Tuesday 12 January 2016

Emily MacKenzie's TOP 10 TIPS for creating a Picture Book

This week we are celebrating Emily MacKenzie's fabulous ever so crafty feline creation 'Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat' 

Stanley is an extraordinary chap with an unquenchable passion for craft, carefully creating gifts for his chums with heaps of love and care things take a dramatic turn when Stanley runs out of wool just before the Wooly Wonders Competition. Will disaster be averted? Will Stanley finish his creation in time for the grand prize giving? will the bunnies ever get their balaclavas back?  You'll have to grab a copy to find out! 
This story is a beautifully bright celebration of friendship, creativity and the unrivalled comfort of cosy knitwear. 

Top Ten Tips for Creating Picture Books

(c) Diana Pappas

1. Read lots and lots and lots of Children's books for research. This is great for lots of reasons. I find looking at picture books really inspiring. It helps me be more aware of what sort of layout compositions, colours, drawing techniques and typefaces I like but it also helps me to see what has been done already and help me move my story ideas forward in different ways if I feel something I'm working on is too similar to a book that already exists.

2. Draw LOTS! I often come up with my character ideas long before I write the text, so practising your characters in lots of different positions, doing different activities, engaging with other characters conveying different emotions and expressions can help you decide what personality your character has and help you to build up a picture of what sort of story would would suit them.

3. Treat yourself. I often find if I'm in a bit of a rut or having a 'bad drawing day' that a new pen or crayon, a fresh bottle of ink or a crisp new notepad can work wonders for starting afresh and getting me back on track.

4. Always have a pen in your pocket! I often get ideas for prints, stories and characters when I least expect them, often when I'm walking around town or when I'm on a bus or in the bath! Scribble down your ideas as soon as you can to refer back to later and if you don't have a pad to hand, jot them down on bus tickets or supermarket receipts in the meantime!

5. Keep a selection of tasty snacks hidden around your desk. If I'm riding a creative wave, I might get lost in the detail of a drawing for hours without realising and suddenly feel very very hungry. Raiding the studio biscuit tin or bags of nuts and raisins help see me through!

6. Don't worry too much if you feel uninspired for a day or two. Ideas will come back and having periods where things just aren't working out is completely normal. When I get writer's block or drawing block I go for a walk to clear my head or meet up with a friend for a slice of cake. It's good to have a distraction and can help to re-energise you for when you're ready to get back to work on your project.

7. Refer back to the books you loved as a child. When I'm writing and drawing I draw with my 5 year old self in mind so looking at my favourite childhood books helps me to remember what I found funny at that age or what subjects/animals I liked to read about the most.

8. Make stuff! Ralfy Rabbit first appeared as a rabbit shaped bookmark I made for a craft fair and Stanley started off life on the cover of a notebook I made. Making things can often lead to unexpected ideas for new books and it can be really fun trying out new crafts too. Experiment and have fun!

9. Keep your own voice. Although I've said it's great to look at other books to see what is out there, I think it's important that when you write and illustrate you do it in a way that's true to yourself and not emulating how other people work.

10. Be brave! When creating my first book I hadn't really thought about what comes next. I've had to conquer my fear of public speaking for reading events but now really enjoy them and showing my sketchbooks to publishers was quite terrifying at first but has been great for building up my confidence and sparking fresh ideas.

W: www.emilymackenzie.co.uk / T: @emilymackenzie_ / F: Emily Mackenzie illustration 

Publication Date (all editions): 14th January 2016 Paperback (£6.99) / Hardback (£10.99) / EBook (£6.99) 

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