My blog is about writing and illustrating children's books which I have been doing since 1974. www.gillianmcclure.com has all my books. I also have another blog: www.paulcoltman.blogspot.com where I publish my father's poems.
Last year I did a school residency with artist John Wiltshire in a small fenland school, Wisbech St Mary. I'd gone with the school on an outing to the Stained Glass Museum in Ely and we'd found some interesting characters that were later to inspire a story set in the Fen Floods of 1947.
John Wiltshire used the story in a huge stained glass window he did with the Wisbech St Mary pupils. Painted in acrylic on perspex it hangs in the school hall with the story beside it.
Here are some examples of the original paintings Year 4 pupils did for the story - Old Slodger the Ox
It's exciting helping pupils produce their own published book. The Wishing Eel was done by Year 2 pupils at Fawcett Primary with sponsorship from Cambridge University Press. In this project I worked with the children on the story alongside artist, John Wiltshire, who was teaching them watercolour technique during a term's residency at the school.
With The Tale of Cleo and Monty, I worked for just one day with the pupils of Class 4 at Burrough Green Primary on the illustrations of this story. It had been written by a pupil after a day's workshop given by poet, Tony Mitten, prior to my visit. In the morning I encouraged the whole class to paint indoor and outdoor background scenes in watercolour and in the afternoon they did some very free and expressive character drawings of the cat and the mouse. The day had started with a discussion about page design when I'd shown some of my own picture book artwork. After my visit the teacher had to help Class 4 select and assemble their own images to fit the text.
The book was a Business and Enterprise project in association with Linton Village College and Cambridge University Press.
In so many picture books today, the illustrations are executed by adults in a child like way. This page from The Tale of Cleo and Monty could easily be mistaken for one of them but no - it's the real thing - genuine child art.
Yesterday I had two meetings with my business mentor at UK Trade and Investment, East of England, Chris Kubicki. In the first I was given a lot of sound advice about the business side of Plaister Press which is now a limited company. It was followed by a group meeting with fellow writers and illustrators who have all benefitted from UK Trade and Investment funding and business mentoring. We had a piece in the Cambridge News last week about how this has had a beneficial effect on the overseas co-editions of our books.
It was great to share news and swap books with friends in the group. I will be giving these two to my grandsons: When Daddy's Truck Picks Me Up written by Jana Novotny Hunter and illustrated by Carol Thompson and Come to Me my Chickadee! written and illustrated by Carol Thompson.
I like to use a rigger - a long flexible brush - when I paint the branches of trees. I can suggest the swaying of the twigs better with this brush. The tree here, from The Tiger and the Persimmon in The Land of the Dragon King , is done in a traditional Korean style.
In another of my Korean stories, Clever Rabbit, the tree I painted is influenced more by the anthropomorphic trees of Arthur Rackham which I loved a child.
I did it like this, with a face and hands because, in the story, the pine tree is a character and talks to the man and the tiger.
The story I'm currently working on is inspired by trees I climbed when I was a child. Trees have always held a fascination for me- they stand so still, yet have so much life in them. I love the bark patterns where the branches meet the trunk - like elephant skin. It took a long time to really understand holes - that branches once grew from them - and to see how the bark patterns work around them.
In this illustration the tree is more of a presence than a character so I wanted only the suggestion of an expression - you have to look hard to see the tree's features.