Friday, November 1, 2013

An Aussie Year - Sneak Peek

You know how I love picture books, especially ones that celebrate our unique Aussie way. That's why I'm super excited this month to be introducing you to what is bound to become a new Aussie classic - An Aussie Year - Twelve Months in the Life of Australian Kids by talented author, Tania McCartney. It's sure to find its way into every Aussie household and quite a few Christmas parcels for families overseas as well.

I am also one of the select few to be given the opportunity to share a sneak peek at illustrator, Tina Snerling's gorgeous, whimsical illustrations. Tina joins us today Under the Apple Tree to share her industry secrets AND offer a gift for one lucky reader - An Aussie Year Greeting Pack featuring images from the book. Just read to the end of this post on how to win.

(Oct 2013, EK Publishing, $19.99, hard cover, 9781921966248)
by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

Meet Ned, Lily, Zoe, Kirra and Matilda
––three Aussie kids keen to take you on a journey through a year 
in the life of Australian children,
 from cultural celebrations to traditions and events, to our everyday way of life.

An Aussie Year is a picture book bursting with national pride. 

It is a snapshot of who we are as a nation, 
covering our melting-pot culture, lifestyle and traditions. 
Its pages feature trailing, meandering text, dates and gorgeous illustrations 
showing our five Aussie children at play, at school, at home, 
enjoying their homeland––from the tropical north to our rugged west.

Trailing through the seasons and idiosyncrasies endemic to each month of the year,

 this is Our Australian Childhood.

October heralds the start of school holidays for most Aussie kids. 
Daylight saving begins, the weather is starting to warm up, 
and we love to jump in the car and go on road trips.

Hi Tina! Welcome to Under the Apple Tree. 

I love the image of the car with surfboard piled high with suitcases... Tina, can you share your process for this particular image - from first sketch, to roughs, to finished artwork? Do you work first on paper, or does it all begin digitally? Is this your favourite method for working?

It is funny you should choose this illustration. Working on 'An Aussie Year' was such an involved process; even our husbands and kids had their say. In this image my husband is a keen 4WD fanatic and wanted the illustration to depict that! Every illustration has a little bit of 'us' in it, and the surfboard, suitcases and clothes flying out the top are actually personal memories of my childhood holidays with my family on the beach! I remember losing my favourite dress from off the roof racks.

Oh, now that's a picture book idea to note down! 

Summer fruit begins to grow and our backyard plum and apple trees pop with fruit. 
We celebrate World Teacher’s Day this month, as well as United Nations Day.
 Some schools dress up in multicultural costumes.
October also hosts a special week—it’s Children’s Week! 
Lots of fun things happen all around the country, 
and we get to celebrate just being a kid.
The five child characters are super cute. Tina, how do you approach character development? I notice they are of varied cultural backgrounds.

The initial idea for varied cultural backgrounds was Tania's, and I was able to create the characters based on this. The characters were actually developed a few years before we officially began on 'An Aussie Year', so they were 'revamped' quite a bit to get to the end result. In the beginning I sketched over 20 characters in varying styles before we got our final kids! The initial process begins with age, gender, colour and a basic idea of what personality I wanted for them. Each one has their own little personal touches that follows through the seasons and months.  It was important to create the features, hairstyles and outfits that could be carried through the entire book. They were then sketched front on, side on and from behind to suit most poses within the book. Each illustration was then adapted using these basic poses. We wanted the characters to remain in the same outfit to maintain familiarity, however in the winter months coordinating pieces were added to suit the climate.

As far as the process goes, I work differently to most illustrators. I do not draw initial sketches on paper and scan finished art into Adobe Illustrator. I begin my ideas directly into Illustrator, and the illustration evolves daily from there. I do not have a single paper sketch from 'An Aussie Year' as all stages are created digitally. This is by far my favourite method as I only begin with a basic idea and further ideas come when I start to draw digitally. The final images in the book are evolved pictures from hundreds of hours of work! My Wacom is my best friend!

Halloween is an ancient tradition first practised in Europe and the British Isles. 
Sometimes we dress up in spooky costumes and have a party. 
We love how different traditions, from all over the world, filter into our Aussie-kid life.
I love how the meandering text in An Aussie Year works together in harmony with the illustrations. Did you work closely with a book designer to achieve this or is it largely your own design? 

In this instance, I was the book designer! Exisle Publishing allowed Tania and I a huge amount of creative freedom for 'An Aussie Year', and together we worked very closely to achieve a layout that best showcased the story and illustrations. We went through numerous layouts until we came to the final one. Given the vast number of illustrations per page, it was at times challenging to get the perfect amount of text, illustration and white space, but after nearly twelve months of very long days and nights, we achieved a great balance.

You certainly did, Tina. And I am not surprised that it took so long - An Aussie Year is filled with so many illustrations with matching text. Children will enjoy reading and discovering new things on every page time and time again. Congratulations on the release of An Aussie Year and your collaboration with the lovely Tania McCartney - author.

Thank you so much!  This book has been a dream come true for both of us - fingers crossed Australia supports it and realises how important a book it will be for every child!

Tina Snerling is a designer, illustrator, artist, web designer, seamstress and mum. She adores Paris, fabric, design and paper. She lives a very illustrated life—one day she’s creating children's books, the next she’s creating websites (in between the washing and school lunches!). She’s the type who has a notebook by her bed because most good ideas happen when you’re supposed to be sleeping. She lives in Brisbane with her two gorgeous poppets and one gorgeous husband. You can see more of her work here.

WIN! An Aussie Year Greeting Card Pack

To celebrate the release of An Aussie Year, I'm giving away a pack of exclusive An Aussie Year cards, valued at $41.70! To win, just leave a comment on this post, 25 words or less, telling me which October tradition you celebrate with your children and why.

Tania McCartney is a book-obsessed author, editor, reviewer, photographer, traveller, mum of two and wife of one. She simply adores words and paper—and would ingest them if she could (though she’ll settle for a good coffee). She frequently flits around cyberspace but can also be seen visiting schools and libraries, running workshops, reading to kids or pushing tomes onto unsuspecting shoppers in bookshops. Tania lives in Canberra, but would like to live inside a book.

An Aussie Year Virtual Tour Schedule

Join Ned, Zoe, Lily, Kirra and Matilda on this journey around the webosphere, from 21 October to 21 November. There will be reviews, sneak peeks, guest posts and lots of fabulous giveaways including some publishing opps! See the entire tour schedule right here

Visit the An Aussie Year website ( to meet all the characters from the book, see updates and behind-the-scenes work. There’s also some Fun Activities for kids - like paper dolls! I love paper dolls!


Alison Reynolds said...

I love the design and appearance of this book. Thank you Angela and Tina for sharing the illustration process. It was interesting to read you didn't do rough sketches. It definitely worked!

Angela Sunde. said...

Hi Alison,
It's fascinating how each and every illustrator has a unique way of working, isn't it? This is a gorgeous book in every way.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Angela and Tina for sharing the development and process of "An Aussie Year". The design and concept is fabulous and I'm sure kids will love and relate to it. I'll be checking it out for my new grandbaby!

Wish the competition was a February tradition or occasion to celebrate. October is a quiet month for us since the nest is empty of tricker treaters. I do miss the wonderful and fun celebrations of February 14th.

One Valentine’s Day I handmade a card each for my children. The next, I overheard excited whispers of expectation. A tradition was born.


Tania McCartney said...

Hello Alison and Christine--thanks for your lovely comments. Christine--I like February, too-it's my birthday, my son's birthday and I DO love celebrating Valentine's Day.
Ange--thank you for your support and the lovely book comments! x

Angela Sunde. said...

Hi Chris, February is a funny month for me. We've never really celebrated Valentine's Day and usually it heralded the start of the school year for our family with two teachers and two kids (now grown).
Happy to announce though that Tania has chosen you as the lucky winner of a gift pack of greeting cards. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Ooh, very exciting. I'm delighted to have won the gift pack of greeting cards.
Can't wait to see them.
Best wishes,