Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pinerolo Illustrator's Residency

At the end of May I read on Jackie Hosking's Pass It On newsletter about an illustration residency / mentorship at Pinerolo: The Children's Book Cottage. I had never applied for a residency before but  a week working solely on book illustrations in the Blue Mountains sounded ideal! Margaret Hamilton AM would be my mentor.

"Margaret Hamilton has many years experience in children’s books — as a children’s librarian, a bookseller, a publisher and as a parent. In 1987 she left her position as director at Hodder & Stoughton Australia to begin Margaret Hamilton Books with her husband Max. The company built up a reputation for high quality children’s books and was dedicated to the philosophy ‘that children have a right to the best of everything, especially books’. Margaret Hamilton Books won many awards and had considerable success on the world market. It became a Division of Scholastic Australia in 1996, where the imprint remains". (http://pinerolo.com.au/about_us.html)

I sent off an application along with samples of my illustrations on a disc. I was surprised and very grateful to hear the news I was one of the 4 illustrators chosen. Each illustrator was allocated one week at Pinerolo with one on one mentoring from Margaret. I was the first illustrator to take part in the residency. CAL (Copyright Agency Limited) generously funded the residencies.

It was great timing as I had recently been contracted by Even Before Publishing to work on Boondaburra (an Aboriginal word for platypus), written by Natalie Lonsdale.

My friend Maggie from Sydney was very kind to pick me up from the airport,  take me to her house for breakfast then drop me off at the train station.

After arriving in Blackheath on the 1st July Margaret kindly took me to some popular lookouts including Govett's Leap, The Three Sisters and also for a scenic drive through Megalong Valley, which their property backs on to.

 Here's some snaps of my cosy bedroom for the week.

On the Monday I had some time to myself so I spent the first three hours browsing the inspiring picture books (there must be around 1000 in the collection!). I then began working on my first storyboard for Boondaburra.

On Tuesday Margaret suggested I work on a larger scale, she gave me some sheets of A1 size paper. I put the above storyboard aside, read the story text again and interpreted how I envisioned the illustrations. At the same time Margaret offered to edit some of the text. I spent the next few days and nights working on the large scale storyboard. Margaret suggested I cut up the text and place on the relevant pages. This gave us a better idea of how the illustrations and text were working together.

It wasn't all work, one day I jogged to nearby Hargraves Lookout, only 5km from Pinerolo. I had to stop several times to take photos as the views were breathtaking!

The run must have energized and inspired me as that night I stayed up till 12.45am working!

It was incredibly inspiring being around so many quality books and original artwork. Where Did Thursday Go written by Janeen Brian, illustrated by Stephen Michael King was one of my favourites. Margaret showed me a successful technique illustrators often use: that is when you place illustrations on successive diagonals it allows the story to keep flowing smoothly.

 Here are some other books I found inspiring:


Although I don't have a photo I can't not mention Samsara Dog by Helen Manos and Julie Vivas which made me cry. 

Some wildlife and where I stayed.

Oh and I finally got to try Krispy Kreme's on the way home! Cookies and cream was our favourite :) 

Thank you once again to Margaret and Max Hamilton for being so hospitable and to CAL for giving me the opportunity to focus on my work, to show me once again how children's books really can move people and make a difference. It really was an honour to be part of this experience and I will remember it fondly.