Day: March 15, 2014

ABC’s by Charley Harper

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The ABC’s by Charley Harper is not the normal abc that I have seen. The illustrations are different and quite modern, here are few pages from the book:


This is clever a question within the simple ABC book and using an animal that is in the shape of an x. Pond skaters are an animal that don’t have much meat on them and so using their shape for the effect is perfect. The colour is a colour I would tend to avoid because it’ not exactly a happy colour! But I think it works for this even though I’m still not sure it’s a stimulating colour.


Zebra! Again clever, using geometric lines and shapes to form the mass of zebras in a pattern frenzy. It’s a good idea if you can’t draw the actual animal shape because even though they are clearer not a realistic image you know what they are suggesting.


Not using a specific animal he has used a term to show a group of animals that live in the water together. This has allowed him to illustrate more than one animal and produce a richer scene.


This is for the letter S but I just focused on the illustration because I think it looks beautiful. The colours are intense and fit in perfectly forming the shape of the shell. This image is very different compared to the letter Z which is very contemporary whereas this is more illustrative.


R is for rabbit – only using a bold blue for the foliage and line drawing to create a simple but creative image.


This is very different from from the previous image with the whole scene been coloured in with brown again. A creative concept of the bird using patterns and basic shapes to create it.


Larger than the normal size and seeing the farm and fields through the pig. It will give the viewer something to look at more than just the stereotypical image of a pink pig.


Characterisation with the koalas, the baby not looking like it’s enjoying itself on the mother. Looks like the mother is bending the branch ready to carry on climbing, green to nature.


A large hen chasing it’s farmer, from this image I feel like I can make story for each scene. For example the hen has eaten something that has made it grow massive and now chasing after the farmer because he treated it wrong when small.


I love this colour anyway but this simple form of the crab is again beautiful, the colours suggest the ocean floor with the dirt. A clean white background just emphasises the cleaned of the illustration.

I think this book is simple yet very effective, the illustrations are visually engaging even though they only use a limited amount of colure and mark making. Also I think that an animal can be visually shown without being perfectly accurate. So from looking gat this book I have realised that my illustrations don’t have to be so literal and can be more mature as you don’t want to patronise the reader. You also can mix up the illustration style from perfect formed images to fun, quirky not perfect to scale imagery. When creating work I will try and experiment with the type (material) of the scene as well as the normal perspective.



Harper, C., 2008, Charley Harper’s ABC’s. London: AMMO Books LLC.


Martin Salisbury

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Martin Salisbury (Left) gaining his honorary degree from one of his heroes Ronald Searle (right)

Well when I heard that Martin Salisbury was coming to give a talk about children’s book illustration I thought yes I am definitely going to see that as I had just reviewed a book that he wrote based on this subject. For once there is a children’s illustrator at University that is a well known name! I would love to see Quentin Blake but I assume he is always in high demand and would be very hard to get. Anyway, I went to the talk and it actually flew by which I never find with any presentation. So what did he talk about… again I will write in main points as I know how long blocks of text can put you off from reading it!

He is  the leader of the BA and MA Illustration at the University of Anglian Ruskin and he studied at Cambridge University where Gerald Rose taught him. He defines picture books as a book that delivers a message through pictures and words – they can’t work without each other and that is the difference from an illustrated book and a picture book. When he came out of college he constantly worked on non-fiction as that is the work he could get. Whilst working through his life Quentin Blake gave him good advice which was ‘draw horses in long grass’ so he wouldn’t have to do their legs which can make them look weird if you do it wrong.

Salisbury loves to work in watercolour best as he finds it beautifully technical, this is an image created by watercolours but this was for when he had to make work for non-fiction work.


When he was starting out as an illustrator it was classed as uncool and wasn’t very popular compared to today it’s a popular choice. He is currently working on a book that is looking at 100 children’s books over a 100 years. Salisbury kept saying throughout that there is a big gap between academic study and knowing through making which I totally agree because I love making things but the academic side I find tedious and extremely boring! They need to unite them both so they fit together and help each other rather than this is that and that is the other. He suggested the book The shape of Content which was written in 1956 by Ben Shahn – it basically sums up the tension between scholarly learning and knowing through making. I may look into this book for my dissertation if I focus on a subject that relates to this.

A few quotes that he said I quite liked:

Drawing  is a way of reasoning on paper.’ – Saul Steinburg

Drawing is another way of thinking’ – Edward Bawden

It annoys me how illustrators tend to have to defend what they do is a job and there a lot more to it than just drawing pretty pictures. A book that he suggested to look at is a book called Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud – this talks about the spaces between the pictures and how they work. I will look at this book in another post.

He talked about what some of the students he has taught and what they did for their final projects and the topic was something I would like to consider – animal characterisation in children’s books and part of it was she made a book called Zoom Zoom Zoom. Another student logged the process of making a book which again I thought would be really good as I could produce a lot of work and learn about it as I make it.

He kept mentioning his students as I think he is proud of them; one of the books he mentioned was Rabbityness by Jo Empson

Rabbitynes happy copy
Rabbityness by Jo Empson

Rabbitynes making music

This colourful book is based around the theme death. Sadly when she was studying at university her brother died and she focused these emotions to produce a book. I admire what she has done as this would be very hard to deal with, by showing themes like this through children’s books, children can learn how to deal with this topic if it happens to them and generally educates them about life.

Books that he picked out which uses clever tricks to engage the reader:

Quentin Blake – Cockatoos. This book uses a pantomime kind of technique to engage the reader as shown below:


In this image the text claims that there are no birds in the attic because the man can’t see them yet we as the viewer knows they are there because we can see them and we have more information than the main character. When a child or adult reads this the want to shout out that they are there pointing at the book thinking if they point the character will see them.


By having the text saying one thing and the image telling another it creates a contradiction but it works. I had never thought of doing that kind of technique and I will definitely consider it when creating my next sequential work.

Some competitions that he mentioned were the Kate Greenaway Prize, Waterstones Book Competition and Bologna prize which is a big international competition. The Bologna Competition  seems real good, they have a large festival where books across the world come together and it’s a big thing. I had never heard of it until now!

This is the link for their website which I will definitely check out!

Finally, some of his influence that he has gained over his time:

  • Sid Barrett
  • John Lawrence
  • Edward Gorden
  • Ronald Searle

Something I found interesting was about Ronald Searle; he has had an interesting life as he was in a concentration camp during the war where he spent nearly all his time drawing. He would ask the guards which he thought were the nicest and ask them if they could get any form of material that he could draw on. At one point they thought he had died due to the high amount of disease within the camps, lying there on the ground motionless until they saw his arm move and he was drawing! He survived the concentration camp and is extremely successful in life.

Salisbury showed us Searle’s marks from his education in drawing and they were I would say below average/ average yet here he is having a plentiful life and being highly successful. It just made me think that marks isn’t the thing that defines your life, it’s what you do after that makes your life stories. I am still obviously going to try hard but I’m going to try and relaxed a bit more and not always be so tense to get everything right first time.


Blake, Q., 1994, Cockatoos. London:  Red Fox Books.

Empson, J., 2011, Rabbityness, [internet] Available from:, [Accessed 15 March, 2.36pm].

Orange Marmalade, 2010, The Midnight Fox, [internet] Available from:, [Accessed 15 March 2014, 2.13pm].

Orsen, C., 2012, The Cambridge School Girls who inspired St Trinian’s, [internet] Available from:!image/1271473419.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_490/1271473419.jpg, [Accessed 15 March 2014, 2.16pm].


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So when I was doing my presentation I got the group to draw characters on a piece of paper where I already drew a pair of shorts and skirt. I was seeing if they would go for the stereotypical girl wears skirt – boy wears shorts. Here are a few of the outcomes:

frustration 1 frustration 2 frustrationIt was really interesting how people will use their imagination to draw characters even if there is only one item to draw from. After this I asked them if they could write down what they found frustrating in their lives from big things to small things and here are some of the responses:

  • When you smile at someone and they don’t smile back
  • Weak hand driers
  • People who don’t say thank you when you stop their car for the to cross the road
  • Lack of money
  • Social media gives a voice to people who perhaps needn’t be heard for various reasons
  • Adults who are dependant on their parents
  • Being late for something and it’s not your fault
  • Finding something hasn’t been done
  • Annoying noises
  • People who pester you
  • People who ignore you
  • Jobs that don’t go right
  • Dreary Weather
  • Greasy hair and spots
  • Shops no having produce you want
  • Fear and Phobias
  • Other people loud music
  • People who don’t keep to their time
  • Tape measures that move and so the measurement is a guess

Here are just a few but its good that I have done some research as this will give me leverage to start producing images. It’s also interesting on what people find interesting and it’s funny how they tend to interlink as people who read it may say oh yeah that annoys me to!


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So this is my actual section of the presentation;

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Below each slide I am going to put what I said during the presentation.

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I am going to talk about gender and stereotyping within children’s illustration.

So what am I going to talk about –

  • Gender Stereotyping in children’s books
  • Looking at the 1950s-70s illustrations
  • 21st Century illustrations

Here are some of the theorists I looked at.

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Definitions of gender in the context of children’s books. You can read the definitions but I thought the top definition is the one that applies best to this presentation. Gender – children will associate certain activities with specific gender e.g. Netball for girls – football for boys.
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Weitzman who studied sexiest messages in books commented ‘Picture books play an important role in early sex socialisation. Books provide children with role models- images of what they can and should be when they grow up.’

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Focusing on the 1950s to 1970s, Janet and John was a popular book used by schools to teach reading. This book showed what the lifestyles was like for the older generation, typically the women were cooking – housewife. The man or father would bring in the money from working a long day. John Berger comments on when we see images we situate ourselves in it. So int the 1950s people were assuming that these images we how they should be – how families should act.

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In the 1960s Ladybird produced books for children where they could learn key skills in life. Families shown in these books tended to be in idyllic situations. The left image shows a girl in pink with a pretty bow in her hair. The boy in a smart blue jumper with a tie. The girl is painting and the not is building. The right image i a mix of children sitting upright with no elbows on the table. Girls in pink and yellow with bows and headbands. Boys in shirts and ties and the housewife is entertaining them with delicious healthy and tasty treats.

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In 1964 Peter and Jane were created to teach young children how to read. However, in the 1970s Ladybird decided to update the style as they wanted to portray a realistic lifestyle. Pete and Jane were now frowned upon as opinions had changed towards the idyllic family scenario.

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Comparing the two images you can see that Jane has changed her clothing. From a yellow cardigan to blue denim jeans. Her hair isn’t so perfectly styled and is more natural.

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Another example of the changes Ladybird made. The father has taken a more active role in parenting, wearing a suit suggesting he has just come back from work. Now wearing a casual blue sweater creating a more relaxed atmosphere. Although the mother hasn’t changed just the fashion.

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So are children’s books now equal with male to female roles? No, according to past research males are still more popular in lead characters than females.

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Results from research that looked into the ratio of male to female characters in 92 children’s books. This researched was undertaken by Heather McArthur and Carmen Poulin at the University of Brunswick. As you can see there are 344 female characters compared to 560 male characters. This was similar significant gap when it came to animals main characters. These results could suggest to children that females are not active participants in the world to the same degree as males. This could have a significant impact on the psychological development to both genders.

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Examples of this imbalance in modern children’s books:

Robert and The Red Balloon is placed within a messy room and there are masculine toys all around him e.g. cars, planes, trains and rockets. It is also illustrated by a male. Emmie and the Purple Paint is placed within a tidy pink room with soft cuddly toys and her mother is helping her to get changed not the father. It is also written and illustrated by two females. Susan Witt comments on how easily influenced children are based on how they should behave and act.

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Masie Middleton is portrayed as a tomboy and doesn’t like dresses. At the end of the story she bows down to peer pressure of the female gender stereotype and ends up liking the dress. Peepo! shows a gender specific era. The man of the house is carrying in the heavy coal whilst the women are doing the chores of the house – cleaning, cooking etc. Simone de Beauvior comments ‘One is not born but rather becomes a woman’ She distinguishes sex from gender, suggesting gender is an aspect of identity gradually acquired. Illustrators plays a small but significant part when influencing children’s ways of thinking. If we have this power to influence why haven’t we sorted out the bias gender stereotyping within children’s books yet?

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Here is some of books for further reading.

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It took me roughly 5 minutes to complete which was perfect as we were aiming for 5 minutes each then 5 minutes of question/discussion time adding up to the full 20minutes. I was extremely nervous and as I was speaking I could hear my voice wobbly but I think I was loud enough and I tried to speak normally (although I speak fast anyway in my daily life). After speaking I was relieved and I thought we did alright. That was until I got feedback.


To be honest I haven’t really got much feedback for my part as they are fairly positive points. The part about there was Judith Butler in my bibliography but I didn’t speak about it well it’s because I find her work too complicated for me to get my head around. Also I put it in because with essays you put all the documents you looked at that were relevant even if you don’t directly say it in your essay, that is why I put it in here to show I looked across a wide range of people. So I don’t know what thats all about! Going from getting firsts across the boards to suddenly dropping down is horrible! I don’t like it, I know that the Masters is going to be hard but I didn’t realise it’s going to be this hard! Part of me wishes I stuck to BA as I know what I was doing! I felt my mark was a little weak but from this I am going to try and be better and work harder. Next time I do a presentation like this (which I hope never comes!) I am going to look more into theorists to link with the images rather than just relying on the images. Like my mum said to me just take his comments and move onwards and upwards!

Check Up 2

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Ok another check up again (like a dentist!) I hadn’t done much work this week as I have been concentrating on my presentation but I basically what I showed the group what I had done so far. As I was showing them my telephone printed pieces I mentions that I did a rough jigsaw and they found that really interesting to my surprise. These are the points I took away from the group:

  • Create a jigsaw made out of the text
  • A jigsaw that has one piece that is slightly smaller or bigger and doesn’t fit
  • A jigsaw that has a missing bit
  • Children’s jigsaw that is massive or 1000 piece or 3D jigsaw
  • Pushing shapes through specific shaped holes
  • Complete a jigsaw but every time you start it a new piece goes missing
  • Show frustration through a children’s book

Ok so I think I am going to spend a bit of time creating some form of jigsaw whilst trying to think of sequential imagery as well. I don’t think I will create much work this week as I am going to add to my blog which takes me a while! But I’ll have ago at making a jigsaw! Sounds like fun!

So… Presentation time again

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I’m working with Jonny and Jack for my presentation which is fine because I get on with them but the problem is, is that I want to focus on children’s illustration whereas the boys illustrations are more mature and aimed at adults. We will have to find common ground to create a smashing presentation.

I have been emailing my tutor back and forth ideas that we came up with but they were always too vague. First we started off with animals and how they are represented, I would have focused on a specific children’s book called The Tiger Who came to Tea by Judith Kerr and Mr Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown.

tiger who came to tea
The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

I was going to analyse the story hidden behind the book and show the secret meaning, for example Judith Kerr escaped Germany before Hitler came into power and her father was on the wanted list. The Tiger could be the character that represents the Nazis coming into her house after she left and taking all her stuff to keep or burn. For more information on this there a few sites that are good:

This video from the amazon website is an interview with Judith Kerr and she talks about her life in Germany including why she ran with her family from Germany. It is extremely interesting and I fell in love with her and her work even more!


I was going to compare The Tiger Who Came to Tea with this book Mr. Tiger Goes Wild as I thought they were totally different. This book written in the 21st Century and uses modern techniques for a bright and colourful layered picture book. Based on  tiger who lives the posh and ‘correct’ way with suits and ties in an orderly fashion and he wants to go into the wild to explore the world and not stay in the perfect city. I thought the hidden message was that people should once on a while go and explore the world and experience new things instead of staying in the city all their life stuck in a routine. For further information I looked at these sites:

I was going to compare the characterisation, the emotional responses that children will get from the characters, the use of material, the hidden messages behind it, should we put hidden messages in children’s books? etc

After talking to the tutor he said ti was still too vague and so we went back to the drawing board although I am glad I still looked into it as I never knew about The Tiger Who Came to Tea hidden story and I learnt a lot about the illustrator and her past.

Days went by edging ever closer to the main day and this presentation is worth 50% of the total marks so it’s pretty important to get it right! Eventually we thought about focusing on gender and stereotypes as this can cover Jonny’s artist who was David Foldvari and I could apply this to my passion. We decided to break it up into three sections:

Jack –

  • What is gender?
  • How is it portrayed?
  • How has the line between genders blurred

Me –

  • How is gender represented in Children’s books?
  • How has it changed from the 18th Century for example to the 21st Century

Jonny –

  • How is gender not so divided when you grow older?
  • Innocence lost – David Foldvari’s work

Now we had a rough layout of what each of us was going to concentrate on we can begin creating the presentation. The good thing about this was that mine and Jonny’s section interlinked as when children grow up they ar told the difference between female and male roles but as you grow older these lines blur and you are told everyone is equal.

I am going to post my section of the presentation on the next post and write what I said, after this I can then analyse what worked and what didn’t after we presented on monday.

Images –

The Tiger Who Came to Tea, [internet]. Available from:, [Accessed 11 March 2014, 6.07pm].

Jennifer., 2013, Mr Tiger Goes Wild book review and giveaway, [internet] Available from:, [Accessed 11 March 2014, 6.10pm].

Research into Children’s Books

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Ok, so I really really want to become a children’s illustrator as I love the energy kids get when they read their favourite character in a book. So, I thought I better do a little research into this topic so I got the following books out of the library:

The Bloomsbury Guide to Creating Illustrated Children’s Books –  Desdemona McCannon, Sue Thorton and Yadzia Williams

Children’s Picture Books; the art of visual storytelling  – Martin Salisbury and Morag Style

Illustrating Children’s Books – Martin Ursell

I am going to analyse these books and show what I found helpful from them. I also took out the following books:

Charles Harper’s Birds and Words

ABC’s – Charley Harper

I found these illustrations really interesting as at first glance I thought they are colourful yet they are quite minimalistic and I would have personally designed them for children. Further discussion will be done on it’s own post.