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.