-public/gay-mckinnon ). If children’s books are your thing, come along and hear from the head honcho, Susanne Gervay, what SCBWI will be up to this year. Details below.


Date:     Mon 24/03/2014 - 4:30pm - 6:30pm
Region: Southern Tas
Venue: Salamanca Arts Meeting Room, 77 Salamanca Place, next to the Long Gallery
Cost:    $10 to non-members, SCBWI members free

Susanne Gervay, renowned author and co-head of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Australia & New Zealand (SCBWI), will be speaking to a meeting of SCBWI, Southern Tasmania. SCBWI is a professional organisation for published writers and illustrators, but anyone interested in writing or illustrating for the children and young adult (cya) market is welcome to attend.
Anne Morgan will also give a briefing on the Book an Adventure Bruny Island Festival of Children’s Literature, 15-18 January 2015. The Festival will provide networking, publicity and professional development opportunities for local writers and illustrators as well as providing workshops for children. Check out our  Facebook page here.
Rsvp: amorgan@netspace.net.au by Sunday 23 March.
Cost: SCBWI members complimentary Non-SCBWI members $10 payable at the door.

Come along, meet other cya authors and illustrators and share your news and publishing opportunities.
Rsvp: email Anne Morgan amorgan@netspace.net.au by Sun 23/03/2014


Friday, January 24, 2014

Tricky Mr Hare



Fetching water in the morning - 'When I was a girl in Sudan'
Happy New Year, everyone!  Who's watching the Australian Open?  I fall asleep in front of it every night ... that hypnotic blue court, those five-set matches!  The tennis is the best I've ever seen, but I can't seem to go the distance.

By day I'm working on illustrations for 'When I was a girl in Sudan'.  These pictures show Ito, or Mr Hare – a popular figure in Sudanese folklore.  He’s lazy, tricky and smart, making him both a hero and an anti-hero: clever but amoral.  

Tricky Mr Hare
‘Long time ago, there is a famine.  Everyone must work hard to get food. But Mr Hare is too lazy.  He covers himself in sap – that shiny gum from the tree. It glues his fur together in lumps. He tells his wife Emvozia he has leprosy and cannot be expected to look for food. But he is not sick. He is just very clever.’

Ito sounds like Brer Rabbit, the lazy trickster of Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus books.  Did he travel out from Africa to the cotton plantations of North America and become Brer Rabbit? I checked and found that stories of hares, rabbits and tricksters are common to African and native American traditions - so the Brer Rabbit stories are thought to contain elements of both.

The one I remember best is ‘The Wonderful Tar Baby’ in which Brer Rabbit’s arch-enemy, Brer Fox, constructs a baby out of tar and sits it by the road, then hides in some bushes.  Brer Rabbit comes along – ‘lippity-clippity, clippity-lippity, just as sassy as a jay-bird’ and greets the Tar Baby in a friendly fashion.  But the Tar Baby ain’t sayin’ nuthin’, and Brer Fox, he lies low.  Brer Rabbit tries to chat with the Tar Baby, but it’s a one-sided affair.  Enraged by this rudeness, he punches, kicks and head-butts the Tar Baby, becoming completely stuck.  Brer Fox emerges, has a good laugh and starts planning how to kill Brer Rabbit.  He would roast him, but it’s such an effort to light a fire.  He’d hang him, but he hasn’t got string.  Drowning would work, but there's no water.  Brer Rabbit humbly agrees to all these fates, but begs Brer Fox not to throw him in the briar patch.  Of course, Brer Fox can’t resist, and Brer Rabbit scoots off, with the parting shot, ‘I was bred and born in a briar patch, Brer Fox!’  (This was my favourite part of the story – I could never understand Brer Rabbit being taken in by a tar baby in the first place!)


Jackrabbit sculpture, Santa Fe
I’m not sure if Brer Rabbit is a rabbit or a jackrabbit, but I did notice a national fondness for jackrabbits when I crossed the USA on Route 66 recently.  You can find stories about Brer Rabbit here: http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/brer-rabbit/.
Me at the famous Jackrabbit Trading Post on Route 66