Tag Archives: Neridah McMullin

Interview with Andrew McLean ‘Fabish: the horse that braved a Bushfire’

Today, I’d like to welcome Andrew McLean to my blog.

Andrew McLean is one of Australia’s best-loved and most highly awarded illustrators of children’s books. His CBCA award-winning titles include You’ll Wake the Baby!, My Dog and Reggie, Queen of the Street, and he has also illustrated a number of picture books with his writer wife, Janet.  

And I’m thrilled to say Andrew has illustrated our new picture bookFabish: the horse that braved a Bushfire’

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1. Andrew, what was it that attracted you to the story of Fabish?

As soon as I read the manuscript I was hooked. Fabish is set in a real place, about a real event and real people and animals. I felt an immediate connection to the story.

Fabish is a moving story, beautifully written. Your empathy with and knowledge of horses is obvious. There many descriptive passages about the atmospherics that can’t be illustrated, like the heat, the wind, the crackling of the fire, the rattling of the roof.

In a picture book the two elements of words and pictures have to work together. I often take a cinematic approach to illustrating a picture book. Fabish lent itself to that way of working. And of course it had a moving and satisfying ending.

2. Tell us about the process you went through to choose the right medium and the grade of paper to illustrate Fabish?
Over the years I have used all sorts of different papers. Basically, for watercolour painting, there is hot press, that is more heavily sized, smoother and harder that cold press, which is less heavily sized and often has a texture or tooth to it. I have found that hot press is great for illustration that requires detail, but it is a less forgiving paper when taking a wash than cold press that leaves softer marks.

Because there is a lot of landscape in the story I chose cold press because it is rougher and more suitable for an impressionistic approach.

Recently I purchased quite a lot of paper of the heaviest weight available (640 gsm). This means that I don’t have to stretch it. Stretching is done by wetting a sheet and gluing it to a smooth clean board with gummed tape. This can be time consuming and not always successful, i.e. one side might pulls away as it dries, so you have to undo it and start again. This is very frustrating. I am happy to pay more for the paper and avoid the heartache and wasted time of stretching

3. How did you find the experience of drawing a bushfire?
The experience of painting the bushfire was challenging. There was no shortage of bushfire pictures and videos, so I had lots of material to work with. I used watercolour mostly, but used pastel, wax crayons, and white paint at times to leave crisper marks on the paper to represent shooting sparks, etc. For the aftermath I used charcoal (burnt wood). This was perfect for the tree trunks, and when combined with pastel, was great for creating smoke effects.

You’ve done an amazing job, Andrew, the bushfire scenes feel real.

4. How long did it take you to do the illustrations?
My recent process has involved using my iPad to do the roughs. First, I draw on paper with pencil or charcoal to size of the book then photograph the drawing and import it into an App called Sketch Club on my iPad.

Andrew at work with support from his team

Andrew at work with support from his team

This allows me to paint much faster than with real paint on paper. With Sketch Club I can paint intuitively using just my finger. This is different from the working on the Photoshop or Illustrator Apps, that requires computer knowledge that I don’t have. As I do each rough on Sketch Club I can email it directly to the publisher, and get useful feed back as I go along. It also means I have a colour rough when it comes to doing the final artwork. I aim to complete the roughs in about three months, and the final artwork in four to six months. As I get older I seem to be working smarter – not having the repeat drawings so much.

5. Tell us about drawing horses?

With the drawing of horses I had a lot assistance from Degas. He drew horses like no-one else.

Horsemen, rainy weather, 1886, Glasgow Museums and Art Gallery , Ecosse

Horsemen, rainy weather, 1886,
Glasgow Museums and
Art Gallery , Ecosse

Before Edwearde Muybridge (and he was weird) painters tended to paint moving horses like merry-go-round horses – with two legs stretched out in front and two legs stretched out behind. (Incidentally, when Muybridge found out the child born to his younger wife was not his, he sought out the real father and shot him dead. He was acquitted, the jury being of the opinion that the adulterer had it coming to him).

Anyway, Muybridge was paid by a wealthy San Fransisco horse owner to try and prove whether at some stage when running horses had all of their feet off the ground. He built a long shed, with a gridded wall on one side and a battery of cameras at close intervals on the opposite side as it ran through the shed. If you place photographs in the order they were taken and flick them rapidly you will see an image of a moving horse, with its feet off the ground at a certain point.

Eadweard Muybridge, Human and Animal Locomotion, plate 626, thoroughbred bay mare "Annie G." galloping

Eadweard Muybridge, Human and Animal Locomotion, plate 626, thoroughbred bay mare “Annie G.” galloping

He certainly changed the way artists painted horses. Now they had photos that froze them in mid-stride, no more merry-go-round horses.

Wow, that’s fascinating stuff, Andrew.

A big thank you to you, Neridah, for writing this wonderful story and to the editor Sue Flockhart, the designer, Sandra Nobes and all at Allen and Unwin for doing such a marvelous job with the production. The look and feel of the book is beautiful.

Thanks Andrew, it’s been my pleasure. And yes, I agree, a big thank to everyone at A&U.

Thanks for coming onto my blog today. I’ll keep you posted when the date of the book launch has been finalised.

‘Fabish: the horse that braved a Bushfire’ can be found in any good bookstore w/c 29th July
Category: Picture books
ISBN: 9781925266863
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pub Date: August 2016
Page Extent: 32
Format: Hard Cover
Age: 6 – 9

 

Polly’s fabulous first picture book “Stop Asking Me!” is out now…

Well, here it is folks, this is what you’ve all been waiting for, Polly’s new picture book “Stop Asking Me!” is here…and doesn’t it look awesome?!!

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Polly wanted to write about her experience living with Perthes Disease. Her book is called “Stop Asking Me!” and it’s a funny and poignant story. I have done some illustrations for it, interweaving it with some fun photos with Polly’s text. We published it on-line with Blurb and they have been great.

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I love your book Polly, congratulations to you, what’s it like being a famous writer?

“Well, I’m not very famous yet…”

Who have you shown it too?

My family and my friends, my class mates (I took it into school and read it out aloud to my class). I’ve showed the Librarian at school, Miss Polsen. I’ve also shown it to Holly McKay from the Stonnington Leader and she’s writing an article about me. It’s going to be in the paper next week.

Wow, that’s exciting.

Yeah, it is.

How have people reacted to your book?

Um, people have said things like:

It’s amazing!

It’s funny

So, that’s what’s wrong with you…

Is Perthes Disease contagious?

I wish we didn’t put that line in the book that Perthes wasn’t contagious. That would have been really funny to leave people guessing.

Yes, but that might have freaked a few people out and they might not have wanted to be with you. 

I know. I just like to think I’m not the only one.

I get that, sweetheart.

Polly & I getting our hair done for the photo shoot for Polly's book launch

Polly & I getting our hair done for the photo shoot for Polly’s book launch

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How has “STOP ASKING ME!” changed your life?

It’s made my life more exciting. I like showing it to people and not having to explain Perthes Disease to them.

I also think that writing a book has made me more confident.

I’d like to be a writer when I grow up. I’ve been practising and writing lots of stories.

That’s wonderful, tell me about them?

At school, we are learning to write ‘Adventure Narrative’.

Cool. And what does that mean?

Well, it’s like this, you have an introduction, you build up to a problem, then you solve it and then you have an ending.

That’s excellent Polly, what’s your story about?

It’s about a little girl about my age and she has a Superdog (he’s a boxer dog like Midas), and a Mini-dog. There’s a villain called ‘Kill Blue’ who tries to take over the world and have it under his command. So, Superdog and Mini-dog are fighting to save the world.

Wow! That sounds action packed.

It is. I’ve still got a fair bit to write yet.

I hear you’re also going to write another book. What’s the next one going to be called?

“Be Brave!”

What’s it about?

It’s about going into hospital and not being scared all the time and trying your best to be brave.

I’m also going to write another story called “Stop Pushing Me!” and this is when I get out of my wheelchair and the plaster cast and get better and run around like I used to.

Tell me, what is the latest with Perthes Disease? What have yourDoctors told you?

Well, the ‘Bisphosphonates’ haven’t worked. So, my Mum says I have to go into hospital and get put into a plaster cast. It will go from here (under the armpits) down to my feet with a bar in between my knees. I’m getting blue plaster this time. I really hate pink, it had better not be pink. I had pink last time.

And guess who’s going to be the first to sign it?

Who?

You!

Wow, really? Thanks Polly. I feel honoured. I’ll have to think up something special to write on it.

How long will you be in the cast for?

It will take four weeks to straighten my hips. I might have to have something else done in hospital but they won’t know until I’m in there. They put dye in my bones so they can see inside me and after they do that they’ll know more.

O.K. When is all this happening?

This Sunday. I go in slings and springs first, just for two days, and then I have the plaster done on the third day. My Mum is coming with me and my family is going to visit me a lot.

Are you in for long?

I think it’s four days.

OK, I’ll check with your Mum.

Tell me, Polly, who are your favourite writers?

I love Roald Dahl, he’s so funny.

And at the moment I’m reading the Tashi books – I love them too.

I like the Tashi books too. They were written by the daughter & mother team, Anna and Barbara Fienberg (published by Allen & Unwin).

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Tashi gets himself into some sticky situations, doesn’t he?

Yeah, he does. He’s funny as. But he always has great ideas to get out of trouble. I seriously learn stuff from him.

Do you? Well, that’s the power of reading books, eh?

I guess.

Thank you so much Polly for coming back onto my blog today to show everyone your fabulous new book “Stop Asking Me!”

We absolutely love it. You should be very proud of it.

Thanks. I really am.

If you would like to purchase Polly’s book you may do so by contacting Polly’s Mum, Julie, by emailing her on Julie.upfal@optusnet.com.au and ordering a copy or you can go onto the Blurb website to order a copy or download an iBook through the Apple iTunes Store.

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I think Polly has done a brilliant job writing “Stop Asking Me!” and I’m so chuffed she wants to be a writer (just like me she says, god love her).

We hope everything goes well for Polly with her upcoming trip to hospital and new treatment.

We are thinking of you, sweet Polly. Fellow bloggers & Blog Followers, I will let you know how she gets on.

Day 8 Maurice Saxby Mentorship

Day 8 Readings Bookstore, Lygon Street, Carlton

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This afternoon, we met with Emily Gale at Readings Bookstore in Lygon Street Carlton.

Readings is an independent bookstore with six retail shops in Melbourne. They have a real literary scene going on as they regularly host a ‘calendar of events’ including book launches, authors-in-conversation, panels, signings and performances. Their website and blog is very snappy too, free shipping for books bought on-line and great book reviews on their blog.

Anyway, Emily is a Children’s and Young Adult Specialist at Readings. She knows a lot about book selling and tried to give us an idea about how it works. There’s a section in the Children’s Books area that’s set up for new titles and it covers four levels. The top level is for new books and the other books on the lower levels are books that Readings sell at least once a week.

The shelf life of a book does vary but four months is about average. Some distributors have certain conditions; such as the bookseller only has a year to sell them before they stop accepting returns.

To remain in the bookstore, to remain in Readings, a book needs to sell at least one per month.

Thankfully, I found my book from One Day Hill Publishing. It went into paperback at Christmas; so I was relieved and happy to see it there.

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http://www.neridahmcmullin.com

www.onedayhill.com.au

Emily spoke about writers coming in and saying ‘hello’ and how much they enjoyed this, and that this sort of was promotion was still a good way to get your book into a bookstore.

Heather asked a very valid question, how could we get our books reviewed by Readings? Just ask, they said and all books would be considered. Yay!

Emily also gave us the heads up on what sort of children’s books people are asking for:

  1. Decent Mother’s Day books that are not pink and fluffy and full of perfect women.
  2. Toilet training books that don’t mention the word ‘potty’
  3. Junior/Middle Grade fiction is always popular.

Then we found out that Emily is a published author herself (this is her first YA book launched in Australia, she’s from London) and it’s the ‘book of the month’ at Readings.

Congratulations Emily!

It’s called ‘Steal my Sunshine’ and it’s published by Woolshed Press (Random House). This is Emily’s very cool website and there’s a sample chapter on there to read! www.emilygale.co.uk

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Readings is an awesome bookstore, thank you Emily for your advice and expertise on Children’s books and thank you Readings for supporting emerging writers.