Creative People: Marc Martin

A few times now, I’ve picked up a beautiful book, turned it in my hands and opened it. Then I would sigh. Yes, of course, Marc Martin.

Marc’s distinctive illustrations are whimsical. Max and A Forest are two of his beautiful books.

A River recently arrived in the sunshine house. It’s poetry. We gently follow a river through a child’s dreamscape. Marc creates a vibrant yet delicate world where we travel with the narrator on her journey.

A River by Marc Martin

I was lucky enough to get to chat with Marc about his creative process.

Marc Martin
Hi Marc. We adore your illustrations in A River. Can you tell us what inspired this story?

A River was inspired by picture books I read as a child. Authors such as Jenny Baker and Maurice Sendak are two author/illustrators that nurtured my imagination and gave me the creative spark to make picture books. A River is a story about letting yourself dream and about our relationship with the world and how we choose to interact with it. We can either fear it and separate it from our lives, or we can be bold, embrace the unknown and trust our imaginations to guide us through the stormy weather.

Where do the ideas for your children’s books generally come from?

They can come from anywhere. I listen to a lot of podcasts and the radio, so sometimes there’ll be something I hear that piques my interest, and an idea will come from that. Ideas also come when I’ve got time to think – so going on holidays, traveling and taking time off is a great way to refresh the creative mind and gain inspiration.

Marc Martin A River

I’d love to know how you first came to illustrate and write children’s books.

I originally studied graphic design at university, but it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve transitioned away from design and into illustration. I think I always knew that I didn’t want to work in the graphic design industry, so in the periods between graduating from university and working as an illustrator, I’ve also studied sculpture, social sciences, and furniture making, as well as being part of a publishing collective. Becoming an illustrator was a natural progression for me, and I’ve been working as an illustrator full-time for the last couple of years now. Predominately I write and illustrate my own picture books, as well as doing a mix of editorial and commercial illustrations. My training in graphic design still influences my illustration work today, however I’m continually battling between the learned restraint and principles of graphic design, and the creative freedom and fun that illustration allows.

What style of painting do you prefer to use when creating children’s books?

I’ll use what ever style is appropriate for the subject matter and mood I’m trying to create. Lately I’ve been using a lot of gouache, pencil and watercolour paints – they give my work a textural quality that you just can’t get on the computer. I try to do as much of my drawings by hand as possible, and then move onto the computer if they need cleaning up. I also like using textures and patterns, which are usually scanned in from left-over experiments I’ve made with ink rollers or paint. Textures can turn a flat page of colour into something more interesting to look at. When I’m starting an illustration, I’ll usually have an idea of the medium I want to use before I start on the artwork, but I like to experiment with different mediums as well. I often find that the tests and ‘mistakes’ I make whilst experimenting can later develop and inform the finished artwork, so it’s good to be open to new ways of working.

Marc Martin A River

What’s your workspace like?

It’s pretty cluttered. I’ve got a standing desk, which is great for drawing and working at the computer, and very tall chair for when I want to take a break from all that standing. I’ve also got a lot of posters, cut out images and pictures stuck to the walls, and a big bookshelf filled with illustration and picture books. It’s funny because I’m very neat at home, but my studio space can get very messy!

marc martin studio

Can you tell us what a typical day in the life of Marc Martin looks like?

I’ll normally start the day with a quick breakfast at home and then a bike ride through Edinburgh Gardens and into the studio. I ride my bike into the studio every day – rain, hail or shine. It’s a great way to start the day, and helps keep me fit.

At the studio, I’ll start by checking emails and doing a bit of admin before getting stuck into illustrating, but lately I’ve begun to experiment with different ways of working – I’m finding that not checking emails until after lunch is a great way to get focused on the tasks at hand, before getting bogged down by emails and paperwork. It’s very rare that I’ll spend the whole day working on one thing – I’m usually juggling multiple tasks.
At lunch, I’ll make a sandwich in our shared kitchen and chat to people around the studio – there’s about 15 people in our studio, so there’s always people around to keep things lively.
The afternoon is usually filled with more work, and then it’s back home around 6 for a home cooked meal and a bit of relaxation.

What’s next for you?

More books and other exciting projects! In the coming months I’ll be launching an interactive game/story app for tablet devices that a friend and I have been working on, having an exhibition, and starting work on my next book. Plenty to keep me busy!

Thank you Marc!

I have four copies of A River to give away. Just comment below or on Facebook and tell me about a river special to you. Share with your friends too!

 You can check our Marc’s website here.

Creative People ~ Samantha Turnbull {Anti-Princess Mama}

Anti Princess Club Emily's Tiara Trouble

A few years ago, at an exercise class, I met a lady called Samantha Turnbull who had just scored a contract to write four children’s books with Allen & Unwin. It was a dream come true, she told me.

I started following Samantha on Facebook, and caught up with her a few times in person. It’s been so exciting to watch her publishing journey unravel.

Just a few weeks ago, I went to the Anti-Princess Club book launch in Byron Bay. The bookshop was packed to the rafters! Since, Samantha’s been doing school visits, festivals and has even been interviewed on Mornings about her books.

My five year old daughter is loving The Anti-Princess Club. She incorporates the characters into her games, and has started to process some of the ideas posed in the books.

So of all the creative people I know, I had to interview Samantha for the Creative People series.

Samantha Turnbull Author Anti-Princess Club

Hi Samantha. Your books are selling well, and from what I have seen online, you’ve had some great feedback. How does it feel to be a published author? 

It feels wonderful. It’s funny, there are so many hurdles with each stage of the process – finishing the manuscript, editing the manuscript, submitting to publisher, editing again, etc etc. When the books finally hit the shelves I had a little panic thinking ‘what if no one likes them?’ But that seems to be fading as positive feedback flows in!

Can you tell us a bit about your books? What is the Anti-Princess Club?

It’s a four-book series aimed at 7-10-year-olds. The series centres around four best friends and each book is told through the eyes of a different friend. In the first book, the girls form a club called The Anti-Princess Club in response to being fed up with the adults in their lives treating them like princesses. Their motto is ‘we don’t need rescuing.’

The club then expands to include hundreds of members who are all sick of being treated like princesses, or at least being boxed into ‘girly’ stereotypes.

What inspired you to write this series?

I wanted to help redefine what it means to be ‘girly.’ I don’t think femininity only comes in one pink, glittery, princessy package.

Specifically, I was inspired to write the series when my daughter was bombarded with princess gifts as a baby. Then when she was about a month old we went looking in a local department store where the children’s books were divided into ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ sections. In the girls’ section, there was not a single book that didn’t feature a princess or a fairy, and that was the moment I decided to write ‘anti-princess’ books.

My books are now on that department store’s shelf, which was a major buzz to see.

So you are a mum of two young children. You’re a journalist. And somehow you managed to write four books for children. As a busy mum myself, I am wondering how you achieved such a feat! Can you tell us how you managed your time?

I wrote the first book when I was on maternity leave with my daughter – who happened to be a dream baby. She slept a lot, and so it was quite easy to write the first manuscript.

Fast-forward to when I got my publishing contract and was asked to write three more books, and I had a second baby. My son was a very tough bubba who didn’t sleep at all and experienced a lot of illness early on, so it was a very challenging time trying to get those last three books done.

I wrote in the middle of the night mostly, which was hard, but worth it because when it comes down to it, I just love writing.

What’s the hardest things about balancing your creative pursuits with your family life?

Guilt. No matter what I do I feel guilty about neglecting something. If I’m playing with the kids I feel bad about not being productive enough with writing, if I’m writing a lot I feel bad about not spending enough time with the kids, and I ALWAYS feel inadequate as a housekeeper.

And what’s the best thing?

Despite the guilt and the sleeplessness, I feel very lucky. Being a parent and a published author are two life-long dreams I’ve fulfilled, and that’s very satisfying.

What inspires you, generally speaking?

Beautiful language, heartfelt performance poetry, my hometown (Byron Bay), art galleries, travelling, and I’m hugely inspired by single parents – especially single parents who pull-off fulfilling careers on top of parenting – they’re my heroes!

Can you tell us what is next for you, creatively?

I’m working on some new kids’ novels, visiting schools where I’ll be running creative writing workshops, and performing at some upcoming poetry slams.

Thanks Samantha! 

You can visit Anti-Princess Club website and Samantha’s blog.