ILLUSTRATION EVENTS 2019 Picture Book Retreat

The SCBWI Picture Book Retreat for 2019 was another resounding success. Penny Taylor offers some personal insights from the pastural setting of Holland House in Cropthorne.

What a wonderful unforgettable weekend, full of sunshine and learning and laughter.

After a gruelling motorway run it was lovely to arrive at the haven of peace offered by Holland House. The place oozes history and the gardens are a joy.

Holland House (photo © Siobhan O'Brien)

We were greeted by Paul Morton and Anne-Marie Perks, shown to our very comfortable rooms then chilled and mingled with fellow attendees as they arrived.

After tea (divine catering at Holland House!) we had a presentation by Viv Schwarz. A truly inventive means of making up a story from randomly created and cut out figures. Wowser! I loved this! My collection of my ‘Random Family’ is still growing and bickering between themselves.

Some of the random creatures from Viv Schwarz's first workshop. (photo: Bridget Marzo)

After dinner we all introduced our favourite picture books. So many different styles and reasons for loving them. We put them into the lounge afterwards and spent time looking at the collection. Don’t know about anyone else but it was my fave place to pop into and chill during the course of the retreat. I loved the pop-up books particularly. So clever. I’ve made up my mind to review the art of paper engineering on you tube now I’m home.

Some of peoples' favourite picture books. (photo © Paul Morton)

On Saturday morning I had a ramble down to the river Avon before breakfast. No, I didn’t see Frank the Heron and the canal boats weren’t about at that time but I did hear a woodpecker.

The River Avon (photo © Siobhan O'Brien)

Ahh, James Mayhew, that session on picture making to music! Gorgeous! Good for the soul. Found myself wondering what I may have produced to Mongolian Heavy Metal or Russian Choral music. My studio is going to echo with me experimenting with sound from now on.

James Creating to Classical Music presentation. (photo © Paul Morton)

Saturday afternoon: After an initial tech-glitch, what an enthusiastic talk from agent Lucie Luddington. The benefits of having a good agent were very evident and I envy the nurturing and simplification of being a member of the Bright Agency stable of illustrators, hating the business side of things as I do. (Don’t most creatives?)

Lucie Luddington talks about the Bright Agency. (photo © Paul Morton)

Later on, I was mentored by Lucie and found her feedback on my work invaluable. In essence, ‘Play to your strengths Penelope!’ Now that’s what I like to hear, do what I like to do best.

Rufus Ruffcut, Lucie's favourite from my portfolio.

Evening time our portfolios and stories were laid out. The feedback from others was interesting and how they varied from the pointers Lucie had given. I also loved hearing the manuscripts being read out. Nothing so nice as a story at bedtime. (I’m not going to mention the quiz. If I hadn’t paired up with Bridget Marzo I wouldn’t have had more than one right! Definitely going to be on the lookout for the names of authors and illustrators I like from now on. Haha.

Sunday morning: Another sunny day and another amazing presentation and workshop by Viv. ‘Where are you off to?’ I can’t wait to introduce this idea to my writing group. It is an imaginative way to create a narrative and suffering from ‘writers block’ on the odd occasion it seems to me it will be a trick I use again and again to move a story forward. And FUN! Isn’t that the name of the game? Thank you Viv for donning your armour for us all.

Viv Schwarz giving her second presentation. (photo © Paul Morton)

After lunch Libby Hamilton from Andersen Press gave a talk on her role in Andersen press, what it is she looks for as Editorial director and what the current trends are in the world of children’s books. An illuminating insight into the nitty-gritty of the publishing world.

Libby Hamilton tells us what she is looking for in story and illustration. (photo © Paul Morton)

In James’ workshop on the Sunday afternoon he demonstrated how he had rediscovered his love of illustration by experimenting with a completely new (for him) approach to picture making.
His latest picture book Mrs Noah’s Pockets was illustrated in this manner.
Quite a few of us felt liberated by this very hands on and immediate technique.
(photo © Paul Morton)

I had to leave prematurely but Sunday evening there was a fun exercise making paper aeroplanes. (photo © Paul Morton)
All in all, what a terrific and inspiring weekend, so many new friends, so many ideas, so much inspiration, so NOW what am I going to create? Can’t wait to get writing and illustrating.

A huge thank you to Paul and Mike for the organising of this event and to Viv and James for their inspiring workshops.

(Header photo by ©Candy Gourlay. Other photos courtesy of Paul Morton, Siobhan O'Brien, Bridget Marzo)


Penny Taylor is enjoying her third age career as an author/illustrator and member of SCBWI.


  1. You all were blessed. Such an inspiring venue.

  2. I am glad to this blog. It provides useful understanding about this subject. Thanks for sharing here.

    Top Bomber jackets available

  3. This is fabulous blog , I really learn a lot from this blog , Thanks for sharing.

    Top class quality Chef Tunics Online


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.