Arts and Crafts

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I know Canadian Thanksgiving has passed but I was in the mood for a bit of arts and crafts and had a flashback to elementary school. I don’t know if this is still a popular Thanksgiving activity in art class but I remember making paper turkeys using our hand prints.

Here is my updated version using a sheet of paper, a pair of scissors, coloured pencils, white glue, and two traces of my left hand. I had to get creative with the feather patterns since I didn’t have any construction paper.

The first hand trace formed the base of the turkey - the head, body and large tail feathers.
The second hand trace was cut into six pieces. The five finger pieces formed the second layer of tail feathers and the palm became the wing.
An extra thumb trace created the fleshy wattle on the neck.
A corner of the sheet of the paper became the beak.

Now I have a turkey for next Thanksgiving. Gobble, gobble, gobble!

A Moose in a Canoe

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It’s been awhile since my last post as I’ve starting doing some instructional and multimedia design work. Finding the time (and energy) to work on my next picture book has been a bit harder but I will find a balance soon. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, you might remember this moose from a music poster I did some time ago. I quite like this moose so decided to give him centre stage in his own print. As the title says, here is a moose in a canoe.

Now Downtown

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I'm thrilled to announce that my Simone books are now at Hill of Content Bookshop, located in the Melbourne city centre. They have a beautiful range of books that aren't just for kids.

On the topic of children's picture books, I recently read a story/article that looked at the top 100 selling picture books in Australia. Titled Bear Finds A Voice, I thought this was an interesting read highlighting gender balance in these top sellers.

While I Was Away

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While I was away overseas for the last month, I completely unplugged - no phone, email, or online news - and it was absolute bliss! Now that I've returned and am getting back into the swing of things, I discovered that the story I am working on was shortlisted and highly commended in the Illustrations: Illustrated Picture Books category at this year's Children's and Young Adult Writers and Illustrators (CYA) Conference. Here's the main character from that work-in-progress dancing a celebratory jig. A very belated thank you to everyone at CYA!

A Different Landscape

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I've been doing a lot of writing this past month as I've started the preliminary manuscript for a space themed story. It's time to switch back into illustration mode though so I'm warming up with some sketches of landscapes that will feature in a different book that's set in the Rockies. The colours aren't quite right but experimentation is all part of the illustration design process.

Simone en Australie

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The French translation of Simone in Australia is finally here! Simone en Australie was only made possible by the wonderful Mathieu Lafabrie. As a thank you for his beautiful translation, I will donate all profits from this book to support Australian wildlife conservation on his behalf. We are still in the process of choosing an organisation/program to donate to and will announce where the profits will go later this year.

Simone en Australie was my first foray into print-on-demand (POD), meaning she is now available online through sites like Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Booko, etc. Simone in Australia and Simone in France have followed suit. Larger print versions of Christophe's Crumbs and Les Miettes de Christophe through POD are coming soon.

Australian Wildlife

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I've spent the last few months uploading my books onto print-on-demand (POD). I've previously  done offset printing (i.e., printing locally and self-distributing) but with the upcoming release of Simone en Australie, I decided to try POD to make the book more accessible to French readers across and outside of Australia. I have mixed feelings about POD but will share my thoughts about it in my next post.

Until then, in anticipation for Simone en Australie, I've created a new set of Australian wildlife postcards featuring a mix of familiar and lesser known creatures that include the koala, Tasmanian devil, wombat, cassowary, playtpus, thorny devil, pygmy rock-wallaby, and lyrebird.

You can check out the whole set here.

The Basics

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Today was the first time I presented as a writer and illustrator of picture books at a secondary school. My presentation included a short talk of how I make picture books and a follow-along activity demonstrating the techniques I use to create an illustration.

Here you can see how I built up an emu and a cassowary. Starting with some basic shapes (ovals, triangles, and lines) to form the outline of the birds, I added distinguishing features to differentiate between the two using reference images (e.g., the cassowary has a big casque on its head and extra neck skin similar to a turkey), applied shading or hatching to give the birds some greater definition, and finally, introduced a bit of colour to make them pop.

The highlight for me was to hear some of the students be so surprised that they could draw some pretty amazing birds by the end of the activity. It just shows that we can all draw.

Thanks so much to Ms. Yoon, her teaching colleagues, and their year 7 students for being so welcoming and enthusiastic. I wish them all the very best as they put together their own picture books.

City of Lights

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I haven't spent enough time in Paris to think of it as a place that has shaped me. It does hold a special place in my heart though.

Paris is where my husband spent two years working while I was studying in Melbourne. During that time, if I couldn't be in the same city/country/continent, I hoped that he would be surrounded by good people who'd look out for him. Paris turned out to be just that and so much more. The people he met were warm and funny, patiently helped him become semi-fluent in French (from speaking none!), and made Paris feel like a second home. They made Paris the City of Lights for us.

Sudan

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This is a small stippling I did while taking a break from writing earlier this week. I was saddened by the news of Sudan, the last male northern white rhino's, passing. Having collected his genetic material, hopefully conservationists will be successful in preserving this subspecies with IVF techniques.

The Firsts

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Another place that shaped me was Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is my city of firsts: the first city I moved to away from any family and friends, where I experienced my first hurricane and Atlantic snowstorm, and the first time I realised that I could stand on my own. It was a tumultuous but invigorating time. I don't think I ever felt alone in Halifax, thanks to the love from back home and great cheer from the incredible people I met there.

I allude to some Atlantic seabirds in this illustration: the puffin, osprey, little auk, eider duck, double-crested cormorant, black-headed gull, and American golden plover.

By Request

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This is a poster I've just completed for the fabulous Laura Madonna Murray, a musician hailing from Newfoundland, Canada. She is currently in Melbourne so be sure to stop by and get swept up in the music, laughter, and love of one talented performer.

You can find out more about Laura here: http://www.lauramadonnamurray.com/

City of Extremes

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There's a column in the travel section of The Age newspaper where different people (scientists, athletes, writers, architects, etc.) list five places that made them. In that same vein, this is a follow-up to my Durham illustration. Here is Melbourne, my city of extremes, where I have experienced some of the best and worst moments in my life thus far. This illustration features the beautiful stained glass pattern by the late Leonard French, that spans the ceiling of the Great Hall in the National Gallery of Victoria.

Three Bears

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I'm converting a graphic short story I created a few months ago into a children's picture book for this year. The bear on the left is an example of my graphic ink style, the middle bear is a manuscript sketch, and the bear on the right is an example of the final picture book illustration style. Is there a bear you prefer?

Warm Up

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I'm getting back into the swing of things with some small ink drawings. Here are a few of my favourite animals to visit at the nearby zoo: a platypus, Tasmanian devil, koala, and wombat.

Happy Holidays!

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Like the wild dingoes that I've encountered on Fraser Island, I wish everyone a bit of excitement, adventure, and pleasant surprises, but also the chance to relax and simply enjoy the surrounding scenery and good company this holiday season. All the best!

Memories

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Someone asked me when I first began to create picture books.

When I think back, it was a few years ago. I was in Durham, North Carolina, at the time and my most vivid memory of the place is taking a walk in the suburb I was staying in. There weren’t any footpaths so I had to walk on the edge of the road in the shadows of the tall pine trees lining both sides. There was little traffic so it almost felt as though I was completely cut off from the rest of the world. There was only the changing colours of the sky framed between the tree tops to indicate the passing of time. It was in that space that I’d reminisce about moments in past places and imagine adventures in new lands.

This is when I began to write and illustrate.

Keeping it Simple

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Compared to a previous owl posting, I've tried to keep it simple here. How? By limiting my actual drawing and colouring time to 30mins/owl and by parring down my range of tools to a pencil, an ink pen, two colours (compared to my usual blend of five or more) to distinguish them as short-eared owls, and a small paintbrush to smooth out the edges.

Owls

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I recently learnt that owls have really long necks! They have 14 vertebrae compared to our 7. This allows owls to turn their heads 270 degrees, tilt their heads 90 degrees, and bob their heads up and down without moving their shoulders. This is really useful for them since they have tube-shaped eyes that are locked in place by bony sclerotic rings. They can't roll their eyes like us but can move their whole head to see what's around.

Make A Wish

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For the Botanical category for #CreateArtHistory, this is "Make A Wish", featuring some Australian flora: broad leaved lilly pilly, billy button flowers, dandelion fluff, dawson river weeper, golden wattle, grasstree, grevillea orange marmalade flowers, midgen berry, moonlight delight waxflowers, notched bush pea, red flowering gum, and winters light lilly pilly.