Claire O’Brien – KidLit TV Featured Member

|by:Katya Szewczuk|

When it comes to the creative arts, Claire O’Brien is a true renaissance woman. She writes, she illustrates, and she creates beautifully dynamic animations. Online she portrays herself as an aspiring Picture Book Author and Illustrator, but she is much more than that. She has been an aspiring author and illustrator since the early 2000s when she worked as a fundraising assistant for the United Kingdom’s National Center of Children’s Books, Seven Stories.

Claire has been an exhibiting painter and printmaker, including exhibitions in Italy and the United Kingdom. Following a BA in Fine Art from the University of East London in 1997, Claire also earned an MA in Computer Animation from Teesside University. Some of the exhibitions Claire’s work showcased in was even publicly supported by the Arts Council of England.

She had a Fellowship with The DigitalCity to work on her original short film “A Small Room” which charmed the Northern Film and Media and attracted public funding. As a qualified teacher, Claire has taught drawing and animation at various colleges and, most recently, Teesside University.

Here is an image from Claire’s manuscript that has been selected to showcase in SCBWI BI.
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In a Watery Land of Boats and Bridges… (Claire O’Brien)As a full-time mom, Claire still finds time to work on her books, art, blogs and contribute to the KidLit.TV community.

“I love being part of the KidLit TV community,” Claire said, “KidLit TV’s videos are great and free! KidLit TV is generous, as is the community. I have learnt so much from the gang whether it’s just reading posts on the FB page or asking for feedback. I try to post any interesting links I find and give feedback where I can too. I think my biggest contribution to the kid lit community, as a whole is my Scrivener picture book template. It gets the most hits on my blog and is my most watched video.”

Need help organizing your picture book manuscript? Then the Scrivener Picture Book Template is for you. You can find a link to the Scrivener Picture Book Template HERE.  Or watch the video HERE.

To find out more about Claire O’Brien and her journey as an artist, read KidLit.TV’s interview.

Did you write books as a kid?

I didn’t really write as much as some writers did when they were kids so I feel like a fraud when these people say “Yeah, I was writing lots of books.” I drew more than I wrote when I was younger. I’d say drawn more than ever written really. I remember hating English classes. Even now I probably write more blogs than books, if that counts.

What was your favorite book character as a kid?
Long before The Worst Witch and Harry Potter there was Dorrie the Witch by Patricia Coombs, she was untidy and always got things a bit wrong but I loved her and her world and she and her cat, Ging, are drawn in the most beautiful monotone pencils.
Dorrie the Witch
Dorrie the Witch
If you could live for a day in any book, what book would it be?

I’d go for an adventure with the Tove Jansson’s Moomins in their magical valley, we’d put something into the Hobgoblin’s hat and see what would appear.

What children’s books did you grow up with?
Very English books of course. Many by Roald Dahl like Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Twits and Matilda were read to us at school. There was also a brilliant short story, very British as well, called The Balaclava Story that I loved to read. If you ever read the story you could tell that I was a bit of a tomboy when I was young.
Claire's (1)
Did you always want to be an author?

I always wanted to be an artist. Just recently I wanted to do both.

What do you like about writing books?

You can create everything about it. It’s just like with animation. You’re in charge of everything. Animation is a bit of writing as well. You create storyboards and write out the story. You’re in control.

What inspires your work? Are any of your stories inspired from everyday life?

I’ve got two young boys, one that’s just turned four and the other, two. I tell them stories at night so that sparks ideas. Or even the things that they say inspires me! I write everything down. I also think everything influences writers and illustrators. If you find something you like or dislike on television or read it in a book, it can spark an idea.

In your perspective what is the most challenging part of being an aspiring picture book writer and illustrator?

The hardest challenge about my writing is creating characters. I focus more on the story than the characters.

How have you benefited from being a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators? 

It’s so good! The main thing I’ve got out of it is the critique groups. We meet once a month in Seven Stories where I’ve gotten honest feedback on my work, learned from reading others’ work and made many friends.

What advice can you offer the public about computer animation?
You can use iStop Motion which is a free stop-motion app you can download on your phone. If you want to do any kind of animation, that might be a good place to start. I also use free software called Blender, a 3D animation program. It has a compositor included which is really useful, but it has a steep learning curve.
I notice you have a unique illustration style. Who/What would you say has influenced your picture books?
Using gouache has left a huge influence on my paintings. When I was teaching I had access to The Famous Artist Course which included golden age illustrators such as Norman Rockwell and Albert Dorne. They set this school up and they taught the step-by-steps, where I learned how to use gouache. 
Brush and ink drawing of two children and a dog throwing Autumn leaves in the air. A children's picture book style illustration
Brush and ink drawing of two children and a dog throwing Autumn leaves in the air. A children’s picture book style illustration
How do you think teachers can encourage their students to read more and enjoy it?

Teachers should ask interesting questions, maybe set up a treasure hunt or some kind of adventure for their students and remember that reading should be all about fun.

What advice would you give other aspiring authors and illustrators?

Don’t give up. I’ve been working on getting published for four years. When you get a rejection letter you think you would be downhearted, but it’s a learning process. You just have to find the right match.

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4 CommentsLeave a Comment

Kid Lit TV Commenter Darlene Beck Jacobson

A great interview. Thanks for sharing your process and passion for kid lit!

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