Friday, 10 August 2018

Erin Balzer – a double winner at the SCBWI Summer Conference!

Our lovely illustrator Erin Balzer attended the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Summer Conference in Los Angeles last weekend, where she participated in the Summer Conference Juried Portfolio Showcase and won two awards! She received the Honor award and was one of six artists chosen for the Mentorship Program award.

(the Honour Award winners)

The Portfolio Showcase is an annual event at the SCBWI, where each portfolio submitted is viewed by a panel of judges and mentors (as well as faculty and conferees attending the conference) who then select a Grand Prize winner and two Honor Awards winners. Honor Award winners are given the opportunity to have a portfolio and style critique over the phone with an Art Director.

(the Mentorship Program Award winners)

Winners of the Mentorship Program award are chosen by members of the SCBWI board, who each choose one illustrator to become a Mentee. Winners get the chance to meet with their Mentor for a one-on-one 15-minute session where they can discuss the their work and get critiques, suggestions, and feedback. Mentors and Mentees also meet as a group to share tips and create career development strategies. This is a fantastic opportunity for illustrators to have their excellent work recognized and receive advice on how to advance and improve their careers.

Erin was delighted with her awards, saying ‘I had the pleasure of connecting with art directors at penguin, Simon & Schuster and so many others. I was completely shocked and I am still in a daze from it all.‘


Congratulations, Erin, from some very proud Plums at Plum Pudding!

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Nabbing Rabbits and The Times - How to Nab a Rabbit is Children's Book of the Week!

"Monika Filipina’s illustrations have just the right amount of energy" - Alex O'Connell, the Times


Many congratulations to Claire Freedman and our new Plum Pudding illustrator Monika Filipina, whose brilliant book How to Nab a Rabbit has been chosen as the Times newspaper's Children's Book of the Week!



How to Nab a Rabbit is a hilarious guide written by the Big Bad Wolf himself on how to nab a rabbit, with tips and tricks on bears, traps, and springs with too much hop!  


For hungry wolves, this book is a winner, 

It shows you how to catch your dinner. 

Love bunny pie and rabbit stew?

They’ll soon become your dream come true.



Monika Filipina is one of the newest Plums to join the Plum Pudding family, and her vibrant and expressive illustrations really bring stories to life. We're very excited to be working with her and to see what she comes up with next! 


You can read the fantastic review of How to Nab a Rabbit on the Times website here: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/review-how-to-nab-a-rabbit-by-claire-freedman-and-monika-filipina-nw252kxn5




Monday, 6 August 2018

Welcome to the Plum Family, Laia Arriols!

We're very excited to welcome Laia Arriols to the Plum Pudding Family! Read on to get to know her a bit better:



Where do you live/work?
I live and work in Reus, Catalonia. about 100 km south from Barcelona.

What do you like about living there?
Although Reus isn’t a (very) beautiful town, it is where I was born and I like it!  It’s a medium town with a cinema, theatre, live music, shopping centers, museums, beautiful local festivities… and it’s located in a very good place between the beach and the mountains. Also, you can travel to Barcelona within an hour! So, that’s perfect for me :)

What do you love most about being an illustrator?
What I love the most is be able to express my feelings and my inner world and share it with other people. Drawing is also a really great way to self-knowledge, and helped me to grow and heal some soul wounds.

How do you work – what are your techniques?
Now I’m 100% digital and I used to work with a Wacom Intuos pro. That improved my eye-hand-drawn skills because in the past I used to only draw with the mouse by creating different geometrical shapes to compose an illustration.

What is your favourite thing to draw and why?
I have some repeated themes and characters: Space themes, fruits and fairies. And I really don’t know why, ha ha ha! I also love to draw children, especially my daughters, nieces and nephews, and my friend’s children.



Do you have a favourite illustrator?
No, I can’t name just one… I love lots of illustrators from all times and styles: Miroslav Sasek, Lauren Child, Rose Capdevila, Cesc, Tomi Ungerer, Oliver Jeffers, Dick Bruna, Quentin Blake, Alain Glée, Marc Boutavant, Coco Escribano, Beatrice Blue, Jean Jullien, Blanca Gomez, Susie Hammer, Toru Fukuda, Rebecca Green, Marc Sardà… and many many others! I can’t stop! 

How did you get into illustration?
I started by drawing my daughters so as not to publish photographs of them on social networks. I started in 2009 (aprox) when I was 33, so I was a (bit of a) late bloomer :)

What or who are you most inspired by?
Firstly, my daughters. Also my family and friends. Cartoons, comics and children’s books in general, movies, tv series, and music. And many other things related to the children’s world: from fashion to toys or crafting.

Do you have a particular favourite character that you’ve illustrated?
Yes, Ballerina. It is a drawing of my elder daughter Joana when she was 6 or 7. She is dancing under a cloud (it was her ballet debut and it was cancelled because of the rain, so I decided to draw it). I’d never liked ballet and I’d never imagined that an illustration like “Ballerina” could have opened a door for me to a new profession: illustration!



What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not illustrating?
Do anything and go anywhere with my daughters, photography, going hiking, listening to music, watching tv series and reading books, comics, or children’s literature.

What are your three top tips for aspiring illustrators?
Lots of practice, lots of patience, and endless curiosity for any artistic form (like graffiti, typography, photography, sculpture, ceramics, gardening or textile design).

What were your favourite books when you were younger?
Comics: Tintin, Mafalda, and Peanuts were my favorites. Also adventure books like “The Famous Five” by Enid Blyton and, as I grew up a little, Agatha Christie’s mystery novels :D

What was the last book you read? What did you think? 
Instrumental by James Rhodes. A very hard and sad story of the pianist and musician but also a life lesson of overcoming.

What are your aspirations for the rest of 2018?
Start a new stage in my illustration career and develop my drawing technical skills :)

What’s your ultimate dream?
To publish a children’s illustrated book :)

Monday, 23 July 2018

A chat with our fab new artist, Monika Filipina!

Monika Filipina is a very talented new addition to our Plum Family- read about her life as an illustrator below!



Where do you live/work?
I live in my hometown Torun in Poland with my husband, son, and two cats in a loft apartment where I work in a small studio space on the attic.

What do you like about living there?
Torun is a lovely city with beautiful old town, where you can find lots of cafes and restaurants.
Our place is really charming too but gets super hot in the summer! I like working from home. I enjoy my studio space and the fact that I am free to start and finish work whenever I want to. It also means that I can wash the dishes and do the laundry while working (not really).

What do you love most about being an illustrator?
Everything. Ever since I can remember I loved to draw and dreamed that one day I will be able to make living out of it. I love drawing, painting, books and being surrounded by beautifully designed things. Being an illustrator means that I get to do what I love for most of the time. I can also do it wherever I want to. Sometimes we go away to the woods with my family for a couple of weeks and I am free to take my work with me there.
It also means that I can have huge children’s books collections with no shame.

How do you work – what are your techniques?
I usually use gouache paints and colour pencils, but I also love incorporating collage into my illustrations. I have recently started to work a little more in digital, but I still prefer raw, hands on techniques.

What is your favourite thing to draw and why?
Cats. They make fantastic models and every cat is such a character!



Do you have a particular favourite character that you’ve illustrated?
This changes, but that would definitely be an animal of some sort. I usually get attached to the character I work on at the particular moment. Currently my favourite is a little mouse.

What or who are you most inspired by?
I get inspired by many things - nature, animals, children, holidays, funny situations, books. I believe that everything in our every day life can be inspiring. When I feel that I particularly need some inspiration I like to take a break, go for a walk in the woods or coffee in the old town.

Do you have a favourite illustrator?
There is a few that I particularly like - Marta Altes, Oliver Jeffers, Beatrice Allemagna, Kate Hindley, Benjamin Chaud. 

What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not illustrating?
I like yoga, fitness and reading books.  On the weekends I enjoy traveling with my husband and son.



How did you get into illustration?
I always dreamed of being an artist. From a young age I took art classes and finished art high school, but instead of applying for University of Arts, I suddenly stopped believing that my dream would ever be possible. I tried to study Political Sciences and Polish philology which I both found extremely boring. I decided to go to Scotland to work over the summer. At the time I really missed art so after the summer, instead of going back home I went to college and took art classes. When I found out that in the UK it is possible to actually study ILLUSTRATION that was it! I knew I had to apply. I did not really believe in myself this time either so by the time I got my acceptance letter back I was already home! That meant, that once again  I had to pack everything and move back to the UK. Right after my BA got my first illustration job and decided to take an MA course in Children’s Books Illustration in Cambridge.

What are your three top tips for aspiring illustrators?
Believe in your dreams, never give up and draw as much as possible.

What were your favourite books when you were younger?
I loved "Winnie the Pooh” and "Just so Stories”. I also grew up with Harry Potter and read every book a couple of times.

What was the last book you read? What did you think? 
 I am currently reading Jo Nesbo’s series about Harry Hole, the last book I finished was "Nemesis”. I loved it - I could read his books all the time and once I start I can’t stop!

What are your aspirations for the rest of 2018?
To complete the deadline and to do a little bit more travelling before the summer is gone!

What’s your ultimate dream?
I would love to move to a greek island and focus on working on my own picture books!