Behind the scenes of Gastronauts, part 2: submarine & robot design

My new book Gastronauts is out now in bookstores and online.

Today I’m taking you behind the scenes to show you how I designed the robots and submarine in the story.

Quick recap: Sally Tinker is the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve. In Gastronauts, Sally’s baby brother Joe swallows an invention called the smartCHIP, along with a bunch of tiny robots called smartbots, and also a tiny shrunken submarine containing Sally and her friend Charli.

Here’s how I designed Sally’s SUB and the smartbots. But:

**SPOILER ALERT***

I’ll discuss plot points for the book, so if you haven’t read the book yet, go do that first, then come back.

All good?

Have you gone and read the book?

Ok, here’s how I designed the SUB and the smartbots.

Continue reading “Behind the scenes of Gastronauts, part 2: submarine & robot design”

Behind the scenes of Gastronauts, part 1: illustration process

My new book Gastronauts is out now in bookstores and online.

Today I’m taking you behind the scenes to show you how I made the illustrations.

Here’s one of my favourite spreads from the book. It’s where Sally leads her friend Charli into the SUB (Sally’s Underwater Boat) for the first time.

I thought it would be easiest to show the insides of the SUB by just drawing a massive cut-away diagram. Here’s how I drew it.

Continue reading “Behind the scenes of Gastronauts, part 1: illustration process”

Teacher resources for Gastronauts

My new book Gastronauts is out now in bookstores and online.

I’ve pulled together a bunch of free resources for teachers (and interested kids). You can find the full set on my website, but here’s some of my highlights:

Teaching Notes

Heaps of ideas for discussion and links to curriculum.
Download the teaching notes (pdf).

Read a free sample

Read the first 16 pages before you buy the book.
Also great for using to read the start of the book to a class.
Download the free sample (pdf).

‘Make Your Own see-through body’ activity

This is a super fun activity. You need scissors, glue, string and a piece of A3 coloured card – and a print out of the worksheet for each student. (And don’t forget to print the teacher cheat-sheet for you.)
You’ll end up with something that looks like this:

Continue reading “Teacher resources for Gastronauts”

Competition time!

COMPETITION TIME!

Sally Tinker (the world’s foremost inventor under twelve) and I (some dude) have made ourselves a YouTube channel!

It’s called ‘STinker Tube’ and it’s where you’ll find funny extra stuff to go with the STinker Inc graphic novels.

If you subscribe to our channel before June 15th, you’ll go in the draw to win the first ever copy of the next STinker Inc graphic novel, GASTRONAUTS!

You can watch our first video below – but don’t forget, you need to subscribe to the channel to go in the draw. To do that, head over to see the video at Youtube by clicking here , then click the subscribe button.

Good luck!

– James

The evolution of Sally Tinker

My latest book, Brobot, was released in 2016. It’s a graphic novel for younger readers. I first started working on it in 2012. Over those four years I drew many different versions of the main characters – Sally, Joe and Brobot – and I’ll be sharing some of those over the next few months on this blog.

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ABOVE: One of the earliest sketches of Sally Tinker. From 2012. This is from the very first draft picture book (well before we realised it needed to be a comic). She’s very cute here, and is in much the same style as Josh from The Last Viking. She has a tiny hint of the attitude she shows in the final book.

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ABOVE: Another early sketch of Sally, from 2013, back when I was still trying to figure out her hairstyle and costume. Note that here she still has dots for eyes like Josh did in The Last Viking, rather than the cartoony circular eyes she has in the final book.

 

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ABOVE: Another version of Sally, from 2015. Closer to her final version but not quite there. She now has circles for eyes, and her grumpy demeanour. The oversized rubber gloves didn’t make it to the final version.

ABOVE: Maquettes are super helpful when you want to figure out how a character looks in 3D. I was having particular trouble with Sally’s hairstyle and profile, and a maquette helped me figure that out. This is from January 2016, just as I started the final artwork.

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ABOVE: The final version of Sally Tinker, Feb 2016. When you draw the character from different angles like this, it’s called a ‘turnaround’. It’s a reference you keep by your desk when you illustrate a story so that you can keep your character consistent (ie this is also called keeping your character “on model”). I drew this after I had completed the final illustrations for the book. Pro tip: you should really make your turnaround sheets BEFORE you do the final illustrations, not after 😉


Brobot-3d-final-400pxBuy ‘Brobot’ now

FAQ: How did you get into books?

The Last Viking book launch, June 24th, 2011. (L-R) Norman, James, Kris Williams, our editor Cate Sutherland, and Director of the Children's Literature Centre Lesley Reece
The Last Viking book launch, June 24th, 2011. (L-R) Norman, James, Kris Williams, our editor Cate Sutherland, and Director of the Children’s Literature Centre Lesley Reece

To the pre-published, the children’s book industry can seem like a secret club. How do you get to be one of those people on the inside, who have their stories and illustrations published professionally? It’s something I get asked a lot.

Continue reading “FAQ: How did you get into books?”

Brobot: from roughs to final artwork

Hello! I’ve pulled together some gifs to show you how I made some of the illustrations in Brobot. You can see how I got from the first rough drawing to the final artwork for each illustration. Check them out below.

(NB: if you’re receiving this post by email and the gifs don’t appear, just click on the post title above to view the original post on my website).


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Brobot-3d-final-400pxBuy ‘Brobot’ now

When does a week have 56 days?

When it’s Children’s Book Week.

My author/illustrator friends and I call it Children’s Book season as the celebrations and events cannot be contained in a single week, and usually spread out across term 3 and term 4. My 2016 Children’s Book ‘Week’ went from August 4th to September 26th, a solid 8 weeks of talks and workshops across WA. It’s my busiest time of year but also my favourite, as I get to travel and meet lots of hilarious kids.

Here’s some photos showing my highlights of those 8 weeks.

Thanks to the following schools, libraries, bookshops and festivals for inviting me to visit:

Dardanup PS; St Mary’s, Bunbury; BHP Billiton Family Day; St Damien’s Catholic PS, Dawesville; Marmion PS; Goollelal PS; Southern River College; Beaufort Street Books; Trinity College; South Perth & Manning Libraries; CBCA WA; Tuart Forest PS, Dalyellup; Warnbro and Mary Davies Libraries; Willetton Library; Cambridge Library; Kalamunda PS; South Lake PS; City of Perth Library; Palmyra PS; City of South Perth; Derby Library; Derby District; Holy Rosary School; Looma School; Bayulu School; Kulkarriya School; Kimberley School of the Air; Magabala Books; Aubin Grove PS; Kapinara PS; Rockingham Writers’ Centre; Dampier PS; Children of Malaysia Engage in Literature (COMEL) Festival, Kuala Lumpur; Murray Library, Pinjarra; Fellowship of Australian Writers WA & Fremantle Library.

Teacher resources for My Dead Bunny

Children’s Book Week is coming up fast: this year it’s August 22nd – 26th.

My latest book My Dead Bunny is shortlisted in the 2016 Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, in the Picture Book of the Year category.

A lot of older students will balk at the mention of picture books because those are just for babies.

But this book is different.

While it is technically a picture book, it’s definitely not a bedtime story for little ones – it’s for older readers, 8-ish and up (teenagers and adults especially seem to love this one.)

Older kids take one look at this book and know it’s not for babies, so they don’t feel like they’re being talked down to. It’s a great book for looking at rhyming texts, visual narrative/visual literacy and generic conventions. Plus it has zombies in it. Kids love zombies.

In preparation for Children’s Book Week, Walker Books and I have put together some free teacher notes for My Dead Bunny.The notes include heaps of discussion points and activity ideas, with links to relevant behind-the-scenes posts from my blog. It should all make studying the book in class super easy.

Download ‘My Dead Bunny’ Teacher Notes (pdf)

Behind-the-Scenes blog posts

My blog has heaps of posts about the making of the book; each post is tagged with ‘My Dead Bunny’.

View Behind-the-Scenes blog posts

Craft Activity – make your own zombie rabbit softie

Shannon at OhCreativeDay.com has put together this brilliant tutorial on how to create your own zombie rabbit softie.

Blackline Masters

Here’s some fun activities for early finishers – two word searches and two colouring-in sheets. Feel free to download these for use in your classroom.

– My Dead Bunny word search –
Download word search (pdf)
Download solution (pdf)

My-Dead-Bunny-word-search-600px– Zombie vocab word search –
Download word search (pdf)
Download solution (pdf)

My-Dead-Bunny-zombie-vocab-word-search-600px– Mindlessness colouring sheet #1 –
Download now (pdf)

MDB-mindlessness-colouring-1-600px– Mindlessness colouring sheet #2 –
Download now (pdf)

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If you choose to use the book in class, I’d love to hear about how you use it! Please leave a comment below, or send me photos of displays/student work via james(AT)jamesfoley.com.au   [replace the (AT) with an @].


MDB_cover-400pxBuy ‘My Dead Bunny’ now

Booktopia (Australia)
Readings (Australia)
Angus & Robertson (Australia)
Book Depository (UK)

How I use texture in illustrations (plus 4 free texture sites)

Today I’m going to show you how I used photographic textures in the illustrations of My Dead Bunny.

Photographic textures are great for whenever you need a realistic-looking texture, or when it’s going to be too hard ot time-consuming to draw a texture by hand.

I’ve used photographic textures in all my books so far, but only sparingly.  The creepy, cinematic style of Dead Bunny called for the use of lots and lots of textures, and it was heaps of fun to let loose.

Example 1: title page

Here’s a little excerpt from the title page illustration. It uses the three three texture samples you see below it.

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Continue reading “How I use texture in illustrations (plus 4 free texture sites)”