A few years ago, I took to an online blog in order to vent my freelancing frustrations. Work had dropped off and I wanted to share a side of the story that nobody seemed to be discussing. There's a lot of editing on social media and being a freelance creative was painted as a dreamy, idyllic lifestyle. I was experiencing something different, along with everyone else I knew. The highs were no lie and I’ve had my share of exhilarating achievements, but it’s a very temperamental existence and I hated the idea that we were all hiding the grizzly bits.
There is something extremely calming about Fiona Woodcock’s artwork — I would describe it as the hygge of picture book illustration — because each time I read one of her books, I feel so relaxed and content, gently swept up by the subtle colours and textures she creates. A Dot in the Snow is beautiful, uncomplicated, peaceful — and yet dramatic in composition of scale and landscape.
Illustrator Fiona and author Corrinne Averiss have been nominated for a Kate Greenaway Medal for Dot, and so here, Fiona talks about her creative process.
A Dot in the Snow, published by Oxford University Press and nominated for a 2018 Kate Greenaway Medal.
FW: As soon as I heard the title and Corrinne’s concept for the book — the idea of a little polar bear spotting a dot in the snow, I was totally captivated and knew I wanted to work on it.
My initial brief was to do something “artful,” which as an illustrator is a real gift!
I spent my Christmas watching wildlife documentaries to get my head around bears and snowy scenes. This was invaluable and helped to spark off compositional ideas for the landscape spreads.
We decided early on that it was important to highlight the environmental impact on the melting polar ice caps with the cracking ice spreads. This influenced the character design of the young polar bear cub Miki and we resolved to have him on all fours, rather than anthropomorphised on two legs. This slightly naturalistic approach seemed to help place him in the snowy world, where he has to contend with all the perils of the harsh environment.
I did lots of printmaking experiments to create the landscapes, printing with rubber stamps, and polystyrene from a pizza base was great for ice. I then composited all the elements digitally.
As well as the relationship between the characters, I was keen to capture their relationship with the environment, the filmic potential and the sense of space and distance covered on Miki’s epic adventure.
Corrinne sent me a link to this Björk track which she listened to whilst writing the book. It then became my soundtrack whilst illustrating it and we played it on a loop at our London book launch at the Bright Emporium!
My huge thanks to Fiona! LM
If you’d like to work with Fiona, you can reach her via her agent, Arabella Stein here.
If you’d like to know more about Fiona and her picture books, click the link below.
Fiona Woodcock — From Art Licensing to Children’s Books and Beyond…
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When you think of children’s illustration, it’s only natural to think picture books, but the exciting thing about illustration is just how much you can do with it. Children’s illustrators do, primarily make picture books, but they’ll often do more where their schedule allows. They take part in all sorts of events, up and down the country, and they often share their skills closer to home — in their own community. This is exactly what Fred Blunt has done, and even better, it involves his local library:
FB: It all started when an artist friend of mine got in touch and told me that South Swindon Parish had taken over the Old Town Library, and were planning a renovation project. What’s more, they wanted large scale, fun murals for the children’s area. He thought it would be relevant for a children’s book illustrator to pitch for the job.
Fred’s rough drafts before the final artwork, and the final designs below.
At first I didn’t intend to pitch. The idea of taking the time out of of my picture book schedule to design and paint a mural seemed way too time-consuming. But the idea of creating something just for children, in a library, on a big scale was very exciting to me – especially in the present climate of library closures.
[Read more about library closures in an article by The Guardian here]
I then thought, if I could find a company to install it using vinyl print, I could save a lot of time and potentially make it work. I did a little research and contacted local print company, Signs Express with my proposal.
Much to my surprise, they got in contact the very next day, enthused about the project and eager to be onboard.
So I pitched my vision of a vibrant wall design, installed in vinyl print, instead of a traditionally painted mural. The Council library committee were quick to get in touch and discuss my ideas – all of which were enthusiastically received.
I went away with a vague notion of creating a bold and vibrant mural, which was going to be based on reading – showing the joy of books, and how they take you out of the everyday, and into the extraordinary.
Hot off the printing press!
I wanted the design to be appealing over the age groups, bright and fun for the very young, but also to have enough design elements to be considered cool for the older kids (and hopefully enjoyed by their parents too).
Early on, I wanted to achieve a ‘pop art’ look for kids . . . a cartoony version of those bold Peter Blake designs, with the contained boxes of colour. I also wanted the characters to have a retro appeal, so they would be timeless.
Famous artwork by Peter Blake.
It was great fun designing each individual box, using limited colour, so that together, they would hang nicely as a bunch of interlocking, contrasting colours – creating an overall unity.
The committee were very open to my ideas. They gave me free reign to do exactly what I wanted, which was wonderfully liberating! I even got to choose the colours of the walls and new carpets to compliment my designs.
The installation itself, took only a day for the print team to complete, and I have to admit it was a nerve-wracking wait to see if the result would live up to my expectations — but quite honestly, they exceeded them.
The vinyl finish is great! No need to worry about mucky fingers and the colours are more vivid than I imagined — or could have ever achieved with paint. Exactly the bold graphic look I was after.
It’s been a great project to be part of, and hopefully many children will enjoy the murals as they choose new books for a long time to come.
Fred pictured next to the finished mural, and his children enjoying the books in the new space.
So if you live in the Swindon area, be sure to visit your local library!
With huge thanks to Fred Blunt. If you’d like to know more about Fred’s illustration and picture books, you can do so here:
Picture Book Funny Man: The Art of Fred Blunt
Fred Blunt puts the funny into children’s books, with his humour making both children and adults laugh. There’s something nostalgic about his style; animated, playful and with a warm palette, his pictures and characters tell the story, making his books an all inclusive experience. Here he talks about his journey, starting out as a working illustrator, covering a broad range of markets, to the present, where he works solely on picture books, much to the delight of his readers… [Continue reading]
If you’d like to work with Fred, you can get in touch via his agent, Arabella Stein here.
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