Discover more from The Quiet Blackbird
Not One, Not Two, But Three
Announcements, secret doors, and mushroom zombies...
Hello Busy Blackbirds*,
It feels like a lot has happened this month. I have three announcements, I’ve finished one commission and have started another, I have attended some brilliant classes, and submitted some portfolio work and assignment roughs. And I was ill again, but that’s starting to be pretty standard.
First, announcement one: I have added a paid tranche to my subscriptions. You will keep receiving this monthly newsletter for free and I have no plans to pay-wall this content. As someone who relies on social security, I believe access to creative pursuits shouldn't be just for those who can afford it.
But, if you can afford it and want to support the creative work that goes into these newsletters and my wider illustration practise, I’ve added a paid option with a tiny perk.
Become a Blackbird Patron - £4.50 per month/£48 per year: Receive a twice yearly handwritten postcard featuring one of my illustrations (if you are comfortable sharing your address).
As well as my client work, I completed two submissions this month. One to Hachette Children’s Books open day for Northern authors and illustrators, and also the first part of my first Pathways Into Children’s Publishing literature brief. I ummed and aahed about submitting to Hachette, I didn’t really feel like I had three portfolio pieces to show, but a meet up with mentor Chris Mould and fellow mentee Bo convinced me that there was nothing really to lose.
The first Pathways Into Children’s Publishing literature brief is set by Nosy Crow. We’re tasked with creating a character sheet for a pre-schooler series of first experiences. I didn’t think illustrating for this age group would be my thing, but it turns out that all the years woking in a nursery has been really helpful, that and having my very own 4 year old to observe. We submitted roughs for feedback earlier this week, and all went well. Unfortunately I can’t show you the whole project yet, but here’s a sneak peek at one of the unchosen character designs.
We also had 3 really interesting classes this month on the Pathways programme. I feel so lucky to be in a (virtual) room with successful illustrators and art directors. We spent two days with Sara Ogilvie (Dogs Don’t Do Ballet, The Detective Dog) and Jane Buckley (Simon and Schuster) illustrating people, a day with Jan Fearnley (Mr Wolf’s Pancakes) and Jane Buckley illustrating animals, and two days with Viv Scharz (Ergo) and Ben Norland (Walker Books) creating visual sequences.
And lastly, this month, I took a screen printing workshop. I haven’t screen printed since my A-Levels, and things have changed a lot - no more propping your screens up against the window and hoping for sunny weather to get them to expose! It was so much fun, and I loved how analogue it was. I’d really like to start pulling some prints for selling, as well as some Riso ones too. I’m exploring digital screen printing and risography at the moment as part of my illustration process, so it was really useful to get the physical process of the traditional technique in my head.
But wait! What about the other two announcements? Well, one is in The Bower below, and the other I probably should have opened with, but I enjoy the drama of making you wait.
Do you remember what I was working on back in January?
On Tuesday this week I was awarded a Developing Your Creative Practice grant by Arts Council England. It’s such a relief. It means I can stop worrying so much about finding work and focus on developing my children’s book illustration portfolio. Ultimately, it will fund my trip to Bologna Children’s Book Fair next year. I’m so excited!
A busy month and a busy introduction means there’s not quite so many titbits for you here. They’re still tasty though:
It’s officially Spring here in the northern-hemisphere, we’ve just celebrated the Spring equinox and the British clocks have leapt forward an hour (the cats are still an hour out). Easter eggs are on all the shelves, there’s Yorkshire forced rhubarb at the local grocers, and the birds are beginning to nest. We connect so many things to certain times of the year in a comforting circular rhythm, usually linked to nature. Did you know that the traditional Japanese calendar divides the year into 72 microseasons, in a beautifully poetic journey of awakening and slumber.
Last month I delved deep into the 1980’s issues of Books For Keeps, but this is from last months. The long-running Beyond the Secret Garden feature that examines the representation of Black, Asian, and ethnic-minority voices in British children’s literature looks at magic and who gets to wield it. I’ve added a lot of these to my nearly 8 year olds TBR pile.
Topping my birthday wishlist this year, is the Cartoon Saloon Irish Folklore Trilogy boxset. I’ve only seen Song of the Sea, but it’s so visually beautiful. It’s giving Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro a run for its money at the top of my favourite film list.
You know how much I love a map, especially a fictional one, so check out the Hereford Mappa Mundi that binds history, geography, mythology and religion into a picture of the Middle Ages.
You found the last announcement. I finally started a blog page on my website. I know I promised a Judith Kerr feature, but I got sidetracked. In it I link to this brilliant Ted talk by Mac Barnett about Why a Good Book is a Secret Door.
Mr Blackbird and I often struggle to find TV shows we both want to watch, but then two come along at once. Our current nightly decision is: Pedro Pascal fighting mushroom zombies, or Pedro Pascal in a helmet.
That’s all. April brings my birthday, and subsequently a birthday celebration that’s a little bit different - past occasions have included treasure hunts, an indoor forest, a japanese feast with karaoke, a cartoon marathon at the cinema, and a mad-hatters afternoon tea. This year we’re going to my new favourite place that makes me nostalgic. I’ll tell you all about it next time.
*There’s a blackbird pair making a nest in the hedge outside my window. Everyday I watch them busying back and forth with twigs and fluff, I keep thinking i should take a photo for you, but then they’re gone.
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