Thursday, 28 September 2017

joanne's picks - Week 38: JUMP

So many of your wonderful illustrations had me wanting to jump for joy this week! Such clever depictions of motion, such wonderful recollections of childhood joys, such imaginative purposes for jumping! From dancing to ollying and bungee-ing to escaping, I have picked a selection which just seemed to leap, spring, bound, hop or bounce off the page...

Claire D'Arcy
Andrea England

Izabela Ward

Katharine Harper

Lex McKay

Suzy Houghton
Colin Rowe

Katja Landowski-Mertes

Kim Phelan

Sarah Deverell

Winterberry Art
Marjory Gardner

Nicky Johnston

Shaney Hyde

Sue Rinaldi
Louann Brown

Louise Tesoriero

Monday, 25 September 2017

Meet Erica Webb — Challenge Admin

Eric Webb, image: Clara Sophie Photography

Tell us what sort of a child you were. Did art play a big part in your growing up?

I was a funny child – as in, literally hilarious. I was a bit of a clown, very happy-go-lucky. I adored sitting and reading, putting on funny voices (I did a mean Steve Urkel impersonation), drawing, reciting poems and tongue-twisters that I’d memorised, making up stories and writing them down. Art has always had me in one form or another. I drew a lot as a kid, and had a favourite game I used to play with my dad. He’d draw a bunch of random lines and shapes on a page and then I’d have to turn it into something. It was a hoot. As I got a little older, I spent hours recreating my favourite cartoon characters and colouring them in meticulously. When I was in grade six, I even won a competition with a drawing I did of a ‘friendly monster’ and it landed me on television! You can imagine how that felt to my 11 year-old self!

Week 1 2017: Whimsy

Why do you make art now?

I make art now because I love to. I’ve finally gotten past listening to the inner critic who demands I’ll never get good enough. She hasn’t gone anywhere, but I just turn up another channel louder so no one has to hear her negativity! And so I make art because I feel compelled to. I love putting into an image the things I’m thinking and feeling. Plus it just feels really nice – that swoosh of a paintbrush, the smudging of pastels, the flow of pencil over paper. The process is meditative for me.

Erica Dullege Webb, image: Clara Sophie Photography

Have you formally trained as an artist or illustrator? Describe your art background/journey:

No formal training here. I have done a short course and spent some time in informal art classes, but I have to admit that for me, I do my best work when I’m home alone, without any feeling of being watched! I need the freedom to get it ‘wrong’ and for that to be OK. My journey started when I was a kid, drawing all the time and devouring ‘how to draw’ books. As I got older, the inner critic won for a while, and I stopped. Then, after having my second child, the creative urge was too great, and I had a couple of picture book manuscripts waiting to be illustrated, and that’s what got me back to the drawing board. The picture books remain un-illustrated, but that’s another story!

Week 6 2017: Garden


Do you have a favourite medium or subject matter? 

I love drawing women’s faces at the moment, and my favourite medium to work in is a combination of watercolour, pastel, pencil and pen. I also tend to draw a lot of yoga and mindfulness related images because I’m a yoga teacher and it all ties together nicely!

Week 38 2017: Jump

Describe your artistic process, from ‘no idea’ to ‘finished artwork’:

I’m a ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ kind of girl, so ‘process’ seems like a fairly optimistic word to use! For me, I like it best when an idea lands in my head and demands to be put onto paper. I tend to sketch my idea and get it as close to ‘right’ on scrap paper, then trace and transfer onto my watercolour paper. Then it’s usually filling in the colour before adding outlines, but sometimes the other way around. Lately I’ve been digitally manipulating more of my images, and I love the freedom this gives me to be less precious with the original. The power of digital erase is awesome.

Week 13 2017: Cinema


How do you fit your creative work in with a busy family life? Do you have a routine?

Routine – another optimistic word! No is the simple answer here. I will often draw while my boys do, or while they’re playing, especially if it’s a particularly urgent idea (i.e. won’t leave me alone) or if I’m working on drafts for a custom piece. Otherwise I draw at night once my kids are in bed. It can be a tough balance as I’m also running a yoga business, but it all comes together OK. I’d always like more time to create, but wouldn’t we all?

Week 37 2017: Queen

Where is your favourite place to create and illustrate?

My kitchen table or study! I’m a simple gal – just give me my home and I’m happy as a pig in mud.

Week 36 2017: Printing

What impact has the Challenge had on your creative journey?

The challenge has been awesome for my journey. It’s pulled me into a place where I trust my creative instinct more than I ever have before; it pushes me to come up with ideas that I otherwise wouldn’t; and it’s led me to embrace my place in an artistic community. I think we artists and creatives can spend a lot of time feeling separate and not good enough and somehow on the outer, but the Challenge is such a supportive, inclusive space – it’s lovely.

Erica Webb, image: Clara Sophie Photography

Do you have illustrators or artists who give you inspiration?

Ooh! Everyone in the challenge! I adore following the journeys of fellow challengers. And I spend a lot of time reading to my boys (they’re 3 and 5 years old) and we admire all the beautiful pictures. It’s not unusual for me to leave their room with an armload of books to inspire me while they sleep.

Week 18 2016: Grandmother

What are you currently working on and what will we see next from you?

At the moment I’m working on a custom illustration for my chiropractor! A bit random, but good fun. Other than that, I’m really working up the momentum to illustrate my manuscripts. Why not, right? Don’t hold your breath while you wait … they could still be a while!

Commission for a chiropractor practice, 2017


Do you have a dream creative project you'd love to be able to do?

Picture books. Hands down. I adore them and they are my favourite. Don’t let the fact that the kids’ bookshelf is in my boys’ room fool you into thinking those books are theirs. I’m just letting them borrow them for a while!

Week 22 2016: Science

Tell us something that we don’t know about you.

I am a cookie monster. The real deal. Make me a cookie and we’re friends for life. There are some cookies cooling on the bench as I type. Yum!

Erica Webb, image: Clara Sophie Photography

Follow Erica online:

Shop:  you can purchase cards and prints through Erica's website
Instagram: @ericawebb_yoga_art

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Sarah's Picks Week 37: Queen

I had a lot of fun looking through everyone's queenly posts for this week's theme. I hope you enjoy this selection of wonderful illustrations that caught my eye.

Louise Tesoriero‎

Alex Pick

Amanda Hunt‎

Leonie Cheetham‎

Kirsty Collett‎

Tatiana Bracinac‎

Sarah Hedley‎

Lucie Mammone‎

Katrina Cobb‎

Saga Mackenzie‎

Gary Dadd‎

Lesley McGee‎

Amelia Jane‎

Stef Hew-Nakatani‎

Erica Dullege Webb‎

Suzanne Pritchard‎

Penelope Pratley‎

Margaret Dewar‎

Clara Cook‎

Monday, 18 September 2017

Meet Anouska Jones — Special Guest

Anouska Jones

Tell us a little about yourself: 


I’m an editor, publisher, author and occasional book reviewer. When I’m not editing, reading or writing, I love yoga, good food and wine, and spending time outdoors with my family and myriad animals. I’m obsessed by all things to do with language — I used to speak five languages but through lack of practice I’m probably down to three now. I’ve lived in five countries on three continents. I love to travel but don’t get to do it nearly as often as I’d like. I hate how fast-paced and constantly ‘on’ our world has become, and so I try to disconnect from it all as much as I can as often as I can without abandoning my professional responsibilities entirely!

The view from Anouska's home office

Could you please give us a brief summary of your professional background and what you are doing now?

I’ve worked in book publishing for almost 25 years, starting out in South Africa after completing postgraduate studies in translation, and then in Australia after moving here in 1997. From my first role as Junior Editor — which consisted partly of cataloguing travel photographs for full-colour gift books on various African destinations, and partly of checking the French translations of those same books — I’ve worked my way up to Publisher and have covered pretty much every genre along the way. Cookery, gardening, travel, military history, memoir, literary fiction, self-help, health and now kids’ picture books — I’ve done them all! Currently, I’m the Publisher for Exisle Publishing and their children’s picture book imprint, EK Books.

Anouska Jones, speaking on a panel at the NSW Writers' Centre Kids and YA Festival

Describe EK Books:

Our goal with EK Books is to produce beautiful, high-quality children’s picture books aimed primarily at the 5 to 8 age group (although we do stray either side of that range a little) and focusing on great stories with great characters and great messages. Part of the branding that we are introducing with our 2018 titles is that they are ‘books with heart on issues that matter’, and I think that pretty much sums up our philosophy and intentions.

As with all books in the Exisle Publishing stable, our titles are published in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the US and Canada, and we also pursue foreign rights deals wherever possible.

EK Books logo

Does EK Books have a particular 'house style' when it comes to illustration?

There’s no house style. My aim is simply to find the right illustrator for each story we publish, and if you look at our list you’ll see that styles vary widely.

Grace and Katie by Susanne Merritt and Liz Anelli, EK Books, 2017

How do you match an illustrator to a manuscript? Please describe your discovery and selection process.

I think this might just be the best part of my job! I operate completely by instinct and what feels right when it comes to matching illustrators and manuscripts. Quite often I can ‘see’ the illustrations in my head and then it’s a matter of finding an illustrator who matches that vision. Sometimes the author will have an idea for who might be a good match and I’m always happy to take that on board and see if I also believe they’d be the right fit. And very occasionally a manuscript will come with an illustrator as part of the ‘package’. I’m constantly on the lookout for new illustrators to add to my database. I watch the Challenge page, for example; and several Challenge members have illustrated books with EK as a result.

Through the Gate by Sally Fawcett, EK Books, 2017

How much art direction do you give an illustrator? Do you provide page break suggestions and illustration notes?

Because EK is a small publisher with a small team, we can break the rules a little, so we work more collaboratively than most. The author, illustrator and designer all work together with me to produce the best book possible. And that means the process can differ slightly from book to book. The most common way is for the illustrator to provide a storyboard showing how they envisage the text flowing across the illustrations, and we tweak it from there if necessary. Sometimes, however, the author will already have suggested page breaks and then it’s a matter of seeing if those work in practice when the illustrator adds their vision to the story.

I usually never provide illustration notes. I will provide a brief on the style that I want and the feel that I want to achieve, but not specific notes. The only exception to that so far has been with my own picture book where poor Gwynne received detailed notes for every single page. I could see the entire story so clearly in my head that I just didn’t have a choice — I had to write my notes down. Although I did tell Gwynne she could feel free to ignore them!

Patch and Ruby by Anouska Jones and Gwynneth Jones, EK Books, 2016

How much time do you allow for a picture book to be illustrated and do you set delivery deadlines? 

Because of our distribution in the UK and the US, we have very long delivery schedules. For example, I have already completed submission of pre-sales material (including front cover and sample internal spread) for all of our EK titles up to the end of August 2018. And by the end of this year, I will have supplied that material for all titles up to the end of February 2019. That’s just how far in advance of publication that companies like Amazon operate. We also print in China, not locally, so that adds three months to our schedules as the books are printed and then shipped. All 2018 titles are already underway — in fact, the first titles for 2018 have already gone to print — and I’m about halfway through building the 2019 publishing program. So the average illustration schedule is probably about a year, but usually divided into two key artwork deadlines: delivery of the front cover concept and sample internal spread for the pre-sales material; and then delivery of all complete artwork in time for the preparation of the final print-ready files.

Deciding on the right font for Don't Think About Purple Elephants, EK Books, 2015

Who have been some of your favourite illustrators to work with and why?

Oh that’s a hard question! I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed working with every illustrator on the EK list. I find that generally the people involved in children’s book publishing are some of the nicest on the planet, so it’s a lovely working relationship. However, I will single out just one, and that’s Nicky Johnston. Nicky is the illustrator of two EK books, The Fix-It Man and Grandma Forgets, and both of these books coincidentally are very close to my heart for very personal reasons. My father passed away in late 2014 from dementia-related disease, so The Fix-It Man, dealing with the death of a parent, and Grandma Forgets, dealing with how a family copes with their grandmother’s dementia, were at times very hard but ultimately very healing for me to work on. And Nicky’s illustrations were a large part of that healing. She captured so beautifully all the love, warmth, heartache, hope and resilience in Dimity’s and Paul’s words, that it brought enormous comfort to me. And now that the books are published, it’s been wonderful to see the response to both as they’ve gone on to bring so much comfort to others.

Grandma Forgets by Paul Russell and Nicky Johnston, EK Books, 2017

Describe your experience creating Patch and Ruby. What was it like being the author and the editor? Did you choose and work closely with the illustrator, Gwynneth Jones?

It was absolutely fine being the editor, but absolutely harrowing being the author! The production process was actually quite easy. I knew right from the start that Gwynne had to be the illustrator. As I’ve joked with her, I loved how she drew chickens so I knew she’d be perfect to draw the horses that are the lead characters in the book. (Have I mentioned that I operate by instinct?!) And Gwynne liked my illustration ideas, or at least was too polite to mention if she didn’t. However, what I did learn is that I'm much more comfortable behind the scenes putting books together than I am with a spotlight anywhere near me promoting a book as ‘the author’.

Gwynne's chickens are wonderful! From Patch and Ruby, EK Books, 2016

Is EK Books accepting portfolios from new illustrators? Where can they find information on how to submit them?

We are. Please send either a link to your portfolio or a PDF no larger than 15MB to:

Finn and Puss, EK Books, 2017

What advice would you give to illustrators wanting to break into the children’s book world?

Keep creating. Keep putting your work out there. Join relevant societies and attend relevant events. Be prepared for lots of rejection, but don’t give up. Getting ‘discovered’ is definitely about talent but it’s also about persistence. And don’t even think of trying to break into the industry unless you genuinely love it. Book publishing is not something you choose for the money (generally), but it’s full of wonderful people, and it’s all about engaging kids in reading and fostering a love of story. If that makes you happy, then in the words of the adorable Dory, ‘Just keep swimming …’

The Fix-It Man by Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnston, EK Books, 2017

What advice would you give to illustrators about working with authors?

The best picture books are those where the illustrations don’t just ‘tell the story’ but bring an added richness to the text. They don’t simply reflect the words but instead go deeper, providing added detail and meaning, creating an entire world. So I would tell every illustrator not to be afraid to bring their vision to an author’s work. That said, I would also ask them to be respectful of the author’s work. Their vision still needs to be true to the author’s intentions.

Most illustrators don’t get to work closely with authors, but if you do get the opportunity to collaborate closely, then seize the opportunity and enjoy it! Whenever I come out of a meeting with an author and illustrator where we’ve tossed around ideas, perhaps solved a sticky problem on a certain page, or just nailed the final storyboard, I’m always on a high for the rest of the day.

Smile Cry by Tania McCartney and Jess Racklyeft, EK Books, 2016

How important is it for illustrators to promote and market themselves and, eventually, their books? Does EK Books consider this when selecting illustrators?

It’s becoming increasingly important as the influence of social media on buying decisions continues to grow. Plus, so many new books are published every month that publishers need authors and illustrators to be invested in promoting their titles if they’re to continue to sell in the long-term. However, I select the illustrator for a manuscript first and foremost on whether they’re the right fit for the story. And fortunately, the illustrators I’ve worked with to date have all understood the need to do their bit to promote both themselves and the book — I think that’s an accepted norm for the industry now.

Australia Illustrated, EK Books, 2016

Which EK Books titles are you feeling most excited about at the moment and what can we see from you in the near future?

Another tough question! These books are like my children so I really can’t pick out favourites! Instead, I’ll take this opportunity to mention our final three books for the 2017 publishing program: Reena’s Rainbow by Dee White and Tracie Grimwood; Finn and Puss by Robert Vescio and Melissa Mackie; and Grace and Katie by Susanne Merritt and Liz Anelli. Three very different books with three very different illustration styles, but all equally wonderful :-)

Reena's Rainbow, EK Books, 2017

Follow Anouska Jones and EK Books online:


Facebook: and


Twitter: @EK_Books and @anouska_jones

Instagram: and