Friday, 15 September 2017

Comic Book Day 2017 at Dagenham Library - Autobiographical Comic Workshop

Comic Book Day at Dagenham Library 23 September 2017
How to book a free ticket for Comic Book Day at Dagenham Library (there is a link at the end of this post).
On September 23, from 2-5pm, I will be running a drop-in autobiographical comic workshop at Dagenham Library. It will be suitable for all ages and all abilities. The comic can take any form but my suggestion would be to make it about something that has happened that day - like an entry in a diary.

Part of a 24 hour comic I made a couple of years ago, it was created during the course of a day.
If you are interested in comics, zines or graphic novels it's fine to just drop by for a chat.

A couple of my zines will be on sale. I will also have information about the workshops I'll be running at Barking or Dagenham Library starting February 3 next year - 6 sessions that will lead to participant comics being published together in a book. Plus the lady in the photo, Catherine, will be with me - she is a character in a zine I'm working on at the moment.

Besides my workshop there will be a poet, comic book retailers, publishers and more.

For free tickets to Comic Book Day and more information please register on EventBrite or phone 020 8724 3942 or email LBBD. You can email me via the contact form on this blog if you have any questions.

Comic Book Day is part of LBBD's ReadFest 2017. Information about other ReadFest events is on EventBrite and available at LBBD libraries.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Non-fiction graphic novel "Tottenham's Trojan Horse? A Tale of Stadium-led Regeneration in North London"

About the book:

In 2010 Haringey Council in London granted planning permission to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club for a new stadium and other linked developments. In 2012 Haringey unveiled regeneration plans for the borough that included demolition of homes and businesses to make way for a proposed fan’s walkway from a relocated train station to the site of the new stadium. A process that was already challenging for the football club, the council and the local community now became tortuous. Those most affected by the proposals felt left out of the decision making and had to find a voice.

The floor of my workroom.

In the next week or so we'll have a draft of "Tottenham's Trojan Horse?" ready. All text will be in place and will have been edited several times but the drawings are either rough pencil sketches or photos that I'm using as placeholders. Before going any further we're going to show it to others for their input. This is to make sure the book will be factually correct and easy to understand. The story is taken from one of Dr Mark Panton's case studies in his doctoral thesis, rewritten so as to be accessible to academics and non-academics 14-years-old upwards.

A rough sketch of Boris Johnson.

We have started up a blog and a Facebook page to post further progress of the book but please contact me if you have any questions. The book will be published in early 2018.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Rovertown Dynamos vs. Mogford Juniors - a story about the camaraderie of football

A story about football.
The title page for the story. The main character's name is Bernie.
Rovertown Dynamos vs. Mogford Juniors is one of three illustrated stories I wrote and illustrated for a children's book published by The Neuro Foundation - a charity that supports people of all ages with Neurofibromatosis.

The Neuro Foundation wanted the book to be warm and life affirming and for one of the stories to be about bullying (they had requests about the other stories but I will talk about them another time).

At first I was worried about how I could write about bullying in a positive context and then I thought about setting the story in a football team.

I should point out that I know very little about the game of football, although I have been around football fans all my life somehow the game itself washes over me. However, my partner Mark Panton and our daughter have shown me something I can relate to - the positive side of the culture of football. They are both fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC in South London, a non-league club that goes out of its way to be inclusive and supportive of all kinds of people. Our daughter is autistic and has mild learning difficulties. She has been watching Dulwich Hamlet matches with Mark since she was very small and has been able to have a level of independence and interaction during the games that is difficult to achieve elsewhere. Both on and off the pitch there is warmth and camaraderie; my daughter is safe to wander around during matches and no one judges her.

It occurred to me that if a football player was insulted during a match their team would immediately rally round to support them. This was the starting point for Rovertown Dynamos vs. Mogford Juniors.

The teams in my story are both made up of girls. There are lots of stories about boys playing football and I feel that girls are too often overlooked. I know from experience with my daughter that girls can be passionate about the game and that there aren't enough opportunities for them to play. In my small way I am trying redress the balance a little by showing girls being good at football and being taken seriously.

The moments of emotion that are in any game of football helped drive my story along.

I won't give away the plot except to say that the main character has Neurofibromatosis and she is teased by an opponent because of one of the outward signs of the condition. But she is a great goalkeeper, her team help her see that it doesn't matter what others say about her and there is a happy ending.

You can find out about Dulwich Hamlet Football Club on their website and go to the FA website to find out about women's and girl's football.

Many thanks to Mark Panton for advising me on the detail of football games.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Friends – three illustrated stories for children with Neurofibromatosis

Friends by Amanda Lillywhite
I loved working on this book.

The charity I created it for, The Neuro Foundation, was supportive and positive all the way through. They help to improve the lives of those affected by Neurofibromatosis and helped me understand the condition by introducing me to a specialist and to children with Neurofibromatosis. The children and their families spoke to me about their lives and experiences, I am grateful to them for their time and honesty - they were inspirational. 

I was commissioned to write and illustrate three life affirming stories that featured main characters with Neurofibromatosis. The Neuro Foundation wanted the stories to be fun, fully illustrated and easily accessible.

In the first story, The Windiest Playground in the World, Isaac wonders if he'll be able to make friends after moving to a new area.

Part of an illustration for The Windiest Playground in the World by Amanda Lillywhite.
The second story is Rovertown Dynamos vs. Mogford Juniors. Goalkeeper Bernie needs help from her team when an opponent says something mean about her.
Part of an illustration for Rovertown Dynamos vs. Mogford Juniors by Amanda Lillywhite.
The final story is The Missing FishChandra is worried about a fish that seems to be missing from the waiting room tank when she goes for her regular check up at a clinic.

An illustration for The Missing Fish by Amanda Lillywhite.
Friends is available on The Neuro Foundation website, along with information about Neurofibromatosis and support for those with the condition.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

The Association of Illustrators

My old Association of Illustrators membership cards 1997-2004
As you can see in the photo above I was a member of the Association of Illustrators (AOI) for seven years. The contract and business information I received from the AOI during my early years as a freelance illustrator was a great help and I made good use of the hotline for advice. Later on I benefited from the social side of the AOI when I moved to Cambridge for a couple of years and got to know illustrators at the local branch meetings.

Up until myself and my partner adopted our daughter I was working full-time or more as an illustrator and managing to earn a reasonable living. While my daughter was young my work hours dropped off and though I never gave up illustration I became cautious about how much I would take on so as to ensure I could hit my deadlines. It became hard to justify paying the yearly fee so, although I missed the AOI, I stopped renewing my membership.

In recent years my commissioned illustration work has built up to the extent that rejoining the AOI seemed a necessity and was also affordable. I've just received logos and other new member materials and was touched by the wording on the image below. It's true, the AOI really are like that - they've been looking after illustrators for a long time and protecting our interests. I am very glad to be back.

Note: I should mention that during the gap in my AOI membership I joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I received a different kind of support from them, made some amazing friends and started writing. Though I've allowed my SCBWI membership to lapse I will rejoin as soon as I can.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

One Hundred Thousand Jumpers - illustrations for a children's book about adoption

A book about an adopted girl written by Rachel Braverman, illustrated by Amanda Lillywhite and designed by Erik Christopher
One Hundred Thousand Jumpers: written by Rachel Braverman and designed by Erik Christopher. Front cover typography, and all illustrations by Amanda Lillywhite. A book for children about an adopted girl.
When Rachel Braverman told me that she was looking for an illustrator for her story about an adopted girl I was immediately interested, especially when she said it was based on the real experience of adoption. I have an adopted daughter who came to live with us at 27 months old (she is now 14) so I am aware of the unique challenges that many adopted children face and I know that it is hard to find books that show the difficulties and joys of their experiences in an easy to read format*.

When I read the story I was impressed, Rachel has explored the fears of a newly adopted child but it is an uplifting read. Becca (that's her on the cover) has just arrived at her adoptive home. She immediately builds a rapport with her ready-made older sister, Fallon, and the family cat, Oscar. However her relationship with her new mother, Mummy Mo, is more difficult. The story is about how Becca learns to trust that this will be her forever family. It's also about knitted jumpers, Mummy Mo is a keen knitter, hence the title.

One Hundred Thousand Jumpers was designed by Erik Christopher. It is available in Kindle and print versions on Amazon.

If you have any comments or questions about the book please feel free to contact me via this blog, Facebook or Twitter.

*I am aware of the Tracey Beaker stories of course and I think they are brilliant but they are a bit too long and complex for some readers. This book has twenty four story pages split into five chapters and each chapter has an illustration.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Halloween craft session - a step by step guide to making and decorating a witch's hat

A witches hat made out of two sheets of A3 black card and decorated with crepe paper, scrap fabric, stickers and white pencil.
My daughter's hairstyling doll wearing a finished witch's hat. The doll's head is probably similar in size to that of an 8-9 year old child but, because it ties on, the hat can be worn by all ages including adults though do check the measurements at the end of the post if you are thinking of making it for a very young child.
A few days before Halloween I will be leading a craft session for a group of children and teenagers and have made witches hats for them to decorate. I'm writing this blog post because, though I found a lot of information about making a witch's hat online, I couldn't find a quick and cheap way of producing them - important when you need to make twelve and are on a budget. Also, because I made the hats in advance I needed a design that would fit everyone up to and including those with adult sized heads. So I came up with my own version of a witch's hat based on what I saw in various blogs.

Read on to find out how I did it and if you make a witch's hat yourself remember that they don't have to be perfect, witches aren't known for their neatness (at least that's what I told myself!).

Note: I'm based in London UK, used metric measurements and one of our standard paper sizes. A3, according to Google, is 11.69 x 16.53 inches. If you look at how to make the templates for the cone and the brim you may be able to work out how to adjust the measurements for other paper sizes. You can convert my measurements to inches online. Let me know if you find any mistakes in my instructions below and do get in touch or leave a comment if you have any questions.

Making a witch's hat 

Materials used to make each witch's hat:
2 sheets of A3 (297mm x 420mm) 220gsm (reasonably sturdy) matte black card
Double sided tape
PVA glue
Two lengths of 500mm ribbon (for ties)
Plus an HB pencil, a craft knife, a stapler, scissors, a compass and a ruler

Large sheets of black card are expensive but I was able to find packs of A3 (420mm x 297mm) card online and in shops that were affordable. I designed my hat so that the two components (the cone and the brim) would each fit on an A3 sheet. Try to get matte card if you can because it is easier to draw on and decorate.

Witches hats made out of scrap paper.
Witch's hat cone prototypes made out of sheets of scrap A4 paper taped together to make A3 sheets. The one I chose to use was a trade-off between height and head-room.
I undid my medium height, medium head-room cone prototype to use as a template. If you are making more than one witch's hat you could use the first cone you cut out to trace around to produce the others.

A template for a witches hat placed on A3 black card.
The template for the cone of the witch's hat sitting on a sheet of A3 card waiting to be traced. It would be possible to make a taller hat but bear in mind this would have an impact on the circumference of the base if you are trying to fit within an A3 sheet.

The radius of my cone template is 215mm. To create a similar cone place the point of your compass on the bottom edge of the sheet 215mm in from the left edge, start your line on the lower left corner and keep going until you hit the right side of the sheet, then draw a straight line between that point and where the compass point had been.

Cut out your cone using a craft knife or scissors.

Then start making your brim.

Cutting a brim for a witches hat out of A3 black card
Making a brim for a witch's hat.
To make a brim for the hat use a radius of 88mm for the inner circle, the radius of the outer circle is around 148mm to fit within the width of an A3 sheet (297mm). Again, if you are making more than one use your first as a template. To find the centre of your sheet of card draw diagonals from the corners that cross in the middle.

Once you've cut out your brim(s) bend your cone(s) into shape.

Witches hat cones made out of a sheet of A3 card
Some of the witch's hat cones I made.
Overlap the two straight edges of your cone by about 10mm at the base (because of the shape it won't overlap at the point but the overlap will gradually widen to the base). Secure the cones with double sided tape and a line of tape on the inside. If you are using thick card I recommend bending it into a tight cone a few times before taping it together so that it holds the shape well.

Next add ribbons ties to secure the hat to the wearers head.

For some reason stapling the ribbons to the witches hats was the hardest part of the process for me, very fiddly!
I used pink ribbon for the Halloween workshop hats because I happened to have a roll of it but you can use any colour you like. Attach a 500mm length on either side of the inside of each hat, with the smooth side of the staples facing inwards (to avoid catching on the wearer's hair) and at least 15mm up from the bottom edge.

Make scissor cuts all the way round the bottom edge of the cone roughly 15mm deep and 15mm apart.

The cutting measurements are for guidance, it's fine if the tabs are uneven - they will be hidden by the brim.
After cutting the tabs on the bottom edge of the brim fold them outwards. Test that the brim fits the cone. Some of my hats were a tight fit but once the edge of the brim was softened with glue I was able to squidge them together. However you can enlarge the inner circle if necessary. Don't worry if there is a gap because the inner circle of the brim is a bit too big, it will be covered by a hat band later. The most important thing is that there is enough of an overlap between the tabs and the brim to be able to glue them together.

Next tuck the ribbon ties inside the hat and secure them out of the way with tape so they don't get covered in glue.

Run a line of glue along the top side of the tabs at the base of the cone.

Slide the brim over the cone on to the line of glue and leave to dry.

Witches hat supported as it dries upside down
A witch's hat on a drying rack made out of a storage box and two rulers. I found that I needed to keep pressing the tabs down as the hat dried, you can see here that they had a tendency to pop up.
When the hat is dry unstick the ribbons so they hang down and you are ready to decorate.

A witches hat made out of 2 sheets of A3 card
The staples and any rough edges on the join between the cone and the brim will be covered later by decoration.

Halloween workshop - decorating a witch's hat

Materials used:
White pencil or crayon
Black card left over from the construction of the witch's hat
Crepe paper
Scrap fabric
Halloween stickers
Also scissors or a craft knife, a hole punch, glue and double sided tape

I used an ordinary white pencil to draw on the brim of the hat, I chose to doodle little Halloween themed drawings such as spider webs and skulls but creating textures or writing would also look good. It is possible to draw on the cone as long as you support it from the inside with your hand as you draw - you'll notice on the finished hat that I drew some scales on the tip of the cone. You could use scrap card left over from construction to try out ideas.

A witches hat brim decorated with halloween doodles.
The card I used for the witches hats had a matte surface that took white pencil very well.
Using scrap left over from the construction of the hat I cut out a little bat to dangle from the brim.

A bat cut out hanging from the brim by wool.
Here is a bat but spiders and skulls would also look good.
I made a hole in the brim and the bat using a hole punch and hung the the bat from the hat on a length of wool.

Then I made some hair.

Crepe paper hair to be attached to a witches hat.
I bought a packet of crepe paper that had nine different colours.
The easiest way I found to make the crepe paper hair was to use fairly small segments (120mm - 150mm wide) and to build up the hair bit by bit starting from one of the ribbon ties and ending at the other. Each crepe paper segment was cut into strips that ended around 30mm from the top edge and a strip of double sided tape was put into the gap.

Crepe paper hair in a variety of colours.
I took the backing off the double sided tape and applied the crepe paper hair segments to the inside of the cone at the lower edge. I then plaited some segments together and tied them with lengths of wool.

Then I created a hat band out of scrap material (crepe paper could be used instead) and stuck it to the hat with a couple of pieces of double sided tape.

A final touch was a Halloween spider sticker.

A witches hat made out of two sheets of A3 card and decorated with crepe paper, white pencil, sticker and fabric scraps by Amanda Lillywhite
This is the sample witch's hat that I will take to the Halloween workshop.
The hat is approximately 195mm in height and the diameter at the bottom of the cone / inner edge of the brim (where the head goes) is approximately 175mm. The diameter of the outer edge of the brim is around 297mm.

If anyone decides to make a hat please upload a photo into a comment!