The winner of the Storylines Gavin Bishop Award is…

The Storylines Gavin Bishop Award has been offered to a promising Kiwi illustrator since 2009. Set up by Gavin Bishop and Jenny Hellen, then Children’s Publisher at Random House NZ, they are administered now by Storylines Children’s Literature Charitable Trust.

This year’s winner was announced at today’s Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal and National Awards Day in Auckland. Congratulations to Lael Chisholm.

Lael Chisholm

As somebody who has recently been judging books, I asked Gavin Bishop how one can judge illustrations against one another when they have been created in so many different mediums.

Gavin replied, ‘If an illustration is well drawn and the materials are handled well, it doesn’t matter what medium the picture has been created in. Drawing is always the key. You can’t fudge that. Bad drawing always shows through and, of course, the same goes for good drawing.’

Unsurprisingly, this is what made Lael’s work stand out from the rest: ‘Lael’s work is fresh and lively with a strong foundation of good drawing. I suppose it was refreshing to see her use of watercolour too. She may have used computer imaging, but it didn’t take over.’

‘Granny McFlitter, the Champion Knitter’ is the name of the manuscript that Lael and her competitors worked with. The story has an environmental theme, presented in a fun way. Entrants had to submit a storyboard, a page of rough drawings and two pieces of finished art. You can see Lael’s finished illustrations throughout this article.

Lael is from Feilding, and is the youngest-ever winner of the Storylines Gavin Bishop Award. Her illustrations are original and fresh. I interviewed her about her experience entering the award, which she found out about from her uncle only three weeks before its closing date.

Sarah Forster: When did you realise that you had a talent for drawing that might be lent to the form of picture books?

Lael Chisholm: I did well in art at primary school, so when I started high school I took painting, art design and graphics as subjects and I loved them. I also had great teachers who encouraged me. I entered Feilding High School’s Evento Wearable Arts for the first time in 2014, and won the BNZ Design Scholarship for the design process of my costume, which also gained first place in the Dr Seuss category. This was super encouraging – and surprising! It helped me realise that I was actually good at what I do and it was exciting to find that people that I didn’t even know appreciated my work.

It was during my last two years of high school that I decided that picture book illustration sounded like something I’d like to try. I love the idea of creating illustrations that work with the words to tell a story, and making characters and places come to life on the page for others to enjoy.

I love the idea of creating illustrations that work with the words to tell a story …

S: What medium did you create your illustrations for Granny McFlitter in? Is this your preferred medium?

L: For my illustrations, I used watercolour paint. I think this would be my preferred medium to work with, but I also like using coloured pencils, graphite pencil, and ink pens – either on their own or with watercolours.

Were there any self-imposed rules you followed while planning out the illustrations for the storyboard?

I think one rule I wanted to follow was to try and avoid getting into too much detail on the storyboard before I had sorted out the overall composition of each page. Then, once I had figured out each page’s layout, I couldn’t resist putting in a little bit more detail. It’s so exciting seeing all the ideas taking shape in the storyboard – this was the first time I had ever made one and I really enjoyed it.

What was the hardest aspect of doing the work you completed on the book?

I was a little bit pushed for time because I didn’t find out about the competition until quite late. I ended up with about two weeks to complete my entry once I had thought about it and decided to give it a go. There were a few late nights involved!

What was your favourite picture book growing up; and what is it now you are an adult?

I don’t think I ever had just one favourite picture book growing up – there are so many I’ve enjoyed, both then and now! But I think I’d have to say I liked Dr Seuss’s books the most, and still do. They’re so quirky, and I love how he makes up words and creatures in his books. I also love Claire Keane’s book Once Upon A Cloud. The pictures are so pretty and the story is really sweet.

Who is your illustration hero?

Inga Moore would be one of the first on my list. I first saw her illustrations in The Secret Garden and The Wind in the Willows and I think her work is absolutely amazing! I don’t even know if I ever actually read The Wind in the Willows – I just loved looking at the pictures! If I was ever given the chance to live in one of her illustrations I would definitely take it.

What are you working as now? What would you like to do as a job long-term and why?

I’m currently working full time at the local Mitre 10, and my free time is now being used to work on illustrations for the book. As for long-term plans, this award has been such a big surprise for me that I haven’t really had time to sit down and think about the future much, but hopefully it will hold more illustration opportunities and perhaps the chance to write and illustrate my own books one day!

The Sapling is certainly looking forward to seeing a long and fruitful career for Lael Chisholm in picture book illustration. Congratulations on winning $1,500 and publication, Lael!

Sarah Forster has worked in the New Zealand book industry for 15 years, in roles promoting Aotearoa’s best authors and books. She has a Diploma in Publishing from Whitireia Polytechnic, and a BA (Hons) in History and Philosophy from the University of Otago. She was born in Winton, grew up in Westport, and lives in Wellington. She was a judge of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults in 2017. Her day job is as a Senior Communications Advisor—Content for Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.