Month: January 2015

Tutorial Onwards..

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I had my tutorial this week and it went better than I expected. I was worried that my story wouldn’t be good enough and I would have to rethink the whole idea. I know I should have confidence in what I create but from past experience I have had all my hopes up and they have been dashed as they haven’t been good enough and so I am a little cautious nowadays even though it is kind of expected in the art world.

A few things were flagged in my work:

  1. The story needs to be tight and full proof – this will be solved through the development process so I shouldn’t worry about it too much right now
  2. I should focus on sound and illustrating sounds
  3. The animals I have chosen are interesting and I should research into them more – learning about their sounds and calls
  4. Instead of developing the character straight away, I should experiment with materials to show expressive lines and movement
  5. Take sections of scenes and work them up to see what they look like, I never had done that as I always tried to the whole scene which took a lot of time but this would be a quicker and easier way to produce work
  6. Character development, as the character develops through my experimental work I will have to consider how I am going to illustrate them focusing on specific parts of the body e.g. hands and eyes
  7. Book shape and page numbers – the standard size is 32 pages even though there are books out there that are near 40 pages. I’m sticking with 32 as publishers tend to stick to this and the MacMillan Children’s Book competition that is coming up soon and tends to stick with 32 page books. The book shape is a tricky one, as I was originally was going to go with the generic square or A4 size book. However, I was told that even though these tend to be the standard size, if I create a book that uses it’s size to enhance the story and illustrations it has a better chance to stand out from the crowd. I can also make the book for my final MA Show which makes it even more unique.

I was just originally going to create the storyboard then the characters and produce them in my digital collage style but in this tutorial I was questioned and made to think why should I stick to the digital collage because anyone can do that. It is a skill I have already learnt and I should experiment more with other materials to see if anything better comes out of it, to learn what could work and wouldn’t work for this specific project. I haven’t done much experimenting since the end of 2nd year on the BA course, as I had already ‘found my style’ and so I stopped experimenting. I am quite excited to start again even though I will be rusty as I can’t remember most of the techniques that I learnt in collage but it will allow me to unlock my imagination again and just have fun.

The beginning of the end…

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So the first week of the final term has nearly finished, and so far I have tried to think of a plan of action to use my time wisely. I made a rough timetable of when to start certain things when creating my children’s book. Within the dates I have split the work load into sections:

  • Finalise Story
  • Create Storyboards
  • Create Narration
  • Character Development
  • Scene Design
  • Create Scenes
  • Tweak all images
  • Get book printed

They are basic bullet points but they will intertwine with one another and all of the items will be constantly changing. I have always hated starting projects as I have either too many or no ideas at all and I am never sure which one to pick. Dismissing an idea that could have been amazing and picking another idea which isn’t going anywhere is a horrifying thought. However, I am sure many illustrators go through this process and the only way to combat it is to face the challenge and experiment. Due to having restricted time on creating this book, I can start to appreciate why established authors and illustrators take a long period of time to create a children’s book, as it is a slow but carefully planned process.

The story I have chosen is based on a squirrel who is scared by a grumbling noise and goes to his neighbours to see if anyone else had heard this noise in the forest. Here are my initial sketches and plans:



Before I started creating rough storyboards I didn’t really know where to start and so I thought I would research into the characters home. This allowed me to start to visualise the scenes and how I could play with the storyline to fit within the area. Also, depending where the character lived could alter his personality which is going to be developed later on.



When creating the rough storyboards I decided to look at some more picture books which included squirrels but to specifically look at how the author and illustrator laid their story out. From this I could see which stories worked and flowed as well as deciding what I didn’t want. Here is one of the analysis from a book called Tick Tock created by Eileen Brown and illustrated by David Parkins. A story about Skip the Squirrel who breaks her mum’s cuckoo clock, it’s a race against time to fix it before mum gets back. Visiting two characters, the Weasel and the Hedgehog who unsuccessfully fix the clock but they soon reach the Owl who fixes the clocks but they don’t have time to test it out before they place it back in the Squirrels house. They think they have achieved the impossible but as you would find out, the clock does not go Cuckoo Cuckoo anymore it sings Tu- Whit-Tu-Whoo!

Front Cover
Introduction to the characters and setting up the theme
One of the three extra characters trying to help fix the clock
The second character trying to fix the clock unsuccessfully
Stripping the story down to the bare minimum.

From looking at the basic storyline I could see there were set amount of pages for the beginning, middle and end to the story.

4 double pages which introduces the characters to the reader and shows the problem

6 double pages designated for the characters to try and fix the clock

2 double pages shows the consequence of the fixing of the clock

Including the front and back cover, copyright, title page and the two sets of end pages the book is 32 pages long which is the standard size. I was surprised because they had fit so much in within the book, which has adventure, humour and characters as well as the sense of time passing which can be hard to achieve.

After looking at this book I found my story has a similar layout and so I thought I would attempt to use this a basic guideline when creating my storyboard. I will be also looking at The Gruffalo again which was created by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler as they have a similar layout. Even though both of these books aren’t amazingly new and they use a popular layout, they make the book their own and tell their strong story with great excitement which I want to achieve.


BBC, n.d, Oak Wood. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 January, 2015].

Browne, E., 1993, Tick Tock. London: Walker Books Ltd.

Donaldson, J., 1999, The Gruffalo. London: MacMillan.

Tasks for next semester

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Next semester is going to be full on, but I have a feeling that I will love it. Yes there will be highs and lows in the story that will start soon but I will be victorious in the end. I am starting now to create a rough list of what I will need to cover, so when it comes to starting it I won’t freak out and everything will be calm and collective:

  • Size of book – A4? A3? Custom size?
  • Character development – the character will be a squirrel and so I want to gather a lot of material on the body, animal interactions, behaviour etc. Research on how other illustrators have perceived the animal as well as working out what the personality my squirrel has. I tend to draw a couple of sketches of the main character and then stick with them through the book which I noticed restricts a lot of potential aspects of the book, so I want to draw the character repeatedly so I understand how it works, feels and looks. I want to learn that it doesn’t matter if one drawing goes wrong when I have just drawn a good one as it’s all part of the learning and I want to let go of being over protective of every aspect of my work.
  • Background development – more realistic with unusual angles due to the main character being a squirrel. Gather photos and other media on the specific season.
  • Pacing – fast pacing and then some steady pacing. I was also thinking of including specific pages that refer to the past, do I use a slightly different medium to clearly show a different part of time?
  • Layout – Am I going to use the characters to interact with the actual physical book or keep the layout simple.
  • Framing – Do I stick with the same framing like the Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson or do I keep changing it depending on the pace of the story.
  • Colours – Is it going to be full colour throughout or do I change the colours depending on the mood which would change the atmosphere of the scene like It’s a Book by Lane Smith.

I want to become fully involved with the development of the story, to experiment and become immersed in it’s world. To understand what professional illustrators and authors go through even though there are never two stories the same. At the end I would love a publisher to pick me up and want to work with me further but this will be a massive challenge and dream but one that I will not give up on easily.


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So as I keep mentioning my deadline is looming and I have eventually worked out two possible outcomes which I was aiming for, for this part off the course and I will develop one of the stories on the next stage of my course. My original aims for this project were:

  1. Create sketches of the woods and squirrels
  2. Take photos of the woods
  3. Create more blogs showing the development
  4. Create two to three final stories that will be developed next term
  5. Analyse previous successful published children’s books

The problem with life sometimes is what you plan doesn’t always well… go to plan. I have achieved many things in this short time such as completing a dissertation, starting the development process of my children’s picture book and I am excited for what is coming in the next term.

The dissertation took a large amount of time that I wasn’t really expecting but it did help me a lot in understanding my area of interest regarding the educational value books can have and how children’s books help children to develop their own interests and life skills. Also it helped me to focus what I wanted to create, not just a picture book but one that combined educational information within the narration which also includes fictional aspects. Due to the time restriction that the dissertation caused even though I stuck to my schedule, I didn’t create as much material as I had hoped for but I think I will have more research when I start to develop the book next semester. I found it is harder to think of a story than I originally anticipated and can see now why other illustrators and authors can take years to develop a story (which I didn’t understand previously) as there are so many out there but it is choosing which one is the hardest part.

Analysing picture books – I completed this whilst working on my dissertation and it helped me when analysing three contemporary picture books in my essay. By looking at other successful books old and new, I was able to see how many different ways stories can be illustrated and laid out. From this I was able to set a rough criteria of what I wanted to include which I would follow when I am starting to create a storyboard.

Taking photos of the woods –  I still haven’t decided fully what season it is set in and even though I will take photos now, it may look completely wrong if I decided to set it in summer as the course will be finished by the time we reach that season. However, I have many photos in my albums that have been taken in the summer and so I will be able to use this as a reference. Also due to the recent snow it has been harder to access the woods due to the roads and climbing slippery trees is out of the question.

Creating more blogs –  I felt more pressure to think of something amazing for my story due to the restricted time. However, this will definitely change for next term as my full attention will be on this project and there will be a lot more development in my work.

Creating two to three stories –  I technically created many stories but it’s choosing which one is the hard part. I wanted to have a potential story in front of me that excites me and makes me want to start developing it now. This has been hard as I have either been side tracked with other jobs or I have focused too hard on this perfect story and haven’t allowed myself to sift out the bad ideas which eventually allow the good ones to shine. However, after many brick walls so to speak, I feel that I have created two strong stories that have a lot of potential in them and will allow me to explore my imagination whilst keeping it grounded with educational information.

Creating Sketches and photos of the woods and squirrels – By the time I decided to choose the woods as the background and the squirrel as the protagonist it was Christmas and because my Grandma passed away unexpectedly I haven’t created as many sketches.

However, now I know my story, character and background I will be able to start generating ideas, sketches, character development and start to dive into the project next semester.

In this semester I wasn’t able to start contacting outside sources such as publishers etc, as they wouldn’t have taken notice of me if I went to them now with a very rough idea but nothing to show. This is why I am waiting until I have cemented the core of my idea and have generated some work for me to show them, which would hopefully interest them or at least make myself known for future work. Also, to test my concept I will hopefully be able to share my book with my target audience. There is no point doing this now with children aged five, as I will not be able to hold their attention unless I had something to show and I want to see how they engage with the image as well as the story.

A sad end to one year but the beginning of a New Year…

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So the Christmas celebrations have finished and the New Year begins. Over the Christmas period I tried to do a little bit of work here and there but I didn’t do much as unfortunately my Grandma died 3 days before Christmas and so work obviously took a back seat.

After the new years day I tried to do a little more work (as well as a distraction) so I wouldn’t fall behind as the deadline is so close but it was mostly brainstorming ideas for the book. From my last post I commented on how I was struggling to think of a story, I think I was thinking too deeply into it and becoming tight in trying to find the perfect story that had everything in. Not allowing the development process to kick in. This is when I took a step back and looked at my previous sketchbook to see if there was a light in the darkness. I found a book when I was at uni called How to write for children (2010) by Louise Jordan. I wrote notes in my sketchbook some activities you can do to try and generate some ideas and this method caught my eye. It consists of a three simple bullet points:

  1. What is the story about?
  2. What is the problem?
  3. What happens?

An obvious solution really but one that I had forgotten about when developing my work. I referred back to using the quick three bullet point and I was able to create more stories than previous attempts. By using one or two anchor story themes, I then could develop more stories with slight tweaks. This is how I came to create two possible stories both involving squirrels. I chose a squirrel as:

  1. I can find them pretty much anywhere so I can easily draw them compared to another animal such as the zebra which I would have to go to the zoo every time to draw them or go abroad (pricey but fun).
  2. After creating some sketches of squirrels they are fairly tricky to draw and have odd shaped bodies the more you loo at them but I like a challenge.
  3. They climb high trees but also rummage on the ground and so I will have lots of options on angles and perspective when I start drawing out the storyboard.
  4. Even though they are found in gardens, I like the idea of the woods as the background setting. It allows me to play around with subplots of other characters in the background.
  5. After previous research, there aren’t many books that have a squirrel as a protagonist which surprised me. But as Martin Salisbury previously commented, mice, bears, cats and dogs are the most common animal characters.

One book that I did find whilst researching was a book by Sebastian Meschenmoser called Mr. Squirrel and the Moon (2015).



Using a red squirrel he has create a book that consists of a big round yellow wheel of cheese that escapes from a farmer, rolls away, hits a big bump and bounces onto a branch on Mr. Squirrel’s tree. Squirrel drops it on a badger and then it’s speared by a billy goat. Everyone is afraid they’ll be blamed for stealing the moon and sent to jail, so everyone is trying to get the moon, (cheese wheel), back into the sky. I have not read it yet as the hardback isn’t published until 2015 (I couldn’t find the soft back version) but this was the description made by Pop Bop on Amazon. A simple storyline which has a few characters and an item that scares them. Sebastian’s illustrations are more realistic like mine but still contain expression within the face and body even though they have been illustrated in a different medium. Here are a few illustrations created by Sebastian but from another book he has created:

front cover
Front Cover

A beautiful front cover that is simple yet engaging. The protagonist taking centre stage looking up for the snow, the palm of his hand facing upwards mimicking the human action waiting or feeling for something to land on his hand. It could also look like he is looking at the title looking sad with his ears pinned down realising he may have to wait for a long time. I also noticed that the title has three styles of text. Standard type for Waiting and then italic for for but then only the W is italicised and the rest of the word is normal. Interlinking the previous styles in the last word. I like this style and would test this out when I come to creating my front cover.

running aond
Page Unknown
Waiting For Winter 1
Page Unknown

The illustrations are quite rough creating texture and depth but they also have specific colours that stand out stopping it from becoming a dull picture. I looked on my Universities library to see if they had this book but they don’t which is annoying and I could request an inter loan but last time I did this I still haven’t got the book and that was for my dissertation which has finished. So I may have another go at trying to find it but we’ll have to wait and see. By finding this book I will have to make sure that I do not copy or replicate the story or style as this won’t help me to create a new and exciting story.


Сундучок вдохновений, n.d. Sebastian Meschenmoser. [internet] Available from:себастьян-мешенмозер/. [Accessed 1 January 2015].

Jordan, L., 2010, How to write for children. London: Piatkus.

Jules, 2009, Featuring Sebastian Meschenmoser. [internet] Available from: [Accessed 1 January 2015].

Meschenmoser, S., 2015, Mr. Squirrel and the Moon. Anon: North-South Books.

PopBop, 2014, Clever Three Times. [internet] Available from: [Accessed 1 January, 2015].