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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Helen Chamberlin, Mastery of Editorship Dedicated to Children's and Young Adult Literature

My illustrated picture book will be included in "Helen Chamberlin Books," an *imprint* of Windy Hollow Books next year. Great honour and very happy. We’re working on the final stage of the illustration just before layout. A one more push is needed in a very tight time frame. I feel a gentle mother's protection, under Helen’s wings now. 

Certainly, Helen has fostered so many acclaimed Australian illustrators and authors for nearly half a century. These "Australian super stars" have been fledgling from her nest ...Shaun Tan, Gregory RogersAnne Spudvilas, Peter Gouldthorpe, Neil Curtis, Narelle Oliver, Sarah Davis and so ons, too many to write them up. 
This post compares Helen’s editorship to mothering with special thanks.
Helen Chamberlin
Helen Chamberlin’s Editorship Features
Illustrating a picture book text is difficult, because, as renowned author Mem Fox asserts, a long complicated drama like “War and Peace” is compressed in “Haiku” or an extraordinarily short text. Only **thirty two pages** are available for an illustrator to unpack the story and visualise it. Thus, illustration is almost mission impossible. In an illustrator's striving, a distinguished editor, Helen does these things to accomplish a project. As Tanner Award declares, “Helen epitomises the best of editorship, a quiet voice standing in the shadows behind the public faces, shaping and guiding, challenging and demanding." Her uncompromising determination is that readers should get the best levels of variety, quality and choice.
Wow, what remarkable professionalism! 

Helen’s Editorship vs Mothering
Friends, don’t you find Helen's professionalism above exactly overlaps good mothering? I feel so. Let’s chat over it.
The driving force of Helen’s professionalism is her pure love of children, illustrators and authors. That "motherhood love" leads to Helen’s enthusiasm of literacy and to want for excellent picture books. She’d love to offer the best work for readers. In order to create qualified work, Helen shows respect and absolute trust in creators. It encourages us, illustrators and authors to pull out of our best. Helen gives illustrators maximum freedom to produce pictures. But if necessary, a good mother Helen can give tough disciplines so that we will not go astray. Mommy’s tough love is great! All the elements above are from Helen’s devotedness for readers in her working philosophy. So, there’s no surprise that Helen has edited so many award winning books.  

Sounds too awesome to approach her?

Very Shy, Humble Mother/Editor Helen
In fact, Helen is a very, very shy lady and a sweet mum who prefers to stay at a backstage! Yes, sooo humble. Too modest (*I love silently sitting besides her, as if I were in Indian summer). Her body language is extremely gentle and polite.  
It reminds me of ...      
Rosa” withdrawn from a centre stage, a hidden beauty, yet sends sweet and rich scent. In a Japanese metaphor, an intentional backstage player is “giving others her found flowers.” Behind a curtain, she stands silently with empty hands, wearing on a satisfied smile in a humble manner, as if she did nothing to do with a great work. A flower holder is having a spot light and enjoying applause on the apron of a centre stage. 
I’ve felt so in Helen’s smile and body language. It's like an "excellent mother." Mothers do not show off their great job.  
However, I’d say this for Helen's honour ; she is not quiet! She’s become very humorous and compassionate. Helen often makes me laugh with her profound knowledge of literacy and languages. Editor/Publisher Helen is no less than a linguist. I feel...she can do a lexicographer, a semanticist and a pragmatist, while working on German, Italian and English morphosyntaxes. Helen taught them at school. All editors are really abundant in language like a deep ocean. I, a visual artist, always admire their bottomless intelligence and great language assets. 

Portfolio of Helen Chamberlin
Now, Friends, are you getting an image of Helen?
I made the sketches of Helen. Helen and I had a big laugh together!
I put it on a wall right before my desk. That sketch has encouraged me so much to get through difficulty In the middle of night. Helen said, “I’m honoured! It looks ?? yrs younger than me!” (*Put any number as you like and have fun.) 

Ehum! But other publishers editors and famous illustrators said my sketch is really nice! Yes, it captures who she is well. A sensitive, caring, cheerful Mum and Editor/Publisher! So, her portrait has actually well supported me in the middle of night. I’ll write more about her help and you’ll get it below.

How has Helen been helping me? 
Helen is a great collaborator who always respects me, an illustrator. 
Helen wants my creativity, originality and beauty most in work. A thoughtful editor gives me free rein, but she pulls up harnesses, and gives a whip, if necessary. Similarly, a good and thoughtful mother tries hard to support a growing child, but she gives only necessary minimum help in illustration. Helen really, really wants my own style to bloom out  on paper. With her spot-on advice and support, my ideas have been coming up one after another. She also bravely takes risk to allow my experiments. I’ve been truly enjoying the project. A sweet mum has a discipline that leads kids to a right way! Yet, she always gives a creator room for a decision -- it's amazing. 

Helen knows creators' burden and happiness well
Helen said, "Enjoy illustration" at the beginning of the project. I felt she well knew how difficult illustrating is and joy must come first. How many people on the earth know that art work will not shine without joy? I’m convinced that Helen’s empathy is genuine. She has the deep understanding of creators' delight and pain. Wonderful. 
"Enjoy illustration," has become my motto for art work and picture book illustration. 

Editors Do Mothering for Creators 
As I mentioned in the past post, Helen Chamberlin is the Australia legend editor/publisher in our publishing industry – she’s so thoughtful, intellectual, sensitive, wise, humorous, enthusiastic for literacy and full of love for children and colleagues. When I had a chat with "Margaret Wild" -- another Australia legend for her mastery of writing and editorship --- we agreed that good editors are doing mothering for us : illustrators and authors. It’s not coincidence that most editors are women who work so hard silently. 

Yes, Helen has been mentoring me so that I will show my best in watercolour illustration. I'm very happy to have been working with her. Thank you very much. Helen nurtures an illustrator struggling in work and a caring mum gives well balanced sweet spoil and discipline.
Now, I'm head down and get on the work! 

Friends, I've got to concentrate on the illustrations in a dead hurry in following weeks. So, please pardon me, if I should not update the blog each Monday (I'll try!!). I'd appreciate your great support. 
Work with your admiring editor! It's a great fun and you can learn lots.  
Happy Painting!!

*"Imprint copy" is the publishing info you see in every book, usually on the second or fourth page, but sometimes on the last page. A different use of the word is that publishing houses can have several imprints - usually for different genres. 
**Usually, a picture book has 32 pages. Some picture books have 28 pages. 



Monday, June 23, 2014

Talent in What You Love

Hi, Friends, how is your weekend? I relaxed myself in sketching and prepare for the watercolour teaching. Regarding discovering a talent, very well-known advice is "do what you love." Your favorite area is your heaven, isn't it? My only favorite area in art was black and white drawing. Do you like it? My passion is not rational or logical, but quite simply, I've really liked drawing. That's all. 

Friends, have you ever heard this very famous fact ; ultimately, a person's drawing skills is equal to her painting skills ( = a person's painting ability does not go beyond her drawing skills). Black and white is foundation. If you want to learn watercolour painting skills, "Draw, lots of black and white," is very good advice. It sounds like a round way that discourages learners who want to find a quick solution. Unfortunately, no such an easy way to learn watercolour. So, we encourage any students/learners to work on drawing. 
Why is a black and white drawing so important? In my view, b & w is the best way to study value and mood. At the same time, it's fun for me to play around in b & w. Once, I loved black & white drawing more than other school friends. My friends got bored and quickly gave up dessin and croquie. I got hooked and my crazy enthusiasm for drawing puzzled the friends. My ages-long drawing skills have come out a traditional style in painting. I started colour pencils before getting into watercolour. I fell in love with watercolour only a few years ago (So, Friends, have confidence!). It is not hard to loose up watercolour with the solid drawing skills and to move in from the traditional style. Another bonus from drawing skills is my current caricature and cartoon drawingʚ(ˆ◡ˆ)ɞ
In my experience, drawing capacity = painting ability. 
Today, I enjoy playing with colours. Are you a type for taking a line for a walk or colours in sketching outside? I'm the latter one and hope colours sing and dance on papers!
Some artists clearly use lines more than colours, but I do not. These are my most recent b & w. Interestingly, like my colour, it comes up loose. If you have good drawing skills, it's not a big deal to get how to handle colours. 
My current work has all come from the most favorite area, drawing. In other words, if I did not love drawing, I would never become a visual artist. 
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, "Your favorite area is your heaven," we have joy in work of things we like. To find our loving things is easy. Pursue it. Yes, our enthusiasm and love overcomes difficulty. A talent is in your preferred area.    

Finally, I'd devote this quote for anyone. Some people, in particular, still tell me with a sigh, "Oh, Sadami, you have a talent. I don't have it." Humble people do not realise this wonderful and amazing talent.

“I told her once I wasn’t good at anything. She told me survival is a talent.” 
-- Susanna Kaysen
... and 
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.” 
--- Erma Bombeck

Friends, Happy Painting and Drawing! Let me hear your favorite area. 
Do what you love and ... Love what you do! 
Let us use what we have and have fun always!! 


Sunday, June 15, 2014

1)Wesley Building Dreams Project 2)Dromkeen,Prestigious Award in children literacy

Now, my update.

First, a project for artists with disabilities and their carers. 
1) Wesley Building Dreams Art Exhibition
Wesley Mission (facebook)  has invited me to advocates artists with disabilities. Very happy! I'll mentor them in watercolour class from this week for two months. It will be a pop-up exhibition in Sydney CBD between 2-7 August this year. 

The event, "Building Dreams" is part of a wider disability research and awareness campaign centred on the latest Wesley Report, Give Disability Carers a Break before They Break Down.  Did you know? 
  • Over one third of Australian households are involved with disabilities. 
  • 4.2 million Australians are classified as having disabilities. 
  • There are 2.7 million informal carers of individuals living with a disability in Australia.  (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012)
Sadly, what others do not realise is that carers are often forced to sacrifice their own lives to look after someone they love. This project aims at supporting both carers and artists with disabilities.  Sadly, what others do not realise is that carers are often forced to sacrifice their own lives to look after someone they love. This project aims at supporting both carers and artists with disabilities. 

Although there is not an easy solution for the issue, we, mentors and Wesley Mission would like to inspire artists and bring hopes and dreams. I heartily hope this event, at a grass roots level, can make a little difference and a better world! 
Second, an interesting topic for you, "Dromkeen Medal". This Monday at 2 pm is the due for nomination.
2) Dromkeen Medal (*The medal was designed by Robert Ingpen, our great illustrator.)
It is one of the most prestigious annual awards given to only "one" individual who has significantly contributed to Australian children book literacy. Only once in life, an individual may accept it. My blog readers, especially Australians will find familiar names in winners such as, Robert Ingpen, Mem Fox, Julie Vivas, Ann James, Margaret Hamilton, Roland Harvey, Shaun Tan, Libby Gleeson, etc, etc. Yes, they are all big names and key persons in our industry. (*Yey! My mentor's name is in there!! She's a 2002 winner.) 

*Below, my copy of Robert Ingpen's work for practice, 
I added acorns on his origial. 
When I started my career of a children picture book illustrator, 
I collected Robert's work. Still now I'm learning lot from other illustrators' wonderful work. 
Back to the topic. I had been doing research on the Dromkeen Medal for those weeks with my mentor Ann James's help. My interests were two. One is in *editors or **publishers' role in publication, as they are often "invisible." The other is to clarify "continuity and changing" in Australian children picture books. I chose one specific editor and did research.

In contemporary Australian picture books, the researched data certainly shows the changing and the continuity in style, genre, theme and media. The changings go hand in hand with society on the move. Regarding readers/audience, today, picture books attract adults and older boys as well as young children. However, the continuity is in themes universal and common like any other contries. Always old and same themes repeatedly come up such as love and family in Australian picture books. 

BTW, oh, it was really a NIGHTmare to collect massive information to organise bibliographies and to write analyses. It has exhausted me so much. What was worse was really hard to define who edited a picture book from internet.

BUT a great reward ; the research has given me profound and broad knowledge about our industry's history! A great bonus, I could contact some of the most important people in publishing industry directly and indirectly. A great, great bonus, I've reconnected our brilliant and very active sociolinguistics professor Ingrid Piller (*her blog, Language on the Move is so nice! If you love thinking about society and language, go to her blog!).
Although it was a great pain to handle a huge amount of data, I enjoyed this research. Simply because I love reading picture books!!!

Shaun Tan, in particular, has pushed the boundaries of picture books. His work has changed their public image from easy kids’ reading to philosophical books that bear academic discussion on universal themes and social issues, displaying sophisticated art. 
For example, the Arrival by Shaun Tan, the Australia’s first the wordless picture book and successful graphic novel deals immigration, social inclusion and other issues from a humanistic view. 
I also remembered newspapers' interviewing of Shaun. It was very interesting to read how much wisely Shaun answered mass media and his say changed the acknowledgement of picture books. 
Today, children picture book / literacy is an independent genre, being taught at uni and certainly in visual art. 

**When Shaun did the Arrival book launch at Sydney uni, I sketched him and had a chat. 
I asked him, "Is that cartoon you?" He said, "Yes!" We laughed together. 
Very kind Shaun gave me his graffiti, too. 
It has become my treature!!
If you like, pick up a specific Dromkeen past winner and check the info. That'll be fun. 
The 2014 Dromkeen winner will be honoured at an Announcement Ceremony during a book week, 16–22 August 2014. I look forward to an upcoming winner. 
It's exciting to live my picture book illustrator life in this interesting era in changing and continuity.  

Through art, by art, we can do something for others! 
Thanks millions for warm encouragements. I'll do weekly Monday blogging like before. Thank you for your great cheers and patience. My hands much get healed! The right hand has no pain! 
Friends, Happy Painting! 

*An editor works on the book with author and illustrator. 
**A publisher choses what to publish, commissions authors and illustrators etc.