Last Saturday I had an amazing afternoon at House of Illustration, running a family workshop based on ALPHONSE, THAT IS NOT OK TO DO! After a quick reading, we did some giant collaborative adventure drawing – just like Natalie and Alphonse do in the book. Highlights included Natalie and Alphonse on their five-wheeled motorbike: Squirrel and treehouse worlds joined by ladders, and a majestic giant bee featuring cup-holder, chips-holder, sound system, umbrella and MANY SHOES. Next it was time for monster puppets: here are just a few of one family’s horde.
We started with corrugated paper finger puppets, with all manner of multiple heads, horns, tongues, wings and other appendages.
There was even one with eyes on accordion stalks. It’s interesting running events at House of Illustration because the great facilities and unusually long workshops mean you can plan more extended, open-ended activities, so I’d prepared various kinds of puppets to experiment with. There were accordion-beasts inspired by Chinese dragon stick-puppets, of which this was definitely the longest. And this one has a wonderful expression. There were also puppets with moving wings, mouths, arms or eyebrows made using split pins, but I seem to have no pictures of those. At least I can show you this brilliant new thing: a box-mouth monster with a monster baby inside, operated by hidden lolly stick!Some people even got around to building theatres – I bet some ace plays were staged once they got them home…
I arrived in a tiswas, thinking, “AIEE, what if no one comes?” followed by, “AIEE, what if someone comes?” and, “AIEE, biscuits stuck in traffic! What if people come mainly for biscuits and get justifiably enraged?” But those nice comics folks calmed me right down with tea, and got me started on signing The Heap.
I was overwhelmed by so many friends and relations coming along to celebrate Alphonse, and that was before the biscuits and Natalie and Alphonse arrived to make sense of it all – sitting down centrepieceishly in the space between all the books and drawing their giant pig (which was eaten and magically regenerated two times! And then decisively consumed in our third attempt). Thanks so much to everyone who came, and to Gosh! and Walker Books. If you couldn’t make it but would like a signed book, I think Gosh! may still have part of The Heap.
Last weekend I went all the way to Scotland to paint a window and fill it with cardboard monsters – now there’s a thing I never could have imagined I would do. The window belonged to Mainstreet Trading Company, a beautiful book (and cake and soup and many thing) shop in St Boswells. I arrived with fourteen brushes, three kinds of tape, two kinds of glue, two kinds of string and four rolled-up paper monsters, feeling fairly daunted by the idea of making a window display worth bringing someone to Scotland for.
First I had to mount the monsters on cardboard (running out of both kinds of glue) and cut them out with a scalpel.
Then I convinced them to stand or hang in the window (thanks to both kinds of string).
And (now in a panic about having used up most of the day without actually PAINTING THE WINDOW), I sort of managed to get the smaller Alphonse to eat a copy of the actual book.
Finally I got around to using two of my fourteen brushes, and Mainstreet’s window pens, to help Natalie and Alphonse decorate the window. I did some of the drawings with my left hand, as I did for the monsters’ drawings in the book, and perhaps I should’ve done left-handed painting – except I think I’d still be there now (it took six and a half hours as it was)
and it was important to leave time for signing books and eating cake. Okay actually, I didn’t, so I had to eat my cake in the taxi, but it was Mmmmm. In fact, it wouldn’t be so bad to still be there now.
I’ve just come back from having the MOST FUN being Festival Illustrator at Chester’s WayWord children’s festival for the second year in a row. This was my first chance to read ALPHONSE, THAT IS NOT OK TO DO! with children (even though it’s not published until 5th March), and to try some monster-themed drawing and making.
At one event we read ALPHONSE and The Girl with the Parrot on her Head and played drawing games together, just as Natalie and Alphonse draw together in the book.
I also ran a monster finger puppet workshop.
And another (with a lot of help from Nicola and Helen of Chester Performs) on stencilling onto canvas bags. It would have been hard to do screen printing (which is how I usually make my illustrations) in this workshop, unless everyone had printed the same image, but the freezer paper stencils were quite magic, and the resulting bags were so cool!
I spent the rest of my time drawing the festival – which was embarrassing as I’m heinously out of practice with observational drawing, but good for me. Here’s one of my drawings – visit WayWord for more (and next year, maybe visit the actual WayWord as it is ALL THE FUN).
House of Illustration have just published a guest blogpost I wrote for them about a workshop I ran there in May, based on The Girl with the Parrot on her Head. AND, I’ve been invited back to run another family workshop on 5th August with Becky Palmer, this time linked to their summer exhibition of Ladybird books, Ladybird by Design. We’ll be asking: what if ladybirds had Ladybird books of their own? What would they be about? Heraldry? Leaves? Aphids? Microcomputers? How small would they be? Book online now and come and help us find out.