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 book ‘Fabish: the horse that braved a Bushfire’
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.
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.
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.
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
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pub Date: August 2016
Page Extent: 32
Format: Hard Cover
Age: 6 – 9