Seven Stories have been happy to be involved in a brand new event around illustration in the North East - the Hartlepool Festival of Illustration.

Working with the festival organisers, we loaned several pieces of artwork from the Seven Stories Collection to an exhibition held at Hartlepool Art Gallery. Artwork from the below has all been on display alongside additional loaned works from Chris Riddell, Sara Ogilvie and John McCrea, amongst others. 

  • Edward Ardizzone
  • Shirley Hughes
  • Polly Dunbar
  • Sarah Garland
  • Angela Barrett
  • Helen Craig
  • John Burningham

As part of the festival, we have also been out on a whirlwind tour of the local area, working with an amazing 730 participants over 10 days. The sessions took place in nine primary schools, one college of further education and in Hartlepool Art Gallery itself. Lynn hosted a spectacular 29 illustration workshops over this time - and is now on a well deserved holiday! This is what she has to say about the experience:

Having completed a two week residency in Hartlepool schools, I feel very privileged to have been involved with such an exciting outreach programme, using original materials from the Seven Stories Collection to help inspire the next generation of illustrators and designers.

Knowing that the exhibition would include materials to illustrate the creative processes in the making of a picture book, I was very keen to develop a primary workshop using illustrator Sarah Garland’s sketchbooks, and Polly Dunbar’s sketches and finished artwork for My Dad’s a Birdman, written by David Almond.

Based in a new school each day, I arrived each morning with 90 sketchbooks, HB pencils, graphite sticks and a gross of felt tip pens. Needless to say these were put to great use, the children hugely excited to have their own sketchbook and pencils, all kindly provided by Cleveland College of Art and Design. The workshops were planned to last between 75-90 minutes. Most followed a similar format with variations depending on the age and maturity of the pupils. 

Of courser it  wouldn’t be a Seven Stories workshop if it there wasn't any book chat! We talked about the children’s favourite storybooks, the authors and illustrators they knew and liked. We browsed picture books selection to look at style. Children talked about why they liked the illustrations and considered where authors and illustrators get their ideas from.

I wanted the children to experience quick sketching, and told them:

“We are going to look, talk, listen, draw, draw, draw again, draw some more, more talking, more drawing, more looking, talking, listening and if there is sufficient time, even more drawing!”

We looked at some facsimiles of artwork in the exhibition. They saw how illustrators use sketchbooks, sometimes drawing multiple images on one page. Sarah Garland’s quick sketches of families in the swimming pool show how little information is needed in a sketch for it to work as a preparatory drawing. They noticed how Polly Dunbar uses just a dot for an eye or a line for the mouth in her Birdman sketches. They considered how an illustrator develops a character from an initial sketch. From the slumped posture in the sketch of Lizzie’s dad, they started to understood how an illustrator can portray a character’s emotions in the pose or facial expression. We looked at Angela Barratt’s graphite sketch and finished drawing for The Snow Queen, and Helen Craig’s artwork for Angelina Ballerina.

An illustration workshop needs drawing time! We started drawing birds.

“How many different birds can you draw in a minute?”

We drew more, changing the size of beaks and wings to see how that affected the drawing. We handled feathers and a selection of soft toy birds. Talking about their achievements at the end of the sessions, many highlighted using graphite sticks to draw their real and imagined feathers as a favourite part. Graphite can be used for clean sharp lines or blended and smudged to create featheriness. It was a new medium for most of the young artists.

Examples of the students work
Next: drawing a human. I wanted the children to try drawing a simple human character, with not too much detail, as we would use our experience of drawing feathers and birds to transform our character. There was a real buzz throughout the entire workshops. I read extracts from My Dad's a Birdman or retold parts while the children were busy drawing.

Throughout the workshops children proudly showed back their work to each other and talked about their achievements. Every child participated. No one once said that they "couldn’t" or "didn’t" know how to draw a bird, feather or human. They were working as illustrators.

Next step storyboarding. We compared different approaches to storyboarding. I had included some additional storyboard facsimiles from the original Picture Book in Progress exhibition, held at Seven Stories visitor centre in 2014. The groups compared these with John Burningham’s storyboard which features in the Festival  exhibition. Children pointed out that some of the frames have very little detail, yet the sketches of animals are drawn in greater detail.

We were able to see how Sarah Garland’s storyboard for Doing Christmas was roughly sketched on lined A4 paper, how Judith Kerr used very faint drawings in her storyboards for Mog the Forgetful Cat and The Tiger Who Came to Tea. In contrast, Helen Cooper’s storyboard for Little Monster Did It includes everything she wants on the page including minute text. I heard  “wow” almost every time someone looked closely at this one. There is no right or wrong way in developing a storyboard - illustrators use them as they need.

Everyone had created a new character so the next stage was to think of what happened to them.  Everyone had a go at storyboarding 3 frames to show the participation: Frame 1 getting ready to start. Frame 2 character mid flight, to show the shape they make in the air.
Frame 3 Success? Failure? Cheers or splash?

In the extended workshops children then worked for some time developing one of their storyboard frames into an actual illustration. In her finished artwork, Polly Dunbar portrays   dad and Lizzie tumbling through the air wearing their beaks and feathers. Many of the participants worked on their own version of this scene.

On the second last day of the residency I led the illustration workshops in the Art Gallery surrounded by world class illustration.  I adapted the session for working with the older B Tech Students from East Durham College to include David Almond’s initial character notes for his Birdman, asking them to try to think along these lines when developing their own characters. They considered appearance, their character’s fears and desires. Would they have a special object? Several students annotated their drawings, finding this a useful way to develop ideas.

In addition to exploring the creative process through the original materials from the exhibition, the students were able to compare how different illustrators respond to the same subject, and compared Ralph Steadman’s illustration from Treasure Island with Chris Mould’s interpretation of the same scene.

On display, next to our workspace were several illustrations from Chris Riddell’s Ottoline books.  Chris had been named as the ninth Children’s Laureate days earlier. In his five point plan he includes the joy of sketchbooks and celebration of reading for pleasure. I talked about this with the groups and how Chris had been one of the key speakers at the festival launch.

We were doing just what he was suggesting, doodling with our birds and feathers and enjoying drawing in a beautiful sketchbook.

The  feedback has been  very positive with children reflecting on  what they had learnt or enjoyed,  including finding out how much works goes into the making of a picturebook. I had a thoroughly enjoyable time. When asked to reflect on something they had learnt as a result of the workshops, one 8 year old boy wrote:

“ I learnt I could draw!”

Lynn Telford

The Picture Book in Progress Illustration workshops were part of the Hartlepool Festival of Illustration, a partnership between Cleveland College of Art and Design, Hartlepool Borough Council and Seven Stories.