Monday, March 28, 2011

The Great Rescue Race by Raymond McGrath

Through my career I have met some incredibly talented and highly motivated people, particularly in the animation industry which is so unique and challenging. One of these people is Raymond McGrath, and I am very excited to show you his most recent achievement - an exhilarating, and beautifully illustrated children's book, The Great Rescue Race.

Cover Artwork from The Great Rescue Race by Raymond McGrath

The Great Rescue Race opens with a tram and a lively ticket collector who discovers 'Scraps' - the missing toy of Nick, aged six.

Illustrations from The Great Rescue Race by Raymond McGrath

The tram is brought to a screeching halt, and the whole town pulls together to find a way to get Scraps back to his friend Nick.


Illustrations from The Great Rescue Race by Raymond McGrath

With the combined efforts of a dedicated community, the toy is successfully restored to its grateful owner who, with excellent manners, thanks each and every one of the rescuers. It is an absolutely charming story, with a positive message, and compelling characters. The illustrations are detailed and dynamic, capturing expression and movement with perfection - undoubtedly the influence of animation coming through here. The fast pace and energy in the story is sure to captivate a young reader who will find interesting new faces and elements with each reading.    

Illustration from the final page of The Great Rescue Race by Raymond McGrath

The Great Rescue Race is one of those rare treasures that combines spectacular artwork with a well-written and satisfying story. I am not promoting it as a favour for a friend and former colleague of mine - I genuinely love this picture book and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

The Great Rescue Race will be available for purchase from its release today (or very soon after). Other children's books written and illustrated by Raymond McGrath include Don't Worry Nana, I'll Drive!, The Bedtime Countdown Book, and Le Cafe Petit On O'Sullivan Street.

The Great Rescue Race, ISBN:9780143306177, Imprint: Picture Puffin, Publisher: Penguin NZ , Publication Date 28/03/11.

Q & A with Raymond McGrath

A Google search will reveal very little about Raymond who is not much of a self-promoter and more of a modest, quiet achiever; I thought this a great chance to ask Ray some questions and get a little insight into who he is and what drives him:

You will be a new name to most of my readers. Could you please tell us a little about your artistic background and career?
 - I have no formal training in art and I was in my early twenties before I'd even picked up a pencil after I left school. I learned traditional 2D animation first, at a time when things were just beginning to ink and paint was very new, 3D had barely scratched the surface of what it is now. Nowadays I usually introduce myself as an Animation Director, but that doesn't really cover the whole spectrum of what I do as I am involved in almost all facets of animation. I learned 3D as a matter of necessity, as well as compositing, editing, storyboarding, design, live action, stop motion, vector, and at least a dozen industry standard software packages and of course Directing. I've worked on a lot of television commercials, national and international. I've also worked on many Television series for children, local and international, and I am the creator/writer/director/animator of 'Puzzle Inc' which is a pre-school show. I've been in animation for over 15 years now...
At night I tend to please myself creatively because not every idea I have is relevant to animation or even commercially viable (...and by the end of the working day I must admit I've kind of had enough of animation and want to explore other creative outlets) so I do this mostly because I can't help myself. I HAVE to get ideas out of my head onto paper otherwise they don't leave me alone. So I write, do life drawing, photography, write music/songs, illustrate and do all the things I enjoy doing that I don't get to do at the studio during the day with no deadline and at my own pace. I've illustrated lots of educational books, illustrated trade books for other writers and The Great Rescue Race is my fourth book as a writer/illustrator. I've also been involved in theatre both on and off stage.
What media did you use to create the illustrations in The Great Rescue Race? And how do you approach book illustration from the planning stage through to completion?
The Great Rescue Race is a mixture of pencil sketches, Illustrator, Photoshop, collage papers and Painter. If you get a chance to look at any of my other books, I don't usually work in any one particular style. I like to challenge myself and I also believe that the IDEA should primarily dictate what the book should look like. The style should compliment the story, but I usually have the same basic process:
I develop an idea, mull it over for a while, do a few basic designs, write and re-write until I think I've got the bones of a story, then I illustrate the whole book in rough form to see if it actually will work. I try to plan enough so as to know where it's all going but not so much as to stifle new ideas and changes of direction.
When I write I don't use words to explain anything I can show, and I use the pictures to progress the story as much as possible. Personally, I don't like too many words in picture books (In fact the fewer words the better!). As a result often my manuscript feels empty without out the artwork, because a lot of the story is within the pictures themselves. So in order for anyone to even understand my stories I HAVE to finish both text and artwork. I don't want to run the risk of someone misinterpreting anything, so I make it clear and say 'There it is, that's the story and that's what it will look like...what do you think?'
From there, if my publisher likes it, I'll move onto final artwork. I work digitally for final colouring because I like the flexibility. I can change things about easily without starting again and when you're working on things only in your spare time, doing things twice can be quite a setback and very annoying. I don't do the typesetting on any books...I give the publishers an idea of what I'm thinking, but I let them do what they think is best. And they do a fantastic job. The fresh eyes and ideas they bring to the table can lift the product to a new level and I like to let them really run with it. My commissioning editor (Katie Haworth) has done a fantastic job of adding new ideas, fixing text mistakes and making loads of clever suggestions for adjusting rhyming patterns and making the book the best it can be. The book wouldn't be half of what is without her efforts and Anita (who designed the text layouts) and the wider publishing team at Penguin Group, NZ. This is as much their book as it is mine.
Who do you look to for inspiration in writing, illustrating, and animating?
My inspiration comes from pretty much everything and everyone, everywhere. I am constantly admiring other people's work from writers to artists to photographers to designers to fashion to Directors, theatre, music... the list would go on and on. I get quite jealous of other peoples talents, to be honest, and it annoys me when my work isn't as I work harder at it...because I WANT to be good at it. I find that there can be something to learn from everyone (even if it's discovering that what they do is not what you want to do). I am constantly writing down little things I notice as well. Snippets of conversation, things my friends and family do and say, watching other children play and interact. These little moments are the same as a photograph. A good Photo freezes time and reality into a split second but will also imply a before and after, a story behind what led to the image. These can be the kernel of an excellent idea. If you keep your eyes and ears open there are ideas pretty much everywhere. You just need to learn to recognize the potential...then do some work to pull the story out.
Ray, from what I know of you, you enjoy learning and extending your skill-set. You have mastered hand-drawn animation, computer animation, illustration, and a whole host of other skills. Where do you see yourself going from here? Do you enjoy the mix of interests, or do you see yourself focusing on one of these things, perhaps even moving on to something else entirely?
I love making meaningful content for children and I genuinely want to be good at what I do so I work very hard at it. Drawing doesn't come as naturally to me as I'd like so I have to work at it. Every drawing is a battle of persistence and personal critique. Animation is extremely challenging and I love that challenge...particularly traditional hand crafted stuff. Writing isn't something I've trained in either, it's something I'm still struggling to get a handle on (but I'm working on it) and my biggest dream is to one day to write/draw stories that parents will look back on nostalgically and say 'I loved that book when I was a child!' and pass it on to their own children, or just inspire children to explore artwork and actually 'see' picture books, not just read the words. I want to make television shows and movies for children that are entertaining and educational that parents don't mind their kids watching. I want to become a great photographer and show the world as I see it. I want to do gallery exhibitions of paintings that somebody will think are good enough to take home and put on their walls. I want to record albums and write novels and books of poetry and act. And I want to draw until I die...
So, I guess the answer to this question is: I hope to keep doing what I do, become the best I can be at it, and maybe inspire someone else to do the same. 
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Ray - I'm sure many readers will be inspired by your words and your book, as I am :)

These images are copyright. A huge thanks to Raymond McGrath and Puffin Books (Penguin Group NZ) for allowing Kitty as a Picture Kids' Design Blog permission to feature The Great Rescue Race.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Trelise Cooper Kids Winter 2011

 A few weeks ago, in Auckland, it went from being summer-dress weather to layers-of-merino weather, and then back again. I'm wearing summer threads again, but for how long? If that cold snap instilled in you a sense of dread at the approaching winter, let Trelise Cooper Kids remind you of some of the magic that winter can bring. Winter brings the cold, sure, but in some parts it brings the joys of snow...

 Trelise Cooper Kids Winter 2011: Pli'e 'Plumberlina' Top, Dancer 'Skakeya Pom Pom' Skirt.

This winter Trelise Cooper Kids takes a trip to a snowflake wonderland and sees snow angels emerging in pretty pom poms, studded sparkles, and layers of tulle, while rough n tumble hoodies are the pick for dodging a snowball or two. There is an exciting mix of colours and styles in the 2011 Winter Collection, from printed dresses and bouncy tutus, to tough puffer jackets, fur biker jackets and fierce military coats.
Trelise Cooper Kids Winter 2011: Left - Jacket and Top Parade Pieces Only, Paloma 'Cheek Blusher' Skirt. Middle - Apricot Grove 'Over the Rainbow' Dress, Bow Peep 'Little Bow Sweep' Skirt. Right - Rockstar 'Harlie's Angels' Jacket, Porridge Pot 'Turtle Head' Top, Skirt Parade Piece only.

Trelise Cooper Kids Winter 2011: Left - Playdate 'Serious Black' Jacket, Skirt parade piece only. Right - Dress and Jacket parade pieces only.

Trelise Cooper Kids Winter 2011: Left - Swan-Song 'Swanee-River' Top, Tight Rope 'Turtle Head' Top, Slipperella 'Tippy Toes' Skirt. Middle - Slipperella 'Dance Class' Dress, Dancer 'Shakeya Pom Pom' Skirt, Tight Rope 'Jacobs Ladder' Pants. Right - Swan-Song 'Swanee River' Top, Tight Rope 'Turtle Head' Top, Paloma 'Cheek Blusher' Skirt.

Trelise Cooper Kids Winter 2011: Apricot Grove 'Over the Rainbow' Dress.

Trelise Cooper Kids Winter 2011: Top Left - Jacket and Fur Vest Parade pieces only, Bow Peep 'Little Bow Peep' Skirt. Top Right - Left - Cream cakes 'One Lump or Two' Top, Porridge Pot 'Turtle Head' Top, Speckled Egg 'Speck and Span' Skirt, Right - Playdate 'Leader of the Pack' Jacket, Porridge Pot 'Turtle Head' Top, Skirt parade piece only, Playdate 'Jacobs Ladder' Pants. Bottom Left - Marshmellow 'Frilly Goat Puff' Top, Tight Rope 'Presently Surprised' Top, Pea Spot 'Peas in a Pod' Skirt. Bottom Right - Madeline 'Tower of Love' Jacket.

Trelise Cooper Kids Winter 2011: Cream Cakes 'One Lump or Two' Top, 'Tight Rope 'Smells so Sweet' Top, Boudoir Rose ' Bloom-Beams' Skirt.

Trelise Cooper Kids Winter 2011: Blue Bonnet 'Shift in Gear' Dress, Porridge Pot 'Turtle Head' Top, Jim Jams 'Plain Jane' Pants.

Fun, flamboyant details capture the playfulness that comes with a child's experience of snow, while snugly knits and warm winter tights remind me of the comfort of a cozy retreat indoors after an action-packed day. Delicious hot cocoa and toasted marshmallows by the fire - all the shades and flavours of winter are represented here in this gorgeous collection. Don't waste time bemoaning the impending cold and the last weeks of daylight savings, pop over to the recently-revamped Trelise Cooper website and get excited. There's plenty of magic on its way!

Trelise Cooper Kids Winter 2011: Leopard Spots 'Animal Instinct ' Jacket, Skirt - Parade Piece only.

These images are copyright and are published with the permission of Trelise Cooper - Thank you for allowing Kitty as a Picture Kids' Design Blog to feature this collection.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mod Squad Kids at Cosset Café

It is as if someone has dreamed this idea up just for me:
take my favourite café, add a stunning collection of designer kids' clothing that is unlike anything I've seen before, put them together, and you have me doing a dance of excitement (and believe me, I save dancing for special occasions - even my two year old daughter tells me to stop dancing, I'm that bad!) Let me first introduce Mod Squad Kids, and then I will tell you about the exciting event coming up at Cosset Café.

A small selection from the Mod Squad Kids Summer Collection

A small selection from the Mod Squad Kids Winter Collection

Mod Squad Kids is the creation of Karen Walker (not the fashion designer that New Zealander's are familiar with, but another designer by the same name) who has a background in design within other creative areas such as visual merchandising and window dressing. When Karen began a family, and struggled to find unique, colourful clothes for her daughter, she took up the suggestion of a friend to try her hand at children's clothing design. Mod Squad Kids was born at the end of 2009. 

Mod Squad Kids

Mod Squad Kids has sold at children's wear and design stores in Auckland and Wellington. The great news is that Mod Squad Kids will soon be launching a website, and the label will then be available to purchase throughout New Zealand and internationally. In the meantime you can keep up to date with Mod Squad news through Facebook.
It is easy to see why I am a big fan of Mod Squad. The collection has stacks of energy and vibrance, featuring bold patterned fabrics, interesting trims, and original details. The garments are made with quality fabrics and sewn right here in Auckland.

Details from the Mod Squad Kids Collection

The other great news is that you can view the Mod Squad Kids collection, and meet Karen in person, if you head over to Cosset Café. Some of the garments are already on display, but Cosset is hosting a special viewing of the Mod Squad Kids collections on Thursday 7th, Friday 8th, and Saturday 9th of April. Karen will be there to answer any queries each day from 12-1 pm and from 6-8 pm. Don't miss your chance to soak up the stylish vibes of Cosset Café and Mod Squad Kids at this special event. You'll find Cosset at the corner of New North Road and Woodward Roads, Mt Albert, Auckland. I will be dropping by for another look at the range, and for one of the best macchiatos in town. And I promise to refrain from dancing!

Mod Squad Kids at Cosset Café

A huge thanks to Karen Walker for allowing Kitty as a Picture Kids' Design Blog to feature Mod Squad Kids.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Acorn Hats, Dwell Studio, Tiddlywinks, Uber French, and more

My last post was quite serious and text heavy (and I should be doing my real job right now), so I am going to keep this one light and visual. These are some things that have been grabbing me lately and begging me to buy them:

Acorn Hats Autumn Winter 2011
You can find them at Kid Republic
Images courtesy of OzKidz Agency

Dwell Studio Quilt/Play Blanket Zinnia Rose, at Design Child

Dwell Studio Quilt /Play Blanket Skyline, at Design Child

Tiddlywinks (both toys are called Oink), at Gorgeous Porgeous

Tiddlywinks (Stella and Piper), at Gorgeous Porgeous

Tiddlywinks (Taylor), at Gorgeous Porgeous

Contemori Toys, at Gorgeous Porgeous

Uber French (1 of a set of 3 suitcases) at Design Child

 Uber French Set of 3 Suitcases at Design Child

 Matryoshka dolls by Tereza, Visit her blog Tarino Bambino or Facebook

Maybe if I go and do my real job, I might have some money to buy some of these divine things!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Jen Corace - A Welcome Distraction

There is so much tragedy in the news at the moment, so much to be saddened by; I am grateful to be one of the lucky ones, somewhat removed from it all. It is hard to imagine what other people are going through at the same time as I am taking pleasure in the ordinary routines of life. My daughter and I have just enjoyed a sunny day here in Auckland, celebrating a friend's birthday, splashing in the paddling pool, shopping for a lemon tree, and later treating ourselves to ice blocks; now she is tucked up in bed, and I am enjoying the intriguing illustration and fine art of Jen Corace. It feels strange and trivial to be talking illustration and fashion during a time of such turmoil, but I think that when life is sad it is important to look for inspiration. It has kept me afloat through difficult years, and this blog is what keeps me feeling excited and inspired at the moment. This project and others, along with my precious family and friends, bring some balance to a world that threatens to overwhelm me with sadness. I hope that you too can take a look at this incredible art, and feel uplifted as a result.

Fall, Fell; Art Print by Jen Corace

Down, Down, Down; Art Print by Jen Corace

Sitting, Thinking, Staring; Art Print by Jen Corace

Untitled; Art Print by Jen Corace

Jen Corace lives and works as an artist and freelance illustrator in Providence (Rhode Island, US). There is a sense of mystery and fantasy in the scenes that Jen creates - they give me the feeling of having caught a secret glimpse into someone's world. Often those worlds are contemplative, sometimes somber, or beset by challenge in the form of snow and ice, water, organic forms such as branches, grass or forests, or dangerous creatures such as snakes or octopuses (yes, octopuses! Grammarians, I looked it up, see here)  Her characters are never perturbed, however, and this is what makes them so intriguing.

Tentacles (left) and Snakes and Stumps (right) by Jen Corace

Jen is equally skilled at capturing tranquil, and often playful scenes. I particularly like this image of skaters. I love the way Jen uses backgrounds with limited colours that recede, and in contrast the figures, who are vividly coloured, immediately draw the eye in, creating a focus. She does the same with details, creating large areas of simplicity and then juxtaposes it with a concentrated area of detail.

Skaters by Jen Corace

Desktop Wallpaper by Jen Corace for Design Sponge

Awkward in Any Situation; Art Print by Jen Corace

 Detail from Awkward in Any Situation by Jen Corace

By Jen Corace (Title unknown, sorry)
This and Awkward in Any Situation (above) appear in a Jen Corace 2010 calendar at Art Star.

At Jen's website you can view much of her illustration, fine art, and design. Take a good look and be inspired! I am glad for something to distract me from the distressing headlines at the moment, but to those people who are experiencing the horrors of earthquakes and tsunamis, or have lost loved ones and are unable to be so easily distracted, my heart goes out to you.
Brenda X

These images are copyright. Many thanks to Jen Corace for allowing Kitty as a Picture Kids' Design Blog to feature this work. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Albetta and Cheeky Monkey, Winter 2011

Bambina began as one of the most beautiful online baby stores in New Zealand, and has now opened an equally exciting retail store in Birkenhead. I try not to go over there too often in order to preserve my finances - it is hard to resist buying everything in sight! Lucky for me, I get a generous discount owing to the fact that the store is owned by my sister :)  I'll be making a few trips to Bambina over the next month to stock up on Winter fashion for my 2 year old daughter, as the new Winter collections are going to start arriving shortly.

Albetta Autumn/Winter Collection 2011 (NZ and Australia)

Albetta is the label I am quick to snap up each season. I am always impressed with the high quality of workmanship on the garments. As well as superb fabric design, Albetta excels at intricate applique and embroidery.

Albetta Autumn/Winter Collection 2011 (NZ and Australia)

Readers who have followed Kitty as a Picture from the beginning will remember I introduced the gorgeous Albetta Little Red Riding Hood Print a few months back, as I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview. You can read the New Season Fabric Designs by Albetta article here.

Cheeky Monkey Autumn/Winter 2011

The new Cheeky Monkey collection is arriving in about a month's time and Bambina will carry the full range. A very sweet collection of fabrics feature on the bibs and on the t-shirt appliques. The same fabrics are used as trims on other garments in the collection, such as dresses and jeans, tying the collection together beautifully.  

Cheeky Monkey Autumn/Winter 2011

Many more fantastic labels will be stocking the Bambina shelves over Autumn and Winter. The great news is that you can get a discount too! Kitty as a Picture readers can enter the discount code KITTY at checkout to receive 15% off all goods that aren't already on sale - even the new Winter fashion collections when they arrive! Visit the Bambina online store here.

Many thanks to Bambina for allowing Kitty as a Picture Kids' Design Blog permission to publish these images.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lalé at Lark, and Other New Arrivals

Just when I was ready to hone in on Winter Fashion, I got distracted at Lark. A 'quick flick' over to the Lark website found me madly downloading images left, right and centre, and an hour later I was utterly overwhelmed by gorgeousness. I eventually decided to focus on just a few recent arrivals to the Lark store, because I have to draw the line somewhere! Trust me though, it's worth a good look around.

Marlène Suitcases by Lalé (France)

Okay, now you can see why I got distracted! Recent additions, these divine suitcases by French designer Lalé feature stunning vintage-style fabrics, inside and out. They'll come in handy as an overnight bag, a laptop case, a child's suitcase, or as an attractive storage case.

Marlène Suitcase (Flora) and Marlène Suitcase (Green Circles) by Lalé

Hooray! You no longer have to carry your guitar around in a plain black case - thanks to Lalé!

Guitar Case (Peixe Orange) and Guitar Case (Flora) by Lalé

Unfortunately, I don't play the guitar, but I do sleep occasionally...

Zoé Cushion (Green Circles) Suzanne Eiderdown (Green Circles) by Lalé

Speaking of sleep, I really should get some, but let me just squeeze in a couple more goodies surrounding that theme...

Doll Face Cushions by Jenni Harley

Handmade in Melbourne by Jenni Harley, each of these Doll Face pillows is unique. The face is made from vintage linen, with patchwork applique and hand embroidered detailing. The hair and back fabrics are vintage florals in pretty colours.

Doll Cushions by Jenni Harley

And for a totally original gift idea, how about this Doll Face Hairclip Holder, also by Jenni Harley:

Doll Face Hairclip Holder by Jenni Harley

It's hard not to fall in love with this Sleepy Lion Pillow by Twiglet...

Twiglet Sleepy Lion Pillow 

You won't be stuck for ideas if a gift is what you are looking for. Plenty of variety, a range of styles, and a strong focus on handmade treasures keeps Lark amongst Australia's most talked about children's stores. Visit the Lark website for an uplifting shopping experience, or you can also visit their shop in Daylesford, a historic country town in the forest, close to Melbourne, Australia.
Now where was I? Oh, winter fashion...

Many thanks to Lark for allowing Kitty as a Picture Kids' Design Blog permission to publish these images.