Molly’s Moon Mission Blog Tour: Dark side of the water cooler

Today we are captaining the ship of Molly’s Moon Mission Blog Tour! As such, we think it is only right to boldly go where no blog has gone before and to explore strange new worlds!

OK. Actually, we’re exploring Duncan Beedie’s studio. In Bristol. But he’s promised to wear his space suit!

Have you or your young explorer ever wondered what a day in the life of a children’s author and illustrator is like? Or where the magic of a picture book takes shape? Duncan has kindly offered to show us around the launchpad for his greatest children’s book adventures. (We’ll stop with the space puns now.)

Over to you, Rocket Man, er, Duncan!

My Typical Working Day

For the last few years I have been renting desk space at my friends’ animation company Sun & Moon Studios at Paintworks in Bristol. Paintworks is essentially a refurbished paint factory that now houses a host of creative businesses. It’s an ideal place to work given my chosen career.

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Sun & Moon Studios, Paintworks

I find it useful to have a structured ‘working day’ that involves commuting to a specific place and being around other people. I tried the ‘working from home’ thing many years ago and I really didn’t get on with it. To make matters worse, my desk was in the bedroom, so it would get to 2pm and I’d realise I had been sitting cooped up at my desk in my dressing gown, having not eaten a proper breakfast, let alone lunch.

I’m lucky enough to be able to cycle to my workplace now, so things are a lot more conducive to my physical and mental health. Plus it’s fun to see the various projects the Sun & Moon crew are working on, including a Cbeebies series called ‘Kit & Pup’.

I am a firm believer in daydreaming – it is an essential pastime if you are trying to conjure up stories – and I’m happy to admit that I spend a fair bit of time gazing out of the window. My desk faces out over the River Avon towards the centre of Bristol (with a rather gargantuan industrial estate in between). The view is by turns mundane and spectacular depending on the weather. Weirdly, we seem to get a very high frequency of rainbows, particularly over the local recycling depot. Perhaps they are secretly harvesting pots of gold and I am in the wrong industry.

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One of the more appealing views from my studio window

We are moving studio space soon to another unit on the same site. It is at a lower level, so it’s highly likely that my next view will be of a brick wall. I hope that doesn’t become a metaphor my ability to formulate new story ideas.

I create the vast majority of my work digitally on a 27” Wacom Cintiq. It’s been a saving grace in that it allows me to draw at a 1:1 scale and helps me get a much better appreciation of composition when I am plotting picture book spreads. It wasn’t so much of a saving on my credit card balance, but you have to take the rough with the smooth, as they say.

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Working on Molly’s Moon Mission

I still like to sketch out my characters and storyboards using traditional paper and pencil. I would feel a sort of treachery if I totally abandoned pencils, as they have given so much pleasure over the years. It would be like dropping your dog off at the pound because you discovered Tamagotchi (one for my fellow elderly readers there).

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Early rough sketches for Molly’s Moon Mission

I’m looking forward to the forthcoming book tour with Molly’s Moon Mission. The story and artwork may all be done and dusted, but actually getting to meet the readers and interact with them is a wonderful part of the job. With my previous career in animation and web/app design, it was a case of finish the job and move on to the next one. But with picture books, you get to see the fruits of your labour.

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I’ve gone the extra mile this year and splashed out on a bright orange aviation suit complete with astronaut patches. I’m probably more excited about this than a grown adult should be, but the one bonus of writing picture books is that you never have to fully grow up (unless you are dealing with the HMRC.)

Duncan Beedie’s new book Molly’s Moon Mission published by Templar Books is out of this world! Find it on shelves now.

About Stephanie Cummings

Stephanie Cummings is a former BBC Journalist sharing her lifetime love of children's literature and illustration with her two young daughters -- and now with you, too, through Two in a Tepee. Stephanie has an academic background at the undergraduate level in literature and has master's degrees in both anthropology (material and visual culture) and design. She started her professional life in an art gallery and ended up producing radio programmes for BBC Radio 4, before deciding to become a stay at home mum. She lives with her handsome husband (who is sometimes invited into the tepee) in leafy north London.

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