Shout Out to the Girls, process + cover
Early on in the year I was wandering through a book shop and I noticed some cool non-fiction titles in the kids section and I wondered if I’d ever get to contribute to something like those. And then in July I got an email inviting me to create some portraits for a book celebrating Australian women. (Everyone always says that publishing houses just contact you out of the blue, but I didn’t really believe it. It’s a hard thing to believe. You especially don’t believe they’re gonna contact you about your dream project.)
Anyway, one thing I didn’t consider in my dream-fantasies (because you never have anxiety when you’re imagining all the cool opportunities you might have) was the weight of responsibility of illustrating a non-fiction book for kids. It was only once I’d signed my contract that I started to panic. For a whole bunch of reasons. But mostly because Nancy Wake and Elizabeth Blackburn are not recognisably iconic women. Which means that there will be lots of kids (who grow into adults) for whom my illustrations of these women will be the way they imagine them. A fixed image on paper, created by me, will anchor their interpretation of entire other humans. So that’s terrifying.
I spent a lot of time sketching them, which helped. This was easier for Blackburn, who lives in a time of digital photos, than for Wake, but I dredged up enough photos of Wake to eventually feel comfortable with my drawings of her too. And I tried to get to know them, by reading interviews, so I could compose the images in ways that made sense for who they were and what they’d done.
Eventually the fear went away and I’m pretty happy, in the end, that they feel *right*. I can always improve artistically, and that’s not a problem. I’m never going to see a picture of mine and think “ah yes, this is perfect, no errors at all! couldn’t be better!” But I can look at my own work and think that overall, at its essence, it feels like it’s trying to do the right things. And that’s how these feel.
Lemme know if you have any Qs about my process. I’m never really sure what of the BTS stuff is interesting, but I thought some of the face sketches would be cool so I popped some up there 🙂
Elizabeth Blackburn, Nobel Prize winning molecular biologist.
The second person I got to illustrate for Penguin Random House’s Shout Out to the Girls (coming out in Feb/March 2018) was Elizabeth Blackburn.
In the mid-80s, she co-discovered telomerase, which is an enzyme associated with ageing. For this research she was awarded 2009′s Nobel Prize for Phsyiology/Medicine, along with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak. She was also appointed to, and then kicked off, the President’s Council on Bioethics – it seems George W Bush didn’t like her ethics…
Anyway, she seems like an all-round pretty cool person, and she’s still working as a scientist in the US, so go forth and be inspired 🙂
Nancy Wake, war hero.
In Feb/March next year, Penguin Random House are publishing Shout Out to the Girls: A Celebration of Awesome Australian Women, and I illustrated Nancy Wake for them.
Here’s her wiki page for a rundown of how she worked for the French resistance and the British Special Ops during World War Two, and a link to an interview to give you a sense of who she was. There’s lots more info about her around the web, but one of the weirdest things is that she’s not really famous within Australia at all. She was the Gestapo’s most wanted in 1943 and, for a country that grounds a lot of its national identity in war, I’m pretty surprised I’d never heard of her before.