The charming and colourful picture book The Diver is out now! Veronica Carratello is an illustrator and comic book artist who has worked with a number of clients including Netflix, Circle Dei Lettori, and has been a part of several exhibitions throughout Italy. We had a chat with Veronica and here she shares more about herself and her story…
1. Your book brings out essential topics that children and also adults deal with throughout their lives such as the self-confidence to believe in and achieve their own dreams. How did you come up with the idea of this beautiful story?
The idea came to me by chance. I could not sleep and I started thinking about how coins are flipped into fountains to make wishes, and I asked myself, what if the coin had a dream of its own? And then I started to develop the story.
At the beginning, Emma was a minor character. But after developing the story with the editor’s advice she became a main character alongside the coin, and the story shows their two lives happening side-by-side. Emma represents commitment to achieving a dream, and the coin represents strength of character. Both of them have moments of concern, as it usually happens in life.
2. Italy is well-known for its Trevi Fountain coin toss tradition and all the popular beliefs about it. Did you draw your inspiration from it to shape the personality of your main character?
Yes, I draw my inspiration from it and I’m fascinated by popular beliefs. If you toss a coin into Trevi Fountain, which I did, it means that you’ll return to Rome one day. But there is also a legend that if you flip a penny into a fountain and make a wish, it will come true.
I have to confess that before sending you the proposal of my book The Diver, I flipped a coin into a fountain too… and my wish came true!
3. Did you put yourself into your characters?
Like my characters, I believe in dreams, and my favourite quote is “If you can dream it, you can do it!” by Walt Disney. I like it because you can convince yourself that nothing is impossible, like the coin’s dream of being a diver, but I think that to achieve our goals, we also need to work hard and be determined, like Emma.
4. If you could have done something different as a child to achieve a dream as an adult, what would you do?
I would probably be a musician. I’ve always had a passion for music: a few years ago I wrote songs and played guitar in a band, I think it’s a nice way to tell a story too.
5. What is the main thing you want readers to learn from your book?
The main thing I want my readers to learn is that it doesn’t matter how small you are or how big your dream is, if you work hard and you really want it, your dream will come true!
As a child, my personality was quiet and reserved, but my feelings were noisy. I was a stomper and a door-slammer — tucked in the middle of the sibling order. In retrospect, I see those characters from the animated movie, Inside Out sitting at the dashboard, haphazardly pushing buttons and battling for control. They acted independently of me, and they longed for expression — longed to be seen and heard (ahem — stomp, stomp). They often appeared in writing: in notes and stories, in journal entries and, as a small girl, in posters strewn across the house for my parents to find, depicting my honest, and probably unhelpful, feelings regarding the discipline of practicing piano (“I HATE PIANO”).
Sharp edges soften. That angry sadness, along with its note-scrawling, door-slamming and foot-stomping, finds a fullness of expression and, often, a quietness. That once-slammed door is sheepishly opened. This is the arc that my first picture book, Out, Out, Away From Here(illustrated by Sang Miao), follows. The story moves readers from the fullness of that noisy feeling — of MAD-SAD-GLAD — to a peace and quiet that we can all find within the space of our own imaginations. No matter how small, we all need to learn emotional intelligence, and that requires practice, care, and patience.
Though I don’t have formal child psychology training, I have spent a lot of time with children, teaching them and learning from them, in daycares and preschools, as a private tutor, as a homeschool teacher. Children have a lot to teach us. They navigate the world with lighthearted wonder, with honest and direct thought and feeling, and with an attention to the present moment. As we teach and care and parent them, we have much to learn from them — to learn together.
How do we encourage emotional intelligence in young children? How do we empower kids to cope with and carry feelings in healthy ways?
1.Remember, Feelings Begin Physically
Tantrums, stomping, frowning, fist-clenching. Identifying feelings is a challenge for all of us — grown-up or not. Young children may only know how to verbally express happy, sad, and mad. While still learning ways to channel and show these feelings, they will express themselves physically. We can help children to identify the clues their bodies/behaviors give them about those unnamed feelings.
2.Encourage, empower, and guide children to name their own feelings
Ask open-ended, exploratory questions. Try to veer away from questions with yes/no answers. Example: How are you feeling? What happened to make you feel this way? What can we do to calm you down or cheer you up?
3.Affirm that feelings are legitimate
Feeling sad, tired, grumpy, nervous, excited — these feelings are real and often important. Let children know that this is normal and okay, that adults feel these too. Share your experiences and strategies with children. When you’re feeling a certain way, how do you cope? We may not choose our feelings, but we can choose how to express them. My parents’ repeated advice was this: “you may be feeling this way, but you don’t need to act this way” (this was usually tired and grumpy, they were referring to).
Children need access to the outdoors to experience the quiet, beauty, and wonder of nature. Feelings need room to spread out.
In the midst of noisy feelings, children and caretakers can benefit from a pause. “Taking five” was a tool I used in the classroom to allow students (often frustrated and unproductive) five minutes to use in their own, quiet way — often with a pile of books. They, and I, often returned to the task more calm and ready.
6.Read illustrated books aloud
This medium offers children language higher than their level of expression — but not their level of understanding. Books give kids a greater ability to hold and communicate feelings.
7.Give feelings feet!
Encourage children to let their feelings move. If they’re happy feelings — or any sort of feeling, really — dance! As an adult, too, I have to remind myself to sometimes leave my brain and heart behind. Take a walk, write in a journal, create art, play. Move!
8.Help children to recognize that feelings are temporary
A wise friend of mine says you feel feelings — but you aren’t your feelings. Imagine them like visitors. How can we take care of them while they’re here? What can we learn from them? They’ll show themselves out, when they’re ready. They’ll come and go again.
9.Teach that caring for ourselves helps us to care for others
Learning to recognize and care for our own emotions is a necessary precursor to practicing compassion. Encouraging children to know and recognize their own feelings will help them to observe the same in others — and to practice compassion.
10.Remind children that feelings are complicated and that it’s okay
Feelings are often more muddled-up than happy, sad, or mad, but that makes it so important to talk through them.
The world of feelings is wonderful and complicated. It’s a world we all carry within us, child and adult alike. Guiding children to carry their emotions in appropriate ways will lead to healthier children and, someday, healthier adults — capable of caring for themselves and for others. Join me in a journey we all take, over and over again, out, out, away fromhere — through that mountainous terrain of feeling.
Rachel Woodworth grew up in Canada and graduated from a liberal arts university in the United States. With an ongoing wonder with words and the world, writing has accompanied her for the whole of her travels. Out, Out, Away From Here (published by Flying Eye Books) is Rachel’s first book and is available now. She is currently living in Tanzania.
Join us at Hay Festival of Literature and art for a day of workshops and events based aroundNobrow 10: Studio Dream magazine. In Association with ELCAF, we’re bringing four of the Nobrow 10 magazine illustrators to the festival and taking over The Cube for a day of workshops and activities and to discuss about their work, inspiration and more!
On Sunday 27th May, join us on the festival site for any (or all!) of these sessions:
Who: Katie Harnett
When: 11:30 am
Where: The Cube
The author’s picture-book Ivy and the Lonely Raincloud is a heart-warming tale about finding friendship in unexpected places. Enjoy the story and help our magical paper-flower garden grow by making your very own raincloud friend.
Discover the amazing creatures that live under the sea in a workshop with the illustrator based on his picture-book, a surreal, modern folktale about an adventurous little girl who must protect a peaceful living creature. Children can create sea creatures as part of a large-scale mural, then take them home.
A hands-on, family, drawing and mark making workshop where children can create their dream school, library and bedroom based on the Nobrow magazine illustrator’s work. Would you include a ball pool, a cinema, or a slide…or all of these and more? It’s entirely up to you!
Studio Dreams Panel (Katie Harnett, Joe Todd-Stanton, Jim Stoten, Ben Newman)
When: 5:30 pm
Join the Nobrow magazine illustrators as they discuss their work and how the environment in which we work affects what we make. The Nobrow tenth anniversary magazine celebrates 70 different illustrators’ vision of their ideal workspaces, if the sky was the limit.
1. You were born in Abidjan and you grew up there until you were 12 years old, does Akissi represent a younger version of you?
“Akissi is definitely me. The story is about a happy childhood, the good memories of a young Ivorian girl before she leaves her country for France at a young age without her parents. By publishing the story, I can share my childhood and memories with others.”—Marguerite Abouet
2. How did you work together to find the right chemistry between text and image?
“I’m used to storyboarding, so I can easily put myself in children’s shoes. Mathieu Sapin and I read through it together and we consult each other a lot to find the right chemistry between the text and the illustrations. Sometimes our characters don’t need to talk, as the illustration conveys emotion by itself.”—Marguerite Abouet
“At first, Marguerite makes a storyboard and when we meet we cut it up and talk about it. She gives me details on the story, the characters, the setting, etc. Sometimes, she imitates some of the characters! It’s very funny. When we’ve agreed on the story, I get straight to drawing. Marguerite make few comments or modifications as well, which I integrate into the final artwork.”—Mathieu Sapin
3. What special research did you carry out to be able to recreate Akissi’s world?
“Akissi’s world needed to be relevant, so everything in my story had to be accurate from the outset. This meant specific places and specific children with their own particular characters. I started by creating the atmosphere, then the setting, characters and finally the tales. Readers have to believe in the characters and feel like they are in Akissi’s neighbourhood.”—Marguerite Abouet
“I drew the first volumes of Akissi without having been to Africa before, so I took inspiration from the internet, books and Marguerite’s descriptions. Clément Oubrerie, the cartoonist of Aya, had done some research previously so he gave me a lot of documents and details about the characters. Finally, I went to Abidjan briefly with Marguerite. I walked around, I took some pictures, but mostly I tried to immerse myself in the city. I definitely have fond memories of it. Now I’m gathering more materials on the internet to further my research.”—Mathieu Sapin
4. Akissi is a true adventurer, she’s always getting into trouble and we feel that every child could relate to her character in their own way although she’s from a culture and community that may be very different from their own. Is that something you particularly wanted to represent?
“Yeah that’s what I like with this series, the connection to freedom and adventure! Nowadays I believe the value of this is diminished in our society, where children are constantly watched. I grew up in the countryside, where kids were left to their own devices — it was wonderful! Even if, as a parent, I’m of course very vigilant and would have difficulty letting my kids have as much freedom as Akissi and her friends do.”—Mathieu Sapin
“Akissi and her friends are quite positive kids, of course with some faults, but always joyful and energetic — so any child can identify with them. Akissi shows the reader her world throughout her tales. She highlights companionship, encourages tolerance and reminds us how difference and diversity can be beneficial. Akissi and her group are definitely the true heroes because they fight against fears, rejections, and ethnic self-segregation. Akissi’s tales show how to treat others with respect, without judgement or bias, or any distinction of race, sex, religion or handicap. She embodies all of that, and that’s why she speaks to every child.”—Marguerite Abouet
5. How does it feel to see Akissi’s stories being translated into different languages? And how have children from around the world responded to her tales?
“I really like the global dimension of Marguerite’s stories. I’ve travelled a lot with Akissi and I notice the same feeling everywhere. I believe all kids can see themselves in her, because she speaks straight to them with her endearing but also mischievous nature. Surprisingly, this series appeals just as much to boys as to girls.”—Mathieu Sapin
“I think Akissi is like open-air theatre, where children can feel quickly gripped by her tales. She invites them to journey to an unknown country, that is so close and yet so far away from them, for a relaxed ramble in Africa. Children are impressed by Akissi and her group because they are like ‘urban superheroes’ trying to live in the adult world. She shows them that this is not easy, because living together and accepting each other are daily struggles, so it demands a lot of willpower and courage.”—Marguerite Abouet
Congratulations to the creator of Wild and The Little Gardener, Emily Hughes, for winning the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award from the American Library Association. Announced Monday, February 12, Hughes along with writer Laurel Snyder won the award for Charlie & Mouse.
Emily’s lush, playful titles have received rave attention since the beginning.
The Little Gardener was an NPR Best Book of 2015, and the New York Times praised, “Hughes’s illustrations thrum with life. The drawings are a tangle of Gauguin and Rousseau and botanical journals.”
As for Wild, the story of a little girl who simply won’t be tamed, Maria Popova of Brain Pickings said it was “an irreverent, charming, and oh-so-delightfully illustrated story, partway between Kipling’s The Jungle Book and Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are . . . Wild is one of the loveliest and most endearing picture-books I’ve seen.”
These stunning titles are available for purchase anywhere books are sold or on the Nobrow website. We wish Emily Hughes all the best in this prestigious win.
We’ll be at the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute (running January 22 to 25) in Memphis, Tennessee. Say hello to US Sales and Marketing Associate Director, Hannah Moushabeck on Meet the Presses Day: January 25, 9:15am to 12pm; 1:30pm to 7pm. Booksellers will have the opportunity to meet with Hannah for an informal conversation, and pick up an advance copy of Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey (forthcoming in March).
Then, running from February 9 to 12, Nobrow will be in Denver, Colorado for the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting. Come say hello to us at Booth #1111in the Exhibit Hall at the Colorado Convention Center! Pick up a poster, buttons, and enter our raffle for a chance to win our full Hilda series and a Hilda doll.
We hope to catch you at one of these events. You won’t want to miss this chance at an early sneak peek of our Spring 2018 list of children’s books and graphic novels!
Nobrow / Flying Eye Books are proud to announce our partnership with Pop Up and Transbook to bring you an exciting new practice-sharing conference for children’s literature and education professionals featuring over 30 hands-on workshops, demonstrations, collaborations and converstations… Pop Up Lab
10th November 2017 | Peterborough UK
Invigorate your teaching practice or literature programming by exploring imaginative approaches to engaging young readers and writers through visual storytelling.
Pop Up Lab is cross-sector space in which to explore and experiment, share practice and learn new things. A keynote conversation will kickstart the day, and attendees will be able to choose up to two 75-minute sessions from a programme of hands-on workshops, demonstrations and conversations with 10 organisations and individuals. Many sessions are artist-led. Throughout the day facilitated discussions will help evolve a ‘manifesto’ to advance the cause of visual storytelling in schools and curriculums.
Lab 2017 involves organisations in the Transbook project. Transbook is a European initiative to promote the digital transition and internationalisation of the children’s publishing industry. Transbook is co- nanced by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union and operated by seven European partners from the children’s publishing industry.
A full programme schedule is available www.pop-up.org.uk/lab2017 and attendees will be asked to choose sessions in advance. Tickets available: here
Sessions by: Art Basics for Children (Belgium) / Centre for Literacy in Primary Education / Government Art Collection / Lisa Tilesi / Literature Wales / Metal Culture / Nobrow & MiniLab / Positive Negatives / Stephen Spender Trust / Tantagora (Spain) / Tiny Owl plus illustrators and comics artists from Estonia, Lithuania, France, England, Wales and Ireland Pop Up Lab is presented in association with Nobrow & Transbook and supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation
Make sure you’re free from June 22nd through June 27th because Nobrow is coming over for this year’s ALA Annual, and we have a feeling this show is going to be a BEAST!
We’ll set up our Nobrow HQ at Booth 3121, where you can stop by and check out all of our latest releases, our greatest hits, and maybe even take a peek at some upcoming titles that will be lighting up a bookstore near you later this year. There’s also going to be plenty of awesome giveaways!
But that’s not all– not even close!
We’re also going to be bringing you the talents of SAM BOSMA (Fantasy Sports series) and JEN LEE (Garbage Night), and we’re teaming up with the French Comics Association to bring over MARGUERITE ABOUET (Akissi) and JÉRÉMIE ROYER (Audubon, On the Wings of the World). That’s FOUR Nobrow artists to see at panels and signings at ALA!
Let’s break it down real quick:
SIGNINGS June 22
7-9pm, Sector 2337
Live reading and book signing with Marguerite Abouet, Jérémie Royer, and others!
June 24 11-11:30am, Nobrow Booth 3121
Sam Bosma signing
PANELS JUNE 23
Problem Solving: Teaching STEM with Comics, w/ Jérémie Royer
Books That Spark Change: Using comics and graphic novels as a jumping off point, w/ Marguerite Abouet
Meet the Makers, w/ Marguerite Abouet, Jérémie Royer
10:30-11:30am, McCormick Hall, room W175b
Graphic Memoirs: how non-fiction graphic novels bring real lives to life, w/ Jérémie Royer
9:30-10:20am, Graphic Novel/Gaming: Next to booth 1128
How to Write for Children and Young Adults, w/ Marguerite Abouet, Jérémie Royer
Comics at the Frontier of a New Literary Movement, w/ Sam Bosma, Jen Lee
1-2:30pm, Hyatt Regency McCormick, Jackson Park/CC 10AB
Universal Language of Comics: Culture and Creation Beyond America, w/ Marguerite Abouet
3-3:50pm, Graphic Novel/Gaming: Next to booth 1128
French Comics on Screen: Film Adaptations of Franco-Belgian Graphic Narratives, w/ Marguerite Abouet
Like we said, between all the fun events, panels, signings, and giveaways, it’s going to be one big BEAST of a show. We hope you can make it! If you want to schedule some time to meet up with us and say hi, send an email over to [email protected]. We can’t wait to see you there!
Joe Todd-Stanton joins us to celebrate the release of his new book, The Secret of Black Rock. Featuring strong female characters, epic adventure and a friendly island(!) this beautiful story is a must for children and adults alike. Come and enjoy a story reading, sea creatures fact sheets and tropical fish collage as part of our Children’s Easter Festival. This event is free however please email to guarantee your spot. Ideal for ages 4-9.
Spring has sprung with The Little Gardener! Author and illustrator Emily Hughes joins us to celebrate the changing seasons and the release of her beautiful new book. As well as a story reading we will be decorating our own plant pots and planting our own sunflower in this fun and educational activity session, part of our Children’s Easter Festival. Perfect for ages 3-7.
Join author and illustrator Jim Stoten to celebrate Mr Tweed’s Busy Day. This search-and-find adventure story is packed with riddles that we need you to help us solve. Tasks will be placed around the children’s section and will include both paper and 3D searches – with Easter themed prizes! This is event forms part of our Children’s Easter Festival. This event is free however please email to guarantee your spot. Perfect for ages 5-9.
Who: Pippa Goodhart
When: Tuesday 11th April, 13:00 -14:00
Where: Waterstones Piccadilly
Rabbits, bunnies, hoppity hops, call them what you like but we LOVE bunnies! This Easter join author Pippa Goodhart for a range of rabbity stories, songs and games to celebrate her new book My Very Own Space as part of our Children’s Easter Festival. This event is free however please email to guarantee your space. Perfect for ages up to 6.
Join us at Libreria for an interstellar drawing workshop with illustrator Tom Clohosy Cole. Based upon his beautiful leporello ‘Space Race’, participants will be invited to draw planets, rockets and all else that might be found amongst the stars, creating their very own concertina book to take home. Suitable for ages 5+
Help illustrator Owen Davey transform the Events Room into an underwater seascape inspired by his book, Smart about Sharks. Learn about different types of marine creatures and create your own using a range of materials.
Foyles x ELCAF is a new collaboration which sees the UK’s largest independent bookshop teaming up with the East London Comic & Arts Festival to celebrate some of the best creative talent in the UK. This year, we open our doors in Chelmsford, London, Birmingham and Bristol to host a series of workshops, talks and one-to-one meetings with illustrators, comic artists and experts in the field. Curated by ELCAF, this eclectic programme aims to celebrate the dynamic work of artists that are making waves in the UK’s independent comic, narrative art and illustration scene. This is the first in the series and is a children’s event focussing on the art of drawing big.
Artist and illustrator, Katie Harnett will be leading a hands-on workshop for budding artists. Katie specialises in children’s books and has worked on both picture books and book covers. Join in the fun of creating a large scale collaborative drawing and learn all about how to ‘draw big’. This event is suitable for children aged 5-10 years.
To mark the release of Safe & Sound, we asked Loris Lora to share, and talk us through, some of the beautiful images she hand-painted for the book.
“Here’s a work in progress of the cover. This is actually the second version and i’m glad that we reworked it as it ended up having much more of the animals in which made it much more active.”
‘This was the first illustration I worked on for the book. I wanted to create an underwater scene that is largely influenced by vintage children’s book illustrations and created a transparent effect using gouache paint. I loved working on the mother crocodile and the way her body curved in the illustration.”
“I think these two next to one another in the spread work really well. I really like the balance between a spot illustration and a full page illustration. Painting fur on the wolves and anteaters was fun to work on. I love being able to “drybrush” fur.”
“With the monkeys I wanted them to have an active composition. I like that I was able to paint them as they swing through the page surrounded by different hues of green.”
“The bears are probably one of my favorites in Safe & Sound. But I may be bias as my nickname growing up by parents was “Osito” which means Little Bear in spanish. I was really happy with the composition on this one and loved painting the sleeping cubs.”
“A big challenge on these the baby blue birds was making them look fun and cute. I knew I wanted to have a group of them and loved the ideas of using different kinds of blue. My favourite is the one peeking out.”
“I’m really happy with the the composition worked out. I thought it would be different to have the mother lions back towards the viewer and have her baby cub peeking through.”
“Loved working on the rhinos. This was a great opportunity for me to work on textures on both the rhinos and abstract grasslands, which later influenced the endpages for the book.”
“Knowing this would be one of the last animals listed in the book. I wanted to create an image that had a big impact on the spread. Painting a BIG baby blue whale was so much fun. And having part of the mother in the background to show scale was a nice addition.”
A huge thank you to Loris Lora for sharing these pictures and insight into her incredible process. You can now order finished copies of Safe & Sound, containing all these beautiful images and so many more here and from all the very best (UK) bookshops!
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for… the Nobrow and Flying Eye spring 2017 catalogues have arrived! We’ve been working hard with many talented authors, poets and, of course, illustrators and we can finally reveal two of our most exciting lists to date.
From Robert Hunter’s surreal and bewitching love story (Map of Days) to Hamish Steele’s anarchic comic take on ancient Egyptian myths (Pantheon), the Nobrow list is sure to have something for everyone!
With Flying Eye Books, we’ve created books that encourage compassion, bravery, and a greater understanding of the natural world around us; whether it’s following a daring sea adventure (The Secret of Black Rock) or perusing pages of natural wonder (Wild Animals of the South).
We can’t wait for you to see all these books next spring, but in the meantime we’d love to know which ones you are most looking forward to reading and why. You can let us know via our social media channels!
Start spreadin’ the news! Eda Akaltun, creator of Marcel, is hitting the Big Apple for three days of fun events featuring New York’s favorite French Bulldog, Marcel!
It all starts at 11:30am on Sunday, November 20th at Brooklyn’s POWERHOUSE. Stop in for a very special story time session! Eda will be performing a live reading of her debut picture book, Marcel, and it’s sure to be a fun time. Stick around after the reading to meet Eda and get your own signed copy of Marcel!
Then at 10:30am on Monday, November 21st, Eda will be taking her storytelling talents to FIKA at the TurnStyle concourse below the iconic Columbus Circle! Come by and check out this vibrant Manhattan scene, sitting in the heart of New York’s incredible subway system. (And while you’re there, why not check out our very own kiosk popup shop?)
That’s three stops on Eda’s Marcel tour, and three chances for you to meet Eda and to hear all about that street-wise city-dwelling pup Marcel! We’ll see you there, New York!
WHOA WHOA WHOA SPECIAL UPDATE! We got so excited about meeting all of you, we’re going to be kicking off the Marcel Tour a day early! Join Eda at 1:00pm on Saturday, November 19th at Books Of Wonder for the November Picture Book Bonanaza! Eda will be joining the lineup of picture book authors, ready to show off their great new work. Hope we can catch you there!
Hey New York, we’ve got some exciting news for you! Nobrow and Flying Eye Books have opened up our very own limited engagement pop up shop… in the heart of New York’s subway system! That’s right, from now until November 21st, you can find us in the TurnStyle concourse beneath Columbus Circle, Monday thru Friday.
Come check us out! You can take the A, B, C, D, or 1 train to Columbus Circle and find us on the TurnStyle concourse, or if you’re coming from above ground, just take the stairs down from 57/58th street & 8th ave.
We’ve set up a lovely little kiosk, stocked up with some of our favorite titles from Nobrow and Flying Eye Books, and we’re ready to sell them to straphangers, pedestrians, New Yorkers, and tourists alike!
Yahhooo, Dogs in Cars is here! Count to 100 through the many breeds of dogs from French bulldogs to Great Danes, as they wreak havoc upon the streets in their recognisable locomotives! In this hilariously illustrated introduction to the world of dogs and cars, Emmanuelle Walker and Felix Massie pay homage to these glorious animals and their moving machines.
To celebrate its release, we caught up with illustrator / animation director extraordinaire, Emmanuelle Walker to talk about collaborating with Felix on this cool canine car compendium, illustration, animation and more…!
1)What came first – the words or pictures? How did you and Felix collaborate on the project?
What came first was a spreadsheet. A spreadsheet including a list of A to Z breeds, and car brands – because yes, the number of dogs corresponds to the number of each alphabet letter, which also corresponds to the name of the dog breed and the car brand! A=1 – Alpha Romeo/Afghan hound, B=2 – Bentley/Beagles, C=3 Citroen/Corgis, D=4 – Delorean/Dalmatians, etc.
I then gave that list to Felix as a base for the text, and it evolved from there. He picked the breed and the brand that he thought served the story the best. He added to the dog and car list too if he thought there was an even better option.
He did a first draft, and that’s really when I started working. Over time some of the rhymes slightly changed, but the idea stayed the same.
2) Which is your favourite spread from the book and why?
The dog I had the most fun drawing was probably the Old English sheepdogs, because I love drawing hairy things, could you count all the hair on that spread?
I like all the book spreads, but the special one is probably number 10, where I drew my dad in his blue Jeep and myself as a child with our 10 Jack Russells (even though we never had a single Jack Russell!).
3) Do you have a dog? If so what kind and what are they called? If not… what kind of dog would you most like to have?
No I don’t, unfortunately. My favorite dog in the world is probably the whippet because of all the crazy positions they can make thanks to their long limbs. If I had a garden big enough (or if I had a garden at all) I would have one.
4) Could you tell us a little bit about your illustration process?
I usually do some sketch research first. There were so many different and sometimes similar breeds, so I had to find a way to simplify them and understand the shapes.
To have a better general overview of what the book was going to look like, I did some super quick thumbnails of the spreads.
Then I prepared a template document in Photoshop because I wanted all the cars to be proportional to each other when you flip the book pages. So the small cars are tiny on the page, versus the trucks for example. Once I had the template I picked the illustration I wanted to do the most on that day. I started with the 13 Maltese.
I then roughed the car first, then the dogs and background with a thin black line. Once I was happy with the rough I made a colour-test layer to decide what the colours were going to be. Sometimes it’s a quick process, sometimes it’s harder to find something that pleases me. At this stage it’s only refining that’s left but that’s the longest and most tedious part!
Once I was happy with the colours I started selecting the different zones of the illustration with the freehand lasso tool. Basically, every colour is a different layer so I can easily change things if I need to.
And for the rest of the pages, I balanced everything depending on the number of dogs on the page. So if I had to draw a lot of dogs for one page, I would then pick one with less dogs, and so forth.
5) You work now as an animation director, what do you enjoy most and what are the challenges involved with making a children’s book outside of your day job?
I can’t really pick a favourite between directing, animating, and illustrating, I need the three to feel balanced. Animation is great, and bringing characters to life is extremely satisfying, but it can be very tiring to draw the same drawing over and over, (and then retracing/cleaning up everything afterwards). Illustration is great, you can take all the time you want to create one single image but it doesn’t move! And finally directing means that you often get to work on bigger projects, with a team to help you, but it can be stressful and the clients are not all always easy to manage. Luckily I work with great producers who take care of them most of the time.
Because I don’t have a regular schedule or regular clients, my days are always different. I have some super busy months where I stay at the studio until midnight, and other times, I can go weeks/months without working. The main challenge I’d say is not to get too stressed in the down times and try to travel a bit to work on personal projects (that will often bring you more work), find some inspiration elsewhere for other projects, and disconnect for a while.
Thank you so much Emmanuelle! Drive away with a copy of Dogs in Cars now!
To celebrate the launch of this next exciting instalment, on Thursday 8th September from 7.30 to 9pm, Hilda’s creator Luke Pearson will be joining us at Gosh! comics.
Luke will be in conversation with author, cartoonist and comic book aficianado Gary Northfield, discussing his creative process, the upcoming Hilda animation (as much as he’s allowed to) and whatever else might crop up in the evening. It’s a not to be missed chance to peek into one of UK comics’ most verdant creative minds. And a chance to get a copy of a Gosh! exclusive Hilda & the Stone Forest bookplate edition!
The Facebook event page can be found here. No need to book, no tickets required: just bring yourself down for 7.30-9pm on Thursday the 8th September, seats first come, first served for what promises to be an informative, entertaining evening.