Writing with Picture in Taipei

International Conference on Childhood and Visual Texts in/of Asia 2015
2015年 亞洲童年與視覺文本 研討會
Date: November 14, 2015 (Saturday)
3:10pm- 4:20pm
Venue: Zhishan Building, National Taipei University of Education

I will be heading to Taiwan to deliver a talk at the on the weekend. My talk “Writing with Pictures: The Silly world of ‘Samurai vs Ninja’ will be looking at the visual literacy approach and research behind my Samurai vs Ninja series.
Samurai vs Ninja Book covers and images
I will discuss both the theatrical and practical application of visual literacy skills.
This will be done through the applied visual literacy techniques used in my latest book series, ‘Samurai vs Ninja’.

This is an early reader series set in the Edo period of Japanese history. Illustrated with black and white images, the visual story telling using a mixture of narrative styles, including standard in-text illustrations, margin illustrations and comic book format.
sample research SvN Little Pig 3

In Samurai vs Ninja I have assimilating visual element from traditional and pop culture aspect of Japan. Rather than approaching the design using western stereotype characters for japan. I have research the work through woodblock prints, photographs and museum visits. The resulting illustrations reference culture, geographical location and environmental elements. Creating a rich setting for the comedic stories of Samurai vs Ninja to unfold.

sample research SvN Little Pig compositional line for web

These conferences are made possible though the generous support of the sponsors,
Conference sponsors:
Feng Zikai Chinese Children’s Picture Book Award Executive Committee; National Taipei University of Education; Ministry of Science and Technology
Travel grant: Faculty of Art and Design, University of Canberra

Samurai vs Ninja Kamizumo Game

When looking for extra activities for Samurai vs Ninja, I came across the game Kamizumo.

Kamizumo is a Japanese ‘paper wrestling’ game. Paper figures are place them on the Kamizumo paper ring. You tap your figures on the edge of the paper ring, the first figure knock over of out looses the round.

I have been hard at work on my first ever Kamizumo game. But before I start work on characters from the stories. I thought it would be fun to battle it out with Nick Falk. So the first characters are Nick and myself. If this proves popular, I plan to add other characters (Buta-sama, Kingyo-Sama, Skinny fish, Little pig, Sumo san, Mighty Fish).

Below is the character sheet, Print in landscape and set the scale to auto adjust to the page size.

Kamizumo character sheet Tony and Nick 200 dpi

and here is the ring. When you print it, it should automatically print in the centre of the paper. Just fold the paper edge under the ring to give a little extra spring. You can also place the ring on to a large book to add bounce.

Kamizumo Board 200dpi

Have fun!

The Totoro’s branch

From woodblock prints to anime. Japanese inspiration for ‘Samurai vs Ninja’, my series with Nick Falk, is everywhere. One of my favourite anime artists the master himself, Hayao Miyazaki.my-neighbor-totoro-branch

In this illustration (right) from the Curse of the Oni (page 71), you can see how I have borrowed from Miyazaki to give Kaba –sama a branch to sit on. The image on the left, as you will see is from “My Neighbour Totoro”. One of the movies I have watched many times with my son. I thought doing this is a nice way to pay homage to Miyazaki, as true master.

For more information on Miyazaki see:


Visual research for Samurai vs Ninja

When considering how to create and sustain the Edo period world of “Samurai vs Ninja”. It was important to undertake a lot of research. One of my favorite forms of art is the Ukiyo-e woodblock period of Japanese art. I love colour saturation, the strong line work and the masterful compositions.

The work of artist such as Katsushika Hokusai are synonymous with the art form. His ‘wave’ (The great wave off Kanagawa, from the 36 views of Mount Fuji series) image being one of the recognized images of Japanese Artist.

From the Edo period of Ukiyo-e woodblock artist, my favorite character artist is Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Kuniyoshi work from the early to mid 1800’s. One of his most recognize series being the images of the 47 Ronin. His distinctive black and white patterned sleves on the characters in this series was the inspiration of Buta-sama’s own clothes.

Buta sama and Utagawa Kuniyoshi

In Samurai vs Ninja (book3) Day of the Dreadful Undead (June 2015), The story required an image to over state the actions of the Mighty Kingyo-sama, Lord Goldfish of the Samurai. When asked by the ghost of a long dead relative “’Tell me, Master Goldfish,’ rumbled Fuka-Sama,’how many victories have YOU had in battle?’” (p41)

Kingyo’s assistant then tell of an epic battle against a mosquito. I thought it would be funny to have the battle commemorated in a woodblock print.

Know that Utagawa Kuniyoshi used to portray narrative based conflicts. I started to research into his battle images. I quickly found one of his more interesting compositional device was to place the conflict in the bottom 3rd of the image, suggesting the character on top had the upper hand and was overpowering his opponent.

Utagawa woodblock inspiration 2

I decided that this would be a dynamic/over the top way to portray such and under stated conflict.

Utagawa woodblock inspiration

I love it when my illustration work allows me to draw inspiration from and pay homage to such an amazing artist as Utagawa Kuniyoshi. I would certainly encourage anyone who love Ukiyo-e woodblock prints to have a look at his work on line.

Buta sama

Samurai vs Ninja book
Samurai vs Ninja book

BK3 Buta sketch 2These are a few early concept ratings for Buta sama for book  in the Samurai vs Ninja series. I am trying out a new cloak for Buta to wear to a festival event. I am liking it so far as I also get to play with it in a very Batman cape kind of way.

Draw a silly Ninja

This is a basic step by step guide on how to draw a ‘Ninja’ in the style of the Samurai vs Ninja books. Feel free contact me if you would like some steps to other characters from my books.

Draw your own Ninja sheet