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Mum's Unite! A Creative Collaboration

One of the things I love about being a mum is the whole extended network your kids provide. I had the joy of meeting Claudia Robin Gunn when both our daughters began attending primary school together. As the years passed, I saw Claudia sharing her amazing talent as a singer/songwriter with the kids at various school events. And Claudia saw me sharing my writing and illustrating in the same way.

So when Claudia asked me to collaborate with her as an illustrator for her digital songbook - Sing Through the Year - A Little Wild Childhood, of course I had to say, 'Yes!' This all happened as a result of Creative New Zealand trying to inject some mana into the creative sector during our first major COVID19 lockdown in early 2020.

Claudia Robin Gunn - Little Wild Music
We met and discussed ideas virtually using Messenger and Facetime and began to develop an even stronger respect and appreciation for each others' creative talents. Before too long the project was complete and the results were fantastic.

So you can imagine how excited I was when a few months ago, Claudia asked me to collaborate with her once again on her next project - all about life in, on and under the sea. And kind of ironic that it all ended up happening during another lockdown!

My Creative Process

When illustrating for a project, it's really important to understand the audience and the message you are trying to convey. Claudia has a cheerful folksy vibe that targets preschoolers and littlies in the first years of school. There are lots of messages about kindness and empathy for each other and also the environment, lots of wonder at the weather, and the universe. So the illustrations needed to be bright, cheerful and most importantly - simple.

We agreed for Sing Through the Year that one iconic image per song would suit the layout, so we began to go through each song, looking at the lyrics and what the main message was that needed to be conveyed. I really try to work with Claudia's ideas (she has many!) and offer suggestions when she's not too sure. I mostly take notes, writing down key words that communicate the overall idea. What's so nice about working with Claudia is that she gives me lots of room to express myself and work with what I believe I can portray best. We might have 3 or 4 ideas for a particular song and she will just say, 'Pick whichever one you like!' Sometimes if an idea doesn't immediately come to mind, we let it sit. Often as Claudia begins the music production, a clearer vision settles in her head and we know which direction to take the illustration.

Claudia's music has a global appeal but she really is making Kiwi music for Kiwi kids, so the illustrations need to reflect our New Zealand culture and flora and fauna. I do lots of research and gather reference material to ensure my illustrations are correct representations.

Whale Shark - Line Drawing
Whale Shark - Finished Illustration

Once I have completed the illustrations I pass them over to Claudia so she can 'digify' them and get them publish ready. Seeing it all come together is the biggest buzz and getting to do it all again on her next project really makes me want to Sing Through the Year too!

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