Exhibition: Pictiúr at IMMA

Story pod decorated by the illustrators.

Story pod decorated by the illustrators.

What: Pictiúr, an exhibition of contemporary Irish childrens’ book illustration.

Where: IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art)

When: Ends tomorrow (12th of Jan), so if you want to see it – hurry!

Story pod decorated by the illustrators.

Story pod decorated by the illustrators.

Today I visited Pictiúr, an exhibition of work by 21 contemporary Irish illustrators. The exhibition features 2 works by each illustrator, as well as display cases showing how concepts for illustrations are developed, and exploring the process of making a picturebook. There were also videos about illustration, and a library featuring books by the illustrators featured in the exhibition. My one criticism would be that the works situated in the café can be hard to see when it is busy, but overall I thought it was very well put together and catered for both adults and children. The exhibition was curated by Niamh Sharkey, current Laureate Na nÓg (Children’s Laureate) and is the largest ever travelling exhibition of Irish illustration. Today was also the family day and while my friend and I (at 21 and 20) were a little old for the events we got involved in Monster Doodling, and creating our own Beast of IMMA.

Monster Doodle!

Monster Doodle!

With my Beast of IMMA.

With my Beast of IMMA.

P.J. Lynch is one of my favourite illustrators. I love the soft tones of his work which are created by his use of watercolour, the detail, the emotion and the often fantastical subject matter. The works in the IMMA exhibition are from The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, a very moving picturebook about an old man whose heart is softened by a young boy. These works illustrate beautifully Lynch’s mastery of emotion, and I love the warm, earthy tones. The sense of wonder on the young boy’s face as he sees the nativity figures reflects the touching message of the book.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey - PJ Lynch

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey – PJ Lynch

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey - PJ Lynch

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey – PJ Lynch

The first display case gave an insight into the development of P.J. Lynch’s illustrations, focussing on the dragon story Ignis. The case features sketches, full spreads, mock ups and finished pieces. It gave a really interesting look into his working process, and into how a picturebook is created.

Loved the steps by the display cases for children visiting the exhibition.

Loved the steps by the display cases for children visiting the exhibition.

Section of the PJ Lynch display case.

Section of the PJ Lynch display case.

Niamh Sharkey, current children’s laureate and curator of Pictiúr, is represented by illustrations from her Mavis and Marge book. The bright colours and bold outlines of Sharkey’s work is very expressive, and there is a real sense of humour throughout the images. This warmth and humour is also seen in her book I’m A Happy Hugglewug, which has been made into the Henry Hugglemonster TV show by Disney and Brown Bag Films. Another display case shows Sharkey’s working process through sketches, storyboards, dummy books and more.

On The Road with Mavis and Marge - Niamh Sharkey.

On The Road with Mavis and Marge – Niamh Sharkey.

Section of the Niamh Sharkey display case.

Section of the Niamh Sharkey display case.

Andrew Whitson’s work has a collage effect, achieved through his use of mixed media. His work in this exhibition is the cover imagery for Irish language books Cogito and Ó Chrann go Crann. Whitson works with An tSnáthaid Mhór, a Belfast based publishing house which is now developing apps of interactive picturebooks in both Irish and English. The image below is a section from the cover of Ó Chrann go Crann. I loved the different layers of the image, and the feeling of being lost it conveys. The typography is interesting, as is the contrast between the finished colour images and the pencil sketches.

Ó Chrann go Crann - Andrew Whitson

Ó Chrann go Crann – Andrew Whitson

This Paul Howard image is an illustration accompanying William Blake’s famous poem ‘The Tyger’. The bold use of colour, and striking image of the tiger prowling through the tall grass captures the vivid descriptions in the poem. It also brings the poem to life for the child reader. The image is taken from a collection of classic poetry edited by Michael Rosen.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright - Paul Howard.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright – Paul Howard.

I love the expressive use of line in this illustration by Donough O’Malley, taken from An Coileach Codlatach (The Sleepy Rooster). This image is one of the first in the book, and sets the atmosphere for the story. The sky is particularly expressive, and O’Malley makes excellent use of his medium – pastel with conté. There is a real sense of movement, created by his use of line, and I love how the rooster has been silhouetted against the moon.

An Coileach Codlatach - Donough O'Malley.

An Coileach Codlatach – Donough O’Malley.

Steve Simpson is another illustrator whose work I find very exciting. The images below are taken from Mise agus an Dragún, a tale about a teddy bear who dreams about an adventure with his toy dragon. The first image shows their travels in space, and is a very striking image, full of movement. I love how the constellations are mapped out in the background. In the second image, we see the end of the story. I love all the details – Simpson is written on the spine of the book on the floor, there is a makeshift telescope and a robot hidden behind a curtain! There are many more fun details to be found throughout Steve Simpson’s work.

Mise agus an Dragún - Steve Simpson.

Mise agus an Dragún – Steve Simpson.

Mise agus an Dragún - Steve Simpson.

Mise agus an Dragún – Steve Simpson.

Oliver Jeffers is a very popular illustrator at the moment, and has won a lot of awards. I love how distinctive his style is – details like the stick legs are unmistakeably his. The images in Pictiúr are taken from Stuck, an entertaining picturebook about a boy who gets his kite stuck in a tree. One picture shows Floyd carrying an orang-utan, the other shows the various objects he has used to try and dislodge his kite from the tree. There’s a submarine, the kitchen sink, a lighthouse and more! It is a simple story, but a very funny one.

Stuck - Oliver Jeffers.

Stuck – Oliver Jeffers.

Miss Brooks Loves Books, the story of a reluctant reader whose wacky book-loving teacher helps her find a story she loves, is one of my favourite picturebooks. The illustrations by Michael Emberley match the story very well, capturing the humour and the love of reading. This is a book any bookworm will enjoy, and the illustrations are fantastic!

Miss Brooks Loves Books - Michael Emberley.

Miss Brooks Loves Books – Michael Emberley.

Chris Judge’s Lonely Beast is one of the most recognisable characters in contemporary picturebooks. Simple but striking, the figure really stands out against the backgrounds. I love the stripy green and pink tie in one of the images! The story of the Lonely Beast is a touching and fun read, and I also love Chris Judge’s picturebook The Great Explorer. The Beast of IMMA workshop run by Chris Judge was a lot of fun too!

The Lonely Beast - Chris Judge.

The Lonely Beast – Chris Judge.

Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick’s book There won a Bisto book award, and two of the illustrations are shown in this exhibition. The first image shows the little boy carrying a small suitcase, about to set out on a journey. He looks very small in comparison to the green hills. It is a very sweet story, and the illustration of the little boy (in cute little wellies!) climbing a ladder to the stars is beautiful. The pastel tones give the illustrations a softness, and the journey throughout the book is very engaging.

There - Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick.

There – Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick.

There - Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick.

There – Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick.

Olwyn Whelan’s illustrations accompany Spellbound, a retelling of Irish myths and legends by former Laureate na nÓg Siobhan Parkinson. Whelan’s illustrations are enchanting, and capture the magic of the stories. I love her use of patterning and bright colours, and detail in elements such as the castles. Seeing the illustrations in person, I noticed Whelan’s use of glitter and could really appreciate how detailed her work is. I discovered her work through Pictiúr and I am spellbound by it!

Spellbound - Olwyn Whelan.

Spellbound – Olwyn Whelan.

Spellbound - Olwyn Whelan.

Spellbound – Olwyn Whelan.

These are just a selection of the illustrators and illustrations featured in Pictiúr, see the exhibition or the Laureate Na nÓg website for more. This is a really excellent showcase for Irish childrens’ book illustration, which is really going through a golden age at the moment!

A video about Pictiúr’s travels abroad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maqYYvMuIIQ

CBI Conference Round-Up

This year’s CBI Conference was held on the 18th and 19th of May, in the Lighthouse Cinema. The theme was Rebels and Rulebreakers.

Cool goodie bag and name tag!

Cool goodie bag and name tag!

I was helping out at the conference with a friend, and was lucky enough to get into every talk but one. Here is my round up of the talks, and the things I learnt:

DAY 1

Hervé Tullet:

Hervé Tullet’s talk was great, really interactive. He engaged with the audience, reading the books with us (I Am Blop was particularly fun, and I love Game of Shadows). He said the audience weren’t as good at performing his books as kids are though! There was also a baby on hand who he read the World of Mirrors book to! He also got Sarah Webb (www.sarahwebb.ie) up to help him demonstrate Press Here. I hadn’t encountered Hervé’s work before, but his talk definitely converted me! His books are fun, and kids would love them. Hervé spoke about books as making noise and singing, and that definitely came across in his talk!

John Boyne:

This was a very interesting interview; I thought Robert Dunbar asked some great questions. John Boyne said he didn’t prefer writing for adults or children (‘I enjoy just writing’), he writes one book for adults, one for children etc. In terms of children’s books, he tends to focus on 8 or 9 year old books as protagonists, and he intends to continue with this in the future. He sees children’s literature as being defined by having a child at the centre, but beyond that he sees little difference from literature for adults. He tends to write in first person for adults, third for children. We also got a sneak peak of John Boyne’s upcoming book for children Stay Where You Are, And Then Leave, set in WWI. It sounds brilliant!

Comics Panel: Superheroes Eclipsed

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This was an interesting panel, about how comics are about more than just superheroes. The panellists (Sarah McIntyre, Alan Nolan and Rory McConville) talked about their influences, and their own work. It was all about pushing boundaries, and expanding the comic form to encompass different genres. I’m a big fan of Sarah McIntyre’s work, and really want to read Nelson, a collaborative graphic novel with several other artists dealing with the life of one girl over 43 years. Alan Nolan’s graphic novels for kids – The Big Break Detectives, and the Murder Can be Fatal Series (with titles such as Death by Chocolate) – sound like great fun, and Rory McConville’s use of the graphic novel to reinvigorate Irish history is similar to what Colmán O Raghallaigh is doing for Irish myths. (see below)

Alex T Smith:

As a child, Alex T Smith wanted to be a writer/illustrator, a chef or a rabbit. This was a fun talk! The Claude books sound fab, especially Mr Bobblysock, and the cheeky bits that he managed to slip into the books! Alex spoke beautifully about how his grandfather inspired him to write. He showed us some of the stories his grandfather had written for him, and some of his own work as a child. He told us that ‘A good book needs heart in it, and sometimes soul.’ We got a sneak peek of some of his upcoming work, including a picture book Hector and the Big Red Knight. In the spirit of the Conference, he encouraged aspiring authors or illustrators to take risks with their work. And then he taught us all to draw Claude!

My Claude

My Claude

Alex T Smith's Claude

Alex T Smith’s Claude

DAY 2:

Sarah Crossan:

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Yay! Sarah Crossan was the speaker I was most excited to hear, and I loved her talk. She gave us a lot of insight into her writing process, and also about how her own experiences as a child had subconsciously influenced The Weight of Water (read my review here: https://thebookstheartandme.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/review-the-weight-of-water-by-sarah-crossan/). I was really interested in how she wrote this novel – she said all the poems were written in a notebook first, in a non-linear order, and then she rearranged them and filled in the gaps. She showed pictures of her plans and notebooks. Despite the fact it is quite a personal book, Sarah Crossan said she doesn’t think good art can be therapy. Her latest novel, Breathe, is very different to The Weight of Water. It is a dystopian YA prose novel. She  said writing in prose was necessary to cleanse her palette after all the poetry, and that Breathe was much more plot-driven. She spoke about issues with genre constraints, and a little about writing Resist, the sequel to Breathe. She spoke about possibly writing a YA poetry novel in the future (yay!). She wants her writing to say “I hear you” to her readers. Also, Sarah was really lovely when I spoke to her after her talk, and got my books signed.

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Edge of the Page:

In this slot, speakers discussed books by Irish authors/illustrators that they thought had been forgotten about. The selection included Spooky Irish Tales for Children by Eddie Lenihan which features a creepy face-stealing druid (!), The Second Best Children in the World, a charming picture book about 3 children who take off on a trip around the world to give their parents a break, the Whoosh series by Bernard Shane and William Bolger, with Irish themes and beautiful hand screen printed illustrations. The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea, a precursor of the contemporary trend of fantasy in children’s literature ‘All this, because a boy was about to try to buy a book in the second-hand bookshop, in the small grey city of Galway.’

Sheena Wilkinson & Deirdre Sullivan

Deirdre signed this for me!

Deirdre signed this for me!

Unfortunately due to flight difficulties Ana Maria Machado couldn’t make the conference, but Deirdre Sullivan and Sheena Wilkinson, and their publisher Elaina O’Neill stepped in with a very interesting discussion on breaking taboos in YA. Deirdre spoke about how she writes what she wants in her first draft, and later cuts out the ‘bold bits’! They both deal with tough topics (such as grief, suicide and self-harm) and agreed on the importance of not turning their novels into ‘issue books.’ Elaina O’Neill noted that, as a genre, YA allows rule breaking. Their conversation was illuminating and entertaining (ponies in space (!!!), Deirdre ‘cheating’ on one idea with another, or Sheena’s declaration ‘we have no morals!’)

Colmán O’Raghallaigh

Irish language publishing is a very important area, and Colmán O’Raghallaigh gave a very interesting discussion of how it has developed over time. He showed how many different books, age-groups and genres have been tackled, and how exciting the world of Irish language publishing is. I was particularly interested in his graphic novels, which are bringing ancient Irish myths to a new audience.

Jon Klassen

Extra Yarn

Extra Yarn

Another great talk, and a worthy close to the conference! Jon Klassen is very popular, and the signing was huge! He spoke about his background in animation, and his issues with drawing characters/emotion. A lot of his early work was based more on ‘things’, stories around inanimate objects. He went through his picture books, explaining the processes and the stories. I loved Extra Yarn, it is a really sweet story and I love how he uses the pattern of the stitches throughout. He also spoke about his work on birthday cards with animals who couldn’t care less about your birthday. The deadpan look appears again in I Want My Hat Back, in which he described the animals as bad actors, just reading their lines, going through the motions. It was fascinating to get an insight into the process of making picture books – Jon also discussed This Is Not My Hat, House Held Up By Trees, The Dark (which also looks brilliant!) and some projects that never made it. He doesn’t like outlines, which gives his work a cut-out feel, and is trying to get a more traditional in his work. Beautiful books, that parents and children will love.

Phew! I had a very busy, but great weekend at the Conference, and learnt a lot.

Having fun at the CBI Conference!

Having fun at the CBI Conference!

Here are some more round ups you can check out:

Claire Hennessy: http://clairehennessy.com/cbi-conference-recap-the-shiny-bits/

Sarah McIntyre: http://jabberworks.livejournal.com/562229.html and http://jabberworks.livejournal.com/562610.html

And lots of pictures here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151663005933938.1073741828.137934348937&type=1