Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Paris - deuxième partie

The Eiffel Tower from a distance on a stereotypical Parisan grey day.

I think i'd previously written off the Eiffel tower as huge but odd-looking -however I think I have changed my mind now that I've had time to wander around underneath and really look at how the tower was constructed.

There are actually some interesting decorative ironwork edges and the giant rivets and bolts that hold the tower together make it an almost lacy edged creation . In fact, it reminded me of some of the crocheted and starched doilies and table runners that used to be common in Scotland , when I was a kid.

Even the drains looked lacy.
I was surprised to see a grey heron in the pond at the foot of the tower. I think the bird was trying to catch an easy meal as the pond was full of large carp - but I didn't see it actually manage to catch any of the fish while I was there.

I think the heron was a random visitor, since the flock of ducks acted very oddly . When the heron flew off, all of the ducks turned to face the direction the heron flew in and started quacking and pointing into the sky with their beaks - like a bird version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
My motive for visiting Paris was the "Love at First Sight, Love to Draw" SCBWI Illustrators workshop with Tomie dePaola and Martha Rago.

Martha Rago is the Associate Creative Director at HarperCollins Children’s books and she gave a lecture about what sort of things grab her attention when she gets unsolicited submissions. She used some actual examples of submitted book dummies and showed the progress from the dummy and early character sketches to the finished book.

She also said that she really loved getting promo postcards from illustrators. Apparently she pins them to her notice boards and keeps the ones she particularly liked in boxes, which she searches through when looking for an illustrator for a new project.

She also likes to get repeat postcards and feels that getting a succcession of postcards [particularly ones that have some sort of ongoing theme-even if it is just a seasonal theme] helps the artist attract the art directors attention and shows consistency.

There was a promo postcard competition as part of the workshop - my entry is below.

In Tomie dePaola's workshop in the afternoon, we learned a lot about Tomie's career and workstyle- and laughed a lot about the ubiquitous bunny rabbits in the children's book world.

Later, we worked on breaking down two strange sentences into a sequence of three illustrations in a short time [about 20 minutes]

The sentences were "Carrot and Blankey were friends. They had fun together."

It was a really useful excercise, I thought. It was difficult trying to work on something that would work without actually making Carrot a carrot.
I managed to come up with two different ideas for the sentences - Carrot as a rabbit with a favourite comfort blanket was the first
Quite a few other people made Carrot a rabbit - it seemed a good rabbit name to me.
After the 'ordinary' version, I wondered about having the characters as aliens. They appealed to me more than the first version.
I was surprised how many other illustrators made large sized images rather than thumbnail sketches or images slightly bigger than thumbnails- these were half thumb sized.

Thumbnail sketches can really help with brainstorming ideas. They can also be really good for playing with composition and even better they are quick and easy and can be scrapped without investing too much time and energy in the idea.

The workshop day seemed to pass by in a blur -I think a few of us would have liked a 2 day event rather than a single day - I suppose i need to start saving for the next SCBWI workshop.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006


I was in Paris last weekend. It was very chilly in comparison to Nice- 12 degrees C instead of 24.

I stayed in the 15th arrondissement at a little cheap and cheerful hotel, close to Parsons Paris
where the SCBWI Illustration workshop was being held.

The hotel was fairly close to the Eiffel Tower so I spent some time wandering around the foot of the Tower and the Champs-de-mars.

I was in a silly mood, so I made this image of the Eiffel Tower using a few of the photos I took.

This is a bridge over the River Seine just by the Eiffel Tower - Pont d'Iéna. Built between 1806 and 1813 and improved in the 1930s , the bridge links the Champs-de-Mars/Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero.

There are 5 arches ornamented with the Imperial eagle motif, just visible. One of the bateau mouches [fly boats] is just about to go under the bridge.
This is the old école professionnelle et ménagère de jeunes filles across from my hotel . It was originally a school to train young working class girls to become domestic servants or other occupations [eg seamstresses]. Its now an ordinary upper secondary school [lycée] for both boys and girls.

My Gran was a lady's maid for an aristocratic family in London in the the early 20th century, so I've always found social history of the period interesting.

I wish I knew more about my Gran's experiences but she was never too keen on talking about her early life; even though she would have been considered a success- Ladies' maids were very high up in the heirarchy of domestic servants.

She told us about having her hair shingled and being considered very fashionable, taking tea in various fashionable tearooms on her days off, meeting my grandfather [he was in the Scot's Guards] and even seeing the Hilton Twins [who were famous conjoined twins], but kept her experiences as a servant pretty much hidden.

The Artillerie at the bottom of the Champ-de-mars; the Gorgon's head and dragon's were pretty fierce looking.
The Artillerie building is really elaborately decorated. It also seems to have a lot of bullet holes in the walls , maybe from the 2nd world war.
The Eiffel Tower early on an autumn morning; from the bottom of the champs-de-mars. The leaves on the trees were just starting to turn brown.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Photo Friday- Innocence

I've been off gallivanting in Paris and then recovering this week so I have a backlog of things to blog about but felt I should get Photo Friday out of the way first.

After searching through hundreds of photos I couldn't come up with anything better, so I have to go with a fairly clichéd photo - my baby cousin sleeping during his dedication ceremony.

I have missed a few appropriate photos over the years. I wish I had managed to take a photo of our old cat who would catch butterflies and then sit trying to look innocent while the tell tale fragments of wing poked from his mouth.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006


We've had quite a few vistors over the last few weeks, which has meant a bit less time for everyday stuff, like blogging, but also tends to mean we do more exploring of the Cote d'Azur.

There are a lot of places on the 'need to visit' list and until recently, Menton was one of these.

Menton has been described as the most beautiful town on the cote d'Azur or 'La perle de la France' [France's pearl]. I think we visited on the wrong day to really appreciate Menton as you can see from the heavy clouds covering the mountains.

Menton has a very mild climate and became a popular winter resort for wealthy British people in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The large white building in front of the mountains is the Winter Palace - originally a luxury hotel but now converted into apartments.

Menton is famous for citrus fruits and has a Lemon festival [Fête du Citron] in each year. It's similar to a carnival but all the floats and creations are made of oranges and lemons.

The tower hidden behind the tall houses is Saint Michael's basilica [Basilique Saint Michael ]
This is a view from the other side - looking up from the beach with a view of the houses of Old Town in front of the church
A very narrow alleyway leading to the seafront.

I took a few photos of houses decorated with painted friezes and trompe d'oiel . Some were obviously old and faded but some had been repainted.

This is the Bastion de Saint Antoine - a small fortress intended to defend Menton from sea attacks. Work started in the early 17th century -its quite an attractive building -it looked very much like a child's toy castle.

The bastion is now the Musée Jean Cocteau - you can just see some of Cocteau's pebble mosaics under the arches. Unfortunately, it was raining quite heavily and we were heading back to the station to catch the train when we came across the museum/Bastion.

Apparently Jean Cocteau was working in Menton at age 70 and painted the murals for the 'salle des mariages' [wedding room] in the Menton townhall

I will probably go back to see the Cocteau exhibits at some point.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Photo Friday- Thin

By chance i took a photo of a jenny long legs the other day. It was quite a large one , with its spindly legs all stretched out and seemed like an ideal photo for the photo friday topic.

It seemd that my kids couldn't remember ever seeing one before, which surprised me. My son thought the jenny was a huge mosquito at first.

I had to spend some time expalining that Jenny long legs [scottish name] , daddy long legs, crane fly and lollygaggers are different names for the same insect.

They have very fragile thin legs that break off easily if someone or something tries to catch them, which is probably a survival mechanism.

Many people are scared of jenny long legs becuase they share a lot of spider attributes with a buzzy bumbly erratic flight -and bang against walls and windows in a peculiar manner.

A closer view of the Halteres- a pair of modified wings which are used to balance the insect in flight.

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Monday, October 02, 2006


Now that la rentrée has passed and my kids are back into a school routine, I up and around early enough to observe the autumn sunrises [and take photos if something particularly appeals].

People going to their work between 6.30 am and 7 am do give me some strange looks if i whip a camera put of my bag. I think most people are in 'rush around' mode and don't notice the sky, even when it is a wash of pink and purple and orange and gold. Even on rainy mornings, when the sky is dull with thick cloud cover , there is often an interesting pattern of whites and greys that looks like the water used to clean gouache from paintbrushes.

I took these photos on Friday morning- the sky was glorious, especially against the dark branches of trees.
A single palm tree in the dawn light.

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