Bologna Book Fair 2015

Ah... The Big Buzz:  The delight that is the Bologna Children's book fair:  The terrifying scale, the familiar faces, the happy reunions, the chance encounters, the enormous opportunity, and of course the ice cream!

It never seizes to make me feel alive and part of something wide and wonderful, a place of recharging creative batteries, reconnecting with friends and colleagues, reseting of goals.

This year I brought a new project, a silent book, to the fair. I was fortunate to get feedback from some of the best publishers in the world, who's view on any potential book is instant and comes from a deep understanding on the industry and a great love for their lists.  I know this is a digital age, but for me nothing can take the place of a face to face conversation about a project. Information is exchanged verbally and non verbally. The reactions upon page turning, the hesitations when something isn't clear, all those minor deep breaths and pauses feed into my understanding of the strengths and weaknesses in my work. I'm grateful for every opportunity.  After much feedback I believe that I have made a book conceptually well received but which needs a little more" baking". You get as many different opinions as people you show your book to.  But trends emerge nonetheless and I have a better map to get to wherever we're going together, this book and I.

One spread from my new book "umbrella"  turned it into fliers. 

The months of writing and illustrating and the 4 days of the fair couldn't be more different. The introspection and space needed to create something can give that something a very skewed look. But I'm fortunate to come from a very supportive community, where feedback is exchanged and work championed and celebrated in it's uniqueness. Our camaraderie is nurtured and shared from Cambridge School of Art(CSA), throughout the year on line and in real actual meetings. Some of us have made life long friendships in the course, and the fair offers the opportunity of spending quality time with the ones that come (Steve! Suzanne! Catalina!), while missing the ones that this year couldn't (Yes you there, I missed you!)

Even after we have graduated a long time ago, and our dummies are no longer at the stand, seeing the CSA new output of work is a source of great collective pride.   Seeing our tutors at the fair, Pam Smy and Martin Salisbury and Marta Altes, who are brilliant at connecting people together, always gives me great pleasure. As is meeting new people thorough them.  A highlight this year was meeting Dave Barrow a new graduate who will be published next year by Gecko Press and Fernando Perez Hernando who's book Conducir es f├ícil was shown to us on our first week at university. In the vast isles I also met author Vivian French and Nikky Gamble from Just Imagine. I'm looking forward to catching up soon!

Outside of the fair I had an awesome evening with Steve Antony, Linda Owen-Lloyd and Marcia Williams. And it was great to re connect with Sun from Some Books, whose work always opens my mind into something real and important and very different approach to bookmaking to anything else at the fair.  Meeting Peter H. Reynolds as we sat together on the plane back to London was an amazing end to another year of adventures in picture-book-making at the fair!

Here are some highlights of the exhibition.  As soon as I get hold of a copy of the catalogue I'll credit them:

Adolfo Serra

And my top favourite was this little detail:

I am delighted for Maisy Paradise Shearing form CSA who was selected as the overall winner of the illustration competition. She has done all of us so proud and I sure I'm looking forward to purchasing her book next year!

 I've returned all beans and enthusiasm for the load of work ahead. Let's see how much changes next year and what else stays the same. 

MA Degree Show 2015

It is with a lot of nostalgia that I take the yearly pilgrimage to London to see The Masters of Arts Children's Book Illustration degree show.  The opportunity to read through dozens of dummies invariably makes me ache to run back to the studio to work. Oh! But there is always one more book project to read, always another precious sketchbook or portfolio that makes me linger for a few more minutes, way past closing time.

Go and visit this show at Candid Arts (keep going left out of Angel tube station). Details here.  Even setting a whole afternoon to read through all book projects I couldn't.  So here are some observations of my limited visit.

There are very strong visual identities already developed in this year's exhibition. I loved  Maisie Paradise Shearring's Susan's School Days. It  had me hooked for a good while of my time there wrapped in a very believable world;  Jenny Duke's very distinctive mono print lines At the playground; and Joe Lyward's charming I'm going to school stood out as having a visual language of their own.

Joe Lyward

This batch of illustrators was not shy to tackle sad or difficult subjects. I really enjoyed Li-Wen Chu's You are here where she uses internal external chromatic spaces to amplify meaning on her sweet text on memory; as Lucy Wooler's divorce piece Dancing with Mummy and Daddy; and Maria S. Costa's uplifting story about adoption in her book An Odd Family.

Li-Wen Chu

Although the majority of graduates concentrated on story books it was nice to see more conceptual approaches such as Indira Margot Hamaker's pineapple variations book and patterns. A nice reminder how this course encourages independent thinking and the pursuit of individual goals.

Favourites of this exhibition were:

 Shu-Ti Liao's hilarious Birdie and An adventure at night where she uses the outside of a beam of flashlight to illuminate what the character can't see. Shu-Ti has a superb chromatic sense, pace and point of view. She has developed several books to such high and completed, I have no idea if she ever sleeps.
Shu-Ti Liao

 Morag Hood, who I hope walks off with the golden envelope tonight, had me laughing out loud with When Grandad was a Penguin and Go away, where a snail, pestered by slugs, builds them a home and sends them on their way. She combines natural storytelling with very confident  bold characterisation  and great instinct for design.

Morag Hood

There was a wide spectrum of the level at which books have been developed, from early dummies with great surface experimentation and wit like Abigail Joy Bowen's...
Abigail Joy Bowen published books such as Katie Harnett's Tras mi ventana.

Katie Harnett

Clearly fundraising efforts have been phenomenal to put together this show,  sometimes diverting from storytelling into merchandising. Nevertheless, this did not distract from the accomplished book projects, and as usual, the diversity in approaches, themes and techniques was a delight. There are woks there which will instantly be taken by british publishers and some which will sure benefit from the larger stage and wider tastes of the Bologna Children's book fair. 

My beloved old Cambridge School of Art seems to never run out of amazing talent, and both senior staff and regular visiting lecturers are ensuring that the quality stays high, to keep us alumni proud and on our toes.