Flying High with Flying Eye

For the most recent in our illustration Masterclass series, SCBWI was honoured to welcome one of the most original children's publishers in Britain today, Sam Arthur of Flying Eye and Nobrow Books. Shana Nieberg-Suschitzky was there.

On Saturday 12th September I attended the latest SCBWI Illustrator Masterclass, which was a workshop collaborative with the Co-Creator of Nobrow and Flying Eye Books, Sam Arthur. Anne-Marie Perks, our fab Illustrator Co-ordinator, had once again come up with a great event.

The participants of the workshop were invited to storyboard and work up an idea for a picture book brief about family diversity/dynamics. There were two submission stages; the first was to submit rough storyboards, character studies and colour work, by May, to Flying Eye Books. Towards the end of July we all received our individual feedback. We then used this critique to revise and refine our work. And this led to submission stage 2: a presentation, followed by a discussion, with none other than Sam Arthur in person (nail-biting stuff!).

This second part of the event began with Sam Arthur explaining his journey towards setting up one of the UK’s most unique publishing houses; how he’d grown dissatisfied with working as a director in the Commercials and Music Videos sector, and how he dreamed up the idea of Nobrow with his partner Alex Spiro, which finally sprang into fruition in 2008 (please see further details below).

We then proceeded to each have a timed one-to-one session with Sam, infront of everyone else, revealing our improved work (having used Flying Eye Books’ previous comments).

Sam had originally studied Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins School of Art, so his eye was very discerning. However, he was extremely generous with helpful advice and commentary, and I think that all of us came away having learned a great deal from Sam’s feedback and the subsequent discussion.

Having become a member of several different societies over the years, I can say with confidence that SCBWI has been the most consistent at providing fantastic events for both writers and illustrators. This was certainly one of them. I applaud Anne-Marie and SCBWI for yet another excellent opportunity, as well as Sam Arthur, who gave up a Saturday to come and share his amazing tale of success and offer his guidance.

Thank you both, from us all.

Additional Note:

Flying Eye Books: From Conception to Reality & Beyond!

In 2008 Sam Arthur and Alex Spiro set about forming a stylish publisher that they came to call Nobrow. The goal was to create a company which produced comics and graphic novels, with both great design and narrative, and focusing solely in the area of printed publishing.

They chose to work mainly with illustrators instead of specific comic book artists, and though they initially started as a small scale press, (producing their own work for a while in their own screenprinting studio), they always had the goal to grow their market, whilst keeping a very recognisable colour palette and aesthetic.

In 2013, though they produced a mixture of material for adults and works that were more child orientated, (such as their amazing Graphic Novels about a character called ‘Hilda’, created by the formidable talent, Luke Pearson), they noticed that their books were not being marketed in the Children’s section of bookshops.

And so, the ‘Flying Eye Books’ label was born in order to market their Children’s Book range separately, and to the right people.

In the two years that it’s been running, they’ve had a steady stream of success: from the award winning book Shackleton’s Journey by Will Grill, to the enchanting and empowering book, Wild by Emily Hughes; its main character gives Pippi Longstocking a run for her money, in both senses of the word, (…as it’s so popular that it is continuously being re-printed).

As a publisher, Sam looks for people who have a distinctive style and a consistent voice. Presently, and following the recent success of books like Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space, he is very keen on fun and original non-fiction material.

(Photos courtesy Anne-Marie Perks, Sam Arthur & Shana Nieberg-Suschitzky)

Shana Nieberg-Suschitzky (aka Shanarama) creates stories and illustrations for both picture books and older children’s fiction. In 2012 she was a prizewinner in the Undiscovered Voices Competition for illustration.

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