Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Matt's Picks - Week 33: SADNESS

52 Week Illustration Challenge

Week 33: Sadness

As well as working as a cartoonist/illustrator, I run a private counselling practice in Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs. I deal with the roller coaster of human emotions every day.

We don’t like feeling sad, but the reality is that sadness is a normal (and necessary) part of being human. We don’t have to fix it. We learn to sit with it, because sometimes it is the right emotion to feel.

To select this weeks images, I simply covered the names of each artist so the images could speak for themselves. The ones I chose were those that connected with me because they reflected a sadness in my own journey.

Thank you to everybody who took part this week and shared a little of their own sadness.

Matt Glover

Colin Rowe

Goldie Chelmsford

Jutta Berend

Katrina Cobb

Kirsty Collett

Yevgeniya Tanasiychuk

Prue Pittock

Marjory Gardner

Lynda Bell-Mann

Leonie Cheetham

Andrew Grant

Monday, 21 August 2017

Meet Tania McCartney — Challenge Founder

Tania McCartney, image: Martin Ollman for HerCanberra

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

I lived in my head as a child. I was talkative, endlessly inspired, bossy and inventive. Everything could be made into something, and often was. And everything could be beautiful, too.

There were endless hours decorating and redecorating my room, converting the carport roof into a living room, digging a wishing well in the backyard and editing a local newsletter. I’d also draft plans for exquisite mansions on metre-wide sheets of graph paper, write plays and direct them, pen adventure stories and picture books, illustrating and stapling them together.

I loved to draw, write, dance, sing, bake, make, create secret clubs and even design the stationery for them. So yes, you could say art (or the Arts) was a big part of growing up!

Looking ahead to adulthood, I wanted to be an author, graphic designer, illustrator, actress and designer—simultaneously—and I’ve filled almost all of those roles, though it’s taken many decades to finally arrive at a place where I’m doing this full time. It’s a heavenly place to be. I think my 10-year-old self would be pretty happy to know my hard work has paid off.

from work-in-progress, HarperCollins

Why do you make art now?

Quite simply—because it brings me joy. It feels like I’ve returned to my core self when I create. Like I’ve come home. I also do it for work. Doing something you love, something that makes you intensely happy and brings deep reward… to be able to do it for ‘work’? It’s phenomenal.

Australia Illustrated was a direct result of the Challenge, EK Books, 2016

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

I’ve had no formal instruction since year 10 at high school. Everything I’ve done has been self-taught—until I started the 52-Week Illustration Challenge. As soon as the Challenge took off, I tripped and fell head over heels in love with painting and drawing again. I hadn’t illustrated for 25 years—and had seriously believed I could no longer draw. What a revelation to see my skills blossom so fast—like getting back on a bicycle.

During the first year of the Challenge, I began taking digital illustration courses on I had lots of digital graphic design experience but I wanted to do ‘more’. I also learned exponentially from other Challenge members, and, frankly, by just making art. My first illustrated book, Australia Illustrated, was a direct result of the skills once the Challenge began.

This year I started doing more specific online courses in linework on, specifically with author/illustrator Nina Rycroft, and other talented people. I hope to do some advanced watercolour courses and maybe even some one-on-one classes on advanced techniques and printing in the next year or two.

from work-in-progress, National Library of Australia

Do you have a favourite medium or subject matter?

I adore, adore, adore watercolour. It’s by far my true love, but I’m also loving the incredible possibility of digital illustration. Printing techniques are a great love, too and I’ve recently discovered ink (gasp!). I’d like to work with gouache more—it’s delicious.

Multimedia is insanely good fun. I take photographs of textures everywhere I go, and I paint and print backgrounds that I scan and use in my digital art. I’m keen to bring more typography into my creations, as well as snippets from old magazines, books and catalogues.

I’m a bit obsessed with typography, too.

from Australia Illustrated

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

Like most creators, I tend to channel things. They just come through me; from where I do not know. Ideas pop up randomly or are usually inspired by kids, art, nature or memories. If I’m both writing and illustrating, there is no ‘rule’—the illos could come first or the text first (though more commonly the latter).

As for creating the actual piece, I don’t do drafts. I just don’t. I can’t. It would ruin my mojo. Thankfully, the publishers I’ve worked with so far are cool with that. So, what I do is I draw lightly on watercolour paper and then just colour it in.

For digital, I just start drawing. I don’t plan things and I don’t plot. I just start and the rest falls into place. I can see what I want to do in my head, but sometimes things veer in an unexpected direction and I just go with it. Sometimes I have no idea what I’ll do, yet it miraculously unfolds. It's like an enigma wrapped in a surprise wrapped in happy. I love this process so much, but I have to be honest—sometimes I start a piece in a mild state of angst because I don’t know what I’m doing until it emerges!

from Australia Illustrated

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

I used to think I had a routine, but I don’t really. All I know is that I work hard, to the detriment of my social life, housework, down time and once-slim physique—and I’m not easily derailed or distracted. I seem to work fast and I’m very driven, so I do manage to get a lot done in a given day. Then I’m free at night for my husband and teens, and the dreaded housework and having to wash one’s hair (groan).

Where is your favourite place to create and illustrate?

In my studio. It’s at the front of the house, faces north and is drenched in light. It’s my happy place. I’ll soon be investing in a laptop for the first time in many years, so I plan to create in cafes like I did pre-kids!

image: Martin Ollman for HerCanberra

What impact has the Challenge had on your creative journey?

The impact has been everything. I mean—total. Without it, I would never, ever have brought illustration back into my life. The Challenge is wholly responsible for my reconnection, and for bringing back something I’ve missed so deeply.

Oh—and I would never have gone pro with illustration, either. I’m working on my fourth illustrated book this year, and just this morning, a high-profile publisher emailed and asked me to send in some illustrations. It’s like I’m asleep and dreaming.

Tania's first Challenge illustration in 2014, Week 1: EGGS

Do you have illustrators or artists who give you inspiration?

So many! Too many to list, but just off the top of my head—Miroslav Sasek, Anna Walker, Gus Gordon, David Roberts, Emily Gravett, Kyle Hughes-Odgers, Barbara Dziadosz, Lane Smith, Gennine Zlatkis, Oana Befort, Carson Ellis, Isabelle Arsenault, Jon Klassen, Peter Brown, Marc Martin. And Nicky Johnston and Kirsty Collett and our own Challenge admin girls, too! They are brilliant artists.

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

I’ve just finished my first full scale illustrated wall map. It’s called Australia: Illustrated Map and will be out with Hardie Grant Travel this December. I had the time of my life creating this, and even designed the tube packaging and dump bin—what a learning experience!

Australia: Illustrated Map, Hardie Grant Travel, out December 2017

I’m nearing the end of a large book project with Jackie French for the National Library of Australia—all digital illustration. That’s out late 2018 or early 2019. And in a few weeks, I’m starting an unusual biographic-style picture book on a famous Australian for HarperCollins. This has been a big dream, and a long time coming.

Early in the new year I’m commencing a graphic design style book for the National Library and I’m continuing work on two junior fiction books/series, which I’ll also illustrate.

My first greeting cards (with Nuovo Group) are out soon and I hope to do some more for them, when I can find time! I'm having a card giveaway until 3 September (only posting to Australian addresses), you can click the image below to enter.

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

I’ve had two dream projects come true this year—a map, and a Christmas book called Merry Everything!, illustrated by Jess Racklyeft, out this October with Windy Hollow Books.

I’ve long dreamt of a book with illustrations comprised of typography but so many of these books have come out these past few years, it’s set me back a little. I do think it will happen, though, when I can clear my plate!

And I dream of doing an alphabet book and one about balloons. Not sure why but I just love balloons.

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

I poke my tongue out when I draw and paint. I have green eyes. I’ve moved house over 70 times and have lived in four different countries. I speak intermediate French and beginner Mandarin. I used to be an astrologer. I can wolf-whistle like a builder (no fingers!). I have a massive (I mean, HUGE) picture book collection. When I go into a bookstore and approach the picture book section, I become so overwhelmed, I have to kneel down on the floor. Doesn’t everyone do that?

Let's connect!

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Thursday, 17 August 2017

Nicky's picks - week 32: SECRET

What a pleasure it has been to immerse myself in this week's theme SECRET. I have enjoyed trawling through the wall to select a few that resonated with me for a variety of reasons. I loved the cleverness, I loved the colour, I loved the tones, some artwork I don't even know why I loved it!!

Once again thank you to everyone for embracing this theme to make it your own!

Nicky x
Penelope Pratley

Ashleigh O'Lyn

Brigit Hoogenberk

Cecilia Timm

Colin Rowe

Courtney McDaniel

Judy Watson

Jutta Berend

Katja Landowski-Mertes

Kerrie Robertson

Leonie Cheetham

Lisa Jones

Margaret Schons

Peter Hinton

Shani Nottingham

Monday, 14 August 2017

Meet Kirsty Collett – Challenge Director

Kirsty Collett

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

I was described as a ‘spirited’ child, and I think that was putting it nicely! I loved to laugh (loudly and often at inappropriate times), see and try things for myself and run wild. I was also a deep thinker, a dreamer and an observer. I don’t think much has changed!

Growing up, my parents placed a lot of importance on imaginative play and creative expression. Riding horses and playing in hay barns, cowsheds, tree huts and troughs was definitely balanced with time spent reading, writing, listening to music, singing, dressing up and dancing (I desperately wanted to be a Solid Gold dancer!). I was given oodles of creative opportunities.

My sisters and I feasted on picture books — the best introduction to art you can have! — and, as soon as we were old enough to hold a pencil, my school teacher mother encouraged us to create our own story books.

I also had some other very creative role models: my father is a farmer-turned-sculptor; my Opa was an author and illustrator; and my Oma was a potter and painter.

So, yes, I guess art did play a big part in my growing up!

Week 18 2017: Rain clouds

Why do you make art now?

Trust me, when it’s not going well — when I’m battling imposter syndrome and fear of inadequacy — I ask myself this question over and over again!

But, luckily, I have some good reasons for making art to fall back on:

I make art because I need homes for my ideas. They’re very particular about where they want to live, so I have had to explore lots of different art forms in order to satisfy them: writing, songwriting, storytelling, painting, costume design, and some ideas have even demanded their own shows and events!

I make art because I’m intrigued by the creative process — it feels like magic. Sometimes picking up a pencil or a guitar or sitting down and just starting something — anything — is the only planned and purposeful thing I do. Oh, and I feel purposeful at the end when I’m fine-tuning, adding details or editing. But the in-between part, the heart of the creative process, feels more instinctive, more intuitive, more ... magic!

I make art because it connects me with myself and other people.

I make art because it’s fun, therapeutic and satisfying … most of the time!

Week 8 2017: Pastel

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

I have no formal training as an artist or illustrator, but I have exercised my creativity my whole life, and I really believe that our creative passions inform each other. So here’s a wee snapshot of my artistic ‘training’ to date:

I started writing songs at an early age and have busked, gigged, performed and recorded at countless locations over the years, both as part of a band and as a solo artist.

I write stories and am constantly honing this craft as I pursue my dream of becoming a published author/illustrator.

When time allows, I develop interactive storytelling shows and perform them at preschools, schools, libraries and events. I ADORE working (read: playing!) with children.

I was founder and organiser of The Party, a themed arts event that ran for three years and blurred the boundaries between artist and audience. I worked with some fabulous performing artists and DJs, and designed and created some fun costumes for this.

I have an illustrated paper goods business called Prickle and POP.

And let’s not forget the ongoing 52-Week Illustration Challenge ‘training’!

Children's Storyteller

Do you have a favourite medium or subject matter?

I’m still exploring and learning about different mediums and techniques — I think I’ve only just scratched the surface! — but, so far, I really enjoy experimenting with collage, monoprinting, and pencil and watercolour.

I adore capturing quirky little stories. A lot of my ideas take flight from the nooks and crannies of everyday life — the delicate borderlands between imagination and reality — where extra meets ordinary.

I’m not interested in being cool or on-trend; I’m interested in being curious, imaginative and fresh. I don’t see a differentiation between art for children and art for adults. Art is art; it just speaks to you in different ways.

Week 19 2017: Music

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


I usually let a theme or a brief marinate in my mind for a day or two (or 10) to give my subconscious time to mull it over. (Crikey, that sounds a bit deep! But my father made us decipher our dreams, plant by the moon and hug trees as children, so it’s to be expected, I guess.)

After the marination period, I sit down and start playing around. Sometimes ideas form easily and flow naturally onto my sketch pad; other times, I want to tear my attempts into a trillion tiny pieces and TRASH THEM. But I’ve learnt that I am usually very unimpressed by my work until I have added colour, so I’m trying to be more patient.

Once my sketch resembles something I can work with, I transfer it onto watercolour paper using a light box, and then the real fun begins!

I try not to try too hard when I’m painting. I seem to like the results better when I just go for it — adding colour, sprinkling salt, splashing water, cutting and pasting, stamping and layering — without overthinking. I have a tremendous amount to learn, but I think will always be careful to balance what I know with what I feel.

When I’m satisfied with the paint job, I emphasise outlines and details with a pencil before photographing it (in excellent natural daylight!) and working on it in Photoshop. My digital skills are fairly limited, but I do I like to remove my backgrounds and format the images ready for print.

Week 10 2017: Weekend


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

I am at my best, creatively speaking — good grief, not in any other way! — first thing in the morning. So in an ideal world, I would pour a bucket of coffee at 6.00 a.m. and settle into a few hours of creative bliss before my children wake up. Unfortunately, this rarely happens because my boys are early birds, too! Well, not unfortunately, because there’s no hardship in delaying creative contentment for the smell and feel of my warm, sleepy boys! And one day, all too soon for my liking, I am sure I will have my mornings back.

So, mostly, I settle into creative work after school drop-off and juggle my projects and other commitments until school pick-up. I switch off at night, unless I have self-imposed deadlines looming, preferring to enjoy the creative efforts of others: good wine, good books, good magazines (FLOW is my favourite), and good Netflix shows.

Busy Bees


Where is your favourite place to create and illustrate? 

I love to potter away in my ‘home studio’ (spare room, kitchen table, lounge floor). You can read more about it here.

Pink Flower Houses

What impact has the Challenge had on your creative journey?

The Challenge has had a HUGE impact on my arty journey; it kick-started it! Without it, my desire to hone my (limited) drawing and painting skills may have remained just that: a desire, a pipe dream, a ‘someday’ project. It doesn’t bear thinking about!

Luckily, the thrill of posting my first Challenge artwork on the 7th of January 2016 was enough for me to decide it was going to become a ‘right now’ project! I was overwhelmed by the welcome, positive feedback and supportive comments I received. I was SOLD!
Thanks to the wonderful weekly prompts, I was also motivated. I loved having a purpose for my art and a safe environment in which to share it. And I loved having my Facebook feed filled with glorious illustrations from all over the world; it was so inspiring.

But it wasn't just the art that I enjoyed and connected with; it was the community, the people — YOU! I treasure the online friendships I have formed and the giggles, trials and celebrations we have shared, and I am delighted to carry on the vision of Tania McCartney and Nicky Johnston, with the help of the amazing Admin Team.

I will be introducing (or reintroducing) you to the wonderful people behind the scenes over the coming weeks, so watch this space!

My first Challenge post

Do you have illustrators or artists who give you inspiration?

I’m inspired daily by the creativity of the 52-Week Illustration Challenge community!

I collect picture books — for me, as much as for my children! — and they are my greatest art resource and inspiration source. I am drawn to lots of different styles for lots of different reasons, so my list of ‘Favourite Illustrators’ is endless! Here are just a few that come to mind: Jon Klassen, Lynley Dodd, Christian Robinson, Emily Hughes, Babette Cole, Craig Smith, Britta Teckentrup, David Barrow, Rebecca Cobb, Eric Carle, Freya Blackwood ...

My step-mother-in-law and award-winning artist, Galina Kim, is also a huge source of inspiration. Her work is phenomenal. You can learn a little more about her here.

Week 12 2016: Non Dominant Hand

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

Prickle and POP will soon have dedicated bricks-and-mortar retail space, as part of a new co-op in the Christchurch Arts Centre called Shopology, so I’m busy organising print runs, display units and marketing material for that right now.

I am also working on a commercial commission for Brisbane-based organic skincare company Miss Magoo's, creating imagery for their new website and baby products.

A publisher has recently asked to see more of my work, so I am writing and editing at the moment, too.

And when I’m on top of all that, I am going to work my way through every one of Nina Rycroft’s Skillshare classes, and explore the digital medium more. I want to learn, learn, learn!

Miss Fantail


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

It is my long-time dream to collaborate on a children’s picture book, or develop one as an author/illustrator. I would love to combine a few of my creative passions, including songwriting and storytelling, to help with the promotion of a book. I adore bringing stories to life!

I know digital diaries are the organiser of choice for many, but they don’t work for me. I still prefer pen and paper, so I would love to design an illustrated dairy. Matching pens would be cool, too!

And I have a BIG dream of working with a number of schools to create an illustrated story that is 'read' and enjoyed as an exhibition.

Week 20 2017: Saturday


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

My nickname is Kib. I talk to myself a lot. I’m an introverted extrovert. I love my dressing gown. I'm fascinated by big waves. I have filmed a pilot episode for a children’s webseries. My handwriting is ghastly. I have been a LifeLine counsellor. I’m a middle child. I can’t choose between mountains or sea. I’m tall. I turn everything into a song. I have jumped out of a plane. My favourite colour is greeny blue. I’m scared of spiders. I think kindness is underrated (and always will be because it can’t be rated highly enough!). And I ADORE the 52-Week Illustration Challenge (but I think you already knew that!).

Let's connect!

See you soon!