Books to Bring History Alive!
History is fascinating and visiting a museum or historical location is a great way to fill up a rainy day over the school holidays. Combining a trip with a great story can really help to get kids excited about the history around them!
Max and Zap at the Museum (for 3-6 year olds)
In our new picture book, Max and Zap at the Museum, a family trip to the museum turns into an exciting treasure hunt adventure when the museum exhibits come to life. Why not create your own treasure hunt challenge to accompany a museum visit? You could include tasks such as finding the oldest thing in the museum, the biggest thing in the museum, or perhaps the weirdest exhibit in the museum!
Speed Bonnie Boat (for 5-8 year olds)
Speed Bonnie Boat tells the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s famous escape to the Isle of Skye after his defeat at the Battle of Culloden. Alfredo Belli’s stunning illustrations bring the beautiful landscapes and seascapes of Scotland’s west coast to life. This is the perfect story to share with children on a trip to Skye, the Glenfinnan Monument or perhaps the Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland.
Listen to the song (sung by Catherine Tinney) over on our YouTube channel.
Museum Mystery Squad (for 6-8 year olds)
If your children think that museums are boring places full of glass cases, dust and stuff no-one cares about, Museum Mystery Squad will prove them wrong! In a hidden headquarters the gang are waiting, ready to handle dangerous, spooky or just plain weird problems. From a mysterious moving mammoth, to ancient egyptian riddles and even some futuristic robots, the series is perfect for super sleuths and amateur detectives. You could encourage children to invent their own mysteries based on some of the exhibits in your local museum.
Thorfinn the Nicest Viking (for 6-8 year olds)
Prepare yourself (and your children) for the wrath of the Norsemen! That is, if you don’t mind and it’s not too inconvenient… Vikings get a bad reputation. (It must be something to do with all the pillaging and plundering…) But Thorfinn the Nicest Viking is no ordinary Viking! He is always polite and happily offers to wash the dirty dishes. Too bad his dad is Harald the Skull-Splitter, Village Chief and the roughest and toughest Viking of them all. Kids will love collecting the trading cards that come with each book, as well as the fun games and activities. Try out the Viking name generator (you’ll find it in Thorfinn and the Awful Invasion) on your way to the Vikingar! exhibition in Largs.
#FlorisDesign meets Nastasha Rimmington
#FlorisDesign got chatting to Stirling-based illustrator, Natasha Rimmington, the artist behind our new Picture Kelpie Max and Zap at the Museum. During the search for an illustrator, Design & Production Manager, Leah McDowell, was instantly impressed by Natasha’s bright and colourful illustrations as well as her fun and engaging characterisation of animals and people. Today, Natasha talks Twitter, running and her favourite museums.
Hi Natasha, thanks for talking to us today. Could you tell us about your studies and training?
I studied illustration at the University of Lincoln, and graduated in 2013. Like all illustrators I’ve always loved drawing. One of my earliest memories is drawing on the back of cardboard packaging in my grandparents’ home. Why they kept old packaging instead of paper, I’ll never know! This also meant all my drawings had remnants of food like jam sponge cake on the back. I think that’s the best kind of art training.
We’d love to hear about your decision to become a children’s book illustrator.
I just seemed to fall into it – as if the stars aligned right. While studying at University we had a project that involved drawing characters in different styles and I realised that all mine were rather cute and child-friendly, and closer to something you would find in a picture book. I had so much fun drawing them that I continued this illustrating style until I was lucky enough to be picked up by The Bright Agency. I love children’s books because nothing is off limits. You can draw whatever comes to your mind; a dragon wearing roller skates, a mouse flying through space, anything goes!
What was it like when you first began your career as a professional illustrator?
When I first started illustrating I was so scared about showcasing my work. I had a lot of self doubt, whether my style was right, if I was good enough, and a little part of me feared every client would reject my work and say ‘that’s terrible, we can’t possibly publish that!’. Luckily, that’s never happened and every single person I’ve worked with has been so supportive and kind.
Do you work using traditional methods or digital methods or both?
At the moment I work using a bit of both. I like to create the line work by hand and then colour digitally. If I coloured traditionally I’d instantly mess it up! Colouring digitally allows me to easily change colours, add textures and layer things differently, which I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. In the future I hope to do more traditional work, as I like working away from a screen and having a physical piece in front of me – so I better get practicing!
What sorts of things do you most enjoy drawing?
Animals are my favourite things to draw – I am a little (just a little bit, I swear!) obsessed with bears. I love how many different ways you can draw them, yet they are still identifiable as bears. Nighttime scenes are also one of my favourite things to illustrate. I love playing around with different lighting, and making things appear to twinkle and glow. Normally I will draw anything and everything – apart from horses – they’re my illustration nightmare.
Do you have a favourite museum?
The National Museum of Scotland is my favourite – and I’m not just saying that because of Max and Zap! (Floris Books has produced a special edition of the book for the NMS.) I love the range of exhibitions there, and how different every room is. My particular favourite is the Animal Kingdom section; I’m quite a fan of taxidermy and have several pieces that watch over me as I draw. Whenever I visit the museum I spot new things, so I’ll never be bored of it. In 2012 I was fortunate enough to attend an event, run by the National Museum of Scotland, to spend an evening drawing with picture book illustrator Catherine Rayner. Back then I was only just starting to think about a career as an illustrator, so it’s crazy to have gone from that to actually drawing a picture book that features the Museum!
What did you enjoy most about working on Max and Zap At The Museum?
I really enjoyed designing the characters, and getting to know Max and Zap. It’s my favourite part of any project, because I always start with a vague idea, which naturally progresses until a character appears. I don’t often get the chance to draw human characters, so this was a little bit more challenging for me, especially trying to get the proportions right. Every time I visit the museum now, I see Max and Zap in my mind climbing on the exhibitions and hiding from the dinosaur (which I’m glad isn’t really alive!)
Do you have any tricks in your bag for when you get stuck on a brief?
The best thing is to step away from it, and go for a walk. It’s really easy to be overly critical, so doing something completely different usually helps so that when I return it all seems fresh again. Occasionally I have a ‘bad drawing day’ where everything seems to go wrong, and the best thing to do is just accept it and know the next day will go better – and luckily it always does.
What are the main challenges you face in your day to day work?
I love my job but it can be isolating and time consuming; most of my day involves sitting infront of the computer in my office. There’s a lot of screen time and before you know it you’re googling trees for reference pictures instead of stepping outside to see real ones. At uni I loved being able to access the art rooms all day, where there was always someone to run ideas past. I know some illustrators use shared office spaces, which is a great idea if you can find a group of local artists. Having a hobby oustide of work is really important. When I realised how much time I was spending sitting each day, I took up running. I absolutely love it and I’m hoping to enter some marathons next year.
What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?
Don’t give up – ever! Everytime I get in a taxi I’m asked ‘What do you do?’ I get some very mixed responses. ‘Oh, do you get paid for that?’, ‘That’s a pretty easy job’ and ‘Is that like colouring in?’ are all true questions. Sadly lots of people are very dismissive of illustration and don’t see it as ‘a real job’. But illustration is a real job, and there’s lots of work available no matter what style you work in. Don’t worry about your style being ‘right’, it will naturally change and evolve over time, the best thing to do is put your art out there, don’t be disheartened and keep drawing!
Are you part of a community of illustrators at all?
Yes I, like many illustrators, am on Twitter. I check my feed every morning, and it’s filled with illustration, inspiration, book news and support from other artists and there’s a chance publishers will discover you too. There are lots of great twitter communities based around art-challenges; my personal favourite is #colour_collective (@clr_collective).
Is working as an illustrator what you expected?
There are lots of great things about being an illustrator, the flexible work and I get lots of interesting projects, so it’s never boring. Working as an illustrator is so much more fun than I imagined, as you don’t know what’s coming next.
Do you have any illustrators or designers that you consider to be your favourites?
I have so many! My top 3 at the moment are Sara Ogilvie, Marc Boutavant and Ali Pye. All of them have such good character designs and styles, and give me inspiration for new ideas. I also love the animation studio Cartoon Saloon, I highly recommend checking out their film ‘Song of the Sea’, it’s absolutely gorgeous, and all the characters and scenery are perfection.
About the Book
Max and Zap at the Museum is a new Picture Kelpie illustrated by Natasha Rimmington and available 22nd June 2017.