Doodles and Drafts – Peter Allert Part Two

Today we continue to follow exciting new Queensland talent, Peter Allert and have a sqizz at his first published children’s picture book, Long Live Us!Long Live Us PB

Q Where has your work appeared?

My first book was ‘Long Live Us’ written by Edel Wignell and published by IP Kidz in 2011. Since then I have been focussing on my own illustrations and writing my own children’s book. I was part of a SCBWI Illustrators Exhibition at the Brisbane City Library in 2012 exhibiting my illustrations from Long Live Us and other projects.

Over the years I have volunteered my services as an illustrator to gain more experience, this was helpful in building my portfolio.

I have Illustrated Artwork for Aurealis Australian Fantasy & Sci-Fi Magazine www.aurealis.com.au. This has been exciting as you have to sum up a whole story into one illustration which can be a challenge. But these are the challenges that make being an illustrator worth it for me. Anything that allows you to be creative should be encouraged.

Q What children’s books have you illustrated?

In 2010 I finished illustrating my first children’s book for Interactive Publications, Pty, Ltd. “Long Live Us!” was written by Edel Wignell and published by IP Kidz in 2011.

Q How long did it take to complete your picture book project, “Long Live Us!”?

As I was working fulltime it mostly worked on the weekends and whenever I had spare time, from the character inception, storyboarding, final illustrations and adding colour in was approx. 15 to 18 months.

Peter Allert illoQ I can barely master a stick drawing. Do you like to dabble in the written word and if so, have you consider writing your own children’s book?

Yes, I would encourage any illustrator to attempt this. Apart from it possibly turning out to be a published book, it also gives you insight into the processes of how a book is developed. I am working on several ideas at the moment, I will be happy to share them once they are closer to completion.

Q Which Aussie children’s book illustrator do you admire most and why?

I believe Shaun Tan has opened up a lot of doors for illustrators in Australia and inspired many to pursue their craft. He combines his mastery of painting and illustrating with new perspectives in storytelling. Plus he’s just a nice guy.

Q Name one ‘I’ll never forget that’ moment in your illustrating career so far.

Professionally I’m not surprising anyone by saying that when they send you a copy of the book you have just illustrated or written and you see it the first time with your name, it is one of the best moments in your career. On a personal level though I completed an illustration I was very proud of and still am to this day. I looked back and said ‘did I do this?’ That is also a great moment for illustrators because you know all your long hours and work have paid off.

Q What is on the storyboard for Peter?

This year I will be attending and volunteering for the CYA Conference for the 8th Year in a row. I would encourage anyone considering becoming an illustrator, writer, or both to attend this conference. It gives you a great set of skills and understanding of the industry to start you off. Apart from that I would like to start another book and illustrate some of the photographs I took in Japan or Sweden last year. I am always open for new challenges and will add any of my new work to my website www.peterallert.com.au.

Have a look at this charming little trailer for Long Live Us! featuring some dubious fairy tale folk and one very hungry troll. (just click on the link)

Long Live Us!

 

Doodles and Drafts – An interview with Peter Allert Part One

I struggle to decipher my own handwriting. I can barely make a stencil look decent and my attempts at creating hangman stick figures always fills my opponents with pitiful glee. This is why I admire anyone who has even an infinitesimal amount of artistic flair.

The process of anything emerging be it writer, illustrator, butterfly, and to a lesser degree, human baby is a beautiful thing and deserves some examination.

Peter Allert IllusOur doodler today is Peter Allert, whose artistic flair, I am happy to announce is anything but insignificant. In fact Peter’s drive and dedication to his craft are so great; they have filled more than one post can cope with alone. So here is Part One of my interview with Peter Allert, illustrator of children’s books (Long Live Us!) and bona fide gentleman to boot.

Q Who is Peter Allert? Describe the illustrator in you and what sets your work apart from other Aussie illustrators.

I was born in South Australia and moved up to Queensland in the 1980’s with my parents, I spent time living in Sydney but have made Queensland my home for the last 13 years. I have always illustrated in one form or another but have become quit driven in my 30’s to discover my potential.

ill-animals-frog3I believe I am an artist at heart who has found I express myself best through illustrating with watercolour pencils and ink. My strength is illustrating animals, capturing their fur or feathers, bringing their eyes to life as if they were looking at me. I am most proud of this work. I have also illustrated a variety of other subjects including fairy tale and children’s book characters and Science Fiction themes.

I think what sets me aside is that I use watercolour pencils rather than straight watercolour paints, therefore I am able to apply the detail I am comfortable with. I also mix my love of photography with my work so I can capture a natural realism in my subjects. I like getting out and about and seeing the world, I feel this helps bring perspective to your illustrations. I am still finding myself as a writer and poet but draw inspiration from my other writers and close friends.Peter Allert Possum

Q What is your favourite colour, why and how does it influence or restrict what you illustrate?

I guess like a lot of illustrators it is hard to choose just one but if I had to it would be green. To me it’s a very nature colour with so many ways it can be applied. It can be applied to illustrations not just as a straight green but also through using other amazing blues, yellows…etc. It influences my work as I like illustrating natural subjects and I find they always have an element of green in them. It may however restrict me if I had a dark subject matter, I would always want to add a brighter colour to inspire hope.

Q When did the coloured pencil drop for you? What, whom persuaded you to illustrate?

When growing up I guess coloured pencils were all around me, in school, at home, they were inexpensive and there was always a colouring book that needed my attention. After seeking feedback about my work I found the straight pencil a little limiting. With water coloured pencils I could enhance and bring the colours to life, with the right paper I could add other dimensions and finishes to my work. It just displayed and continues to display great potential. I also like detail and I can accomplish that with pencils.ill-book-mr-q

Deep inside me, even when I was younger child I wanted to create and be artistic. I didn’t exactly know what it meant for me personally or that you could possibly make a living out of it. But when I decided to make this profession part of my life I was inspired by Shaun Tan, Gregory Rogers, Narelle Oliver, Maurice Sendak, & and many of the illustrated children’s books I grew up with.

Q Are you a natural or have you had to study and suffer for your craft?

I have had some study in art and illustrating over the years but I would have to say I am mostly self-taught. That said, in the beginning I was finding my work lacked some fundamental things and I knew I needed advice and training. I took some basic classes, attended conferences and researched other artists. I started diversifying my subject matter, built my portfolio and over the years improved my craft. I wouldn’t call it suffering I would call it dedicating yourself to long hours of improving your skills and yourself.

Q How do you develop your illustrations? Do digital computer programs feature significantly in what you produce?

If I have a particular idea or theme in mind I will simply start drawing small sketches and exploring ideas. I’ll make notes and over a period of time, this may take days or weeks, I will then start the main illustration. With most of my illustrations I will lightly draw it first with pencil on pressed smooth watercolour paper. I then slowly add layers of colour such as a yellow base, followed by a light green or blue then to add some dimension I will add variations of the same colour. Indigo makes a great darker colour to use when additional shading is required, I will very rarely add black unless there is a reason. Once I feel it is ready I will apply water with a brush, mixing the colours and bringing the illustration to life. I include more layers or shading to add depth, and then use an ink pen if required.

ill-animals-ambrose1I will often note the pencil number and photograph different stages of the illustration to remember how I reached the final stage. A lot can happen in the creation process so if you end up liking the final piece then remembering how you got there is important. Remember that when illustrating a picture book you want the illustrations to be consistent in both colour and appearance. This helps me anyway. I do not use any major software programs as such but I do scan my images and clean them up in order to send on to publishes.

Q Do you draw every day? What is the most enjoyable part of your working day?

To be honest no, but the enthusiasm is there. Like all illustrators who are also working it is a constant juggling act. The best part of my day is the morning; I have been probably stewing on an idea and have all this energy and want to put it down on paper.

Q It’s accepted that writers often scribble ideas on the back of takeaway menus, napkins, bus tickets, whatever they can when ideas strike – is this the same for illustrators? When you get a shot of inspiration and desire to draw, what do you do?

You draw it anyway you can. I once started illustrating on a napkin because I made the mistake of leaving my notebook behind. If you have an idea, write it down, draw it, and make a note of it because it will disappear. Too often have I laid in bed with an idea or two thinking it is such a great idea how could I possible forget it and when the morning comes it’s no longer under my pillow.

Long Live Us troll

Join me again soon for Part Two where we learn a little more about Peter and his work in the fractured fairy-tale, Long Live Us!

LONG LIVE US – A FRACTURED FAIRY TALE

Long Live Us is a hilarious fractured fairytale written by Edel Wignell with beautiful watercolour pencil illustrations by Peter Allert.

It features characters from some popular fairytales from around the world.

The Troll (from ‘The Three Billy-goats Gruff’) is the main character, and the fact that he is hungry leads to interaction with characters from five tales.

The Greedy Troll waits for his next meal in a cave under a bridge. There he meets the Three Bears on a quest to bring Goldilocks to justice.

This is a classic tale of Goodies versus Baddies but it doesn’t turn out how you think it might.

Author, Edel Wignell has fun fracturing fairy tales to create surprising stories like Long Live Us which was written for readers aged 6-10. There are clever traps, lucky escapes and unwelcome surprises.

Young readers will also love poring over the detailed illustrations that are full of subtext and layered humour. Peter Allert brings life and colour to his illustrations through vibrant tones and perceptive detail.

Long Live Us will appeal to readers looking for books with colour and humour. It is published by IP Kidz and is also available in e-book format.

LONG LIVE US – EDEL WIGNELL AND PETER ALLERT COLLABORATE

As an author, it’s always inspiring for me to hear about small independent publishers in Australia willing to team first time picture book illustrators and established authors to produce books that readers will enjoy and that give Australian creators an opportunity to showcase their unique talents.

Long Live Us, from IP Kidz is a perfect example of such a venture. Written by Edel Wignell and illustrated by Peter Allert, it is a fractured fairy tale incorporating some much loved fairytale characters. There are the three pigs, Goldilocks, the Three Bears and of course, the evil troll.

Today we’re going to meet the author and illustrator of this hilarious tale and tomorrow at Kids’ Book Capers, we review Long Live Us and talk more about the book.

MEET AUTHOR, EDEL WIGNALL

Former teacher, Edel Wignell has been writing full time since 1979 and she loves doing research and being able to abandon herself to her imagination. She says her greatest writing achievement to date has been:

The publication of the novel, Escape by Deluge (Walter McVitty Books). It was published in the UK (with a fabulous cover by Allun Hood), the US and Sweden. It was a CBCA Notable Book, and shortlisted in the Adelaide Writers’ Festival and the West Australian Young Readers Book Awards.

The author of more than 90 books, Edel has these tips for new writers:

When your work is returned, don’t respond as though this is a personal slight. There are many reasons why a ms isn’t right for a publishing house: they may have  recently accepted one with a similar theme; they may have enough mss for boys and want one for girls… Be persistent and professional: check publishers’ websites, if possible improve the ms, then send it out again.

Edel’s tale, Long Live Us won a Fractured Fairy Tale competition and she thought it would make a good picture book so she created a parallel strand to be shown only in the illustrations.

It stars The Troll from the Three Billy Goats Gruff and is an epic tale of goodies verses baddies featuring food and hunger which Edel points out are very important topics for children.

Peter Allert’s illustrations vividly capture the drama of the story, and children will enjoy finding the many humorous details he has interspersed.

Edel says this wasn’t a difficult book to write because she is familiar with folk tales from many countries and the fact that good always triumphs.

Playing with this notion was fun.

Below are links to teachers notes and the book trailer for Long Live Us.

  • www.edelwignell.com.au/Notes for Teachers
  • Trailer:

MEET ILLUSTRATOR, PETER ALLERT

Peter Allert has loved to draw ever since he can remember.

When I look back at my life I always wanted too express myself artistically through illustrating but was never sure how this talent would translate into developing a career.  One day I just decided to put time aside and focus on developing my skills, I wanted to understand what skills I had and how I could improve them.  Being mostly self-taught I started to do some art classes and received constructive feedback on my work.  This was a great experience because you are sharing with other experienced people.  I also started researching writing and illustrating for children’s books and attended conferences to understand more about the industry.  I made a lot of great friends with similar interests I could share ideas with.  I believe this is when I decided that I wanted to be an illustrator.

Peter says it’s very inspiring to create unique and engaging characters in your own little world. He says that what inspired him the most about working on Long Live Us was the creative process.

I had to first create character profiles (rough illustrations) for the publisher of the Troll, Witch, Goldilocks and Wiley Wolf.  It was fun working out what the Troll might look like. How tall? What colour he might be? Did he have fur or even a tail?  Then I had to create a world around the character’s that was both colourful, and engaging.    Watching the world slowly come to life was the most inspiring.  I still have a lot of the original illustrations around me for inspiration on my next project.

Who is your favourite character and why?

My favorite character is the Troll and his friend the little red dragon.  They work well together and you can see the friendship between them.  The dragon however insisted on having his own dressing room.

How did you decide what the main character would look like?

When someone says there is a Troll under a bridge you often get an image inspired by previous fairytales read to you as a child or what you may see in popular media.  I wanted to build on those ideas but most of all I wanted the character to have its own personality to shine through.  I think I brought my own style to the Troll.

Can you tell us about the illustrating process for this book?

As I read Long Live Us I made notes of the first ideas that popped into my head.  I also made small sketches of these ideas some of which ended up it the final book.  I then worked on what the characters may look like and received feedback from the publisher and the author.  Once they were happy with the style of my illustrations I started drawing a series of storyboards (rough drawings outlining how each page may look and where the text would sit on the page), adding or changing them as the book developed.  Once storyboards where approved I worked on each illustration making sure they all looked consistent and then added the final colour.  The illustrations were then scanned and sent to the publisher to create a mock up book.  This was then sent back to me as a PDF file in order to supply feedback.

What was your favourite part of the illustration process?

Applying colour to the final illustrations was the favorite part for me.  Watercolour pencils can produce a rich and vibrant finish when applied to the right paper.  When I was finishing the final illustrations for Long Live Us the colours made everything come alive.  Sure it takes a little while longer with pencils but the final results are worth it.

What was the hardest part of the illustration process?

Continuity, making sure every illustration looks consistent throughout the book.  This can range from the proportions of the characters (such as their size and shape) to the texture and colour of their cloths. Being very familiar with drawing the characters before you start the book is essential.

Did you get to collaborate with the author or did you work fairly independently?

I worked closely with the author Edel Wignell and the publisher Independent Publications feeding ideas back and forth but I mostly worked independently.  I understand working with the author does not always occour but I found the process a positive experience.

Can you tell us about the medium you used to illustrate this book?

With this book I used watercolour pencils on watercolour paper and then used different sized paintbrushes to smooth over the colours.  I then used standard coloured pencils to sharpen the images.

How long did it take to illustrate?

This is a very common question, one I still have trouble answering.  This particular book took approximately 12 months to complete while I was working full-time from the initial sketches to the final artwork.  Usually if you are entering into a contract with a publisher there are already deadlines established and often this dictates the time it takes.

How many books have you illustrated?

This is my first fully illustrated book and I would like to thank Dr David Reiter from IP Kidz for giving me the opportunity.

Any tips for people who would like to become children’s book illustrators?

I do have a few tips I would like to share, I can only say these worked for me and I hope they do for you.

Create an area to work

Create a place where you can work undisturbed and make it your own.  NO HAWKERS!

Make a place for yourself to work on your writing or illustrating regardless of other commitments otherwise you will be too easily distracted.

Have belief in yourself

Have the courage in yourself and believe in your own work. It is very easy to assassinate yourself or believe the work you are doing is no good but you are a better person when you set your sites on your qualities.  Set yourself achievable goals and be fair with the assessment of your work and abilities.

Don’t forget to come back to Kids’ Book Capers tomorrow to read all about Long Live Us, a colourful and fun new picture book from IP Kidz.