Exhibition aftermath

After a fabulous, frenzied week at The Candid Gallery on Torrens Street, Islington, our MA Show was (fairly unceremoniously) dismantled, solicitously bubble-wrapped, and transported up the M11 to Cambridge, where a pared down version opened in Cambridge School of Art’s beautiful Ruskin Gallery last week (it’s open for another week, until Saturday 14 March, if you missed the London show and fancy a trip to Cambridge…!).

The London Private View had been a great success (although the wine stocks did run dry some time before the evening wrapped up: a little embarrassing…), with many graduates enjoying interest from publishers and agents during the evening and in the days afterwards. For most of us, though, it was also our first opportunity to celebrate our various and collective achievements of the last 18 months – not least that of us all having scribbled, printed and painted our way to a post-graduate qualification! Amongst all the excitement and (at least initially…) tepid wine-quaffing that night was the announcement of the Sebastien Walker Award 2015  – a prize instituted in 2011 in honour of Walker Books’ founder (after which it is named), and in collaboration with the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art (within Anglia Ruskin University), to recognise and celebrate the most promising new illustration talent. This year’s recipient was the quite-disgustingly-brilliant Dave Barrow – unarguably the most worthy winner, and an all-round lovely chap to boot! There’s a quick snap of the moment below which I’ve shamelessly pilfered from the Cambridge School of Art’s newsfeed (my source for most of the photos in today’s post, I’m ashamed to say – mainly because I am so terrible at remembering to record important moments with my own camera [my inadequate phone having entirely given up any photo-taking faculties it once boasted]):

Our illustrious leader, Prof. Martin Salisbury, is pictured in the foreground, while Dave Barrow accepts his prize with characteristic humour and grace (centre)...

Our illustrious leader, Prof. Martin Salisbury, is pictured in the foreground, while Dave Barrow accepts his prize with characteristic humour and grace (centre)…


The Cambridge Private View, which took place last Thursday (26 Feb), was a much more relaxed affair – nothing at all to do with the rather more abundant supply of wine (honest…*ahem*) and a lot to do with the fact that we weren’t all convinced that every unfamiliar face was a potential employer/an ‘industry type’ with the ability to propel one to stratospheric heights of happiness/entirely crush one with the merest word/incline of the head. There was also another award ‘ceremony’: the Searle Award for Creativity, instituted in honour of the great illustrator and Cambridge School of Art alumnus, Ronald Searle, on the occasion of his being awarded an Honorary Doctorate, in 2007 and which, this year, sought to recognise ‘strong drawing skills, development of ideas and experimental approaches to materials’ within final-year students’ (post- and undergraduate) sketchbooks. First prize was awarded to Maisie Paradise Shearring (whose talent has also been recognised by the international illustration community: she is one of only 76 illustrators, from a submission ‘field’ of 3,190, to be selected to exhibit in the prestigious Bologna Illustrators’ Exhibition, alongside Katie Harnett and Jenny Duke, also graduating from the MA this year!), comprising £500, a lovely hard-cover ‘Bright Ideas’ sketchbook, MASSIVE Award certificate, original Ronald Searle lithograph (!!!) from his estate, and a photo and stroking opportunity with this distinctive ‘Flying Pen’ bronze (inspired by a sketch from Searle’s own sketchbooks, but emphatically School of Art property!):

Searle Flying PenTo my great surprise, not-inconsiderable-delight and immense gratitude to the esteemed panel, I was awarded 2nd prize (£250, Bright Ideas [optimistic…] sketchbook, MASSIVE certificate and a hand shake from the Head of Arts, Law & Social Sciences Faculty, Chris Owen, and agent for Ronald Searle’s estate from the Sayle Literary Agency, Rachel Calder…) – a humbling experience within the context of such a great shortlist. Pete Wenman, MA Illustration and Book Arts, was awarded 3rd prize for his excellent reportage drawings, and Sorcha Faulkner received the very special prize of a ream of paper (of her choosing) from Ronald Searle’s studio, a newly-created award for under-graduates only to reflect the fact that they may only just be embarking on their artistic careers (although, it must be said, that for a great number of MA students, this course in fact constitutes their first, formal art college training…). Customarily awkward photos below:

Here we all are, rictus-grins firmly in place (no-one mentioned there'd be photos to contend with...!), L - R: er, me, Pete Wenman, Maisie Paradise Shearring, Sorcha Faulkner

Here we all are, rictus-grins firmly in place (no-one mentioned there’d be photos to contend with…!), L – R: er, me, Pete Wenman, Maisie Paradise Shearring, Sorcha Faulkner

2nd prize, atop my portfolio (open at a page featuring images from the submitted sketchbook)

2nd prize, atop my portfolio (open at a page featuring images from the submitted sketchbook)

The Award shortlist also included the blimmin’ brilliant Megan Wall, Ami Shin, Joe Lyward (all from the MA Children’s Book Illustration course) Marcus Bowler, Beth Woollvin, and a couple of others – Agata and Katherine – whose surnames I am, unfortunately, not sure of. Needless to say, this evening continued at a succession of delightful Cambridge pubs…

It was a lovely way to end a fantastic evening of celebration for all that we have achieved together on the course – and a fortuitously-timed distraction from panics about our (imminently) forthcoming Bologna ‘campaign’ and, er, Life After the MA (I am assuming there will be one and we don’t all shuffle off into some great illustrator-swallowing abyss…).

On that note, I really ought to attempt to clear a space amidst the post-show detritus on my desk and get some work done, but as it also happens to be World Book Day today (hurray!!), here is a little sketch of someone showing their appreciation 🙂 (and check out more brilliant and varied doodles in honour of books at Daily Doodle’s twitter page)

World-Book-Day_sketchHappy reading!

AP x


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The Show must…IS ON!!

So… We are now six (?) weeks into 2015 and I have managed to claw my way through the detritus – strewn across (seemingly) every square-centimetre of my house – deposited in the wake of  pre- and post-assessment and Final Show prep, and am emerging into the February gloom to share a little of the illustrative endeavours I have been embroiled in since I last posted…

For much of Christmas I was an extremely dull, dressing-gown-swaddled, tea-guzzling hermit, frantically trying to watercolour my way through a 42-page (well, 46-page, if you count endpapers. Which I do.) wordless picturebook in time for assessment on 5 January. Predictably, I failed to startle and amaze myself with unprecedented efficiency and speed in order to exceed my (what transpired to be) entirely accurate estimate of how much I would manage to achieve over the festive season – having also to factor in a piece of written work (a critical reflection on progress over this final stage of the course), and the small matter of Christmas itself with all the visiting and disgusting over-indulgence that traditionally entails. I succeeded in completing half of the colour work in order to produce a mock-up – or ‘dummy’ book – to complement the sheaf of sketchbook and developmental work I was submitting (and earlier, distinctly scruffier dummies), and – once I had amassed all the extraneous flotsam of half-realised picturebook ideas and trial sketches, I ended up with quite a pile for delivering unto the assessment gods:


And then there was The Show: the focus of all our fundraising efforts over the previous semester, and subject – along with the beautiful show catalogue (see below), featuring cover artwork by the exceptional Dan Ungureanu – of our collective Kickstarter project (you can read about how a veritable colony of cats and dogs saved our proverbial bacon in a previous post [if you can bear to scroll through all the other drivel to the end…]), generously crowd-funded by our GLORIOUS family and friends (we love you all!!):

MA Children's Book Illustration 2015 - show catalogue, controversially 'title-less'...

MA Children’s Book Illustration 2015 – show catalogue, controversially ‘title-less’…

My page in the catalogue, complete with partial shot of my foamboard-slicing scalpel injury...

My page in the catalogue, complete with partial shot of my foamboard-slicing scalpel injury…

I had blithely assumed that the 4-ish weeks’ grace we had between our January hand-in date and the probable print-deadline for generating reproduction artwork for mounting and portfolio-filling would be more than sufficient to polish off the remaining 11 double-page colour spreads for my Master Stage project and then devote, say, 10 days or so to whipping up another dummy book along other themes already partially explored in my coursework, or to provide a home for all those errant Advent penguins. Ha! What a fool… Betwixt my annual tussle-with-self-assessment tax return, booking travel and accommodation to Bologna for the upcoming Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and a weekend beetling up and back down the M6 to recreate Christmas (and a couple of important birthdays) with the northern contingent of Family, I managed to complete the colour artwork and, er, not a great deal else… I spent a day or two wrestling all the edited pages of my dummy books, together with a few enlargements of a selection of images (including three new works, one very closely resembling an existing image but recreated first in traditional media at a much increased dimension in order to permit scaling up to approx. 400% enlargement, for mounting to foamboard for the show), into a GIGANTIC pdf – well, two to be precise – that could be printed on the marvellous Plan-It Repro‘s massive inkjet roller printer. I cannot recommend Plan-It highly enough; they were totally brilliant, patiently explaining why my plan for very-slightly-oversized pages would make the exercise of producing a full-colour dummy of the Seagull project a prohibitively expensive one, and the the most economical way around my plight (the massive pdf…). The resultant reproductions were kindly rolled up for me for, er, ease of transportation: at 0.9 x 3 metres and 0.9 x 5 metres they were some fairy hefty printouts…

Part of the mammoth InDesign ‘building site’


It was at this juncture (see below) that I realised I was going to need a few more packets of scalpel blades:


One end of the 3-metre roll…


…and the other!

It took many, many shiny new scalpel blades to first slice up these gargantuan prints, but – more crucially – then to carve up the foamboard (satanic stuff…), to which some of the larger pieces intended for wall-mounted display in the exhibition, were affixed. Before I could embark on that particular joyous endeavour, I had first to splutter my way through two 200ml cans’ worth of spray-mounting – after first strewing sheets of donated newspaper liberally about the place to prevent everything in the vicinity taking on a permanently tacky quality and attracting dust, hair and other rubbish for all eternity…

The foamboard-sculpting took much, MUCH longer than I had anticipated – particularly as it had been advised that we attempt to get a 45-degree angle on the edges so that the foam-filling itself (and any dodgy slicing action) was hidden from view, as far as possible, once on the wall. Even with a metal rule, it was also quite tricky to get a really crisp corner on the square pieces, and attempting to fashion the lovely fluid curves I had hoped for – courtesy of my massive arsenal of super-sharp blades – on some of the more ‘free-form’ shapes I had planned was something else entirely!! There were a couple of near misses in terms of spray-mounting errors (where I had designed a three-dimensional, slot-together affair that had to have printed material – that correctly aligned with the reverse – both sides), and a definite hit when I almost sliced a considerable chunk of flesh off the side of my ruler-gripping index finger (it has been bound in a succession of fabric plasters and masking tape since Sunday, but I’m pretty hopeful it will heal. Eventually…), but by Sunday afternoon it was all cut and bubble-wrapped ready for the nerve-racking voyage to the gallery inside my A1 portfolio on Monday morning.

The dummy books were a little fiddly to produce, and I definitely didn’t succeed in creating anything like a professional finish on the spines, but they are far and away the best ones I have ever produced myself and it’s thanks in no small part to this excellent photo-tutorial posted by the wonderful Margaret Sturton on the SCBWI Words & Pictures website: http://www.wordsandpics.org/2014/05/make-picture-book-dummy.html. Unfortunately, I was too immersed in the still-significant remainder of the prep task ahead to think about taking photos of the finished dummies, but here are a couple of progress pictures, and the completed articles are discernible amidst the other paraphernalia in the later photos taken at the gallery:

P1010990 P1010987










The show is being staged at the Candid Gallery, operated by the Candid Arts Trust, at 3-5 Torrens Street, Islington, London, Ec1V 1NQ, and that wonderfully light and spacious (if rather chilly…) venue was where we all congregated on Monday morning to begin the process of hanging the exhibition.


Seagulls, a MASSIVE dog (so large, in fact, I had to detach his tail in order to fit him to the A1 foam board…)



One side of the gallery – students loitering with intent, work all amassed ready for mounting


Surveying work


Some seriously bespoke shelving for some very cool paper craft birds

There was a little ‘touching up’ of the gallery boards to complete by way of preparation before we could start unpacking artwork and determining how each exhibitor’s work would sit alongside and among all the other exhibits, but there was a palpable ‘team spirit’ in the air (or perhaps it was just residual spray-mount vapours…) and all – marshalled by Senior Lecturer, Pam Smy and Course Leader, Martin Salisbury – pitched in with paintbrushes, masking tape and enthusiasm to ready the space for The Important Bit.

There was a (remarkably brief) hiatus in activity while a small committee walked around the space assessing how the diverse array of illustrative works could be arranged to best advantage and in such a way that there was no (or absolutely minimal) conflict between adjacent exhibits – a tricky but necessary exercise to ensure the uniqueness and appeal of each individual’s work was allowed the space and environment it needed to be most favourably displayed. There were a couple of ‘awkward’ set-ups, such as mine, that required particular apparatus – my suspended, slot-together seagull needed ‘a thing’ to be suspended from (a number or handy corner struts between the central installation of boards provided just such a thing…) – but, when all confirmed, it was declared to have been an unusually (nay, unprecedentedly) smooth process.

There followed a 4 (or 5, for some)-hour flurry of pinning, taping, drilling, cursing, drilling, hammering, re-pinning and perhaps a little more cursing activity as exhibits gradually went up (and came down, and went back up again slightly to the left/right…), and by 6pm most seemed to have developed mild tinnitus from the ringing of hardware on chipboard to go with their satisfied exhaustion at a show ‘well-hung’ (if you will…).

My 'space' - populated with a much pared-down selection if images, and featuring Marvellous Dave's hand-crafted business card holders (wall mounted, slightly squiffily, by my own fair hand [and a screwdriver]...)

My ‘space’ – populated with a much pared-down selection if images, and featuring Marvellous Dave’s hand-crafted business card holders (wall mounted, slightly squiffily, by my own fair hand [and a screwdriver]…)

We knew we had A LOT to live up to, most of us having visited last year’s exhibition of the 2014 graduates’ work, but I think we’re all pretty pleased with how the exhibition as a whole has turned out. It’s not really about us, though –  you’ll have to let us know what you think… 🙂

Below is a little selection to whet your appetite for gorgeous illustration – come and indulge!


If you’re in the vicinity of Islington in even the vaguest sense over the next couple of days, please do drop by the gallery: we’d be absolutely delighted to see you there, and are pretty confident that you’ll be glad to have made the detour – the whole place is coruscating with beautiful illustrative talent, much of which I am sure we will all be seeing much more of on national (and international!) bookshelves in the months and years to come, and this is your opportunity to enjoy an exclusive first-look! 😀

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Anyone fancy an ice-cream…?

Crisp, brilliant and sparkling though the last few frosty days have been, I have to admit to being pretty much over the winter thing now, thank you. It’s just too damn cold for sitting hunched in an almost entirely sedentary, Quasimodo-esque fashion at a drawing desk trying to coax illustrative magic (or even a half-decent pass at submittable Masters artwork) from the end of a paintbrush. Tormentingly, the subject of my final (well, for assessment purposes, anyway…) project is high-summer, seasides and the pleasures – and perils – of attempting to enjoy a cooling, icy delicacy in the open-air.

Unfortunately, most of the stuff I’ve been working on over the last week (OK, 3 days… Christmas and affiliated festive fixtures pretty well annihilated opportunities for productive work over the first week of the ‘holiday’) is still unfit for exhibiting to even the most forgiving eye – much less the entire inter-web – so I thought I’d share a piece from about a month ago that I completed for (my page of) the exhibition catalogue that is to accompany our degree show in February. Incidentally, not the medium in which I am working up final sample spreads (for the project from whence this image originated…), but featuring brush pen (a new favourite – or at least high-ranking – drawing tool) and further experimentation with digital colour. I thought it might exude a little summery warmth for anyone else whom might be suffering – with stoic reserve, or otherwise (like myself…) –  through these chilly conditions, and conjure a little whimsical daydream of balmier times ahead 🙂


Please excuse the crop marks…


On the subject of the exhibition catalogue, I would also like to say a HUGE THANK YOU!!!! to everyone whom supported our Kickstarter fundraising efforts in order to help us produce this artefact and run the degree show (both of which, owing to a lack of university funding allocation for the same, are student-financed enterprises but critical to our collective future success [fingers crossed…!]). We were absolutely blown away by the generosity of friends, family and interested observers: the totalizer reached an incredible £3,265 before the project bidding window closed back on 8 December. Your kindness and support has been instrumental in securing a gallery ‘home’ for the show in February (about which, more details to follow in the new year) and in enabling production of what promises to be an absolutely delicious catalogue that publishers up and down the UK will (hopefully) find utterly irresistible! 😀

Well, I shall let you get back to your “Twix’tmas” (thanks, Darren Redick off of Planet Rock – the soundtrack to my coursework this week…) and any remaining mince pies. This will almost certainly be my last post ’til 2015, so I hope you all have an absolutely crackin’ one!!  Happy New Year, and thanks for visiting in 2014! 🙂

AP x

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Christmas Eve!

Ok, I’ll be honest: I didn’t exactly have a Plan for the denouement of this little Advent illustration caper – I thought I’d just let it evolve “organically” (…) over the course of the 24 days. That way, I could uphold (perhaps only with myself…) the fiction that it wasn’t a conscious and wilful distractionary pursuit from the scary final stage of my Masters degree… *guilt-ridden cough*. So… I hope this final offering isn’t too out-of-leftfield (I have made a bit of an effort to shoehorn it into a festively-themed shape – although, actually, I could quite easily see it applying to my own life on a pretty well year-round basis…):

Penguins over-indulge at Christmas too (especially when an impromptu food-coma might get them out of the washing up…):


You’ll notice, in stark opposition to his siblings’ (and parents’) concern for their prone brother, the chick on the far left smells a  rat…

I hope you all have a FANTASTIC Christmas, and a happy, healthy and really rather wonderful 2015!! Thank you so much for your continuing support (and patience…) in visiting this quite rambling and erratic blog over the last month (and, who knows, possibly even longer…?! In which case: extra special thank yous!), and I shall look forwards to welcoming you back in the New Year! 😀

Merry Christmas, y’all!

AP x


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Nice try, sunshine…

Left alone in the capable flippers of the short-notice babysitter (i.e. Grandma…) – while his parents brave the crowds of last-minute Christmas shoppers (please, humour me…) – this enterprising chick seizes his opportunity for a little seasonal wool-pulling, of the ‘over-the-eyes’ variety…:



CHICK: “As I have been such a good chick, Mummy & Daddy said I could have all my presents today… Er, so that I have more time to *help* on Christmas Day…”

BABYSITTER: (Deeply sceptical) “Hmmmmmm…”


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Christmas party shame…

Ah, yes… The morning after the night before:

Bernard hung his head and tried not to think about the thousands of photocopies of his penguin-y posterior that were, by now, bound to have reached every inch of the Antarctic (and probably all outlying icebergs)…


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A post-lunch ‘constitutional’…

Something akin to the chilly, after-dinner walk children (and, let’s be honest, anyone else who’s become all snuggly and fuzzy-brained in front of a roaring log fire/festively glowing TV [invariably showing an assortment of long-anticipated and frequently disappointing Christmas Specials]) often have inflicted upon them by at least one particular family member with an irrepressible urge to ‘blow away the cobwebs’ -instead of pouring another tepid sherry and dozing/grazing their way through the remaining hours of Christmas Day – these penguins are demonstrating, with a similar level of enthusiasm, the Antarctic equivalent: a quick, post-prandial dip in the icy sea…


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“Say ‘freeze’…”

Ever the opportunist, Bernard seized upon the good fortune of discovering an ‘abandoned’ piece of TV crew kit to begin working on a sure-fire money-spinner of a product idea: a whole advent calendar of penguins as festive characters (wonder where he came by that one…). Unfortunately, Mr. 20 December didn’t seem particularly game…


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Again, a bit of a rushed affair, but they are penguins and it is still 19 December… 😉

Assuming that penguins are not accustomed to encountering celebrities as they waddle about their daily business, here is how I imagine they might be stopped in their tracks by a chance sighting of, arguably, the most famous penguin of 2014, namely Monty, of the John Lewis Christmas-advertising juggernaut:


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Holidays!! (for some of us, soon-ish… *beams*)

I warned you it wouldn’t be pretty… Well, here it is – a penguin chick in appropriately celebratory mood: school’s out!! (Almost… Just the small matter of our Final Crit presentation to negotiate… Hold tight, everyone!)



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