The cover story is a fictionalised account of a real kid – John Hudson – who spent his early childhood as a chimneysweep, was sentenced to a prison ship for theft at age nine and was on the First Fleet to Australia at thirteen. The First Fleet convicts were given clothes, and fed relatively well, so in the story the kid’s feeling happy and hopeful.
I really wanted to capture that sense of peace, relief and new beginnings on the cover. I toyed for a bit with the idea of showing London in the background – a grey smog against a blue sky. And I even had some complicated ideas about the shrouds forming a metaphorical jail cell. But in the end the sails and the birds seemed to work best to convey freedom.
The trickiest part of this stage was making sure the ship was historically accurate while also forming a backdrop that was (a) clearly a ship, (b) emotionally powerful and (c) not too convoluted or distracting, especially behind the character. I had to really push the perspective to get it to work how I wanted, but I was happy in the end. It helped that I had a stack of reference photos from when I visited the Polly Woodside – thanks past me!
In the final rendering stage, I knew I wanted to stay away from black linework. I wanted richly coloured dark lines, and bright light lines. This is the little experimental style guide I made for myself before I started the final piece:
This year I’ve been very happily illustrating for The School Magazine (a NSW-based literary magazine for primary school students). I love it. I feel like there should be a lot more to say, but that’s really it. I’m learning, I’m challenging myself, I’m generally pleased with how my illustrations turn out. I’m enjoying the wide variety of texts (including poetry!) and artistic possibilities. It’s good stuff and I can’t wait til I can show you September’s illustrations. And October’s. And November’s. But for now, here are the June and August illustrations.
Nikola Tesla and his cat Macak:
A spider for a poem:
And finally, Benjamin Franklin and Frank Epperson: two historical kid-ventors, along with Brandon Cowan, a modern one!