Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Spirin and the Dugins

Another book haul that could not be avoided.

On a recent trip to Germany I had no choice but to pick up books by some fiercely talented artists.
What’s with all the Russians?! Unbelievable! And why do they all cater to my taste, a mystery! :o)

The first one is by well-known artist Gennardy Spirin
“The tale of the unicorn”
It combines 3 of my favourite things:
1. Unicorns (of course)
2. The artwork of Spirin (impossible!)
3. The writing of Otfried Preu├čler, a german children’s author (only a few of his books have been translated into English, check out “Krabat”).

Next a Russian Illustrators couple: Andrej and Olga Dugin.
They have created some – insert sufficiently impressive word – work!
They work individually and also collaborated on books, such as this one:
“The Dragonfeathers”

Have a look at their website

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Fairy Tale Roots

One thing I learned talking to different publishers is that if you really want to publish yet another fairy tale it needs to be breathtakingly different. They showed me extraordinary books and left me speechless.

And that there does not seem to be much money in fairy tales.

The latter does not put me off, I just can’t help loving fairy tales. To me they NEVER get old and can be done and redone and reinvented and I just never tire of them. And there are sooooooo many of them! All cultures know them. They are my biggest obsession.

Looking back to my childhood it really is no wonder…
I grew up with cheap and cheerful fairy tale collections, fairy tales on vinyl that crackled more and more with every use, boxes of tapes, the wonderful paper-cut fairy tales of Lotte Reiniger and thanks to East German TV the fairy tale adaptations of Film Studios in Russia or the Czech Republic/Slovakia. Amazing stuff!

There was Jim Henson of course, hard to do justice to the HUGE influence the “story teller” had on me. The trailer alone gives me goose bumps: “the best place at the fire was kept for….the story teller” * shiver*
And there was Norse mythology! Full of ravens and wolves and places like “the ironwood forest”. I was utterly fascinated!
A general love of escapism in every shape or form I suppose. And seeing magic in every ordinary thing.
I was born into a bibliophile household and to go anywhere without bringing a book along with me is still unimaginable!

While nothing might be truly original every artists adds his or her own spin on a tale.
I have different interpretations of the same classic tales and all are different and great.
Done by PJ Lynch, Vadislav Yerko, Lisbeth Zwerger, Robert Ingpen, Karel Franta (…) and these artists have amazing skills!
They created magic.

So these are my roots and also my aspirations. It’s a long way to go!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Fresh Start

After the book fair I decided:
I am reworking my complete portfolio!
The next book fair I want to go to is the one in Frankfurt in October.
I want to impress and woo and if everything fails gobsmack! There!
I have 6 months to become a genius!

The most common reaction I got from people after saying I wanted to rework the portfolio was:
“really? You want to start from scratch with all your work?”
Well, yes and no. I think it’s more like building on what you have.
Never fear the blank page. Redo things but don’t wipe out the steps you have already taken.
I the past I have learned that every second version if a drawing is better than the one before. And if I sit down and do the third, fourth, fifth … time it will become even better!

I am doing my homework and have my eye on two publishers I like to work towards in particular. It’s good to have a standard in mind. Suddenly the bar has been raised way over my head. I have to look up and blink into the sun to see it.

And I have already worked out how to make time to get there: I will just give up sleeping! No prob! :o)
Goodbye, sleep.
Goodbye, social life.
Goodbye, beloved books * oh god!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Closing notes on Bologna 2012

The book fair has opened my eyes in many ways.

What I take away from it most of all is:

Never take any rejection personal.
Haha, you can tell a got my share!
It happens when one is clueless and shows their work to even to most unsuitable publishers (but hey, it doesn’t hurt to get opinions from where ever you can get them, it’s better to do this than to hide away).

Just keep in mind:
You are there to learn, listen, be open to suggestions but also to see what is out there and where your match could be. Because finding a good match is what it is all about. No point in asking the wrong people!
The publishing world is vast, there is room for all of us.
While you might not be to the taste of one country (yes, also a lesson, different countries favour different styles or have different needs) you could be a huge hit in Asia or South America, who knows!

Another thing I’ve thought about is that the book fair is an expensive place to go (for publishers, for visitors its dead cheap. At least the ticket to the fair itself) so not everyone will be there. Some are too small to be able to afford the fees. So even at a world book fair you will not find everyone.

There are many more to discover!

So that’s it, my tiny bit of advice on Bologna :o)

If you have any more questions just let me know!

Best of luck and happy drawing!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Bologna Book Haul

One of the nicest parts for me was that some stalls will actually sell books at the end of the book fair. Yey!

Not that I am an addict or anything! :o)

I tried to behave (and the luggage restrictions of the return flight definitely helped too)!
There was soooooo much more, but many of them would not sell. :o( Booooo!

I’m so happy I got the Russian one! It was a gift too, hurray Russians! Fat chance of getting this on amazon ever. And no, I don’t speak Russian, does it matter? Why ever would you ask? ;o)

Monday, 2 April 2012

What to do at the Childrens book fair

Before going to the fair for the first time I started browsing a bit to find some advice. Maybe my limited patience and googling skills are to blame but I found very little on the web.
So I thought I share a little of my experience with you.

• Pick up publishers catalogues! I had a massive stack of these in my suitcase coming back. They really give you a good overview of what each publishing house is about. I cut them up and glued them into collages for each one, keeping only what’s relevant for me. Makes a lot more sense now and next time I can save myself some time and just go for the ones that fit my style.

• Show publishers your portfolio. Different publishers as well as different countries do this differently. Some put up signs at their stall, like “Illustrators hour 2 – 4 pm”. Others you will have to ask and some will some won’t look at your work.

• Browse books. From all over the world. This is candy store territory! Books you would never get your hands on otherwise! Need I say more? :o)

• Listen to talks about publishing, illustrating, writing, trends. Which – ehm – I did not manage at all. I spend most of my time queuing and browsing actually! And eating panini’s in the sun and drinking coffee in my breaks to clear my mind for a few minutes.

Oh, one more note, this is a WORLD book fair. Don’t miss out on seeing the world either and show your work to publishers from different countries, not just what you are familiar with, cause, let’s face it, you never know! :o)

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Why you have to go to Bologna

So I went on a little quest to make my l luck last week…
All the way to Italy, to the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, right into the dragons den.
Before I say anything else, guys, you REALLY have to go!

Make time, save up and take a leap and jump in(to the real world)
This is a long way from dreaming, these are actual publishers who look at actual work and could actually give you a job (in time)! :o)

God, so much to see and to learn!

First of all this is a place for business, publishers are trading rights to already published books, so don’t be disappointed if not everyone has time to look at your work! But still, many of them DO look at illustrators portfolios and having someone look at your work is the first step to getting where you want to be!
Don’t be afraid to get rejected, don’t be disappointed, it’s a place to learn and be inspired and amazed of what it possible! Don’t hide and wait till you are ready, I certainly was not ready this time but I will be (a little more) ready next year!

And the books, oh the books!
So many! So many you will get dizzy, its brilliant! It’s amazing to see how different children’s books can be from country to country. Call me naive but I maintain there is room for us all!

I’ve spent the whole duration of the fair wandering publishers stalls, picking up catalogues, leafing through brilliant books, taking a deep breath and opening my portfolio, browsing, chatting.
I have learned a ton! What’s out there, who wants what and also about the little space in-between mainstream books, the space reserved for unusual talents and books with a difference.