Just letting you know that Helene Magisson’s illustration for ‘River Song’is now on the Avant Card stands. Keep a look out for it, and do pick one up as they are free and lovely to put on the wall or to send to a friend.
Dear Fans, keep on letting libraries, friends and our potential audience, know about Magic Fish Dreaming and sending in your responses.
Peter Pal, library supplier, stock our book for distribution to public libraries. We are looking forward to doing some events in Brisbane libraries and other places in the not too distant future, and plans are underway, so watch our blog and social media for announcements.
For those outside of Brisbane interested in ordering and for all other queries, please email us at gumbootspearlz @gmail.com
Helene said to avantcardmedia: This illustration was inspired by the poem ‘River Song’ from the children’s poetry book Magic Fish Dreaming written by @gumbootspearlzpress (2016). When I settled down in Australia a few years ago, I was fascinated by the beauty and the lightness of the stars and the night sky. Also the moon seemed to me so perfectly bright, round and huge. When I read this poem, it immediately reminded me of this splendid image of the moon I saw here for the first time.
It is a contemplative and whimsical poem and I wanted to highlight this sense of magic here. Exaggerating the size of the moon, adding this little ladder to reach the celestial body means that in our dream everything is possible as it is in this poem. The little platypus in the corner is the guardian we are talking about in the poem and it is there to remind us that this scenery can be seen only here in Australia.” Pick up your very own @helenemagisson artist card from an Avant Card display near you!
It has been a bit more than one year now, since June Perkins contacted me to illustrate Magic Fish Dreaming, a series of poems describing, with softness, mystery and humour, the beauty and richness of a region of Australia: the Far North Queensland.
This project immediately appealed to me for four reasons.
1. June’s approach suggested a rich and elegant personality which, I felt, I would have a lot of pleasure to work with.
2. I like poetry especially when it targets children. It is a wonderful way to tell things, and a book of poetry is full of stories to be read and listened to. Words play with sounds and images play with words.
3. I love Australia, a country I discovered 5 years ago. This is one of the few countries that still offers completely wild and pristine areas. A country in which we can be easily and daily connected to a splendid and amazing nature. June’s poems were for me a door opened to this world that I wanted to discover. But what a pleasure to enter this world through the eye of a poet such as June! Her poems are generous and full of strange and unique animals, plants, flowers and trees of this region of Australia.
By the way, do you know the Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo, the Herbert River Ringtail Possum, the mysterious Curtain Fig Tree, the Papilio Ulysses?
So many species I did not know. I discovered them all with a child’s eye, a brand new and amazed look.
4. Finally, June touched one of my heartstrings: she particularly insisted on the value of multiculturalism, which remains at the heart of her work.
She wanted this book to be enriched by the presence of children from all over the world. Moreover, it is by one of my illustrations “For our Children” that she had spotted my work.
That especially touched me, because I am convinced that difference and cultural diversity are always an enrichment. And it is our responsibility as parents, authors, illustrators, teachers, booksellers, publishers to educate our children this way. A book is one of the first wonderful contacts that our children have with the world, why not awaken them to these cultural treasures? This will help them to become open-minded adults, and to naturally welcome diversity.
So, I accepted this project and we worked closely together for more than a year.
While June was meticulously building the project, I read and reread and reread again her poems for my ideas to grow up, to become more refined, clearer, and richer.
I scribbled all my ideas in a small notebook and tried to familiarize myself with all these strange creatures described in the poems, rummaging in June’s beautiful photos, but also videos, to see how these creatures were moving and evolving. I would have definitely preferred to see them for real, but for some of them, I would have needed to spend a whole night in the forests of the Far North Queensland (this is one of my next projects).
Then, when I had an idea, I tried to set it in a balanced composition.
Sometimes, I had a few ideas and several compositions for the same poem. I counted nearly a hundred roughs for all the work.
Then with June, we chose those that could match up, always keeping in mind the dynamics, the rhythm, the flow of the entire book by changing the perspective, the choice of close ups, etc.
A long and demanding but so exciting hard work.
And finally, after consultation and agreement with the whole team (Matilda the editor, Heidi the designer and of course June), I worked on the colours.
We wanted the book to be rich in colour, always seeking to create a dynamic visual effect that would awaken not only the ear but also the eye.
June gave me a lot of freedom in the whole process while accompanying me faithfully, and together, we could build our ideas.
Also, it was fantastic to discover all the process of the book from the very beginning till its birth. June involved me in each step and I now know that the illustrative process represents only the visible part of the iceberg. There are so many tricky parts in the process of a book, including the editing (by the wonderful Matilda Elliot), the design (by Heidi Den Ronden who did an absolutely beautiful work), the proof and the printing by Fergies… I now can tell that a picture book is a real treasure.
Explanations of some illustrations
Choice of cover
The cover of a book always needs a lot of work and attention. We had to feel the poetry, the mystery, the dream and the beauty of a wild nature.
I started with the idea of a fish dreaming under the moon and June wisely suggested that I add some children from different backgrounds, once again to highlight the multiculturalism which is so present in Australia and so important in the book.
Hunting For a Poem
In this poem, we hear the melody of the wind and the waves, we feel the movement, so I imagined a child collecting in a net all sorts of sea treasures brought by the wind. This is the same net that we will be able to see a few times in the book. June loved the movement and energy of this young girl for this role.
(c) Helene Magisson, ‘Hunting for A Poem’
Two other options for this poem
June liked the energy of this little boy, but she preferred the little girl who reminded her of many of the little girls living in the Cassowary Coast. June felt she perfectly showcased the diversity theme of the book from the very first page.
This illustration had a sense of poetry, but not enough of movement of the wind and waves.
Beyond Caterpillar Days
We chose the portrait of this young girl with deep black eyes firstly because the close-up here brought a dynamic effect and we wanted to stay away from a blonde and blue eyes stereotype of beauty.
In this poem, June describes the beauty of a huge blue butterfly, delighted by the nectar of a flower. I wanted to avoid making a decorative illustration that would just repeat the words in the poem. I preferred to illustrate the metaphor that June wanted us to understand. Just like the chrysalis becomes a majestic butterfly, the little girl will become a beautiful woman.
Wishing For A Fish
This poem tells the impatience of a little girl fishing, but who cannot catch anything. She desperately waits for a fish to bite.
Rather than showing this little girl with her disappointment (I leave this to June, it is her part), I chose to show what was happening under the water. Why doesn’t this fish bite and will he probably never do so?
A way for me to accompany the text, and tell something else.
This is exactly what I love in the illustration process. It is like a dialogue between the text and the images.
Throughout the book, we meet small groups of children all with different backgrounds. In this poem at the end of the book, they are found all together, all watching a strong storm. But why does a child play guitar?
In one of her previous books AfterYasi, June tells with optimism and humility the violence of theYasi cyclone. All her family lived and survived the ravages of this violent cyclone. She tells the story through beautiful and poignant pictures.
I felt a special connection between the poem and the story of After Yasi. I was looking for a very specific inspiration for this poem and I came across this picture that really touched me: her son playing guitar to soothe his fear while watching the devastated nature. I wanted him to be here, in this poem with his music, his guitar and all the other children next to him.
And don’t miss this funny detail somewhere in the book, as a nod to the town Tully in the Far North Queensland.
The Golden Gumboot is a competition between the Far North Queensland towns of Tully, Innisfail, and Babinda for the wettest town of Australia. These towns are located in the Wet Tropics and on a land that was previously covered by rainforest. These areas experience some of the highest levels of rainfall in Australia through monsoonal rain and cyclones. Despite the fact that Babinda has had more rainfall than Tully in the last 40 years, The Golden Gumboot monument was erected in Tully.
For all the other poems, we’ll let you read, listen, watch, interpret what you feel.
And now, will you find the Green Tree frog hidden in the canes?
And the tail of a crocodile lurking underwater?
Will you tell why the fish will not bite the bait?
What message do you imagine in this bottle lost in the ocean…
Happy reading to those who have the soul of a poet.
This article was first published on Helene Magisson’s blog on the 31st of October, 2016.
Saturday – 20 August 2016, between 10:00am and 1:00pm
Join the Queensland Branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, local children’s authors and illustrators, and members of the Brisbane Illustrators Group and Write Links at the State Library of Queensland for a series of specially curated activities for children, young people and their families to celebrate the beginning of 2016 Book Week.
In the Knowledge Walk, help us create characters and images for two stories written especially for the occasion by Queensland writers. Children will learn about character development and elements of story creation, as well as learning and practising sketching, drawing, colouring, and painting.
Join in the fun with storytelling sessions by local picture book authors and illustrators who will be discussing the stories behind the stories, teaching children about how books are developed and put together.
There will be illustrators from the storytelling sessions demonstrating their skills using both traditional and digital methods. Watch them demonstrate how they developed their characters from the stories that will share in the storytelling sessions. Children will learn about the illustration process; the tools and techniques illustrators use; and the process of book creation.
The BIG draw is proudly presented by the Queensland Branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, in partnership with the State Library of Queensland and Book Links (QLD) Inc.
(We’ll be at this event. Our presentation is at 11 am)
Helene Magisson is a Children’s book illustrator, who graduated from the painting restoration school “Art et Avenir”, Paris (France).
She was also trained in the art of medieval illumination, exhibiting her work in Europe and teaching the history and techniques of medieval miniature in primary and high schools, both in France and in India, where she lived for a few years.
When Helene settled down in Australia, she decided to start a new career in children’s book illustration. Her numerous trips in Europe and Asia, as well as her childhood spent in Africa inspire and enrich her work. She believes that travelling is a fantastic source of inspiration.
Helene was awarded the first prize in the illustration category at the 2013 CYA conference. She has illustrated her first book, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco.
How did you come to work on the Magic Fish Dreaming Project?
One day, I got a message from June Perkins. A long message describing her project with precision. Her approach was clear, smart, graceful and engaging.
She was talking about poetry, places of Far North Queensland, about multiculturalism, team work, and respect. It immediately resonated to me.
So I wanted to know more about her, who she was, and I discovered an incredibly creative and talented woman. I felt that this project could take me into a new world like a door opening to a part of Australia which I was thrilled to discover, through June’s eyes and words.
I had no doubt about the project, no hesitation. It was like something absolutely natural.
Then she sent me her manuscript, and I had this wonderful feeling when each poem suddenly sparkled in my mind. My imagination was flying far away.
The connection was done straight from the first poem.
What appeals to you about this project?
Many things appeal to me.
I always wanted to illustrate poetry for children because there is no limit for the imagination. It is playing with words and images. I think it is a fantastic way to make the children aware of the beauty of the language and the words.
And I love June’s poems. They are so rich – with a mix of humour, gentleness, mystery, depth and a lot of love and admiration for the Far North Queensland environment. I also can feel the soul of a country in it. There is the mystery of a tree, the beauty of a majestic bird, many strange animals, and also children from different communities.
When June approached me I really liked the fact that she highlighted one of my illustrations I called “For our Children”. It is an illustration I did a little bit after the terrorist attack in France.
There are nine children coming from all over the world (India, Pakistan, France, Ireland, Australia, Kenya…), children I have met in the different countries I have been living in or visited, and they are altogether, smiling, teasing, hugging. There are in peace and happy.
June liked it for its multicultural dimension. She wanted to highlight that in the project and that really touched me.
I love the idea to mix Aboriginal, Italian, Torres Strait, English, and Australian children.
It is poetry for all and everyone in a beautiful and peaceful environment.
I feel so fortunate that this project came to me.
What kinds of things did you do or are you doing in illustrating the poetry text for June?
I ask June to tell me more about the poem I start working on. What is behind the text, and how she came to it. She also sends me some photos (she is an incredibly talented photographer too). I collect a lot of ideas from them.
In her photos, she sometimes focuses on a detail, a beautiful detail seen from another point of view. I also see that in her poetry, and I try to transmit this idea in my illustrations.
Then I work on a few ideas, keeping in mind the authenticity of the Queensland environment but then I try to “translate it” in a way to appeal children with the choice of the colours, adding amusing details, hiding animals.
I propose a few roughs and we decide altogether (including June’s editor Matilda Elliot) which one will work the best before I start working with colours.
What is your background with working with understanding illustration that is appealing to an audience of children and their families ?
I studied restoration and history of art and worked as a painting restorer for a few year, this gave me a strong background in my art work but there was no place for creativity.
I think I always loved children’s books. It started from my childhood in Africa when my mum was reading to us all the Andersen, Grimm and Perrault’s tales, even a little mongoose was coming very often to listen.
So I did the same for my children when they were still small, reading all sorts of stories at bed time. I wanted them to be touched by the story but also to be open and sensitive to the quality of the illustrations. And there are so many incredible books that inspired me to pursue this dream,
Also when I decided to illustrate children’s books I spent many hours reading and looking at picture books because I wanted to understand how the illustrations process was working page after page and how to create an interesting relation between the text and the illustration. The more I discovered, the more my passion grew.
And when I felt ready, I attended the CYA competition in 2013 and was delighted to win First prize in the illustration category.
A bit later, I illustrated the beautiful and very well-known classical tale “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams Bianco, published by New Frontier. And I am excited that next year three more books I have illustrated will hit the shelves, including with the help of all our supporters, Magic Fish Dreaming.