Friday, 17 October 2014

The use of Colour

Every month or so we will be encouraging one Brillustrator to take over the blog and put up a post...

Brillustrator of the month... Jo Empson

My background in design and print production has really influenced my use of colour as an illustrator. I’m facinated in how the progression of the technical aspects of printing (over the last century) have changed illustrators use of colour and in fact the way the work. Illustrators before the popular use of litho printing in the 60’s, had to work in a very different way.  The look of children’s books ‘20s to early ‘60s was influenced, to a degree, by the practicalities of reproduction in that illustrators were required to pre-separate their artwork, in order to keep costs down and two- and three-colour books were not unusual. Reproduction processes were slow and costly involving plate makers, camera operatives and a small army of press minders. The print created by this process did have a characteristic look about it, with its subdued earthy colours and, in the main, its bold drawing technique. This colour palette, curiously, was also similar to that used by the painters in post-war art schools (some of which were ex-servicemen), which makes one wonder if it was the result of the gloom and despondency caused by the need to do much rebuilding of war-weary Britain.

Johnny Gruelle.
Eddie Elephant, 1921
Kathleen Hale The Marmelade Cat: 
A Camping Holiday, 1938 

Ardizzone’s classic picture book Little Tim and the
Brave Sea Captain, 1955

During the 1960s, television had taken over from the radio and children’s programmes, such as Jackanory, became very popular. Refinement of offset litho made it possible to create spectacular visual effects and capture painterly techniques rich in texture and colour. Continued improvements in printing overseas also meant English books being printed abroad. Then in 1962, in my opinion, one of the greatest illustrators, Brian Wildsmith, exploded onto the bookshelves. His artwork was an array of vivid, spectacular bright colours, with thick, rich texture giving depth and a tactile quality. His books comprised of a rich mass of textured colour, flooding off the double page spread - disregarding the usual borders. Images were bold with an air of surprise and often cropped in unexpected ways for maximum impact. This was a pivotal point in the use of colour, which leads us to the pure variety of the children’s book market of today. Currently most books are printed in full colour very cheaply overseas - mainly in the Far East . The numbers of printed colours used is no longer a restriction.

Brian Wildsmith's Birds, 1967

Brian Wildsmith
Brian Wildsmith ABC, 1962

After the last few decades of full colour plus specials, pop-up, ‘touchy feely’ and unusual formats etc., it fascinates me that in recent years there has been a revival of minimal colour echoing the subdued earthy colours of the 40s and 50s. There has consequently been a revival of re-publishing books of that time, recent examples of which include Where the Wild things are by Maurice Sendak (first published in 1959) and This is London (first published in 1959), ABC by Bruno Munarl (first published in 1960), Mabel O’Donnell Janet and John books (first published in 1949). 

This is London, Miroslav (republished in 2004)

Janet and John, Mabel O'Donnell (republished  in 2007)

I’m curious if this is purely nostalga or if this is partly due to a visual overload of the sea of colour which surrounds us in our everyday lives: Smartphones, laptops, iPads, digital advertising, eBooks, full colour books in varying formats, blue-ray and highly sophisticated animations. So, perhaps, it’s not only fashion or nostalgia that has caused this comeback, but a craving for a more limited pure palette, as a contrast to the mass of colour that now surrounds us! Who knows?!

Claudia Boldt's Star Gazers, Skyscrapers 

& Extraordinary Sausages, 2010

Paul Thurlby's Alphabet, 2011

Viviane Schwarz's There are NO cats in this book, 2010

No Such Thing, Ella Bailey 2014

Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back, 2011

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Affordable Art Fair Take Over!

The Affordable Art Fair came to Bristol last weekend, and Brillustration had much fun!

Sean Julian and Paula Bowles ran a workshop on the Saturday, teaching children to draw characters including bears, dinosaurs, woolly mammoths and robots. Sean's book 'Brave Little Owl' was read on CBeebies recently and is still viewable on the BBC iPlayer. and Paula has a new book called 'Little Lou and the Woolly Mammoth' recently published by Bloomsbury.

The workshop went down a treat, and there were some marvellous creations by kids of all ages:
Sean shows us some top tips for drawing gorillas.
Some excellent Woolly Mammoth colouring!
A captive audience
Amazing little robots!
A variety of creative bears.
A buzzing studio atmosphere!
Sean's excellent dinosaur, worth a million pounds!
And some equally great creations by the children.
A variety of characters on the wall and a room full of artists!
It was a great afternoon and so lovely to see so many children enjoying drawing and painting, I was amazed at the high standard of creativity.

Sunday saw the Brillustration group 'take over' the art space on mass. Big sheets of paper were pinned to the walls, and all sorts of crayons, pens, pencils and paints were layed on by the good folk at The Affordable Art Fair. We spent the day drawing over the walls with anything that inspired us, inviting members of the public to join in. We soon had a busy bustling atmosphere, with people squeezing in to find a space to draw! Great to see so many people keen to get creative...

Many thanks to:

Sarah Barrett at The Affordable Art Fair.

and Brillustrators:
Lauren Tobia (for rounding us up!)
Sean Julian
June Goulding
Mark Sperring
Jenny MacKendrick
Sarah Vonthron-Laver
Julie Sinderberry
Paula Bowles
Laura Elliot
Lisa Allen

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Affordable Art Fair!

The Affordable Art Fair comes to Bristol this weekend, and Brillustration are going to be there! 

The Affordable Art Fair Bristol gives everyone the chance to own a piece of original art, providing a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere to browse, buy and enjoy contemporary art. 55 galleries from both the local area and nationwide are showcasing a range of paintings, original artist-made prints, sculpture and photography. 

Last night was the private view where some of us Brillustrators had an evening out to browse the artwork, mingle and meet Stella the Bulldog!

Over the weekend, myself (Paula Bowles)  and Shaun Julian will be running a workshop in character drawing (Saturday 12 - 2pm), and on Sunday it's the 'Brillustration Takeover!' We will be taking over the education space as artists in residence, inviting people to take part in a live draw and create a collaborative mural which will develop over the day.

More info HERE!

Friday, 5 September 2014

Sarah Warburton on summer, pebbles and the internet.

The one where we turned off the internet….

As the kids go back to school, I thought I'd try and get back into the day to day swing of things by writing my own summer holiday notes.

I spent most of August on Anglesey, North Wales. It's where I grew up, where my parents still live and where we all seem to migrate back to in the summer to regroup, drink lots of tea and spend hours on various beaches.

Despite all this beach combing and fresh air, with several adults, teenagers, various aged children, 1 desktop pc, 4 laptops, 4 tablets and 3 smartphones in the house inevitably the internet wireless signal was working it's little heart out most hours. One day I really think The Internet threw a big strop and flounced off. Signals were intermittent and weak. So we did a rare thing and turned it off! After several moments of panicked teenage faces "I've got no signal!" everyone excepted it and looked around for what to do. After several pots of tea and a few laps of the garden on bikes, we turned to the bucket of pebbles that had been collected over weeks that languished by the back door. This is the result! 

The children's array of painted pebbles - Dr Who appears a bit as Peter Capaldi 12th Doctor was about to debut on

Then I got hooked myself and probably took it all a bit too seriously - in the most fun way I could!

Owls for my sister.

After about 4 hours we turned the internet back on and normal service was resumed. However it was great having all these faces and painted pebbles to look at. 

I'm as guilty as anyone at times for just sitting and scanning my phone and social media. Sometimes I think I really need to switch it off more often to actually create something unexpected. It was one of the most enjoyable things I've done in a long time. 

I might just leave a little face on the beach amongst the pebbles……

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Spring and Summer arrive in Paperback!

Every month or so we will be encouraging one Brillustrator to take over the blog and put up a post...

Brillustrator of the month... June Goulding

A common perception of picture book illustrators is that we spend our days drawing fluffy bunnies!
In my case, this is very often true . . . I tend to draw a lot of bunny characters for books.

This month, two stories illustrated with my bunny characters have become available as paperback books.

Breezy Bunnies (a spring story) and Sunny Bunnies (a summer story)

Written by Margie Blumberg and illustrated by June Goulding (me), these two rhyming stories star Millie and Jimmy, sibling bunnies who live and play in Carrot Cake Park.

I completed the artwork for Breezy Bunnies and Sunny Bunnies a few years ago and they have been available as children's apps since then, but it is a pleasure to hold the printed books in my hands at last.

Here is a preview of Breezy Bunnies in app form.

For me personally, there is no substitute for a printed book.  
Apps and iBooks have gained their place in sharing stories and can include interactive fun that can only be activated digitally, but printed paper books are where my heart lies. 

I also prefer to work traditionally, on watercolour paper with watercolour paints and coloured pencils, but I do use digital software to enhance my work and prepare the image files. I'm not totally against all things digital!

Painting a spread from Breezy Bunnies
Almost completed artwork

There's a slideshow on my website showing my working process in case you're interested in learning more about that!

Click here to visit MB Publishing's website for the many ways to own Breezy Bunnies as a book or an iPad app.

Or purchase a paperback book through Amazon UK HERE.

ISBN:  978-0-9913646-1-9 (paperback) 

Or purchase a paperback book through Amazon UK HERE.

ISBN: 978-0-9913646-0-2 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-9624166-4-4 (hardcover)

So, can you guess what I am currently working on? 
What follows spring and summer?
Yes, it's the third Carrot Cake Park Tale with Millie and Jimmy, and it takes place in autumn (fall).

Pencil sketch for Busy Bunnies

I can't show you any of the artwork yet as it's a secret, but here is a pencil sketch I did when thinking about the next cover design.
By the time this book is available as a paperback, it will probably be my turn to post on the Brillustration blog once again!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Green Man Ramble!!

This year I was surprised and chuffed in equal measure to be invited to the Green Man Festival to run a daily hour long SketchCrawl (like a pub crawl except no pubs and drawing instead of beer!) around Einstein's Garden -  the fascinating area of the site dedicated to all things science .

I love the Green Man Festival, so this was a real dream gig for me... so I had to do something good in return. I'll confess to a slight dose of nerves beforehand... There's no shortage of amazing things to draw in Einstein's Garden. But how many people would come; would I get mostly adults or children and how could I appeal to them both? And an hour..that's no time at all for a SketchCrawl but a potentially a very long time in festival land...

Whilst hatching a plan I printed up a tonne of sketchbooks, went silly buying up pencils (including watercolour ones in case of rain!!) and made a silly hat.

We'd do a whistle-stop tour of Einstein's Garden, stopping for 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes to take in everything from dragon sculptures to leaf patterns, ducks to skeletons, to guys singing about squirrels to... well you get the idea.  People could stay for the full hour or just for 5 minutes, but when they left they were politely asked to draw like a fiend for the rest of the weekend, and told they could keep their sketchbook and pencil to do it with. Did it work?

Thanks to the lovely people who joined me each day - hell yes!

I need to apologise at this point for the fact that I captured only a fraction of the pictures and locations drawn...I didn't have much snapping time!  Also the grown ups don't really get a fair representation artwork wise... if I can I will rectify that!

I'd like to thank everyone who came along with me for being ace.  Gold stars go to the pair top right in the pic above - they were my first punters and they came back the next day..with a new sketchbook needed to replace one that had been filled!  

I would also like to thank the lovely crew, performers and punters of Einstein's Garden and Green Man in general for one of the best weekends I've ever had. 

I should mention that anyone can organise a SketchCrawl anywhere anytime - to find out more look here:

Finally -it's all very well getting other folks to draw, but did I practise what I preached? Well yes I did (after a sit down) - I'll post some scribbles on my blog soon...