Giuseppe Poli
Artist, Storyteller
Giuseppe Poli - Hootie the Cutie p8-9 RGB 2500px.png

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Young MacDonald - How I made this picture - Submarine - Part 1
Young MacDonald Submarine BTS 9.jpg

I love this picture. It’s one of my favourites from my picture book debut as an Author and Illustrator,  Young MacDonald.

I’m going to share with you the steps I took to create this image. Fortunately some of the steps I’ve recorded as videos and I’m super excited to be able to have them here so you can see how long it took me and how I used my materials. Over time you'll also see how I grow as an artist. That's the great thing about creativity.... you and I and everyone can get better at it! So if you are a keen maker of things.... keep a record of what you made and what you were thinking. You'll love looking back and finding little treasures and also seeing how far you have grown.

The beginning

Most of my illustrations start with feelings.... I don’t really know what they will look like. I might have an idea of a character or a particular scene but for this page in my book I wanted to be able to share the submarine that Young MacDonald and his friends have invented and also show how they were feeling. Kids love discovery and one of the things readers will find in this book is that there is a larger story happening for Young MacDonald and friends that is not mentioned in the words. You can see that when you look closely at the faces of the characters. This scene is a turning point for one of them :-)

Art is about decisions. So I’ll continue to share my thought process as I made this part in my book.

Q - How am I going to fit the text and submarine and characters on this page?

A - Well... what do we want to feel on this page?

A - Um. This is the first time we see the submarine so we need to have lots of fun with that reveal. We also need to feel what it’s like to be in a submarine underwater and the sound it would make.  We also need to fit the text in.

At this point in making the book, I was purely focused on quickly capturing ideas to see how the whole book would feel. I wasn't concerned about details.... just about feelings... especially how it would feel to read the page before, turn the page and see this page and then turn on to the next page.

Young MacDonald Submarine BTS 1.jpg

It's interesting to note.... I had no intention of publishing this book when I made this. It was purely to create a story from a desire and personal challenge to make something fun that my 2-3 yr old son would love to read.

A number of years later a publisher was very keen to make this into a real book and so now I had more questions.

Q - That previous image is very rough. What is the final image going to look like? 

A - Well that depends on what the whole book will look like... which is a daunting question. Let me just think about this page and start with this. I can change it later.

Young MacDonald Submarine BTS 2.jpg

As the development of the book progressed I realised that I wanted to bring more to the story without changing the words. 

Q - How can I make this image deliver what I now want in the book? 

A - I need to see the submarine.... but I also need to see their faces. We see the submarine first on the right page so I'll make the submarine bigger in the left page so we can get a closer look at the characters. I'll also just show the front of the submarine because then we are looking directly at them and I can also fit the submarine on that page because the submarine is too wide.

 

Young MacDonald Submarine BTS 3.jpg

This pencil drawing is still very rough. I knew that I was going to use black ink and a brush to paint the outlines and after some (actually lots of) previous experiments I found that I didn't need to make all the decisions in my pencil drawing. I also knew that I was happy with these sized pictures and that the text would fit around them on the page.

Below is a realtime video of how long it took me and how I used my pencil drawing and a Lightbox to paint the outlines onto a new piece of paper. I'm not using any special paper here because I know I'm going to scan them in to the computer and I don't feel I need any extra texture in the brush strokes.

Here is a realtime video of how I painted the outlines for this illustration.

Q - So what does it look like now! Show me, show me. I need to see it to know if it still feels good.

A - Ok ok. It's coming... just do the work.

Now that I had painted the ink outlines, I scanned them into the computer and placed the text in. Here is what it looked like. This was a fun discovery... especially as I had progressed drawing the ink outlines for the pages that I had answers for. For some pages in the book I was still unsure. Fortunately for this page, I was.

Q - ...but I need to see it colour!

A - yes yes. That's coming.

Colours create feeling. I already had some strong thoughts about the colours for this page. It was going to be full of colour and I was going to have more white space on the page before and after to create impact and a special moment for the characters and readers as the story unfolded.

I'll continue this behind the scenes ... sharing another video on how I made the background and how this all came together.

Thanks for reading! Please continue to share this to all those out there who would feel that maybe they couldn't do this but would love to. Let's help them keep their dreams alive :-)

Chat soon,

Giuseppe

 

 

 

Hootie the Cutie - How I made this book - part 1

Hootie the Cutie, written by Michelle Worthington and published by New Frontier Publishing in 2014, was my first published book. I was so excited when I was contacted by Sophia from New Frontier... I didn't know how to respond! "Do I have time in my schedule?" was a question asked of me. Schedule? I didn't even have one! It was like suddenly by this small email I was invited over the wondrous wall that many aspiring Authors and Illustrators dream of crossing over into the 'garden-of-those-who-are-published'. And with this small email that monstrous wall - mysteriously thick, tenaciously unsurmountable and inconceivably impenetrable (it may seem to many aspiring people) - was suddenly a thin small line, that I had just realised I had now crossed. I'll never forget that day.

So... why am I writing this? Well... I'm writing this for those who feel that wall is far more than a thin small line. I'm writing it for the little kids (and big kids) who dream of one day being an author or illustrator or artist. I'm doing it because people think what I do is magical.... and whilst I'm so grateful for their comments.... I want to reach out and say 'do you want to do this too?' and if they say 'yes'... I want to be able to help them and show them that it's not magic... it's just a whole stack of little steps in a long wonderful journey.

So... why am I doing this now? I've been holding off on this for a long time because I was scared of failing and making a mess of it. I was too busy. I was scared of being preachy. There are so many others that are far better than me. I've been justifying not starting this until recently - a boy at kindergarten loved our book, Marvellous Mummy, so much that he made a medal for my wife and I, the teacher-librarian at school made a big display of the behind the scenes process for Marvellous Mummy, a friend shared some fan-art of Hootie the Cutie and the artist wants to see how I made it, and my children are glowing with enthusiasm as I share my artistic tools and process with them. Time to take another little step Mr Poli :-)

Ok.

Enough talk... it's go time.

There is so much to share and I won't have time or space to do it in this one post... but I'll start and continue Hootie the Cutie over a number of posts. I can't wait to share some behind the scenes for Young MacDonald (my Author Illustrator debut) - I'll start that soon too.

Hootie the Cutie was my first published book. I was scared of making a mess of it. I remember thinking to myself that this was going to be my business card... my portfolio. I also remember that I wanted to create an experience. I wanted readers to be pulled into this wonderful magical forest. I had two main things to figure out.... 1) design of the world and 2) design of the book.

Here are some super early sketches trying to answer the first topic - design of the world. Art is about decisions and answers. I didn't have any answers in the beginning except for a few key things.... I wanted this to be a win for me as an artist and a win for the reader and a win for the publisher. I wasn't going to aim for a compromise. I needed to grow as an artist and storyteller and I had to make sure that what I created was also wonderful for the readers. So... I was going to aim for images that I desperately wanted to make even if I didn't know how I was going to do it. As I said before... Art is about decisions and answers... you just need to find the questions. So here's my process and my questions...

Question - How do I start? Draw something. 

Question - What should I use? You're going to make lots of mistakes. I drew most of these on the back of used paper with a HB pencil. My goal was to just create as many answers as I could.

Question - What do the characters look like? I made a few sketches and this one was very early and became a reference for me. You can see hootie as the smallest blob next to Papa Owl (under the bear's nose)

Hootie the Cutie Character Roughs 1.jpg

Question - What does Hootie look like? An early design. I was trying to answer scale. How do you make something look small? Put it next to something small... eg: lady beetles and a leaf.  I liked the pose of this design but it didn't feel fluffy enough.

Hootie the Cutie Hootie 1.jpg

Question - What does Hootie look like when she meets the Dragon? I wanted the Dragon to feel scared and lonely. I had this triangular face design that I then changed to the softer design.

Hootie the Cutie Hootie and Dragon 2.jpg
Hootie the Cutie Hootie and Dragon 1.jpg

Question - What does Hootie and her father look like? Here are some early designs. These were based on an artwork I had made previously which the publisher really liked. I liked the designs. Hootie still felt too slick.

Hootie the Cutie Hootie and Father 1 designs.jpg

Question - So if those are the designs, what do they look like in a pose? Here's Papa Owl trying to keep Hootie from something. 

Hootie the Cutie Hootie and Father 2.jpg

Answers lead to more questions and so at this stage I was still feeling anxious. I really needed to answer... 'Why don't I completely like my designs for Hootie?' and 'What is the experience of this book?'.  I'll share my answers in another blog post... because I've run out of time for this one.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have found something in this. I'm really keen to share more. If you have any questions or requests let me know via the comments.

Cheers and chat soon, 
Giuseppe

Why Reading Books Is So Important For Children

What is the main thing we want for our children?

Most parents want their children to be happy, smart and kind.  When we think about bright and smart children, often the focus is on schools and teachers, and extracurricular activities to build education and character.  This is true to a point, however I am a firm believer in kids being allowed to be kids, and that playing, creativity, curiosity and imagination are essential in helping them to really reach their brightest potential.

An amazing way to boost your children’s learning potential and more importantly creativity and imaginative play, is to introduce books to them as early as possible, and to create time to read as part of everyday family life.

In this bustling digital world, it is more important than ever to create moments to slow down and enjoy - and a book is a great way to do that.  Plus, there is nothing better than the feel and smell of a new book and the joy and wonder of turning the page to see what happens next. A joy that swiping or tapping simply cannot compete with.

So we’ve heard that reading to young children is a good thing - but do you know the benefits your toddler or preschool-age child can get directly from books and reading?

Here are the many wonderful things that books can bring to preschool children and their families.

1. A stronger bond with you. 

As children get older they begin to pull away from their parents, so embrace snuggle time as much as you can. Reading a book after a bath and before bed, is precious quiet time that you can enjoy, which will strengthen your bond and become a nurturing activity that you both cherish. How often do we actually sit with our kids and give them our full attention? When you read to them, you are there for them. And they remember it.

2. Learning Excellence. 

One of the major benefits of reading to toddlers and preschoolers is a heightened ability and desire for learning. Studies show that students, who were read to regularly before preschool age, are more likely to do well in all aspects of formal education. After all, it all begins with words.

3. How to read a book. 

It is funny but we take for granted that children just know instinctively that you read text from left to right, or how to distinguish between words, colours and images. But this isn’t the case, so essential reading skills and the comprehension of words and images like these are among the many benefits of early reading.

4. Basic speech skills. 

As toddlers, they are learning critical language and enunciation skills at a rapid pace. By listening to you read, your child is identifying and understanding the basic sounds that form language.  Often they will “read” the book back to you making happy sounds and squeals, which is a very important pre-literacy activity.

5. Valuable communication skills. 

Through seeing interactions with the characters in the books you read, a child will learn and experience different situations and emotions and how to relate to others in a healthy way. This develops communication skills, and builds on important traits such as empathy and compassion.

6. Logical thinking. 

Reading to preschool children improves their ability to understand basic life concepts such as applying logic, identifying cause and effect, and knowing when to use good judgment. They will begin to match scenarios from their books into real life situations, and therefore be more equipped to make better decisions.

7. Facing new experiences. 

Books are a great way of approaching a subject or milestone that a child is concerned or worried about, such as starting kindy, a long plane ride or a new sibling arriving. Reading a story that addresses their worry, is a great way to help ease their anxiety and also to show them they are not alone, and that being worried or anxious is normal.

8. Enhanced concentration. 

When you first start story time, toddlers may wiggle and seem distracted by anything other than the book, but through persistence and repetition is where they will learn to be calm, and pay attention at story time.  Understanding of when it is appropriate to sit quietly and follow instructions brings self-discipline, a longer attention span, and improved memory, all of which are vital for school.

Children love understanding things. They are curious. 

Early reading for toddlers helps them experience books as something exciting, fascinating and interesting, rather than trying to introduce at a later date, when video games and television are likely to seem preferable.

I love picture books - the multiple opportunities they provide and the impact they have on a young mind in preparing them for life, is invaluable. Each book I illustrate is crafted with love, and I am incredibly proud to be able to move and inspire children and families with my art.