Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Ballarat Writers & Illustrators Festival 2011 - FANTASTIC!

How valuable are social events in the children’s literature industry?
I consider my time this past weekend the Ballarat Writers and Illustrators Festival of tremendous value. I shared time with wonderfully gifted professionals, learning and being inspired, while connecting with contacts I would never have made otherwise. Friendships were made and my details are now with important contacts now open to looking at my work.

Peacocks at Dromkeen: 1012 Kilmore Road, Riddell's Creek Victoria
Open Tues-Frid & Sunday afternoons (03) 5428 6799

The venue was difficult to find and although I allowed an extra hour I was more than a little anxious at arriving a late Friday evening but grateful it was not the Saturday. I mentioned I knew no one upon arriving and sensing my anxiousness the lovely hostess arranged a seat with some lovely company at a front table. I sat at the table with our key-note speaker Maureen McCarthy, a publisher and a few authors from different publishing houses who I will remain nameless. Our table was busy with traffic and by the end of the evening I had met more people.  Our dinner concluded with friendships made and an inspiring talk from Maureen McCarthy had us all itching to read the book she is working on. The creative blood had begun yearning for the next day.  

Saturday was packed with an assortment of speakers. Presenter, editors, publishers, illustrators and authors answered an assortment of insightful questions. When the question was asked, “Are children’s books written for children?” I remember thinking Phew I am normal as I am the one saying to my kids “let’s read this again” and  find myself pouring over the pages with more enthusiasm than they do sometimes. 

Author and evident actor Christopher Milne more than read, he projected the manuscript from his book Upside Down Boy and had us all in fits of laughter. A book I had to buy for my 6 and 8 year old boys who I knew would think it naughty and hilarious. I have had to read ahead the books to sensor some of the stories though as we are pretty strict on what we feed our kids.

Exploiting my time away from the responsibilities of 3 children and a house to run, I took a detour to Riddell’s Creek to visit Dromkeen on the Sunday. It added an hour or so to my travel  and was rewarded with a display of outstanding illustrations by several book illustrators, an exhibition by Tony Flowers and welcomed by some friendly peacocks. Tony had his award winning pop-up picture book dummies and finished artwork on display. 

There is a difference between viewing illustrations in the flesh and in print. I feel so inspired and itching to do dozens of paintings. The illustrations in the main gallery were selected by a group of children and accompanied by a written comment by the child on why they liked it and how each illustration made them feel. I was very interested in learning each response to the different illustrations but one stood out. The illustration was of large waves and a tiny boat battling on the top. The child’s words began, “this makes me feel relaxed and terrified…” I cracked up. I can only assume they saw the water and the secondary response was noticing a boat in potential danger LOL

I heard a whisper that Dromkeen will be closing due from lack of visiting patronage. This is a real pity and I would recommend you go a visit if you can. I tried to find a link for you on the Scholastic website and couldn’t which I thought odd as they run it now. Google had to save the day:

"I love you this much" One of my favourite pages from Adoptive Father
So what will I be painting this week? I have a few finishing touched to do and I will have finished my book Adoptive Father. I had my critique group Valley 10 for lunch yesterday and we poured over every illustration for the book and mapped out any little change that would improve the artwork. I worked on several small changes yesterday and will have them all done today. It helps to have the eye of a few professionals to pick out little things that may come back to haunt you in the future.
Detail of painting in progress. See finished illustration above.


Corinne Fenton said...

A great summary of the Ballarat Festival, Kayleen and it was also good to read about the Friday night dinner, which I was unable to make.
What a treat to visit Dromkeen on the way home. It is one of my favourite places in all the world.
Glad you gained so much from the festival.

Kayleen West - Children's Book Illustrator said...

Thanks Corinne. Friday night was well worth booking. I enjoyed meeting new people and loved listening to what everyone was doing. Great to see you there too.

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