Leanne Barrett: 2017

Friday 29 December 2017

Illustration of Characters During December

Part of my focus for 2018 is designing characters. I decided that I could begin the journey by developing characters from my draft picture book stories. 

First off the rank, even though it's December 2017, is my character development of Max, my little dog that has moved to live in a city apartment.

The next step in developing my characters is to participate in some of Nina Rycroft online classes.

I joined Skillshare after Christmas and I have been working on drawing bunnies.
I have been copying Nina's illustrations and drawing my own bunnies from reference photos.

It was suggested that maybe a bunny might make an appearance in Max's story, on the farm and/or as a city pet.

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Illustration Goals for 2018 - Character Design

In 2018 I want to create illustrations where I focus on developing characters. I want these illustrations to go towards an illustration portfolio that I can present for appraisal then to show to publisher in 2019.

With this in mind I joined the illustrating group Character Design Weekly Challenge on 8 December 2017, this Facebook group was started by Heidi Cooper Smith on 5 December 2017. Already it is a fabulous supportive community.

I also plan to join the Nina Rycroft online classes via Skillshare. I have been wanting to do these classes for 6 months now and I look forward to learning drawing techniques to further develop my own illustration style.

I have been working on my watercolour and B & W, hen and duck illustrations for several months now and upon a request from my little sister it has culminated into this new rabbit character.

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Painting By Numbers

David Stuart
I always thought that painting by numbers was a commercial way to help non-artists paint.

I was wrong, totally wrong. I came to this realisation as I listened to David Stuart, former Australian Ambassador to Austria, talk about Ferdinand Lukas Bauer at the National Library of Australia on 20 October 2017.

Around the time of this talk I was mixing my own paints and unintentionally giving them numbers. I used these mixed  watercolours for my illustrations and then used the numbers to help me create hand painted copies of my own work.

Ferdinand Lukas Bauer.
Ferdinand was born in Feldsberg, Austria in 1760 and died in Vienna in 1826.

I found it intriguing how his life was touched by botany and art time and time again. Maybe this is because I find myself drawn again and again to Australian botanical watercolour artists; Dorothy English Paty  and Cheryl Hodges. It might also be the influence of  Australian writer and illustrator May Gibbs on my childhood and shadowing me and my aspirations to be a children's book author and illustrator. Or it could even be my own love of botany from 10 years of running a Landcare group and identifying native flowers on people's properties.

Monday 11 December 2017

SCBWI Story Time Exhibition Originals for Sale.

The following illustrations are available for purchase; 
Bantam's Books x 1, Riding High x 1 and Red Door x 1. 

Size: A4 (21 x 30 cm) - illustration size 13 x 18 cm
Medium: Watercolour and ink on paper.
       Cost: Unframed, $40 each + Free postage in Australia.
I can accept Direct Deposit only.
I cannot guarantee delivery before Christmas.

If interested please contact me - see sidebar on the web version of my website.  

Saturday 9 December 2017

Noticing the little things in life

As an writer and illustrator I  tend to work a lot of my day sitting at my kitchen bench or desk. My massage therapist reminds me that I need to regularly move and stretch, otherwise my muscles tighten and I suffer from back, hip and neck pain.

I try to remind myself that I need to take care of myself before I can create.

How do I do this?
I set my timer or my creative partner (my dog, Jay) reminds me to check my posture and stretch my muscles.
Jay sees his job (besides sleeping at my feet) as the one who guarantees that I stop every 3 to 4 hours for a short walk, a doggy toilet break as we live in a high-rise apartment.

These mini walks are fabulous for several reasons.

Friday 8 December 2017

Awards and Friends: A Celebration of 2017

Tania, Jacqueline & Gina
A mini children's book writers celebration.

Last night there were more children's writers present at the  ACT Writers Centre Awards Night than the previous year.
It was a special night as four of these writers received recognition for their work.

Congratulations to Canberra children's book writers.

ACT Book of The Year Award
Shortlisted: Fail Safe by Jack Heath

The ACT Writers Centre Publishing Awards.

Children’s Book Category:
Gina Newton, Amazing Animals of Australia's National Parks
Highly Commended:
Tania McCartney, Australia Illustrated

Anne Edgeworth Fellowship 

An award for an emerging young writer in the Canberra Region.
Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern was announced as a joint winner of this fellowship.

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Friday 1 December 2017

SCBWI Your Story

Shaye and Pauline
Wow! Canberra has a fabulous and engaged community of children's writers and illustrators. Over 30 people came to the final SCBWI ACT event of 2017 - Your Story.

Shaye Wardrop welcomed us with her vivacious smile and gave a huge welcome to the new SCBWI members in the room.

We listened to the faboulus advice from Cate Whittle and Pauline Deeves about how to prepare for school vists.

Grace Bryant gave attendees a 30 minute overview on how to build a website and to choose one social social media platform and do it well.

Then the night was wrapped up with Your Story, where members shared their achievements for 2017 in only 80 words or less.

Thursday 30 November 2017

Tania McCartney's November Launches with a Twist

It has been such a huge month for friend and fellow creator Tania McCartney.

Tania is always looking for new, exciting and original ways to connect with the community and in November she hosted two launches with a twist.

The first launch was a WINDOW REVEAL at Harry Hartog Bookseller in Woden on 13 November. The window reveal was part of her launch of her first Christmas book, Merry Everything. See a review here

The second launch was a MAP LAUNCH, 26 November, where we celebrated the launch of Tania's Australia Illustrated Map, see review here. This is her first map (she is currently working on a World Map) and you really have to get a copy to fully appreciate how much information she has packed into this map. There is so much to look at, just like if you travelled around Australia.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

SCBWI Story Time Opening Night

Twas the night of the opening, 
excitement was abound.

The artists were gathering and there was a giggling sound.

The paintings were hung by Grace and Pixie with care,
in the hope that the stories would soon be shared.

Family and friends were a twitter, 
enjoying the show,
and the artists were thrilled,
as more creativity flowed.

There were numbats and olives, rhinoceroses too.
With a number of koalas painted in a greyish blue.

There were mice and chickens and a few little ducks
So thanks to everyone who wished us good luck.

It was a fabulous night of celebration and cheer.
I do hope we get to do this again, next year.

Tuesday 28 November 2017

On my way with Scribbles

I joined Jen Storer's online course Scribbles a few weeks ago and in the last 24 hours I have made my Pledge and decorated my Notebook.

I made my Scribbles Pledge to make a mess and write, write, write. When signing my pledge I surrounded myself with items of significance to me. 

Things I love.
Things that help me create.
And a bowl that I created many years ago to remind me that I have been a creator for a long time.

My playlist was Dirty Dancing - I've had the time of my life, Hungry eyes and She's like the wind.

With me during my pledge is my ever constant companion and shadow - Jay. He has been with me for many years through good and bad times and times of great change. He even inspires me at times. Keeps me moving and lifts my spirit.

Monday 27 November 2017

Getting Reading for the SCBWI Story Time Art Exhibition

Create. Replicate. Frame. Pack. Celebrate.

DAUNTING is the first word I would use to described how I felt when I was invited (or was it coerced?) to be one of the artists showing their illustrations at SCBWI ACT's exhibition, Story Time. The exhibition is open from 6pm,    28 November to 10 December 2017 at Smith's Alternative Gallery, Canberra.

The second word is AFFIRMING. As an aspiring illustrator there are many moments of self doubt, is my work good enough to share? Thank you to my colleagues and friends for the lovely comments you have made about the my illustration sneak peaks.

The third word is SUPPORTIVE. I have appreciated the support that I have received from other creators over the past two months while I have created my exhibition illustrations. Thanks for the encouragement and tips.

Monday 13 November 2017

7 Day Black & White Photo Challenge

I was nominated by my friend Cate Whittle to join the 7 Day Black & White Photo Challenge.
No People. No Explanations.

Part of the challenge is to nominate others to join in - a modern chain letter! I did invite my little sister to join in because I know she likes photography and I felt that she would enjoy the challenge BUT I didn't invite anyone else to join after day 1.

During the challenge I wanted to show texture and form. 
In the bike photo I loved the shadows that were cast onto the pot. 
Day 1 - 5 are all taken in the New Acton precinct.

Tuesday 31 October 2017

Choosing and Mixing Colours for Illustrations

How do you choose the colours for your illustrations?
Do you make choices at random or from photos?
Where does your inspiration come from?

In September 2017 I attended the SCBWI ACT - Level Up Conference where author and illustrator, Tania McCartney, revealed that she liked the colours in the TV show 'Bewitched' and these colours are featured in one of her books.

Tania also spoke about colour sequence in picture books, choosing colours from reference images and paint swatches. She suggested that we use a limited palette for each book, creating a combination of mixed colours to give the illustrations in the book a consistent look.

Monday 23 October 2017

Writing, Book Lists and The Life to Come

It is always exciting to go to author talks but even better when you discover a 'new' author.

  1. A new reading list. Upon attending a 'new' author talk you leave with  not only their latest book but also a back-list of novels to read.
  2. You discover new worlds that this author creates.
  3. You learn how this author writes their books - a mini master class.
  4. With a  'new' author to follow you get a new book to add to your bedside table reading pile every one to two years.
A 'new' author.
The National Library of Australia (NLA) has given me a 'new' author to explore,
Michelle de Kretser, a Miles Franklin Literary Award winner.

A New Reading List

Michelle de Kretser's new release book featured in the NLA author talk
The Life to Come

My new reading list will also include the following books;
The Rose Grower
The Hamilton Case
The Lost Dog
Questions of Travel

Friday 20 October 2017

Canberra 52-Week Illustration Challenge Members Meet

Kelly, Amie, Sam, Irene,
Leanne, Genevieve, Tania
(Missing from photo - Delene)
This morning eight members from the 52-Week Illustration Challenge met in Canberra for the final time in 2017.

Everyone's artwork has progressed so much since the last meeting.

One of Canberra member's, aka Goldie Chemsford, has featured as pick of the week around seven times and we loved looking at the originals selected by the 52-Week Illo' Challenge Team.

We had a few new people join us and we enjoyed seeing their illustrations and how unique their style is. It is just so invigorating to meet with like minded people.

Our next meeting?

This one we thought we might try a Saturday arvo.

We plan to spend a little bit of time creating illustrations together.
Please bring equipment that is will not create a mess for our host cafe.

When: Saturday, 20 January 2018
(Please note new date! There is now a SCBWI ACT event on 13 January 2018)
Time: 2pm to 3.30pm
Where:  Cafe Twenty One, 21 Marcus Clarke Street, New Acton
RSVP: For numbers please leave a message below or contact me.
What to Bring: Please be brave and bring an illustration to share and something non-messy to create with.
Children are welcome.

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Diverse Landscapes That Feed Us: Call of the Reed Warbler

What's your interest the rural landscape and farming?

Everyone has a connection to farming via the food that we eat. It is important to be informed about what happens in our landscape and how our food is grown.     

The Reed Warbler called and the National Library of Australia (NLA) theatre filled with people who are interested in their role within the landscape. We gathered to listen to Charles Massy talk about his new book, Call of the Reed Warbler.

We have experienced dust storms in summer. We have heard about the need to plant trees and preserve our wildlife and wilderness. We have heard about how traditional methods of farming have contributed to the degradation of our landscape. We hear about genetically modified food but could our farming practices be impacting our health?

Degradation of Landscapes.
In the early 1980s my family bought land in the Cooma region as a weekend get away. We inherited a degraded landscape. Our hobby farm was a landscape of steep hills, mostly treeless plus some flatter 'farming' land. Walking across the landscape there were noxious weeds growing, introduced pasture grasses, erosion gullies deeper than four metres in some places and a few rabbit warrens.

Monday 16 October 2017

Friday 6 October 2017

Sunday 10 September 2017

Raining cats and dogs

52 Week Illustration Challenge: Week 30: Printing

For this week's illustration I wanted to create something that could become elements for a stencil. Later I would like to explore reprinting this design in a variety of colours.

See the 52-week Illustration Challenge page for more information about this art work that I have created.

Saturday 9 September 2017

Level Up Conference - Photos

Fabulous day at the SCBWI ACT - Level Up conference.

Inspirational, informative, fun and supportive. 

An overview of the event shortly.

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Listen to Trees: David Haskell author of The Songs of Trees

George Berkeley is quoted to say “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

I'm sure that they do. Trees are are surrounded by a network of symbiotic lifeforms that would hear and feel if a tree fell in a forest. If we stop and listen to trees, by being open to the moment, we will find that they are "... nature's great connectors, we learn how to inhabit the relationships that give life its source, substance and beauty," says writer and scientist, David George Haskell, a professor of Biology and Environmental Studies.

David George Haskell in conversation with Genevieve Jacobs, at the National Library of Australia (NLA), shared his thoughts about trees and his new book The Songs of Trees, with an audience of more than 50 people.

As a member of the audience I could relate to what David had to say. Trees have sung songs to me for a long time now. 
  • In my childhood there was the favourite wattle tree we would climb in our back garden.
  • I loved eating fruit off my Blood Plum tree.
  • My siblings and friends would play in groves of Snow Gums at the family farm near Bredbo.
  • My grandmother used to take me to a playground near Yarralumla Primary School, where I would visit an old Cork tree.
  • On Thursdays my Mum used to visit the banks on Jardine Street in Kingston, where the Oak trees lined the street. While Mum was in the bank we would collect and play with the leaves and acorns from these magnificent large trees.
  • When husband and I owned a farm (43 acres) on the outskirts of Canberra we planted 4000 plus native trees, 100 poplar trees and 50 plus other deciduous trees. These trees were planted for varies reasons; wildlife corridors, assist in bring back the birds, windbreaks, to add biodiversity, to improve the heath of remnant trees, create memories, for beauty and aesthetics. 
  • As a property owner and landcarer the preservation of our remnant forest was very important it contained Snow Gums, Yellow Box, Broad-leafed Peppermints and Apple Boxes both living and dead. (Oh how I cried when the new property owners cut down all the dead trees and removed all of the dead wood off the ground.)
  • Today I listen to an Oak tree in a courtyard in the CBD of Canberra.
It is therefore no a surprise that I was entranced by what David had to say about trees and their connectivity to the environment, which includes us humans. 

Monday 4 September 2017

Susie Beaver: gallery owner and inspirational role model

On a cold winter's Sunday, in July, an audience of over 50 people came to the National Library of Australia to hear a winter's tale from Susie Beaver, co-owner of Beaver Galleries in Deakin.

Susie Beaver is descended from a long line of  family members that have left their mark on Australian history and culture.

Susie's maternal third great-grandfather, Alfred Barker was a seaman on the ship Rapid that arrived at Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island in 1836. He later became a cattle and sheep farmer in South Australia. Alfred Barker married Priscilla Chambers in 1842, she arrived in Australia on the John Renwick in 1837 to Holdfast Bay, Adelaide. Priscilla's contribution to the St Andrew's School in Walkerville, SA was recognised with a room being named after her in 1901, for more information see here.

One of the many inspirational women in Susie's family was her second great grandmother, Sophie Jane Brown nee Torr, who married Alfred Edward Barker. Sophie is most notably known in the family, for giving birth to around 16 children and then continuing to grow the family further by fostering and adopting orphans.

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Artists their Stunners and Love: Beauty in Thorns

Art, poetry, love, beauty, dreams, betrayal, pain and fairy tales are all included in Kate Forsyth's new book, Beauty in ThornsKate's Canberra book launch was held at the National Library of Australia (NLA) on 20 July 2017, for the audio and transcript of the talk see here.

I love the stories that Kate Forsyth brings to readers; 

I first met Kate at an event in Canberra for the launch of her first children's picture book Grumpy Grandpa and was impressed with her gentleness and passion. It is this passion, gentleness and strength that comes to the fore in how Kate writes, researches and how she connects with her fans.

Monday 28 August 2017

Dragons and Vets: August Children's Book Author Talks @ Harry Hartog

Have you ever dreamed of ....
Having a dragon as a special friend?
Being a vet when you grow up?

If your answer is yes, then the authors hosted by Harry Hartog Bokseller
Westfield Woden in August have written the perfect books for you.

Wednesday 16 August 2017

I wish I could read Japanese: Literature Themes of Melodrama in Meiji Japan

I wish that I could read a language other than English, especially Japanese, since visiting the  Melodrama in Meiji Japan exhibition at the National Library of Australia. The exhibition is open until 27 August 2017.

I never thought about the specific content of the books that would be in the exhibition. I was planning to see the exhibition to view the beautiful images, kuchi-e, made from woodblock prints. I went to the May talk by Gary Hickey, curator and scholar of Japanese art, to find out more about the pictures in the exhibition. See here to listen to this talk. 

While viewing the art and reading the information on the section and object labels, located next to the artworks I realised that I was becoming interested in the content of the books. As a aspiring writer and a veracious reader of fantasy, mythology, historical fiction and romance that many of the themes of the kuchi-e and their books intrigued me. 

Wednesday 9 August 2017

Creators, do you have a online presence?

When I discover the work of a fabulous creator, I love to find out more about them. 
So I pull out my phone to look them up on the internet.

I type their name into my search engine.
No matches for my search.

I try another search.
This time I type in their name and profession as part of the search.
The results only mentions them on other websites but there no links to their website or social media accounts.

I try Facebook - Hit - but it seems to be their personal page.

I really like their work.
I want to get to know them better.
Where can I see their work again?
Do they have a new book coming out soon?

Nothing is more frustrating than looking up a creator and they have no online presence or no useful online presence.

Saturday 29 July 2017

Anatomy of a Picture book with Bob Graham

Today was a beautiful day for so many reasons.
One. The sun was out. 
And two. Bob Graham was talking @ Muse Canberra, Eat Hotel, Kingston.

Bob Graham came to Canberra a few days ago to open a new exhibition, Imagine If.. by The National Centre for Australian Children's Literature, with Muse being one of the sponsors of the exhibition. In addition to the exhibition Muse Canberra hosted Bob for two events today, one for children and another for adults. 

Bob began the adults session by standing at the front of the room, resting his right hand on the back of his head in an unassuming way and said, 'I've never talked to a room of writers and illustrators before.

If I was only allowed two words to describe Bob it would be gifted and humble.

Imagine If... Exhibition Opening.

Welcome to the new National Centre for Australia Children's Literature (National Centre) exhibition, Imagine If... at the University of Canberra (UC). 

10 July to 30 August 2017.  Open Monday – Friday 10.00am – 2.00pm in the Clive Price Suite, Building 1, Level C, University of Canberra (map here).

The Imagine If... exhibition showcases the creative process of creating children's books. On a display are 40 artworks by everyone's favourites, including Bob Graham, Freya Blackwood, Shaun Tan, Jane Tanner, Graeme Base & 14 others. The artworks include framed illustrations, storyboards, manuscripts and other memorabilia. The illustrations come from the National Centre's collection and the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA).

The National Centre's collection, is of great historical and social value to all Australians. Its collection is now valued at over $10M. The National Centre holds; 
  • 36 years of children's books donated by Australian publishers and creators
  • 32,000 books with 3,500 of these in 55 languages
  • 65 collections of authors; papers and manuscripts, and illustrator's artworks
  • 2 publishers' archives
  • audio, photographs, realia and rare material
  • 52 Cultural Gifts donated under the Department of Communications and the Arts.

At the Imagine If...  opening event we were regaled by supportive and enthusiastic supporter of the National Centre and children's literature. 

Friday 28 July 2017

Canberra 52-Week Illustration Challenge Members

Kelly, Ami, Tania, Genevieve, Leanne, Shaye & Cate (plus Jen)
This morning members from the 52-Week Illustration Challenge meet in Canberra for the second time in 2017.

It was a fabulous morning of networking with 'old' and new friends. Its just wonderful to meet with like minded people.

We shared our art.
We shared our stories.

We shared some of our favourite art mediums.
We shared tips and hints.

Our next meeting?

When: Friday 20 October 2017
Time: 10am to 11.30am 
Where: A.Baker in The New Acton Courtyard, 15 Edinburgh Ave, New Acton 
RSVP: For numbers please leave a message below or contact me. 
What to Bring: Please be brave and bring an illustration to share and your favourite art medium or equipment to show everyone.
Children are welcome.

Thursday 27 July 2017

Illustrating with Flair: The Art of Creating Books for Children

What kind of illustration are you interested in doing?
To find out the answer to this question and more we gathered at Gungahlin Library to attend a workshop by award winning author and illustrator, Stephanie Owen Reeder.

Stephanie showed us examples of books that highlighted the variety of illustrations that are found in children's literature;

  • picture book illustration
  • cover art
  • concept books
  • younger chapter books with black and white illustrations
  • illustrated books - novel style book that includes illustrations

What is your style?
Do you already have a style? I am not sure what my style is and during my year of creative discovery the 52-Week Illustration Challenge is helping me find my style. I know that I like working with watercolour paints but I am also currently exploring collage and acrylics.

  • What mediums do you like to work in?

Friday 21 July 2017

Art Journal: Collage of Hearts

I love attending art classes with Sylvia Marris because her intuitive painting stretches me outside of my usual style and comfort zones. This is a place where I can try out different;

  • processes
  • art mediums
  • stamps
  • stencils
  • collage
  • acrylic paint pens
  • designs and doodles

Using an Art Journal.
This week I began my Art Journal. The art journal is a place that I can explore without judgements (I feel this way about all my my art @ Sylvia's). A place where I can add left over paint to explore other art elements using layering at another time. It is also a place where I can doodle designs without judgement.

Wednesday 19 July 2017


52-Week Illustration Challenge: Week 29: Swing
This week I wanted to focus on doing a more 'illustrative' type of picture. The illustration is a girl swinging off a rope into water.

See the 52-week Illustration Challenge page for more information about this art work that I have created.

Why do some artists produce work sporadically?

Card and Envelope
Gigantic Lilly (Doryanthes excelsa), Newcastle, 6 Nov 1835
Ever wondered about the number of works that a female artist produces?

This thought struck me during a recent talk by Treasurers Curator, Nat Williams at the National Library of Australia (NLA), Life and Death - Dorothy English Paty's Newcastle

So how many works do artists produce? 
Some artists create works daily, called by their creative need to create continuously. While other artists create sporadically or they express their artistic ability creating less traditional productions.

I wonder if the amount of work that an artist produces and whether we consider ourselves artists could be directly linked to our artistic pursuits towards the end of our high school education? Maybe at this point of our artistic endeavours we could be categorised into three main groups of artistic pursuits. 
  1. You were discouraged to pursue your art interest at school beyond year 10 and were told to pick something else as 'Art is not a real subject.'  
  2. You studied art for your High School Certificate but followed other pursuits after school.
  3. You continued your artistic pursuits well beyond your school years.
If you categorise yourself in groups one and two you have probably dipped in and out of your artistic pursuits, letting less traditional artistic productions be the expression of your creativity.