Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A New Friend for Marmalade Blog Tour

Illustrator Heath McKenzie is visiting! 

We're celebrating the release of A New Friend for Marmalade, the sequel to the hugely successful ‘A Year with Marmalade’ by author Alison Reynolds. Heath and Alison's new picture book together revisits best friends Ella and Maddy and sweet little Marmalade, their ginger tabby. I'm really looking forward to hearing all about it.

Also before we start, there are some terrific prizes to win on this blog tour. Details at the bottom of this post.

Hi Heath.
You’re now a regular here ‘Under the Apple Tree’ so I thought I’d give you your own virtual coffee mug for when you visit. Grab a spot on the rug and let’s enjoy the warm rays of autumn sun. At least it’s sunny here today on the Gold Coast.
Congratulations once again on another terrific collaboration with the fabulous author Alison Reynolds. 
The Five Mile Press
How much harder or easier was it working on a book where you already knew the characters, style and book design? Did you make the decisions of where the page turns would be? And where the beautiful typography would be placed? I remember last time you had to work within the words.
Hi Angela.
Each book tends to present it's own challenges so while on the one hand, having now designed all but one of the characters, things like that were no longer an issue - however, returning to an established illustration style can be tricky as I need to get back into that mindset and way of working...and sometimes I may've found ways to improve on a technique I'd used in the past but have to revert to an older way to be in line with the series - as was the case with Marmalade! Plus, given this story largely happens in the one location, finding consistent ways to maintain the line art/sparse colour style without getting too repetitive is a challenge.

Concept sketch for the front cover

I'd never thought of that. Of course ‘A New Friend for Marmalade’ introduces the new character Toby to the tightly bound friendship group. Toby’s enthusiasm to be part of the fun is adorable, even if he does inadvertently cause the story conflict. Did the decision to begin the story immediately within the sandpit evolve after reading the text or after first roughing out a storyboard? 
I guess stories I'm given to illustrate always evolve after reading the text as that is where it all begins - and ideas tend to (hopefully!) start flowing as I read. So this definitely began evolving whilst reading the story...particularly with an awareness of the established world and being conscious of figuring out how best to work within that.

When Toby asks to join the cubby house play on the second page spread I notice two things: he is scooting in the opposite direction to natural page flow; and his associated colours are red (cape) and blue (scooter). Were these conscious  colour choices? As a visual reader this tells me something is about to happen to the girls’ pink cubby set-up. And it does!

Good question! I think he really only became red and blue to provide a nice colour balance against the sandpit and tree...the blanket, from memory came in a little later. The red and blue was not a conscious decision...and as for the pink blanket - I'm always hesitant to apply pink to girl situations however, there are logical times and places!

Yes, and it's complementary to the green tree foliage too.

Rough sketch and layering of artwork combined

As for going against natural page flow - I guess I figured it still flowed in the correct direction given we start on the girls before moving across to see Toby enter. I'm often working oblivious to various general rules of layout! Then on occasion, an editor will make me switch things about!

“Ella shrugged and Maddy sighed… Marmalade peeped out in surprise.”

Final artwork
The text is beautifully spare, allowing room for what I call ‘Illustrator Licence’ – space to imagine. Your illustrated juxtapositioning of gentle girl activities (building a pink cubby, decorating the sandcastle city with flowers) versus boisterous boy antics (scooting and cartwheeling through the middle of it all) reminds me of my childhood growing up on the orchard surrounded by an older brother and too many boy cousins. I could really feel the girls’ frustrations!
What made you decide Toby’s efforts to play would interfere with the girls right from the start? Did you base Toby on anyone you know?
From memory, this was all borne out of discussion with the editor and possibly thoughts from Alison as well. Plus, given as the story unfolds, Toby ultimately proves to be a valuable member of the group, to have him seem anything but earlier on helps add a little extra punch to the conclusion. 
In all honesty, Toby's actually based on the girls, oddly enough!! I always try to maintain everyone's look within a particular world so that they all look like they belong together so to speak, not necessarily in a hereditary family sense but just in keeping with the look of the 'world' as it were. So I designed Toby largely from cues picked up in the original designs of the girls! There are many times where characters have been based on actual people but not this time!

Alternative concept sketch for cover
For me, the characters’ expressions throughout the story are priceless! The sprinklers page is my favourite (my brother would’ve done that sort of thing on purpose) and Ella’s face when Toby turns on the tap cracked me up. This strength of expression through the characters’ eyes, mouths and hands heightens the drama and emotions of the story. Heath, (personal question, I know) do you use a mirror to capture these facial responses? What is your secret for nailing each emotion time and again?

There was a time when I had a mirror on hand! However, it's actually been quite a long time since I've used one! I do find I'm often aware that I'm inadvertently making a particular face while I'm drawing it sometimes - which would be entertaining for anyone wandering in at the time!

Alternative concept sketch for cover
Ha ha, I'd love to see that!
I belong to a group of illustrators who meet once a month in Brisbane - Brisbane Illustrators Group. Many of them will be reading this post. Do you have any advice for them? What are your favourite mediums/tools of the trade? Which Wacom do you recommend?

Really, the simplest advice is often best - just keep at it! I've never perfected illustrating and I doubt I ever will. It's really the journey that counts as I try new styles and little techniques; some stay, some go, but it's a constant evolution!

My favourite medium is freehand digital drawing - Corel Painter and a touch of Photoshop works for me! I do enjoy the feel of traditional real tools, but within the computer there's still plenty of skill and experimentation going on with every drawing. 
As for a choice of Wacom tablet - I use an Intuous model, but I don't think they've made a bad one yet so whichever suits is the way to go!

Thanks so much, Heath, for popping by again and answering more of my tricky questions. I've loved seeing your process of creation from roughs to finished artwork. I always learn something new from your visit. Below you've been kind enough to also share the United States version of the book cover. It is so very different. I guess they wanted to keep Toby's face hidden.

It was great to be here, Angela.

United States Cover Version

A New Friend for Marmalade Blog Tour Schedule
11th Dee White – review and post
12th Angela Sunde – interview with Heath
12th KBR – book giveaway
13th Boomerang Books – Post with Dimity Powell
14th KBR Guest post
14th Sally Murphy – Meet my book
15th Buzz Words – Interview
17th Ask the Bean Counter – Mr X
17th Pass-it-on Post and Review- Jackie Hosking
18th Ask the Publisher – Kay Scarlett


Pet Contest for all Ages!
Marmalade the cat is full of personality. Do you have a pet with personality? Win a piece of artwork by Heath McKenzie. Send along a photo of your personality-plus pet to or upload to

Random book giveaways!
Just leave a comment on one of the posts in the blog tour, comment on Facebook or even email Alison Reynolds that you want to enter the competition to win A New Friend for Marmalade.

Prizes for writers!
Win a 'jump the slush pile' pass with a children’s editor or an adult non-fiction editor. Just put CB if you want to enter in the children’s editor competition or NF if you want to be in the adult non-fiction competition. You can enter by commenting on this post or any other post on the tour.

Or you can win a picture book assessment from author Alison Reynolds, or the first chapter of a chapter book assessment with mentor/author Dee White. Just put PB after your comment, if you want to be in the picture book assessment competition and DW if you want to be in the chapter book assessment comp. 

If you want to enter all the comps, you can always put them all down like this: CB, NF, PB, DW.

Remember the more you comment the more chances you have to win!


Alison Reynolds said...

aGreat questions, Angela.
It was really interesting for me as the author to get an insight into the pictures. I've just flipped through A New Friend for Marmalade and can see how all the faces look as if they inhabit the same creative world. Fascinating.
Thanks Heath for sharing and Angela for such insightful questions.
ps. Can I have a mug of my own one day, Angela?

Kelly McDonald said...

Oh loved hearing Heaths side! He has quickly become a fav in this house. thanks Angela!
Kelly McDonald.

Anonymous said...

I love reading about another illustrator's process, especially from one that also writes.


Kaye Baillie said...

Another exciting blog thanks Angela and Heath. It is fascinating reading about process and how things come to be. It is such a gorgeous looking book. Interesting to see the US cover too. PB

Dee White said...

Great post, Angela and Heath,

Always love hearing about how illustrators work.


Lynette Oxley said...

I'm impressed with your blog, Angela and will research Heath's work further as part of a uni assignment.

Heath, is it OK to copy one of your Marmalade illustrations (with image credit)into my uni WordPress blog for the research assignment? I'm a distance education student and the blog has been set up by uni IT. It's a private site that only has uni students doing my subject and the lecturer in it. PB

Katrina McKelvey said...

Great questions! I loved reading a blog post where an illustrator is interviewing an illustrator. The discussion made me see things in the book I hadn't seen before.

I also love the character's expressions - those eyes!

Alison and Heath, you are both so clever. Thank you Angela!


Angela Sunde. said...

Hi there, Alison! Of course there is a mug here with your name on it - Amazing Alison Awesome Author.

Angela Sunde. said...

No worries, Kelly. Thank you for stopping by. Heath is a huge fave in our house too and I don't even have littlies any more.

Angela Sunde. said...

Hi Julie, interviewing illustrators on their process is one of the main focusses of this blog (besides chatting about my own journey). Please pop in again some time.

Angela Sunde. said...

Thank you, Kaye. Yes, the US cover certainly is different. They mustn't have wanted to show the 'new friend's' face until the book is opened.

Angela Sunde. said...

Hi dear Dee, Thanks for stopping by. I hope you grabbed some apple pie.

Angela Sunde. said...

Hello Lynette, Lovely to meet you, and thank you. I've passed on your question to Heath. Hopefully he answers here on the blog. If not I will get back to you.

Angela Sunde. said...

You're welcome, Katrina! It's great to see you here. Actually writing interview questions for illustrators based on a specific book really makes me stop and think. It's a long process but worth it, I think.

Alison Reynolds said...

He is def. a fav in this house too, Kelly! Love Angela's questions.

Alison Reynolds said...

Julie, glad you enjoyed reading about another illustrator's processes. Hope your work is going well.

Alison Reynolds said...

Kaye, I was really interested to see the US cover too. I hadn't seen it so that was a lovely surprise. Which one do you prefer?

Alison Reynolds said...

Dee, with you and Angela both being artists, I'm feeling a bit intimidated! I always admire how artists can translate ideas into images.

Alison Reynolds said...

Lynette, I always enjoy Angela's blog too. There's always something interesting on it to read.

Alison Reynolds said...

Thanks Katrina!
The discussion made me see the book through totally different eyes and I wrote it!
Angela and Heath are brilliant.

Alison Reynolds said...

One happy author here.
Thank you, Angela. Looking forward very much to using my mug!

Ramona said...

I loved being able to see Heaths different stages of the illustration process - the rough sketches are great!


Anonymous said...

Great interview guys! Another wonderful collaboration. All the best Alison and Heath! Thanks again Angela. Robert Vescio

DimbutNice said...

You illustrators just rock my world. I love your chatty interviews Angela and the devolving of some many wonderful visual insights. Thank you and thank you Heath! Dimity PB CB :-)

Angela Sunde. said...

Hi Ramona, It's interesting too that these rough sketches are all done by hand on a tablet. Illustration is a very varied world.

Angela Sunde. said...

Hi there Robert! Thanks so much for your praise. It's always great fun to interview Heath. He is so generous with his explanations.

Angela Sunde. said...

You're very welcome, Dimity! It's all about feeling at home and relaxing while we chat about art. There's already too much stress in the world. So let's get out there and 'make great art', as Neil Gaiman says.

Angela Sunde. said...

Lynette, I've sent you a private email message from Heath as a reply, regarding your request.

Lynette Oxley said...

Thanks for thinking of me, Angela. I'm having trouble locating your private email. Please resend.

Alison Reynolds said...

Ramona, it is so interesting to see the sketches and then compare with what they become, isn't it!

Alison Reynolds said...

Thank you, Robert. Glad you enjoyed the interview!

Alison Reynolds said...

I agree! Illustrators are so clever. Love Angela and Heath's interviews!

Katrina Germein said...

Love the beautiful use of colour in the illustrations.

Alison Reynolds said...

Isn't it striking, Katrina. I love how less colour makes The colour stand out more.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Angela and Heath on a great, insightful interview. It's fantastic to read how the colour and style choices are made in a picture book, down to how the faces look.
Congratulations on a gorgeous book, Heath. You and Alison have combined to create a joyful book to read and share.

Linsey said...

Hi Angela and Heath, thanks so much for the great post. I was so interested to read an interview by an illustrator. Heath your illustrations are amazing.

Alison Stegert said...

Hi Angela,
Well that was a very cool post. I loved reading about the illustrator's process and seeing the progression of ideas.

Alison Reynolds said...

Thanks you so much, Chris. The interview between Angela and Heath gave me such an insight into the book as well, and I wrote it! Alison

Alison Reynolds said...

Linsay, I so totally agree with you. Heath's illustrations are amazing!

Alison Reynolds said...

From one Alison to another. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Angela is fabulous at interviewing!

Julie said...

Thanks for a fascinating post, and congrats to Heath and Alison on producing such a lovely book...again!PB

Angela Sunde. said...

Hi Lynette, I'm sorry that the email did not arrive for you. Thank you once more for your lovely comments on my blog. I've told Heath about your request and here is his reply:

"I'm perfectly happy for an image to be used in the research assignment! Perhaps if you could let her know on my behalf that would be great, Heath."

Good luck with your assignment, Lynette. And please feel free to point your co-students in the direction of my blog. There are another two interviews there with Heath and many others with various Aussie illustrators. Cheers Angela

alison reynolds said...

Thank you so much Julie!
I hope I produce many, many more books with Heath in the future.

Angela Sunde. said...

Hi Katrina and Chris, Yes, the colours are what caught my attention immediately too. Every detail must be thought out by the illustrator, either intuitively or through careful factoring. Heath is a master at this; he even makes it look easy!

Angela Sunde. said...

Hi Linsey and Alison, Interviewing Heath is a joy as he is so generous with his answers and preliminary rough illustrations. This is the third time he's appeared here Under the Apple Tree, and it won't be the last! You might be interested to read some of his other interviews.

Angela Sunde. said...

You're welcome, Julie,
Thank you for popping in for a visit. Alison and Heath's blog tours are always the best fun!

Angela Sunde. said...

I'm posting on behalf of:
Rebecca Sheraton.
"Beautiful, simple illustrations. Thanks for the extra advice for the Brisbane Illustrators Group PB"

Susan Whelan said...

As someone who loves to write but has absolutely no skills with illustrating whatsoever, I found it fascinating to read Heath's perspective on developing and creating the characters. I love that Alison and Heath both contribute to the collaboration to create a story that works on so many levels. (CB NF PB)

alison reynolds said...

Susan, that's what I like about collaborating, speaking as someone who is similarly challenged by drawing. Heath transformed my concept into something better than I could ever imagine.

Yvonne Mes said...

So glad to read the interview with Heath! Love the images of the work in progress and the thought process behind the illustrations. CB

alison reynolds said...

Yvonne, I found it so fascinating to read Heath's reason as well. And absolutely love Angela's astute questions!

Angela Sunde. said...

Hi Susan, I think it's important for picture book writers to gain a more in depth knowledge of the thought processes and challenges of illustrating a 32 page picture book. It can only strengthen their writing as a result. That's why I love doing these interviews.

Angela Sunde. said...

Hi Yvonne! Yes, it's rare nowadays to see the step by step images in progress from the perspective of the illustrator. Heath is a treasure to share these.