Illustrators: Assemble!

So, after the disgorging of sketchbooks from the initial stages of the MA, I had intended to continue in uncharacteristically logical, sequential fashion by posting further sketchbook pages from the second module (appropriately entitled ‘The Sequential Image’). However, I felt that I ought to intercept this trajectory to relate a Quite Exciting Event and indulge in a little flagrant self-aggrandisement and outpouring of warm-fuzzy-feeling for both my course contemporaries (and other v. talented illustrators – other illustration course providers are available…) and the (tutors and institution of the) Cambridge School of Art (CSA)…

Those of you whom may be of an illustrative persuasion are likely to be at least vaguely aware (as was I) of the Macmillan Prize, a national children’s picturebook illustration competition held every year by the publisher, Macmillan (PanMacmillan), to “stimulate new work from young illustrators in art schools, and to help them take the first steps in their professional lives”. In its 29th year, this “coveted award…has discovered such talent as Emily Gravett, Chloe Inkpen and Gemma Merino, amongst many others”.

The Crocodile Who Didn't Like Water by Gemma Merino. Published by Macmillan Children's Books, 2013.

The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water by Gemma Merino. Published by Macmillan Children’s Books, 2013.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 13.42.30

One of the double-page spreads from Gemma’s winning entry in 2011.


CSA students have, historically, performed pretty amazingly in this competition (Gemma Merino being a very recent graduate, perhaps familiar from her v. funny The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water [I can gladly forgive the erroneous use of ‘who’, as opposed to ‘whom’, on account of the picturebook’s great loveliness and warmth] which has since been shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize, won the Bishop Stortford Picture Book Award, and longlisted for the very prestigious CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal this year): last year, the School achieved a ‘clean sweep’ of the top three prizes and the Lara Jones Award (awarded to an illustrator showing particular promise in illustration for very young children) – the glowing (but not especially gushing) report can still be read here. And, er, this year, too, it seems…!! 😀

As in previous years, the deadline for submission of entries hovers just around about the penultimate and final, critical weeks before coursework hand-in for most art schools, so marshalling the resources (of wakefulness and competent brain function…) to complete the required 4 artwork spreads and full picturebook ‘dummy’ (basically, a rough – but readable – ‘vision’ of the book, including cover, endpapers, title pages and, of course, story pages) was something of a challenge. However, for the first time this year, Macmillan had instituted the facility to accept submissions digitally – an absolute godsend for those of us whom may have been down to the last hour or two and not within frantic-pedalling distance of their London offices, although did necessitate a rather steep learning curve in the art of pdf manipulation (I spent embarrassingly long trying to coax crop marks into existence – at the right marginal distance from the page edge – before I was able to commit my entry to the ether…). A very hearty slap on the back, then, to everyone whom managed to submit an entry in time – that was 328 slightly frazzled young (and, er, a bit more mature…) illustrators, all in all – and an even heartier, stingingly-exuberant slap (or perhaps a firm handshake and a nice glass of something bubbly would be better received…?) to those whom were awarded something (excluding myself, of course, ‘cos that just seems a little too conceited to be acceptable).

I was pretty astonished – and very honoured – then, to discover that I had been Highly Commended from amongst such an incredibly talented, innovative bunch of illustrators, and was totally thrilled to have a piece of work from my entry selected to be exhibited alongside the other highly commended/winning entries at London’s Coningsby Gallery (briefly, 20 – 22 May 2014). The tiny – and extremely warm – gallery was a lovely, intimate space for the exhibition, although – in hindsight – perhaps bringing both Marvellous Dave and my mother (whom, serendipitously, just happened to be two hours into her first visit to Cambridge [then whisked onto a train and away to London for the evening!] along to the Private View was something of a mistake…

Spread selected for the exhibition

Spread from my entry selected for the exhibition (graphite and watercolour)

It was a brilliant evening, though, and a great opportunity to chat to other illustrators (there were representatives of Edinburgh, Falmouth, Bournemouth, and Brighton among the winners), our course tutors  (Pam Smy, Hannah Webb, both MA tutors, and Chris Draper, BA Illustration tutor), the Macmillan team and members of the judging panel (including the amazing Emily Gravett, a previous winner herself) in a fairly informal setting (aided by a steady flow of wine and some pretty exotic nibbles!). I feel extremely lucky!

Looking awkward - and over-heated - next to a piece from my Highly Commended entry, 'Stage Fright'...

Looking awkward – and over-heated – next to a piece from my Highly Commended entry, ‘Stage Fright’…

Emily Gravett, TOTALLY clocking my less-than-surreptitious ninja-photograhpy skills while Chris Inns - Art Director for Picture Books at Macmillan Children's Books - talks about my 'neighbour', Toby Rampton's, very cool, jazz-inspired piece.

Emily Gravett, TOTALLY clocking my less-than-surreptitious ninja-photograhpy skills while Chris Inns – Art Director for Picture Books at Macmillan Children’s Books – talks about my ‘neighbour’, Toby Rampton’s, very cool, jazz-inspired piece.

The official bit of paper

The official bit of paper

The full prize breakdown is still viewable on the Macmillan Prize site, but Prof. Martin Salisbury collated a little ’round-up’ email of successes from CSA for our benefit:

First Prize: Beth Woollvin (BA Hons Illustration, 2nd Yr)

Second Prize & Lara Jones Award: Matt Robertson (MA Children’s Book Illustration)

Third Prize: Morag Hood (MA Children’s Book Illustration [CBI] [full-time])

And, of 15 (I think… Free wine makes the recollection a touch fuzzy…) Highly Commended entries, there were nine CSA students (I’ve linked to their websites, where I’ve been able to find such, but not all reflect their newest/prizewinning work [yet] – those that do include Beth Woollvin [above], Morag Hood, Matt Robertson and Danni Gowdy) :

Morag Hood (as before, for an additional entry. ‘mazing.)

Ana Alepuz (MA, CBI, part-time)

Toby Rampton (BA Hons Illustration, 3rd Year)

Robert Ramsden (MA, CBI, just graduated)

Amanda Pike ([that’s me! 😀 ] MA, CBI, full-time – website coming soon…)

Danni Gowdy (MA, CBI, full-time)

Dan Ungureanu (MA, CBI, full-time)

Ammy Shin (MA, CBI, full-time)

Anna Chernyshova (MA, CBI, full-time)

The judges were comprised of: Suzanne Carnell – Publishing Director, Picture Book,s Macmillan Children’s Books; Chris Inns – Art Director, Picture Books, Macmillan Children’s Books; Ella Butler – Head of Campbell Design, Macmillan Children’s Books; David Roberts – Children’s Picture Book Illustrator; Emily Gravett – Children’s Picture Book Illustrator; Melissa Cox – Children’s New Titles Buyer, Waterstones; Lorna Bradbury – Literary Critic, The Daily Telegraph. Some familiar faces from pervious years, I think, but certainly a pretty salubrious bunch (and impressively eclectic – really good to see the opinions of current practitioners from creative conception to end point effecting a bearing upon the selection)!

Well, that is far more than enough from me – please do, though, follow the links to some of those other awesome illustrators to explore some of the truly amazing work that is (on the cusp of) erupting into the illustration world, and, if you’re a illustration/art/printmaking student toying with the idea of entering the Macmillan next year: do it! 😀

AP x

P.S. The title of this blog post isn’t entirely arbitrary, although I might have come up with a more obviously pertinent one, so…in order to try and rectify this I will throw in an injunction to go and see the latest X-Men movie, Days of Future Past (there’s generous footage of Hugh Jackman’s very toned, er, posterior and the fight sequences are pretty awesome – if a trifle gruesome for a 12A/me…).

P.P.S. New website coming soon!!! 😀










About illustratedbyamanda

Illustrator and time-fritterer extraordinaire
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