Making a marionette

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Late last year I was feeling overworked; firstly I was working too hard, but secondly I wasn’t doing anything creative just for myself. Then along came an opportunity to do something different … Spare Parts Puppet Theatre was running a 6 week marionette-making course.

Spare Parts is an incredible company that creates original puppetry productions; they’ve also adapted quite a few children’s books for the stage over the years. They’re based in my hometown of Fremantle, and I remember seeing some of their shows as a kid. I signed up for the course straight away.

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Picture A Story exhibition

The State Library of WA has a new exhibition beginning November 2nd called Picture A Story, comprising works from their Australian children’s book illustration collection.

You’ll see artwork by Shaun Tan, Ron Brooks, Graeme Base, Alison Lester, Frane Lessac, Leigh Hobbs, Matt Ottley, Sean E Avery and me!

There’ll be originals, sketches and sculptures I made for The Last Viking… including this little reference maquette for Josh.

Josh reference sculpture

And as you probably noticed at the top of the post, Wolverine is the official mascot of the exhibition!

More info at the State Library website.

Look mate, a bookplate

Here’s a great project I was involved in earlier this year.

The Better Beginnings literacy program asked a bunch of local illustrators to design a bookplate (one of those ‘This Book Belongs To’ labels that goes on the inside cover of a book).

The best part is, they’re all completely free to download and print!

You can download designs by me, Shaun Tan, Moira Court, Rebecca Cool, Karen Blair, Frane Lessac, Tracey Gibbs, Chris Nixon and Ambelin Kwaymullina.

Here’s my design (click to go through to the Better Beginnings bookplate page).

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Tips for aspiring writers and illustrators

Mountain, by James FoleyMany people want to have their work published. Making it happen is (usually) not easy. The challenge can seem overwhelming and insurmountable. But many people have done it before.

I’ve pulled together some links, books and tips to help you on your journey.

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Under the Influence

Norm has spoken previously about some of his influences while writing The Last Viking. This week I thought I’d talk about the influences I had while doing the drawings.

I’ve been a huge fan of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes for many years. It was written and illustrated by the incredibly intelligent and talented Bill Watterson. The comic looked at the worries of childhood with humour and sensitivity. I was a teenager when I first start reading the comic, and I often didn’t understand the deeper philosophical side of each story, but the inventive and expressive artwork was more than enough to get me hooked. It’s easy to see the similarities between Calvin and Josh- both are young boys, both are loners, both have animal friends, and both get lost in their imaginations on a regular basis.

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Calvin and Hobbes, created by Bill Watterson

Another major influence for me has been the Asterix comics, written by Rene Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo. I loved the historical references, the attention to detail in the costumes and backgrounds, and the ridiculous puns. That’s all come through in The Last Viking (except for the puns… though I feel that Norman’s gentle, daggy sense of humour is very much in the same vein as Goscinny’s, and also mine). And of course, there is an animal companion- a little white dog, called Dogmatix… very much like Wolverine in The Last Viking.

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Asterix, Obelix and Dogmatix, created by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo

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