Showing posts with label Hannah Shaw. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hannah Shaw. Show all posts

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Author, illustrator, or both? By Hannah Shaw

We're delighted to welcome Hannah Shaw as July's guest illustrator. She discusses how it is to be both an author and an illustrator.

DianneHofmeyr has no need to worry about picture book authors who don't illustrate being left in the cold. From the perspective of an illustrator who illustrates for others but does write too, there is room for all of us!

My most recent picture book collaboration with Gareth Edwards  (The Disgusting Sandwich) is probably my favourite picture book so far. I had far more art direction and involvement from the wonderful team at Alison Green than on any of my previous books. I think the end result shows that. I also feel that Gareth's writing brought out something exciting and new in my drawings that I might not have done in my own work.

A spread from the Disgusting Sandwich

Another author / illustrator collaboration that caught my eye recently was 'Oi Frog!' by Kes Gray and Jim Field. That is my picture book of the year, what an hilarious book! What a fabulous pairing. And where would we be without Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, or Julia Donaldson and David Roberts for that matter?

Oi Frog images by Jim Field and Kes Gray

Saying that I do think prizes like the Greenaway are very much focused on the artistic merit of a book rather than the story. I also think they often choose books that appeal to adults rather than necessarily to children - but I think that is another debate.

As an illustrator I do admit that overall, I find illustrating my own books an easier process, I have far more artistic control and generally I feel happier illustrating my own stories, it doesn't necessarily mean that the end result is better but I feel this is the case for my Stan
Stinky young fiction series. I have recently found a niche with these in 'Pic-fic' (picture-fiction, a fiction book which has many integral illustrations such as speech bubbles, diary extracts, doodles and maps). I write around 13,000 words but I end up doing over 200 pieces of black and white interior artwork. This is where someone like me, an illustrator who writes, has the distinct advantage.

Could Pic-fic be the future of young fiction for reluctant readers? Children are used to the bombardment of images from TV and online media. A heavily illustrated fiction book does pique their interest. I

Tom Gates by Liz Pichon another example of Pic-Fic
am a very visual person and as I write, I know exactly what kind of illustration I am going to add. Often I leave gaping holes in my text as I know that I can get my message across as a series of images instead. 

I guess my argument is that books are always evolving and collaboration can be a wonderful thing but having a book which has a strong author-illustrator means no compromises. The best books will always be by authors or author/illustrators who keep pace with changes and push the boundaries, bringing new ideas to life, whatever their skills.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

How to draw a... by Hannah shaw

When I was younger I remember being obsessed a book called ‘How to draw horses’. I spent HOURS trying to copy the pictures in it. Who knew that horses were made up of a series of jelly bean shapes and circles? I still find it difficult to draw horses (it’s the legs) but when I find myself getting muddled I try to refer back to the instructions I learnt from that book.

Recently I was asked by Puffin Post to do a double page spread of instructions on how to draw a puffin. They sent me some examples by quite famous illustrators like Ed Vere... I panicked, I’d never drawn a puffin before! This is where Google images was, I shamefully admit, a life-saver. In defence, it was unlikely I would have been able to see a live puffin anywhere in a 100 mile radius (Bristol Zoo perhaps?). It is even more unlikely I would have been able to get close enough to draw one. I used Google images a bit like the ‘How to draw horses’ book except I had to interpret what I saw from some very romantic photographs of puffins at sunset or puffin landing majestically with fish. I found that breaking down a puffin into essentially a potato shape and then adding all the extra bits like wings and beak worked quite well. 

I worry that the children who had a go at following my ‘How to draw a Puffin’ instructions will think that what they have drawn is an anatomically correct puffin. They definitely haven’t, they only have to do a google image search to see what a real one looks like! However, what they will have, is a unique Hannah Shaw style 'one off' (with two eyes on the side of its head) because as much as I enjoyed doing this, I don’t think it’s likely I’ll be drawing puffins again for a while! 

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Children's entertainer? I thought the job description said author / illustrator! by Hannah Shaw

One thing I've learnt about being a children's author and illustrator is that you should always be prepared to think on your feet. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat remembering the following situations:

Situation 1: Newly published author unwittingly agrees to do first school visit.

My first ever school visit was quite frankly, a terrifying experience. Up until that day, I had not done any public speaking and I'd hardly even spoken to a child since I was one myself. I was totally unprepared! To make matters worse, on arrival the lovely headmistress ushered me straight into assembly. I soon discovered that I was expected to know how to entertain a room of highly excitable 4 -7 year olds for 45 mins. Id like to apologise to those poor children and teachers who sat there so patiently as I bumbled my way through like an idiot.

On reflection, being thrown in at the deep end was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. I feel more clued up on what works and what doesn't and I have a basic formula for events that I adapt for different age groups. I read, do live drawing, Q&A's and then get the children drawing and being creative too. I sometimes use worksheets I've designed - these are downloadable on my website in 'fun stuff'

My advice for anyone who is starting out or struggling with events is to go and see someone similar to you in action. It was an eye-opener to me, although I have been awed and inspired by certain established authors, I have also been baffled by how others manage to keep a child's attention for more than a few minutes. Providing variety and excitement seems essential for a successful young children's event.

Situation 2: Author agrees to do book signing / reading in established retail store. After an awkward twenty minutes where customers actually seem to be going out of their way to avoid the signing table, it is clear that nobody understands what is happening!

This lesson was also learnt the hard way. Most booksellers are incredibly helpful and want to support authors but I always find signings are really hit and miss affairs. If the signing is well advertised (local paper, posters in the windows, books on display and the local schools are sent information too) I think you have a better chance of selling more books, but not always. I now insist that all of this has been organised by the shop first and I usually send them posters myself. I often make sure there is a flip-chart and pen on location and try to 'draw' in a crowd (excuse the pun!)

I've found that in larger stores I can get lost amongst the clutter, especially if plonked right at the back in the children's section. If moving is not possible, any way of attracting attention can help- whether it be a silly hat, some giant character cut-outs or a big sign! My excellent local bookshop lets me sit outside in a busy farmers market thoroughfare and the sales are increased three-fold.

Situation 3: Author is booked to do an event at a literary festival. On arrival finds out that no tickets were sold to the event / the organisers have forgotten to stock books / the projector doesn't work.

Thankfully, this didn't all happen at one festival! I must admit, projectors never seem to want to work with my laptop so I always have a back-up plan. Despite this, it was hard to be positive the day I found myself having to read a story to just two families of crying toddlers. I've had a few tricky moments at festivals but generally they are run by passionate people who have already thought of every eventuality and make sure you are well looked after.

Recently I illustrated all of the programme, posters and merchandise for the wonderful Hay Festival, (see sheep images) It was excellent promotion being the 'official illustrator'.

I also did two events there, one by myself and one with an author I illustrate for- Sean Taylor (see photo below). The event by myself went well enough but the event with Sean was fantastic. It was great to have the support and input of another author, it was so much easier than doing it alone. We even read a book together where he was one character and I was the other- the children loved it!

Thank goodness that despite my misadventures there are so many organised and welcoming librarians, teachers, festival staff and booksellers out there. I know as long as I remember to expect the unexpected, take extra books, colouring pencils, paper, USB sticks, a flip chart, a funny hat and a SMILE... (Phew!) everything will be fine!

Hannah's new picture book School For Bandits (published by Random House) is out on the 4th of August. See preview here