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shape challenge aliens

They come in peace. (Click here to see other #ShapeChallenge drawings.)

I was really taken with these #ShapeChallenge drawings by kids; in some ways, they're more proficient than mine, in their bold use of colour and pattern. @MrsJTeaches, who tweeted them, explained that she had the kids look at the shapes for two minutes and think about them, then spend ten minutes drawing inside the shape and ten minutes drawing outside it. What a great way to pace them! (She said that, if she doesn't do that, they just tend to colour inside the shape.) I'm packing away that tip for future use!

These would make amazing abstract tapestries.

comix creatrix: 100 women making comics

Last night was amazing. The House of Illustration in London launched the UK's largest-ever exhibition of the work of pioneering female comics artists, in Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics.

Here's the striking poster by Laura Callaghan:

Do pop over to see the show, running until 15 May, just across from St Pancras stations (the one where you catch the Eurostar to France) and next to the glowing fountains of Central Saint Martins art college.

Speaking of France, this show couldn't be more perfectly timed. Curators Olivia Ahmad and Paul Gravett had been working with the House of Illustration to prepare the show for a long time, but it came right on the heels of a shocking announcement by France's top comics prize committee of an all-male shortlist of 30 international comics creators. What made it even worse was the board's surprise at public indignation and their follow-up explanations that there wasn't any strong female talent in comics, and general lack of supportiveness for women in the field. (You can read my article about that here.)

I only make comics occasionally and focus more on other kinds of children's book illustration, and go along to lots of social events dominated by women. But when I first started going along to comics events, very often I was the only woman in the room. Over the past ten years, this has changed so much, partly I think because of the coming-together of an arts & crafts movement with comics (look at comics by Philippa Rice and Isabel Greenberg to see what I mean), and comics moving away from being so entirely dominated by superheroes.

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Reeve & McIntyre Book 4, presenting...

My co-author Philip Reeve and I are excited to share the title of our next book with you!

Jinks & O'Hare Funfair Repair will come out this autumn, and I'm working like mad on it right now! You may remember my very first published collaboration with Philip Reeve, a comic strip that I wrote, he drew, and I coloured for The Phoenix Comic (Issue 44). It featured these two friendly alien repairmen:

And it was set on an amazing planet that was ALL funfair! A dream come true.

When I was little, I LOVED playing with LEGO and trying to build the most exciting funfairs I could think of. But I was always a bit disappointed with the results, I could never capture the funfair in my mind, it was supposed to be WAY better than that. I thought that growing up was how I'd acquire all the skills that would equip me to making a proper awesome funfair. But even though my dad was a top engineer, I never quite managed to master the maths and physics I'd need to build funfairs. ...But now I can DRAW them. I can build funfairs in people's MINDS, ha ha. Here's Emily. She's a bit like LEGO-kid me, but she looks very much like my studio mate, Elissa Elwick.

Inspired by our original comic, Jinks and O'Hare are very much supposed to be the main characters in this book, fixing the rides that go wrong on Funfair Moon. But Emily lives in the Lost Property office and she's rather ambitious. So we'll see what happens with her.... Here are a couple work-in-progress drawings:

The way I've been working is to draw thumbnails with pencil, working to Philip's text. (Philip came to London and helped me draw these). Then our designer, Jo Cameron, figures out how they can fit with the text, and we fiddle them around a bit. Then I draw them with pencil in more detail, and use my light box to trace over them with an old-fashioned dip pen and ink. I'll scan them into the computer, colour them in Photoshop, and they'll be ready to send back for Jo to put into the book! Now I'd better get back to the drawing...

Be sure to catch up with our other books before this one comes out! :)

PS Jinks & O'Hare Funfair Repair isn't a comic, it's the same format as the last three books. But if you love family-friendly comics, do have a look at what The Phoenix Comic is coming out with, it's brilliant stuff! You can either subscribe to the weekly magazine or buy their awesome compiled comic books. (Their Star Cat by James Turner won the top UK comic prize this year, the Young People's Comic Award.) Absolute essential books for any library.
Things are going well so far with the Virtual Studio. I love how people are starting to take on #ShapeChallenge as their own thing, and I'm not so much 'in charge' of it any more. I just man the @StudioTeaBreak Twitter feed so everyone who draws gets followed and a retweet and a 'like'. This weekend two teenagers, Archie and George, are setting the shapes (tweeted through their mum's account); you can see what's going on over on Twitter. Here's my drawing for Archie's shape, a man playing nose flute with his toes, at sunset. :D

On Twitter the other day, I found a link to a lovely article about LiveJournal nostalgia by Lindsey Gates-Markel (@LGatesMarkel on Twitter). She's one of a pool of us who grew up with LiveJournal and who found ourselves and our creativity supported and shaped by its community:

I'm one of the few people I know who stuck around here on LiveJournal, and not because I thought it was perfect for social networking, just because it was where I kept my brain. LiveJournal was where I made sense of my world and decided what kind of person I wanted to be, and tried it out for size. In the early days, I could make mistakes, and post bad drawings, and it didn't matter; the community was forgiving and they were just like me, people who were still trying to figure out what they were doing, and making their own mistakes. Now I can still post stuff I'm not sure about here, because most people I know have left LiveJournal and it's almost like having a private diary. I have a terrible memory, and it really helps me get a sense of what I've been doing if I can go back through it.

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