Artist to Admire: Daniel Kvasznicza

See a collection of his landscapes here.

I don’t see many artists of this style working in children’s picturebooks. That’s not saying there are none at all, but the art in children’s picturebooks tends to be more ‘illustrative’ rather than photo-realistic. That’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing — I’m not trying to make any statements about one style of illustration being superior to another. But I would like to see more of this style in children’s books because photo-realistic artwork was my favourite kind as a kid. The more realistic it was, the better I liked it. I’m pretty sure that’s why I liked the artwork of Georgina Hargreaves in my large, illustrated editions of Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree — the artwork looked as if the children and the made-up creatures had been created from photographs. There is certainly charm in the oft-seen watercolour strokes defined by dark  outlines, and the likes of Quentin Blake can do a marvellous amount with a few quick flourishes of an inkpen.

All that said, I’d love for some of the SFF artists currently working in the game industry to illustrate some really good picturebooks for school aged children. I think that would be an excellent way to get a certain reluctant demographic into reading.

I say all of this with one big reservation. Artists working with the SFF genre are very much inclined to depict female characters in sexualised poses, exposing as much of their bodies as possible.


So when I say I’d like to see more SFF artists moving into children’s illustration, what I’m really asking is for artists working in children’s illustration to be paid adequately, to support the number of hours it takes to create such artwork — not for artists trained in SFF tropes to bring those SFF stereotypes down into children’s illustration.

Men Are Better At Making Sound Effects With Their Mouths, Apparently.

This headline caught my eye because I’m busy collecting and making my own sound effects this week for Midnight Feast.

Hilarious Video Proof: Your Ability To Make Realistic Sound Effects Is Gender-Based.

Here it is: Sound Effects Film

Is it just me, or are the men actually no better than the women at making sound effects in this short film? They just don’t look as stupid doing it.

I would agree that the worst of the female sounds have been edited to appear at the beginning and I would agree that the men are better at imitating guns than the women. I would hazard a guess that this is because the men of this demographic — youngish and white as they all are — have had more practice listening to such sound effects while playing computer games and watching action films. Then there’s, you know, all those years of school yard play.

I also get the feeling from that film that the men are less inhibited about making such sounds.

But as one of the women says, why weren’t they asked to make a duck or something? I think women and men would be equally good at making duck noises. I can definitely do a better sheep imitation than my husband. Definitely. I think that’s to do with the fact that his voice dropped due to testosterone and mine didn’t. So, can a woman make another short film and get the men to make sheep noises and music boxes and babies crying, perhaps? Don’t ask them to stand on their own. Get them to stand with their friends, preferably after a few drinks.

We’d soon find out that women are just as good as men at making stupid sound effects with our mouths.

Related, sort of: Ever wondered how the dinosaur sounds got made in Jurassic Park? No? Not keeping you awake at night? Well, I guess you don’t need to check out the answer, then.

In this clip, Tom Myers talks about his job as sound designer for the Pixar animated film Monsters University (which I have no intention of seeing, BTW). He explains that he has to create the world from the ground up, unlike in regular (non-animated movies, in which there exists some diegetic sound to work with). It involved visiting real world locations on campus, though they didn’t get invited to any frat parties. They pan the dialogue a little more aggressively because the voice is so clean. The sound designers play with ‘reflection’ and ‘perspective‘ and tricks like that. They didn’t put a lot of ambient material in a scene which already had music. The last pass is the ‘foley’ pass, where they put in footsteps and things like that. The most important thing about sound editing is keeping the dialogue clear. (As the feet swell the sound of their footsteps change.) I’m sure that next time I watch an animated film I’ll be listening with newly appreciative ears.


Two Pieces Of Reading Theatre

Kate De Goldi discusses children’s literature with Kim Hill on Radio New Zealand Saturday Morning.

Reading theatre in children’s literature was pioneered by Paul Fleischman, who has done heaps and heaps of books, many different forms, for many different age groups. He is a one man master.

Bull Run by Paul Fleischman

American geography, civil war history… Even the adult reader will learn a lot from this. Photography came of age during this war so was the first war to be photographed. Fleischman writes this book with a series of monologues. There’s a woodcut at the top of each chapter which changes according to who it’s by — this woodcut serves as a beautiful example of a pictorial aid, but a very quiet one, which allows the reader to remember who is who.

There are also fantastic maps in the front, with great detail.

Bull Run was the first big battle of the Civil War. His basic theme is about what we bring to our expectation of battle as a country — excitement, a sense of righteousness. What we might regard as virtuous causes are actually not. He beautifully shows the dashed expectations and the horror of the battle through the different monologues. There’s a multicultural cast, pale of skin (so able to sign up, since the unions don’t want the blacks fighting for them). The photographer doesn’t really care who he’s photographing — capturing both sides. One of the photos is blurred to make the soldier look like a spirit, even before he is killed in battle.

The women are beautifully caught. Lily never actually goes to battle but is living a pretty degraded life.

The striking thing to a modern reader is how long it takes to hear of any news about what’s happening during war.

Flora watches all three of her sons go to war, but later on is called upon to nurse union soldiers.

Another man goes to war to find a family among the horses. What cuts him to the quick is what happens to the animals on the battle field.

This book stands out because it crosses race and gender lines in its telling.

This book will appeal to good readers and history buffs, but also to less good readers because the pieces are very short. This book would be a great teaching tool. While history buffs can become obsessed with the way a battle is actually fought, this book deals with the humanity in the war.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a medieval village

Laura Amy Schlitz is an increasingly well-known writer and very good. Schlitz is a librarian at a middle school in Baltimore and this book arose out of her love for history. She wrote a play set during the middle ages and all 17 children wanted a part, so she wrote a series of monologues so that each part would be as important as another. There are 22 different voices in this, all young characters, all different ways of looking at life around a medieval manor in 1255. From this you learn an awful lot about the period. For example what a ‘sniggler’ is — the vocabulary is amazing. She brings back words that have gone out of our language, but also she doesn’t stint on an adventurous vocabulary simply because of the younger age of her readers. She writes with a poet’s ear, with beautiful rhythm and phrasing. Interpolated between the monologue she gives little essays with factoids that can be skipped over or read in order. The pictures are beautiful woodcut illustrations by Robert Byrd. (He has also illustrated at least sixteen books for other authors, including Jack StokesRobert KrausBruce KrausLaura Amy SchlitzKathleen KrullMarilyn Jager Adams, and Paula Fox.)

This would be one great way of a primary school classroom working together to learn about the middle ages. This book really brings this period to life.

This author has just published Splendors and Gloom, a Victorian Gothic mystery involving puppet masters.

The Colour Of Sky

Prismatic Layers Of Air In Tuscany from My Modern Met

In Western cultures at least, little kids first learn to draw with a blue or (black for night-time) sky, and a yellow orb for the sun. In reality, sky can be many different colours (and the sun is white, but that’s a different blog post).

Why is the night sky turning red? from Discover Magazine

Watch As Clouds Convince You You’re Underwater from io9

Why Is The Sky Blue? from The Explainer

The illusion that lets you see ghosts of clouds, from io9

Clouds that look like a surrealist painting from Lost at E Minor

Why does the sky look green before a tornado? from Mental Floss

Changing the colour of the sky is a great way to significantly alter the mood of an illustration. A blue sky is cheerful, a stormy sky foreboding, an orange sky indicates evening, or early morning, and a purple sky might convety a fantastical or magic world.

What if you change the colour of the sky after the rest of the artwork has been done? I read a hint lately in a digital art manual which suggested filling a top layer with the colour of your sky, then setting it to multiply blend mode. This will tint the landscape/cityscape or whatever to the appropriate hue, since the colour of the landscape is influenced by the colour of the sky above. I haven’t had a chance to put this to use, but I did try it out anyway on an illustration I’d already done, and I do believe it would be a good way to get the sky matching the landscape, if you end up with a hue which draws attention to itself, or in which the sky looks somehow separate from the land.

Pixar’s 22 Rules Of Storytelling

Here are 22 rules of storytelling, according to one artist who worked on the storyboards.

These guidelines make a lot of sense to me.

The one I’d query is Number 12.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

I see what she’s getting at. She’s urging writers and storyboarders to strive for originality rather than settle for the easy option. Thing is, maybe it IS your first idea that was the best. It’s just as likely to be the second, third, fourth or the fifth. There is no magic number for how many ideas you have to come up with before you’ve found the right one. When you know, you know.

More On Storytelling:

Ira Glass

Anamorphic Illusions

Anamorphic illusions are an example of Trompe-l’œil (trick of the eye) style of art. This kind of art is traditionally seen in murals, but can be seen in modern interior design, for example when a mirror extends along one wall to make a room seem bigger.

If you’ve watched televised Australian football anytime in the past number of years you’ll have seen anamorphic illusions. I’m talking about those advertisements spray painted onto the grass — the ones which look not painted at all, but like real-life billboards, standing up on the grass — from the perspective of the camera which gives a full view of the field.

This is actually a paddy field in Japan, but you get the idea:

For some reason, Geekologie is calling it a rice ‘patty’ — maybe that’s an American thing?

These are relatively easy to make in these days of high-tech digital art and projection, but anamorphic illusions are a much older art form dating back to the 1500s.

You may have seen anamorphic chalk artists working on the footpath in tourist spots like Art Centers. Julian Beever is one such artist. Beever’s chalk masterpieces are so well done that I feel it’s almost a waste that they’re not painted. I wonder if it has ever started raining partway through his workflow, or worse, right at the very end? (You can find the answer to that on his FAQ page.) Another amazing anamorphic chalk artist is Kurt Wenner.

There are a number of books with optical illusions as their subject. Here is a list compiled at LibraryThing. Not too many of them incorporate optical illusions as part of a story — the vast majority are ‘Books Full Of Optical Illusions.’ In fact, at present there is only one fictional book about optical illusions in their database: Now You See It by Anne Capeci.

I would love to seem some great stories which happen to embed optical illusions of all kinds as part of the storyline.

David Zinn


40 Incredible Examples of Optical Illusions In Photographs from Bored Panda

Funny Optical Illusions from Visual News

Anamorphic Images Made From A Roomful Of Stuff from Visual News

Pencil Sketches That You Will Not Believe by Ramon Bruin from Odd Stuff Magazine, also shared by Twisted Sifter

Top 10 Illusions of 2012 from My Modern Met

Anamorphic Illusions from Fubiz





Flip The Picture

Artists who work on canvas often recommend a large mirror in the studio, because when you see your work-in-progress in reverse, any flaws you didn’t see previously become immediately apparent. When working digitally there is often a keystroke you can use to flip the canvas both horizontally and vertically, and I am trying to get into the habit of doing this more frequently.

Have you ever been to the When You See It website? It’s possible to waste hours at websites like those. This one displays seemingly harmless pictures, until you keep looking and find something very odd in it.

I came across this picture this morning and honestly I couldn’t tell what was wrong with it. Can you?

Yet when the image is flipped, it becomes immediately apparent what’s wrong.

In case you’re not on a mobile device right now, here’s the same image upside down:


This sort of thing is unlikely to happen in a digital painting (compared to all the ways in which it’s possible to stuff up with Photoshop), but flipping comes in handy nonetheless.

In Artrage, press ‘h’ to flip horizontally and ‘v’ to flip vertically. The image stays that way for only as long as you’re holding your finger on the key, so it’s very easy and very handy.


Why is it so difficult to ‘not’ see something once you have seen it? Find this question and lots of other creative questions suitable for circle time, home room and general discussion at Sparky Teaching

Communication Over Perfection

From a technical standpoint, Bob Dylan sucks at guitar.

…and harmonica.

…and singing.

…but he is a legendary communicator.

He was, at one point, the voice of a generation.

Bob Dylan is living proof that a lack of artistic skill does not prevent an artist from changing the world.

…but a lack of clear communication will keep all of your world-changing ideas, your ability to tell meaningful stories, locked inside your head.


from Free Yourself From Perfect,


The Curse Of Anatomy

Sometimes the postures in which artists freeze their subjects to gain the most animated effect are not even found in the real world. Galloping animals like horses are often depicted with both fore and hind legs outstretched. Quadrupeds only adopt such postures when leaping and never when running. But the depiction of rapid movement requires the full extension of the limbs even when such extension is unreal.

– Rudolph Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception