Posts tagged New Zealand illustrator

Meet our November Star Author Donovan Bixley

Our fantastic November Star Author is New Zealand author and illustrator, Donovan Bixley.  Donovan has illustrated heaps of books, including his own Kiwi versions of The Wheels on the Bus and Old MacDonald’s Farm, Brian Falkner’s Northwood and Maddy West and the Tongue Taker, the Dinosaur Rescue series with Kyle Mewburn, and his latest book, The Weather Machine.  He has illustrated more than 100 stories and book covers as well as over 70 books.  He has also written and illustrated a book all about the life of Mozart, called Faithfully Mozart.

Thanks for joining us Donovan!  We look forward to hearing all about your writing and illustrating.

 

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“What do you do all day?”

ImageIt’s fantastic to be invited to be the Star Author for November. I don’t get to blog much, so this will be a fun excuse to talk about some of the things going on in my brain… ummm … actually, that’s a bit like trying to pull some coherent strands out of a bird nest.

So where to start?

I had two books come out on the same day last month – “Dashing Dog” and “The Weather Machine” – and whenever I have a new book released, that’s when I get a sudden rush of emails or phone calls from people all over the country who want me to illustrate their book. This would be great if it were a call from one of my favourite authors like Neil Gaiman, Charlie Higgson, Kyle Mewburn or Brian Falkner (among others …), but, more often than not, it’s a call from someone who has never written a children’s book before, and they usually say something like “I’ve written a book and you can illustrate it for me.” – wow lucky me! I get this comment so often, so there is obviously some misapprehension that I am sitting about all day waiting for people to give me things to do.

So then … what DO I do all day long?

Kids often ask me “do you get to draw pictures all day long?” and yep – as a full time author and illustrator that’s pretty much true. It can very very hard work even torturous at times, but the kind of torturous work that’s enjoyable – ha ha. Books are such long term projects, which means that I’m locked into them for months, even years, in advance. At any time of year I am usually working on several books at once (at the moment I am working on five). I am concepting and writing two. I’m am doing research and roughs for another two, and I am doing final illustrations as well as working on design and layup for yet another. This staggered way of working keeps me going all year round and I’m always working on books at different stages of completion. A normal picture book can take between six months to a year to complete, and in between I also illustrate little jobs like covers and one off stories for school journals.

It can be a pretty intense job and I often get sucked into the world of the book I am working on. I often have to remind myself to take a break. I have a lovely studio with my guitar and piano nearby so I usually get up and play for a few minutes (if I remember) – then crack the whip and back to it (deadlines wait for no man). For the last few months I have been working on a comic novel and I have to complete two pages every day. If I don’t then it will completely screw up my schedule – like I said, all this drawing fun can be pretty hard work.

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MY STUDIO THIS LOVELY MORNING

Most nights I take my work home with me too, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Luckily I have the ability to be able to chat and talk while I’m drawing and I usually like to be surrounded by a bit of noise and conversation while I’m working. I also talk with my family about what I’m doing and sometimes we come up with cool ideas for books over dinner or while we’re driving somewhere. My kids are also really good models for my illustrations (I don’t know what I’ll do when they get too big to model as children). Everyone in my family has been trained up really well to give me good honest feedback. They are all really well-read and have strong opinions about books (and movies and music too). It’s really useful to have them all to help me get perspective on my work and tell me if it isn’t up to scratch.

I do most of my writing freehand in bed at night. I usually work out things completely in my head (while I am drawing all day) and at the end of the day I can just sit down let the writing ideas flow (of course there is ALWAYS a lot of editing to do with any form of writing). During the year I get offered manuscripts from publishers. It’s always exciting to see that simple text for the first time and imagine what you could do with it. It’s also really exciting to have a chance to work on something I’d never think of on my own (like “Dinosaur Rescue” with Kyle Mewburn and “Northwood” with Brian Falkner). On the other hand, I also spend a lot of time writing new books. That’s the only way I can get to draw or write about things that nobody else will offer me (like “Faithfully Mozart” or “The Weather Machine”). During some parts of the year I am doing a lot of writing and concept drawings for those future projects. These projects can take many years to finally be finished (usually because I’m too busy with so many other projects). At the moment I have around seven projects either with publishers or in the process of getting down on paper from picture books to illustrated novels and short stories to a large sophisticated picture book for adults. You can see that I really like to do lots of different formats and genres. All these projects are at different stages of completion, so they’ll all hopefully come to fruition over successive years (depending on whether publishers like them or not), and I’m either going to have nothing to do, or I’m going to be totally flat out!

So, in short, there’s never enough hours in the week to do all the books I want to work on. I’m very strict about having my weekends off though. So it’s lucky that I adore writing and illustrating children’s books, because it’s what I’d be doing anyway.

Over the next month I’m hoping to talk about what I try to do when I’m illustrating a manuscript, my inspiration, the comic novel I am currently working on and how I got to be an author and illustrator in the first place. I don’t really have anything specific planned – so leave a comment if there’s anything you’d like to know and I’ll do my best to answer it.

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Fast Five with Lindy Fisher

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I can’t seem to help making images. I’ve done it forever! I enjoy texture and colour and playing with it. Sometimes my images are used to illustrate children’s stories, sometimes to feature on NZ postage stamps and other times on peoples walls in their homes.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Being able to do what I love for my job and introducing other people to the fun I have so they can enjoy it too. Either using their imagination to interpret my pictures or using my techniques to make their own new ones.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Always the one I am working on or have just had published. At the moment it is “Remember that November” by Jennifer Beck.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

Living by the sea on its gorgeous coast line under some pohutakawa trees.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

That books are free! BUT I never want to take them back!!

Lindy Fisher is an illustrator who has created the illustrations for stories by Jennifer Beck and Dot Meharry, including Nobody’s Dog, A Present from the Past, and Remember That November.

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Fast Five with Donovan Bixley

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I wanted to illustrate things that I was really interested in, which doesn’t always happen when you illustrate other author’s stories. So I decided to write my own stories.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Coming up with ideas is very exciting. The hard part is the months and years it take to make those ideas good enough. Through a lot of hard work they get turned into a finished book.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book? 

“Sydney and the Sea Monster” by David Elliot. I also love “The Word Witch” by Margaret Mahy and David Elliot.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

I love that we’re a small country, with a population not much bigger than a city in most countries. New Zealanders are fairly humble and relaxed people on the whole, and not too stressed out. I love being able to enjoy our lakes and mountains and coasts with my family.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

I like browsing the shelves and finding books that I would not normally look at. I still like to get reference books from the library. The Internet is not quite the same.

Looky BookDonovan Bixley is an author and illustrator who has created the illustrations for his own books and for books by other authors.  He has created Kiwi versions of The Wheels on the Bus and Old MacDonald’s Farm, and his latest book is the wonderful Kiwi-themed puzzle book, The Looky Book.  Donovan has also illustrated Brian Falkner’s Northwood and Maddy West and the Tongue Taker, and created the Dinosaur Rescue series with Kyle Mewburn.

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Fast Five with Nikki Slade-Robinson

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

Why not!  I think if the ideas are there, and the characters are demanding to be let out, you don’t get much choice really.  Writing and illustrating was always my dream.  And luckily my parents let me have plenty of paper so I didn’t have to draw and write on the walls.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Ooooh it’s soooo fun!  I put writing and illustrating together because I do both.  I can spend lots of my day playing with my imagination and not many jobs let you do that.  I love being self employed too, and having so much flexibility.   It’s also very cool when you see one of your books picked up and turned into something else like a show.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Oh that’s not fair – there are so many wonderful NZ books, how can I choose just one?  Is it ok to list a few?  I do love Jack Lasenby’s ‘The Lake’ and his Seddon St gang ones.  Nobody can go past Margaret Mahy of course, horracapotchkin! (Oh dear – did I spell that right?)  And I use Andrew Crowe’s ‘Which NZ Insect?’ a lot.  Des Hunt’s books because they are set in areas I know… Joanna Orwin – oh there’s so many good writers here – sigh!  In terms of picture books, that too is really hard to choose.  I just really enjoy being able to read NZ stories.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

The environment.  We do live in paradise really, you only need to travel away from here to realise how good we really have it.  And our society, really it’s great.  I just hope we can all look after it and really cherish what we have.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

We’ve got this really old picture book about a little boy who can hold an elephant and a lion and a rocket under one arm.  He can hold anything you can think of under his arm.  And at the end you find out it’s because he can go to the library and get a book about anything out.  Libraries are like that – you can find so much there… and it’s free so nobody has to miss out.

Nikki Slade-Robinson is an author and illustrator whose books include Munkle Arvur and the Bod, That’s Not Junk! and Hannah Bandanna’s Hair.  Nikki has also illustrated books for other authors, including Mind Your Gramma and The Seven Stars of Matariki.

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