Thursday, 26 November 2015

The French Institute London's South Ken Kids Festival - a big drawing together.

I felt so lucky to have been invited by the French Institute in London to participate in the South Ken Kids Festival 2015.  Everything about it was a big draw  - excuse the pun. I met families who had come for the first time, having heard about it from their kid's school, and whose kids enjoyed the workshops and events so much they planned to return next year - others who are hooked, year after year.
SKKF line up 2015

Here we are in the stratosphere after our last joint impro drawing to jazz at the South Ken Kids Festival - left to right (in the dark)  Sam Usher, Emily Hughes, Delphine Perret, Claude Ponti, Bruno Heitz, Barroux,  Benji Davies, Marjolaine Leray, Bridget Marzo, Beatrice Alemagna, Axel Scheffler and jazz trumpetist Airelle Besson

Drawing on the same page at the South Ken Kids Festival - left to right: Axel Scheffler, Delphine Perret, me!- and Beatrice Alemagna.
From left to right:  Axel Scheffler, the French Institute's first illustrator in residence Delphine Perret,  me and Beatrice Alemagna. We went up spontaneously to draw alone or more often in groups. Our drawing on A2 paper was projected onto the huge screen of Cine Lumiere.

Inspiring for us authors and illustrators - to meet and draw alongside each other - discuss each other's work and talk shop.  Quentin Blake is the festival's patron  so it is not surprising it has a strong author-illustrator focus - though there were some wonderful authors like French author Marie-Aude Murail and artists like Barroux who also work for older kids.  Barroux's Line of Fire - a stunning graphic rendering of WWI soldier's diary (which he found in a skip) is out in English now, translated by Sarah Ardizzone - who also ran a translation workshop for children at the festival. Can't wait to read Alpha, the journey of an illegal immigrant from Africa in UK shops next year - here's a taster.
The beautifully stocked book stalls - French kid's books from  Librairie La Page  and a big range of English ones from Tales on Moon Lane  drew kids, parents and us book people too. Talk about cultural exchange!  Plus, a chance to hang out a few metres away in the French Institute's well stocked cafe, talking shop with other faculty between workshops and signing sessions, and chatting with parents and kids of all nationalities.
Emily Hughes drawing SSKF group impro2015-11-21 18.08.27
Perhaps it was Le Bistrot that inspired us for this cafe scene?
B'sTiz&Ott inprogress, Benji Axel Delphine 20151121_182449_resized
Group impro drawing to jazz - spot the two right-handers Axel Scheffler and Delphine Perret and two left-handers - me (drawing Tiz under the cake) and Benji Davies.
A big thank you to all the SKKF volunteers especially Rebecca Infield,  Annabelle Royer for preparing the ground with friendly support for our events and school visits the preceding week.  Overseeing this huge variety of events was the lively mind and charm of Lucie Campos, head of the French Cultural centre's Book Department. Lucie set the tone with her sparkly wit and real  engagement at the festival launch in the presence of Quentin Blake. 

All at the French Institute in London were absolutely determined to counteract the horror and fear of the Paris attacks the previous week with the best of what culture from both sides of the channel could offer children  - creative workshops and play and making, meetings, music, words...and pictures. 
Beneath the joy of it all there is a serious message here, culture to oppose violence, flowers to oppose arms like the father suggests to his son in the Le Petit Journal video that's gone viral (see it here with English subtitles),
Here are pictures which  none of us illustrators would have dreamed of creating, except together.  We were all on the same page - yes - literally - with the audience and the sound of the trumpet and guitar too.  True synergy!
Axel, Magali, Beatrice - SamUsher drwing 2015-11-21 17.50.45
Sam Usher, Magali Le Huche and Beatrice Alemagna drawing in response to Barroux's big yellow horn blower.

Bridget-lion MichelVZeveren-cow 20151121_103958_resized
Belgian author-illustrator  Michel Van Zeveren and I warming up in our drawing duo on Saturday morning, answering children's requests.

Now I must dig out something from my mini book making workshop to show too!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Tiz and Ott's Big Draw in the USA, Culturetheque book of the week, and it's all about character and mark making!

Big news this week! My latest book, Tiz and Ott's Big Draw (out earlier this year with Tate Publishing UK) hits US shelves via Abrams Books - here-  and already it has earned a Kirkus Star review!  
I can't wait to cross the pond next year to get drawing with kids in schools and bookstores there.

This week too, Tiz and Ott's Big Draw is also the London Culturetheque 'children's book of the week' - wow!  Next week I'm looking forward to  South Ken Kids events and school workshops in London.  If you are in London on Saturday November 21, come and see me, Axel Scheffler,  Beatrice Allemagna and other international illustrator-authors at the South Ken Kids Festival at the French Institute draw live on stage!

Meanwhile here is how Tiz and Ott are doing their bit to help inspire children to create their own characters and more...

Busy Tiz draws, Ott likes to take his time and dabble with paint and they get carried away. What really matters is how they connect - and the story they make together.  I wanted them to be simple and easy to draw so readers can focus on what THEY are drawing.   So before I wrote and illustrated Tiz and Ott's Big Draw I sketched Tiz and Ott obsessively.  I got to know them well enough to simplfy them.
Early character sketches for busy Tiz and dawdling Ott (©Bridget Marzo)

Tiz and Ott are basically simple shapes. 
At the end of the book  Tiz and Ott show you how to draw or paint them, step by step.

Bridget sharing character drawing tips at St John's school Pop Up Peterborough in during 'Big Draw' October 
In my story Tiz and Ott get stuck and in their very different ways,  draw themselves out of their own creative block.
For many older chidlren the 'I can't draw' syndrome is a killer phrase for creativity.  I often hear adults say it, and the damage often starts age 10 or so - with self-conscious comparisons to peers who CAN draw.  I like to share a simple remedy for this.  if  you know how to write' capital letters O, U and V and I - and dots - you can draw simple characters. Adults are often the most inhibited about drawing, and at family workshops it's fun to see young children take the lead for once in encouraging their parents.

I show how starting with big round O for a face, you can  construct characters, placing letters within and around the face in different directions.  The fun bit is ending with the dot of the eyes,  the pupils,  placing them carefully in a chosen area of their round eye sockets.
Looking at pupils - with pupils at the Pop Up Peterborough pilot at St John's School!

If you save the dots - the pupils - to the end - it really feels like  you are breathing life and drama into your character.
Giving a direction to a gaze with a dot can be one way into a story.
 You create a relationship between characters or reveal their view of the world. It's a device actors use. Follow a gaze - and see how a character connect  - or not -  to others or to what they are doing. And when you have met your 'quick draw' characters, story telling becomes easier  to create.  Here's an example for starters:

Young Charles informed me that Cherub (right) is looking at Bob because he wants to be friends
but Bob is not interested - "you can tell from how he's looking up..."

Using my quick draw recipe,  my Big Draw October got rolling and literally on track at the Guardian Education Centre's Big Draw family day. New families arrived every hour to draw characters to fill the windows of Tiz and Ott's train which grew and grew. Sharing out some of my own favourite drawing gear including my favourite Pentel Brush Pens, children and adults created characters and 'graffited' the carriages with a range of marks inspired by Tiz and Ott's squiggles at the end of the book.

I asked the children as they finished, what were their characters thinking or saying?
Arabella told me "Bear is shy and doesn't know where to look when Rabbit 
says hello and wants to meet him"

Tiz and Ott's whacky trains full of characters,  grew and grew with drawings by children from 3 up, as well as by parents and grandparents.
For the Pop Up Peterborough festival I showed classes of 5 year olds about my work as an illustrator and author  - how I started with characters and mark making
Showing 5 year olds my sketchbook mark making and on screen
the final storm where Tiz and Ott  get carried away.
And Tiz and Ott's train travelled with me from London to the Isle of Wight then Peterborough.

  At  my workshop with Years 1 and 2 at St John's School, Peterborough
one hour allowed time for my presentation and for 5 year olds to get drawing...

...a long character train along the floor  St John's School, Peterborough

And here is another character train, along a clothes line across the class at  
Queen's Drive Infants School Peterborough

I love seeing how teachers work.  In different Peterborough classes teachers had used Tiz and Ott's story for all kinds of activities before I came - from story re-ordering to modelling a brick house, rainbows and mark-making.
These two characters reaching out, made me laugh - monkey is clearly more interested in baby while baby focuses on what is on his head!

Longer intensive workshops with 8-9 year olds at Nineacres school at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival  gave me time to  help children use their characters as springboards for folded picture book stories.  A big thank you the festival organizers,  teachers and all the brilliant children at Nineacres,  Gurnard and Northwood Schools for making me so welcome!

You can see some close-ups ofwork to see by Nineacres year 7 and 8s 
in the gallery slider of Kid's Corner on

Here's a dad displaying his instant characters at  myYouth Zone family workshop at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival (a penny for the guy down below!) 

See here  to read how a mixed group of 7 to 10 year olds too their animal characters further into stories for my 3 hour Chelsea Young Writers holiday workshop.

And there was a chance to use to Ott's favourite tools - paint and brushes to thanks librarian Rosemary Marchant at the Hillingdon Culture Bite family workshop in the happily thriving Ruislip Manor Library. After my quick draw character recipe we did mixed primary colours and white paint to create a huge variety of skin and fur colours. We had fun painting head shapes and then drew over or painted into the shapes to create another bunch of wierd and wonderful characters.  What a fun crew we created!
Can you see Tiz busy holding brushes in the midst of my Hillingdon Culture Bite workshop?  
More about the 3D printable 'Tiz pen and brush holder'  soon!

Last week these 'quick draw characters'  were generated by over 70  8-11 year old children from several schools, their teachers - and a few fellow authors too - at my plenary illustration  talk for CWISL's Shoutwest Festival at Brunel University.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Big draw of a summer and Big Draw October!

Five books in 5 months is a record for me, even if 4 are in black and white and a series and not full picture book size.
Les Contes a Colorier are my adaptations of 4 fairy tales for kids to complete with their own drawing and colouring in... for French publishers Bayard Jeunesse.

Here's one of the covers I just finished.

And here are  two spreads picked at random from two of the other books 

The fifth book is an illustration commision for a picture book by a writer friend Addy Farmer.  The funded project will be for a literacy drive in North Lincolnshire schools.   I took it on for several reasons.  I liked Addy's rhythmic text, and I couldn't resist the chance of working with her  - and in schools directly concerned by the project.

And talking of's Big Draw month now so Tiz and Ott's Big Draw are taking me places!

First stop tomorrow
at the Guardian Kings Place big draw family day.
I will be there all day alongside a lot of wonderful artists and musicians too,  including Sally Kindberg, Rebecca Ashdown, cartoonist and comic writer Harry Venning, Posy Simonds and more - encouraging everyone else to wield pencils and brushes.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Character building at the Shoutsouth Festival 2015, sponsored by Derwent Pencils

Today was the last day of the Shoutsouth festival held at London Southbank University.
Over 3 amazing days over 15 of us children's book authors inspired over 100 children from schools all over South London to write and illustrate their own stories.  We all worked and played hard - the kids especially (so focused!), accompanying teachers and us Shoutsouth authors and illustrators and what wonderful stories and pictures came out of it!

In addition to an amazing team of writers, 
6 of us illustrator-authors participated in Shoutsouth this year:
Loretta Schauer, Amanda Lillywhite,  Deborah Allwright, Gillian McClure
Sally Kindberg

On Thursday I was asked to give a  30 minute warm-up illustration session. Starting by drawing simple circles,  over 100 children ages 8 - 12, plus their teachers, and other authors drew two characters.

Here's what everyone managed to do...
... in less than 20 minutes!

Afterwards a teacher told me she hadn't realized she could draw a 'relationship' between characters until she did this exercise. It works for adults who aren't used to drawing, as well as for kids who draw all the time.  As I see it

1. If you can write O, U, Y and V, big and small, and draw dots, you can also draw simple animal or human characters.

2. With basic shapes, anyone can get two characters to 'connect' enough to spark a story.  Add dots to their eye sockets - to direct their focus - and you can get a story jump started.

3. Even the simplest drawings have a distinctive 'stamp' or handwriting to them.  Every single person in that room, young and old drew different characters.

4. Bottom line,  illustration is about communicating ideas and stories. It is not all just about skill or talent.

There's a handout based on this drawing exercise on my new site.

even experts like Sally Kindberg (author of the brilliant Draw It books published by Bloomsbury) had a go, alongside writers Mo O'Hara and Sara Grant

Shoutsouth deliberately mixes different ages of kids and different kinds of schools, into teams - each with their own group of 4 authors to work with.  We gave them...
inspiration (here is writer Sara Grant sparking our Leopard team off!),

tips and lots of individual attention to their writing and drawing...

and plenty of good materials to work with - the  purple pencil cases here were packs of 'Flip' double-ended colour pencils donated by the generous Derwent pencil company.

Here are just a few samples of our Leopard team's pictures.
 On the ShoutAbout magazine for kids I cant't wait to see the brilliant stories the kids wrote with the help of Leopard writers, Sara Grant, Jamie Buxton and Sam Hepburn

Oh and a big thanks to the Shoutsouth bookseller Pea Green Books
for inviting me to sign their 
tablecloth with my own Tiz and Ott 

next to my books and those of Sally Kindberg's (left)

As a children's book creator, after days bent over deadlines in the studio,
spending time with kids is a reality check. I feel energized, with a renewed sense of commitment to what I am about!

(Love these characters from one of the kids in our first day character session!)

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Tiz and Ott are out there at last - for real!

Been a bit busy with various things, not least a deadline for four little books!
I'm drawing my way out of the scribble, like in this early sketch for Tiz  & Ott's Big Draw.
Anyone who draws or writes may recognize the problem of getting carried away and ending up in a hole - which in Ott's case is incapacitating!

first colour 'rough' for Tiz's ladder  - which ended up  a lot higher!

Over two years ago that I did this sketch which ended up like this in the book...

page from Tiz and Ott's Big Draw © Bridget Marzo, Tate UK

It is on the top page of a vertical pull-out page.  I feel very lucky that  the Tate were ready to invest in that added 'gatefold' (as publishers call it) to take children up with  Tiz, up and up of the hole...
Spread and gatefold page from Tiz & Ott's Big Draw © Bridget Marzo Tate UK

so high that Tiz has to figure out how to get down, oh dear!
Like the boy who cried 'Wolf'', I feel like I've gone on a bit too much about Tiz and Ott already.  But now it is out there - for real - it takes time to publish a book.

American friends who've seen Tiz and Ott ask if I knew the US classic Harold and the Purple Crayon which was first published in the 1950s. I  I discovered it as an adult and recommend that wonderful book to anyone who has watched a line they have drawn turn into a kind of journey.
As I child I only knew  the Ant & Bee  books  which have recently been reprinted.  I have always loved stories with two characters responding to the world in different ways.  I think that's why Tiz and Ott  started out in these little mini books,  a bunch of short rhyming stories I am still writing more of, which are yet to be published.

When I started thinking about Tiz and Ott, I didn't know of any contemporary stories about ANY characters that draw or paint their way into another world. Doodle books, yes -  I illustrated two big doodle books myself. But though in my case, each page had its own story for kids to doodle into it wasn't like creating fully fledged picture book story with its own arc.
Now there is a spate of wonderful picture books about characters that create in different ways from books like Andrew Drew and Drew to the Days the Crayons Quit.  Spirit of the times!

Anyway Tiz and Ott's Big Draw is now out with Tate publishing in UK bookshops and museum shops.  And it will land on US bookshelves thanks to distribution by Abrams in November 2015.

SO - if by happy chance you are in London on June 4 please join me to raise a glass to cheer Tiz and Ott off into to the world at my launch at Tales on Moon Lane.   You will find the details (plus!) in this drawn-to-music one minute video.  Big thanks to Ella Finch for this video and her perfect timing of my scribbles to music!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

China part 2 Tiz & Ott Beijing! The Bookworm Festival, and more surprises and delights

In my previous post I showed photos of about my first two days of of kids workshops and talks in Beijing at the generous invitation of the China Bookworm Literary Festival.
More words this time - about timing and serendipity and the Festival and more photos of Beijing to end with -  and hey, I had time to do one sketch!

After my Beijing Bookworm kid's workshop I go back to my beautiful zen hotel room at the Beijing  Opposite House (a room I'd like to take home!) 

Wow! In my room are two advance copies of my new book. Juliette my designer at the Tate Publishing in London has organized a speedy delivery across China from the printers in Shanghai..

 I check the gatefold.  
The ladder works beautifully!  Tiz Ott's Big Draw is real at last - 
and ready to hit the shelves in May 2015 
Here I am in China - the  other end of the world from where I drew and endlessly grew those two little characters, gathering doubts then finally the courage to show it to the Tate. 
Now the long wait for publication is almost over.  
I have to hurry to my planned meeting with Niu Shuo, the picture book publisher whom I met in our panel talk the first evening.   She travels two hours across Beijing to show me her lovely books and catalogue. Now I can show her my latest too!

 Niu Shuo, general manage of the Mengxi Jindian
holding my book.  And I am holding the first book she shows me. Surprise! 
It is the Chinese co-edition of a book illustrated by none other than Layn Marlow
my dear friend who is a mainstay of our picture book critique group in London!

Here is the cover of the Mengxi Jindian Culture Communication Co. publisher's catalogue.  
Niu Shuo explained that although China is a huge market, distribution is a problem. They also organize workshops to encourage interest in their picture books and co-editions across  communities of interested parents and child specialists.  

Niu Shuo was due to leave the next day for the Bologna Bookfair.  
She loved Tiz and Ott and told me that this end page

reminded her of Chinese calligraphy.  I replied that as a student I had spent two intense years studying Classical and Modern Chinese and culture.  I have forgotten most of the Mandarin I learnt so rapidly at 20,  but I loved writing Chinese characters. Fingers crossed there will be a Chinese edition of the book - as I want to return to China, improve my Chinese and do more workshops there! 
Among other more serious books by fellow authors, the Beijing Bookworm had a good selection in their shop of my books from France, the UK/ US and Australia to sign after my workshops.

Friends have asked me to write more about the China Bookworm Festival itself.   
It takes place in the Bookworm bookshop-library-bar-restaurant-event spaces  in three centres, Beijing, Suzhou and Chengdu.

I'm full of admiration for Peter Goff the managing director of the Beijing Bookworm, and Daniel Clutton in Suzhou and all those working for it.
"We’ve created Bookworm Literary Festival to be a forum for thought and dialogue – fundamentals of a progressive society. Literature is an ongoing, live, global discussion, and Bookworm Literary Festival is proud to be part of it."
I was proud to be part of the China Bookworm this year too!
This year writers as diverse as Tahar Ben-Jalloun,  Victoria and Ian Hislop (whom I didn't meet) to the venerable poet and  translator of Jose Luis Borges, Willis Barnstone (whom I was lucky enough to meet) came from all corners of the world.  I was sorry to miss Stephen Mooser,  writer and SCBWI co-founder.

Still I was delighted to a couple of talks with friend and fellow children's author-illustrator Frane Lessac from Australia.  More about our time in Suzhou coming in next post!

I am so grateful to Peter Goff and his team for selecting me out of an amazing international list of authors and illustrators, and for making me feel so welcome. 

Thanks too to Olivia Liu SCBWI China regional advisor, Angela Cerrito and Kathleen Ahrens  International SCBWI (all authors too) for recommending me and to my dear friend and desk sharer, author-illustrator Sally Kindberg who had gone through 3 years ago, for encouraging me to take up the surprise invitation that I received back in November. 
You can find more about the festival here.  Also a huge thanks to the volunteers and the sponsors for  their generosity.  Beijing Bookworm volunteers Carol Zhang, Naina, and Jack were perfect guides around the city when my work was done.  
Here are some of the sights they showed me.  You'll see I even managed time for one sketch!

After my school workshop, Jack showed me around the park of Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven.

There were families visiting from other parts of China 
 areas where  retired people gathered to sing or play board games,
as well as quiet areas where people read

or in this case play an ancient instrument - not for the tourists, just for pleasure.

My one free day in Beijing was spent with lovely Bookworm volunteer
Carol Zhang who showed me around....

the Forbidden Palace - La Cité Interdite.
What a huge place...full of tourists from all over China, but 

off the main drag, to the east and west

there were plenty of details to discover - I found the roofs fascinating 

and inside one building, people were trying on traditional palace costumes.

 They were tourists too - look at their shoes!
So many interesting contrasts of old and new!

I'm not a dedicated sightseer though.
I am happiest when I can find a table somewhere to sketch.

And I loved these yellow tables - even  the fake flowers in little baskets.  
It was the only snack bar we could see
in the Forbidden Palace -  somewhere to sit down at last!
Carol took photos while I went into meditative sketching mode... 
....painting a courtyard, above the tables on the east side of the Forbidden Palace.
Just wish I had had time to do more sketching!

Still I caught a few other moments on my Iphone before the battery ran out.

This garden courtyard at the north end of the Forbidden City, was particularly beautiful 

and I loved the square doors, and the colours...

And later, after I recharged my phone outside the Palace, 
Carol and I walked around a popular lakeside area.
Here's a cafe on the lake for Tintin fans...

Back near the hotel in Sanlitun, our hip area of Beijing, this father was playing a classical instrument.
They looked like they had travelled a long way.  Were they guest workers?

Another contrast,  close to the hotel entrance 
I found a fascinating key to some of these contrasts  thanks to a book I found at the Beijing Bookworm, China in Ten Words, by the writer Yu Hua,.

More to come about that and Chinese children's books, and the Suzhou Bookworm and wanderings.