Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Guest post from Gemma O'Neill!

Hello there. My name is Gemma O’Neill and I’m a UK based illustrator. I’m absolutely thrilled to be a guest blogger today and I’m ecstatic about the publication of my first picture book with Templar Publishing Oh Dear, Geoffrey! on the 1st January.

The tale revolves around a rather tall and clumsy giraffe called Geoffrey. He annoys all the other animals with his long legs and neck, until one day he finds he can show his friends something they have never seen before; the stars.

Geoffrey first appeared during the final year of my degree at University College Falmouth in 2011. I’ve always loved animals and natural history, so it seemed logical to base a story around one of my favourite animals. I love how tall giraffes are and their beautiful patterns. Texture, rich colours, and organic form play a large part in my work, so it was an absolute dream to start developing a giraffe as a central character. Then it wasn’t long before a concept based around the advantages and disadvantages of being so tall took shape. I have a tendency to overcomplicate ideas, so the more simplified the initial concept is the better.

By the time the Bologna Book Fair came around in Spring 2011, Geoffrey had his very own picture book, a cover and four coloured double page spreads. A few friends and I had been planning a trip to the fair since the summer before. So off we went with our illustration hampers. These included dummy books, portfolios, sketchbooks, business cards, sample illustration sheets and other goodies. We even replaced our identification necklaces with our business cards just to stand out.

We visited the Templar stand first and were greeted by the lovely Helen Boyle, who took the time to sit down with us and have a look at our work. We were then introduced to the wonderful Amanda Wood, who invited us to the London Book Fair the following week. I had absolutely no idea that my first book deal was just around the corner. I thought all the feedback would be great for the professional practice unit of my degree and a great warm up for taking our illustration hampers to New York a month later. It was a real adventure, surprise and without a doubt the happiest moment of my life to date was when the Templar team said they would publish my book.

So I left my degree with the book deal. I started developing Geoffrey further after my first visit to the exciting Templar headquarters. The book ended up having a lot more pages than originally planned and even more characters. I was very surprised and flattered not to be told to alter my illustrative style in any way. I work very intricately and traditionally using gouache, watercolours and collage, but tweak the work using Photoshop. The Templar team were an absolute dream to work with and the whole book making process felt very natural.

It’s obvious now, that I’ve been on an illustrative path since my childhood. As far back as I can remember I’ve always been creating, crafting, making, doodling, colouring and inventing. Or if I wasn’t doing that, I was tucked up in my favourite armchair with a book, tea and biscuits. I knew I wanted to be an author/ illustrator well before the end of school and my A-level choices of English Literature, Business, Art and Design reflected this. I was absolutely determined to do a degree in Illustration afterwards. However, I still decided to go through an art and design foundation course. I’m really glad I did, as it confirmed my love for illustration even further and gave me the confidence to travel form the North Coast of Ireland to Cornwall.

Creativity definitely defined my childhood, teenage years and I can’t wait for it to define the years to come. Roll on churning out the next book with Templar Publishing and I hope Oh Dear, Geoffrey brings some warmth to this January for you!

Happy New Year!

Thank you very much to Gemma for starting off our 2013 with this fab blog post! Find out more about Oh Dear, Geoffrey! here or on our website.

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