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A closer look at illustration – NZCYA finalists

July 30th, 2020 By Crissi Blair

Once upon a time, illustration was done with paper and paint, and some artists still employ these methods. But now illustrators are just as likely to have used digital means to create the images, and the skills are such that you might not be able to tell how they were made.

The finalists for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults (NZCYA) Russell Clark Award for Illustration have used the full range of media to create these stunning, intricate, and nuanced books, each worth close examination to appreciate the skill and visual details invested on each page.

This blog post is the final in a series reviewing books on the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults (NZCYA) shortlist in the run-up to the announcement of the award winners on 12 August.

Promotional image: New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults — 2020 Illustration Award finalists with book covers
. Russell Clark Award for Illustration 2020 finalists. Image via New Zealand Book Awards Trust.

The shortlist

Dozer the Fire Cat

Dozer the Fire Cat by Robyn Prokop, illustrated in watercolour by Jenny Cooper, is based on real events during fires in Nelson in 2019. Read an interview with Robyn and Jenny about the origins of the book.

Jenny used her own cat, The Mooch, as her artist’s model for Dozer. As Dozer is based on a true story, it was tricky to illustrate, requiring a balance of real-life references, but without being too scary for the young audience.

Jenny has been illustrating picture books for around 30 years, winning many awards including the prestigious Mallinson Rendel Illustrators Award.

Santa's Worst Christmas

Isobel Joy Te Aho-White (Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Kahungungu ki te Wairoa) is an artist with a passion for the natural world and te ao Māori. She has illustrated for educational, news, and other publications.

Isobel Joy has used Procreate and custom brushes to portray the fun side of Christmas and Kiwi life in Santa’s Worst Christmas, written by Pania Tahau-Hodges and Bryony Walker.

See the story animated and read aloud in TVNZ's Goodnight Kiwi bedtime stories.

This book is also an NZCYA finalist for the Picture Book Award and the Best First Book Award. The te reo Māori edition is a finalist for the Te Kura Pounamu Award.

Song of the River

Kimberley Andrews won the NZCYA Illustration Award in 2019, for 'Puffin the Architect'. This year, she's a finalist for her revisioning of Joy Cowley’s story Song of the River, first illustrated in 1994 by Elizabeth Fuller.

Kimberley’s illustrations for the story, in which a young boy follows the path of water from his mountain home down to the ocean, were inspired by her childhood in the Canadian Rockies.

An article in 'The Sapling' explains how Kimberley created the illustrations, from sketching out the characters and incorporating different ‘camera angles’ in her layout, through to the final ‘painting’ in Photoshop, using a muted, natural palette of colours.

The Adventures of Tupaia

Comics artist Mat Tait illustrated The Adventures of Tupaia (written by Courtney Sina Meredith). See some of the artwork in this book trailer.

The illustrations were done digitally, using Photoshop and a Wacom tablet. Close attention was paid to detail and the work involved many hours of research. Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum were partners in this publication and helped with references for the likes of waka, clothing, and taonga. The publication was initially produced to accompany the museum's 2019/2020 exhibition 'Voyage to Aotearoa: Tupaia and the Endeavour'.

Read about Mat's experience illustrating Tupaia. And download the Book and Beyond guide for 'The Adventures of Tupaia' as a prompt for exploring, reflecting on, and discussing elements of the book with students.

The book is also a finalist for the NZCYA Non-fiction Award.

Wildlife of Aotearoa

Gavin Bishop ONZM (Ngati Pukeko, Ngati Awa, Ngati Mahuta, Tainui) has appeared regularly in the finalists for the NZCYA awards. He won the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and Elsie Locke Non-fiction Award in 2018 for Aotearoa: The Story of New Zealand, the companion to this year’s finalist Wildlife of Aotearoa.

This large-format book is lush with imagery, created in Gavin’s distinctive ink-and-watercolour illustrations, the result of wide-reaching research across the gamut of New Zealand’s fauna, from the vast oceans that surround us, to our native treasures, and the creatures that inhabit our farms and homes. Find out how Gavin worked on this book in his Sapling interview with Selina Tusitala Marsh.

Gavin also supports the future of picture book illustration through the Storylines Gavin Bishop Award for an unpublished illustrator.

Have a close look at the illustrations

I encourage you to closely examine all the details in these outstanding books. There are always interesting details waiting to surprise those who spend time with them, rather than just reading through the text and flicking to the next page.

Congratulations to all these amazing artists. A visual treasure indeed!

Read more about picture books

See some of the NZCYA finalists in action

Now that you've read all about the finalists for the awards, you might like to see some of them in action and hear stories being read aloud.

The Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA) has coordinated a wide-reaching programme of read-alouds and visits from authors and illustrators in schools and libraries across New Zealand.

LIANZA meet-the-finalists events and storytimes sessions

Videos will be uploaded to the LIANZA YouTube channel and links appear on the Books Alive calendar as events happen.

If you haven't already, download the NZCYA Activity Booklet (pdf, 8.7MB) — full of activities for each category of the awards and suitable for everyone from preschoolers to teens.

And get ready for the big day

The big day when the winners will be announced is Wednesday 12 August, 6pm to 7pm.

Subscribing and switching on notifications for the NZCYA YouTube channel will ensure you receive a reminder.

Register for the event to watch via Facebook Live. You might like to jot down your own picks for the winners before the event starts and see if you choose the same books as the judges!

Thanks for joining us

Thank you for taking this journey through the NZCYA finalist books with us.

There are so many terrific titles that we want to see shared far and wide!

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