There is a further topic that hasn't been covered that I’d like to address during this “launch and book tour week” – the illustration process and the fabulous illustrations in the book.
When you partner publish through Little Steps Publishing, the author is able to view the work of Little Steps illustrators and choose whom they would like to illustrate their book. Little Steps then approach the illustrator to see if they are available and interested. I selected a Portrait Illustrator, a young Australian man who was living overseas at the time and very talented. I wanted illustrations that were life-like. The three of us entered into a contract in 2017. The deposit was paid.
The author is able to suggest ideas for the illustrations and I provided photos by email from the various research books I had read. The publisher set the time frame for the illustrator and in the case of this book that’s when things fell apart.
For whatever reasons, the illustrator did not produce any illustrations nor did he meet any milestones, not even the first one. Little Steps were mortified and advised me that they had never had an illustrator not deliver after payment of the deposit. They were not prepared for this precedent. And, I cannot tell you the upset and angst this caused me. It took two years of delays for the contractual side of things to be sorted out and I began to think that my book was never going to be published.
In September 2019 Little Steps suggested a second illustrator that met my requirements, Anastasia Popp. I have to admit I was reticent at first because Anastasia is not Australian. Why was this important to me? Because of my associations with The Children’s Book Council of Australia and my previous involvement with The CBCA Book of The Year Award as a member of the CBCA Board.
I knew that with a foreign illustrator my book would be ineligible for entry and I also knew that this book was special. I was disheartened. But, Little Steps persuaded me to look at Anastasia’s work on the internet. I must say that when I saw her illustrations I recognized that she is brilliant. I’ve always believed that when God closes a door he opens a window and what is meant to be will be. And, I now regard accepting Anastasia as my illustrator for this book as one of the best decisions I have ever made.
The internet says that Anastasia Popp lives in Russia and describes herself as liking watercolours, coffee and cats. As a child she loved drawing so her parents sent her to art school. Five years later she graduated and since then hasn’t stopped creating!
I can tell you she undersells herself. Anastasia is professional, easy-going and a breeze to work with, organised, fast and has an eye for design. Her palette is extraordinary. The illustrations in my book are stunning. I can’t praise Anastasia’s work enough.
It had been my experience with my two picture books published through Little Steps that their design team places the illustrations in their books. Well, Anastasia complimented that and she was the one who decided to carry across illustrations to a double page and to draw out a timeline of Patrick White’s publications. Anastasia decided to highlight the timeline with little pictures to make it look interesting and decided on the colour palette. All her illustrations are remarkable but I particularly like how on pages 40 and 41 where I talk about Patrick White’s love of giving small dinner parties, Anastasia used a double-page spread with the text as the ‘dinner table’ and the guests ‘seated’ at the top and the bottom of the pages. And, when Little Steps changed their Design Manager mid-process (OMG – another problem), Anastasia didn’t miss a beat. All her work was handed in well before time AND she provided many more illustrations than originally contracted without asking for an additional fee.
My favourite illustrations are the shearing shed on pages 16 to 17 and the Cover. Little Steps contracts that two designs will be provided to the author – a choice has to be made. Anastasia had some great ideas and provided: (1) “pages flying like gulls” (the idea being that his words took flight)(now the illustration on Page 36); and, (2) Patrick’s work with sheep and trucks in the country. I didn’t like either of the two designs. For me, the book is about Patrick White the man and I wanted the focus on the cover illustration to be of him predominantly.
Anastasia and I collaborated i.e. she asked me what I wanted. She drew the empathetic Patrick White, power-house author, with a pen in his pocket and papers under his arm. She wrapped the illustration, front and back, chose the colours and came up with something so much better than I had imagined. I think her cover is spectacular.
Anastasia hasn’t seen the finished product in print. I am so upset about this. I promised to send her copies on behalf of and at the request of Little Steps whose staff in Sydney are working from home because of COVID-19, and I wanted to send her extra copies from me, but when I went to the Post Office in July 2020 they told me that they were not accepting mail to Russia. Okay, I thought I could send Anastasia the books by courier, but DHL wasn’t accepting either – because of COVID-19. On 14th August 2020, Australia started accepting mail to go to Russia by sea and then rail only. It will take 3 months for delivery! So the books are on the way. When I explained this to Anastasia she said, “Well, that’s the world we live in now.”
Please check out Anastasia Popp’s Instagram page to see what a beautiful human being she is.
Patrick White by Toni Brisland, Illustrated by Anastasia Popp, is available from Booktopia.