Sunday, December 20, 2009

'Button Thief' for sale

The children's book that I have spent the past year illustrating has finally been published, and is now available for purchase for NZ$19.99 each.

Latesha Randall, ill. Esther Griffiths, Button Thief, Button Books Ltd., Dargaville, 2009.

Button Thief is a book about friendship, forgiveness.... and buttons! It is aimed at 3-7 year-old girls - and with some trickier words it is one that is intended to be read aloud to kids.

If you would like to purchase a book, either...
- Contact me directly
- Email our newly established publishing company, Button Books Ltd., at

For more information, visit our website.

I will be uploading more images onto my blog over the next little while. The original drypoint prints are now for sale, for between $30 and $120 each. WATCH THIS SPACE!!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Button Jars

Another drypoint print for the children's book that I'm illustrating... We now have a date set with the printers, so I'll have to get a wriggle on and finish off the last couple of illustrations!

Esther Griffiths, Button Jars, 2009
Drypoint print on paper, 13.5 cm x 27.0 cm

These prints will be for sale once the book has been published (hopefully the first week of December - just in time for Christmas!).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My new Felt shop

Hey everyone, check out my new Felt shop! I only have one item for sale there at the moment - one of my 'Daughter of the King' prints - but will be adding more each week or so.

Felt is an online outlet specifically for handmade things. It is the New Zeland equivalent to Etsy, where users can buy and sell handcrafted goods. The more artists that can get on board the better, I say... C'mon guys, register now – it's FREE! (Hooray!)

Have a look at my
Etsy shop too...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Triumphant explorer

Esther Griffiths, Triumphant Explorer, 2009
Acrylic, graphite, and coloured pencil on MDF board, 19.5 x 19.5 cm

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

'Warrent of Fitness': exhibition

Come and check out our end-of-year exhibition! The last exhibition we will hold together as a class... :)

Invite designed by John Wright (painting) & Janis Webster (graphic design).

Images to come after the show, but we'd love to see you at the opening...

Opening: Saturday, 14 November 2009, 4:30 pm (light refreshments provided)
Location: Old Library building, Rust Ave, Whangarei
Exhibition runs until 28 November.

Features work by Aaron Hoskins, Esther Griffiths, Ian Pritchard, Jaymz Edmonds, Jane Blucher, Janis Webster, John Wright, Kay McGowan, Matthew Gould, Nicky Cox, Nicky Umuroa, and Trish Clarke.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Esther Griffiths, Mischief, 2009
Acrylic and pencil on MDF board, 50 cm x 122.5 cm

Working on a larger scale is great fun (and for some reason seems to make it feel more important!). This latest series of works will be exhibited in November at APT, Whangarei. Details to follow.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Finding wonder in small things again

Esther Griffiths, Small Things, 2009
Acrylic and pencil on MDF board, 60 cm x 60 cm

Esther Griffiths, What IS That?, 2009
Acrylic and pencil on MDF board, 60 cm x 42.5 cm

...What could be more delightful than drawing young children totally absorbed in something small??

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Playing with paisley

These two images are among my first experiments with the use of pattern. Recently I have been fascinated with the combination of fantasy and reality in artwork. These are not quite where I want to be yet, but I am having a lot of fun...!

Esther Griffiths, Doing Nothing, 2009
Acrylic and pencil on MDF board, 40.8 cm x 46.8 cm

Esther Griffiths, Wonderment, 2009
Acrylic and pencil on MDF board, 40.8 cm x 75 cm

Friday, August 14, 2009


Part of the children's book that I am illustrating...

Esther Griffiths, Buttons, 2009
Drypoint print and watercolour on paper (digitally enhanced)
13.5 x 27.0 cm

(Please note that the coloured version of this image is digitally enhanced, and is therefore not for sale as it appears on screen! Original prints (both coloured and uncoloured) will be for sale once the book has been published.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Colour experiments

Here are a couple of experiments with colour. The going is so slow. I'm working on the book illustrations in very short and irregular bursts... in-between assignments!

As always, feedback is greatly appreciated. Feel free to send me an email (under my profile). I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More prints for the book

The following images are unfinished illustrations for the children's book I've been working on over the past few months. (I'm finally getting back into the swing of drypoint printing! New inks, new paper, new mull cloth - ahhhhh.... pure bliss!)

The next step is to add some colour... Experiments coming soon.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Work in Progress: Book Illustrations

Over the past several months I have been (slowly!) illustrating a children's book for a friend. The final illustrations will be hand-coloured drypoint prints - a favourite medium of mine. The story is written in rhyme, and is about two young girls and their button collection... A lot of fun to illustrate! We will be self-publishing the book before the end of this year.

This is my first full-length book illustration project, and I'm absolutely loving it. I must admit that I've had to learn a lot on the job... And I still have a lot to learn yet! Below I describe the process so far, and include some images of works in progress.

The very first thing that I did was draw up little thumbnails of each page. This helped me to decide how the verses and illustrations would fit together and flow from one page to the next. This is a very important step and I'm grateful that I put the time into it right at the beginning.

For each illustration...

1. I start of by developing each thumbnail further, experimenting with different compositions until I come up with something that looks good.

2. In return for chocolate (okay, only
sometimes do they get chocolate!), I then get my younger sisters to pose for me and take reference photographs. My sisters have been very useful, and always so cheerful and willing to help. Thanks girls!

3. Using the photographs as a reference, I then sketch out how the illustration will look (using a page template to make sure it is the correct size). These "sketches" started off as beautifully rendered drawings for the first several illustrations, but as time marches on I've been spending less and less time on this stage of the process...!

4. Then I scan the drawing, email it to the author for feedback, and print it in reverse to the correct size.

5. Having cut a piece of clear drypoint plastic to the correct size (either to fit the border within the page or leaving enough room to bleed it out), I then tape it over the top of the reversed drawing and start scratching the image into the plastic. This is the step that takes the most time. A lot of fun but rather tiresome...

6. Once I have a few drypoint plates ready, I take them down to the press at polytech and print them. At the moment I'm experimenting with different papers and inks, so have had to deal with quite a number of bad prints... But there's always at least one good one in each batch.

7. After sorting through my prints and choosing the best, I then colour them with watercolour washes. This step is the most exciting! The images come alive, and feel ready to be part of a book.

Once I have finished all of the illustrations, I will scan them into the computer and arrange them with the text before (finally!) taking the whole thing to the printers.

ANY FEEDBACK on my illustrations thus far would be greatly appreciated! Please leave your comments.

More to come... Keep an eye out!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

'Once' exhibition photos

Esther Griffiths, wall drawings from Once exhibition, 2009.

My recent exhibition, 'Once', was required to take place at an alternative space. 'Once' was examining the transient nature of childhood, and took place at night at our place. Guests were given torches, and crawled through sheet tents to search for hidden pencil sketches on the walls and inside a cupboard. At the end of the evening, I scrubbed off three sketches, but left the ones in the cupboard for my family to cherish (after my tutor had left the premises!).

To view more images, see my
Picasa web album.

Esther Griffiths, wall drawings from Once exhibition, 2009.

Esther Griffiths, wall drawings from Once exhibition, 2009.

Esther Griffiths, Snail, 2009, pencil on painted wall.

Esther Griffiths, Goose, 2009, pencil on painted wall.

Esther Griffiths, showing hut from Once exhibition, 2009.

I would love to hear comments anyone has on this work... You don't need an account to comment! Good or bad, I'd like to hear it all.

Friday, June 12, 2009

ONCE: alternative space exhibition

This exhibition - which will take place on the 21st of June 2009 and will be up for only two hours - will include my most recent work: a series of sketches based on childhood memories and photographs.

As I observe today's children, I am bewildered at how often they are simply ignored or taken for granted, and how swiftly their beautiful innocence is snatched from them. My new body of work seeks not only to celebrate childhood, but also to act as a beseeching reminder that it does not, and cannot, last. By drawing with pencil directly onto the walls of my house, I want to emphasize the idea that some good things are only visible for a short time before they disappear forever.

Although the message may be a bit sombre, I hope that it will be a lot of fun for everyone.

This exhibition is by invite only... if you are keen, leave a comment and I might add you to my list. :)

Images to come after the exhibition.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Random images from 2007

Here are a few random images of work that I produced during my first year of studying for my Bachelor of Applied Arts at NorthTec.

These two small test paintings were my responses to the work of artists Colin McCahon and Michael Smither. See if you can guess which is which…

The following is a (make-believe!) set of billboards designed to advertise my proposed evolution of the St John logo… I had a great time doing this!

And the following images are digital photographs, as supporting images for an imaginary magazine article titled “Flower Power”.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Emotional Disquiet: Shaun Tan's work queries my own

Today’s children’s book illustrations are wide and varied in their styles, ranging from detailed black and white pencil drawings to bold and colourful digitally manipulated images. In this statement, I will look at where my own work could be placed within the context of modern children’s book illustrations. While many illustrators have chosen to use a brightly coloured and light-hearted style to appeal to a young audience, others such as Australian author/illustrator Shaun Tan prefer a more mysterious and solemn feel to their work. By comparing my work to Tan’s work, I will introduce some of my personal tastes in regards to illustration styles and examine my current work in relation to modern children’s book illustrations.

Working from Intuition

In his essay ‘Picture Books: Who Are They For?’, Shaun Tan writes that “writing and painting is very much about trying different things based on hunches and intuition, often in a silly and playful way, and then looking at them critically to see if they make any kind of sense when cast against the backdrop of lived experience… Being an artist is not about manipulating objects or an audience so much as constantly assessing a series of often accidental and mysterious ideas.” 1

This experimental approach, fine-tuned with a critical eye, is how I have begun my year. My aim is to develop a style of illustration that not only appeals to children, but also satisfies my own desires and tastes as an artist, with illustrations that are rich in emotion and which are able to deal with real issues. After allowing my pencil to fly in an exhilarating hit-and-miss fashion, I then sit back and examine my work to see whether it holds true to my aims. Although many pieces do not measure up to my standard of success, some do, and I have found that this process of working from intuition has been very helpful in loosening me up as an artist.

Esther Griffiths, Waiting, 2009.

Tastes Dictate Style

Whilst scribbling and scrutinizing my scribbles, I have also been looking at various other artists and illustrators. I have found that I am drawn to styles that are full of strong emotion and capture “real life”, with an edge of darkness, but also a ray of bright hope glimmering. I believe it is important to expose children to the realities of life, but from a hopeful and optimistic platform.

Through my explorations, I have discovered that I tend to work with an element of darkness, scratchiness, and unevenness. I am drawn to the emotive feelings this encourages, especially where the artist’s physical movements are shown. Intaglio printing brings out many of these qualities. Scratchiness, and a certain amount of unpredictability, is an integral part of the intaglio process. I am particularly fond of how the plate tone gives such a lovely smudgy darkness to the image, but without overpowering it.

Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan is one artist with whom I identify. The emotional depth and smudgy, grungy darkness of his work gives a quality I enjoy exploring in my own work. Tan is the illustrator of several picture books, including The Arrival and The Red Tree, both of which have a sense of dark, humble beauty to them, are full of rich emotion, and have several layers of meaning which could be read into them. Brushstrokes, pencil lines, and uneven edges grace his pages with finesse, and give a rough and textured look to his illustrations. Dark monotonous colours provide his images with a feeling of timelessness and a somewhat brooding sense.

Shaun Tan, from The Arrival, 2006.

I particularly enjoy the temporal duration of Tan’s work. His stories develop clarity as they progress, and layers of meaning are revealed with repeated readings. The effect of this is that the reader is drawn back to the book over and over again. An example is The Red Tree, which disappointed me at first because I felt that I could not make sense of the story. It was only after poring over the pages several times that I came to appreciate that this apparent lack of sense is an integral part of the feeling of confusion and disjointedness that Tan is trying to portray in the book, and The Red Tree is now one of my favourite illustrated books.

Shaun Tan, from The Red Tree, 2001.

Tan says that he enjoys leaving readers with questions that they themselves must find an answer to. “Words and images play off each other, producing a single question for the reader each time, ‘What do you make of this?’ And this in turn generates further question, ones we will ultimately apply to a more familiar reality.” 2 Much of his work contain gripping metaphors – realism portrayed through fantasy – such as giants incinerating people in The Arrival, or a big fish hovering above a young girl in The Red Tree. We can get a clear sense of the emotions and feelings being communicated, but the precise “meaning” of the metaphors is left open, to prompt some level of interpretation and imagination.

Shaun Tan, from The Arrival, 2006.

A Comparison of Works

The Red Tree evoked in me a similar emotional response as when I recently read the classic story of The Little Match Girl, written by Hans Christian Anderson in 1846. In both stories it is the glimpse of hope provided in an otherwise sombre atmosphere that particularly fascinates me.

In my own image of The Little Match Girl – where she is looking up at her grandmother who is soon to carry her away from this life – I was seeking to embody that combined feeling of darkness and hope. A mixed look of unbelief, surprise, weariness, and anticipation is written on her face. She looks up, a strange glow lighting up her face with a ray of hope. The close up shot – showing only her face – gives this piece an intimate and personal feel, placing the focus not on what she is looking at, but on how she feels. The background is dark and brooding – speaking of the harsh would that she is living in and foreshadowing her death. Texture and line play a large part in this drawing, and give it a loose, expressive feel… a sense of tumultuous thoughts and emotions.

Esther Griffiths, from The Little Match Girl series, 2009.

In The Red Tree, Tan uses similar techniques to convey a sense of hopelessness and despair. One image that particularly appeals to me shows a young girl standing on a dimly lit stage with a puppet on her hand, before a faceless audience. Bizarre creatures and contraptions surround her, leering at her with disdainful expectancy. Her head droops, and a small tear glimmers on her cheek. The way that her feelings of confusion, incompetence, and pressure are conveyed is very effective in this image through the use of these metaphors.

Shaun Tan, from The Red Tree, 2001.

Throughout the book, the girl’s eyes are far apart and droop downward, giving her face a look of weariness and sadness. Her eyes are partially covered by her hair in many of the book’s images, suggesting timidity. Her dress is plain, showing that she prefers not to draw attention to herself. She is often overwhelmed by a vast expanse of landscape, portraying a sense of aloneness. Her mouth is never shown apart from the final image. She is enshrouded with silence… an internal sadness that she keeps bottled inside.

The use of these methods to convey a mood of depression and anxiety is very effective. Children and adults alike can identify and empathise with the young girl in The Red Tree as they compare her experiences with their own, linking imagination to reality. It is this endearing emotional connection that I endeavour to achieve in my own work.

Similar but Different

While some of my work may have a similar emotive feeling to Tan’s, our techniques differ. Where Tan provides strange and fantastical buildings, landscapes or beings to heighten the feeling of confusion or alienation, I prefer to use simple texture and line. And often where he seeks to ask readers questions, I seek to answer them.

The way that Shaun Tan evokes such strong emotions through such images really motivates me. However, I feel that some of his work can verge on the vague side. The danger with this is that the reader can feel lost if there are too few clues as to intention or direction. It is the beauty of his images that rescues Tan from his apparent elusiveness, and it is this depth and beauty that I seek to develop in my own work.

In Conclusion
By comparing my work to Shaun Tan’s, I have not only gained a greater appreciation for the murky beauty and emotional influence that his work has, but I have also clarified my own ideas on where my illustration style is headed. The layered readings, dusky simplicity, and emotional depth to his images are things that I wish to pursue in my own work, thus producing images that not only gratify my own aspirations as an artist but also connect with and delight readers of all varieties!

Shaun Tan, from The Red Tree, 2001.

1 Shaun Tan, ‘Picture Books: Who are they for?’, Shaun Tan,, 05/03/09.

2 Shaun Tan, ‘Picture This’, ABC Radio National: Lingua Franca, 16 August 2008.
Transcript found on, 05/03/09.