Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Little Varuna Magic

Well, it's been a long time since I've picked up a pencil to draw - years in fact, as I have been so very busy tapping away on my computer for the last three or four years. I have had a beautiful manuscript in my bottom drawer for a long time, written by my dear friend Whitney Stewart, regularly postponed by me or our publisher, until finally I knew it could be postponed no more. So, feeling apprehensive about not having illustrated for so long, I booked myself a week at Varuna, The Writers' House, to see if in the stillness of the Blue Mountains I could find that quiet drawing mind again.

There is nowhere else I know of where I can be so focussed and productive as at Varuna, sharing the house with four other writers tapping away quietly in their rooms, coming down for a meal by the fire in the evenings, thoughts turned inward from being so completely lost in their work all day. As the director says, the gift of Varuna is not just that it takes away all interruptions to your work, but that it takes away the fear of interruption.

As this is a picture book on meditation for children, I decided that each morning I would pick a meditation exercise to try out before I sat down to work. I struggle to find a still mind, like most of us do I imagine, and easily fall into the trap of wanting to fill empty space with words, spoken or written, any moment I am not busy. So, the combination of meditating in the morning and then illustrating all day in this quiet yellow house was like a balm to my restless, scratchy mind.

I began by working in pencil to find the mood of the illustration, then when I was happy with my sketch I would place it on a lightbox under a sheet of watercolour paper to trace it in ink. To my delight, the characters revealed themselves easily: an elephant to represent our heavy bumbling mind, and a monkey to represent our mind at its most skittish. I chose a limited palette to colour them with because I will add the backgrounds later with the designer once we have worked out how the words will fit across the page.

This is just a sneak peek of some of my favourite drawings. Later, after I have been working with the designer, I will post some full-colour pages-in-progress. Until then, 'Om' to you for your day.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Billie B Brown Treasury!

Here is a little treat for any Billie B Brown fans, which will arrive just in time for Christmas. A hardback full colour collection of ten Billie stories! I have only seen the cover so far, and a sneak peek of a few of Aki's illustrations in colour - but what I have seen so far looks gorgeous!