Graphic Design and Animation Graduates 2012

Online portfolio and print on demand catalogs for Graphic Design and Animation graduates from the Department of Design 2012. On this page you will find our conference presentations, and by hovering over the menu groups on the left you can read contextual documents. You are welcome to attend our Grad Show, opening on 29 November 2012 at 6pm, and daily from 30 November to 6 December 9.30am – 4pm.

Crissi Blair : picture books that explore and expand the child’s world

Buniboy and his dog

Crissi Blair portfolio + CV


I am creating a picture book for very young children (approximately 2-3 years old), exploring different formats and content that focuses on the child’s small world, and incorporating interactive elements to encourage the child to truly engage with and take ownership of the book. This is an age where children can develop a love for books and they particularly enjoy those which capture elements of their daily lives. The aspect I am focusing on is footwear.

Cover trial for ‘Feet’ picture book

Proposed text for Feet

The hero of the story is, as it has been since 2010, Buniboy.


Buniboy in his undies

These are some pages from that first book:


An international publisher provided positive and constructive feedback on my book Where Shall We Go Today? (2010) and I have incorporated that learning into my subsequent work with encouraging prospects of future publication.

The next big change in my work was thanks to a puppet making workshop at Unitec where I made a model of Buniboy which brought him to life and provided me with a model to photograph and draw from, and one day use for animation.

Buniboy in the wild

In 2011 I made another picture book Every Day I Take A Walk (currently awaiting publisher feedback).

From ‘Every Day I Take A Walk’ featuring Buniboy and a statue of Elvis that is in a park near where I live

These two books resulted in an illustration commissioned for an anthology of New Zealand stories and poems to be published in October 2012.


The challenge this year has been to identify the most successful ways to illustrate my book, and to demonstrate my book design skills as my desired career path. As a result there have been a number of changes of plan this year, and my final book has only recently been resolved. But the learning and evaluating process has been hugely valuable and also served to grow my library of  source material such as photographs, drawings, models and references.


I have worked in the field of children’s books for the past eight years as a writer, reviewer, event organiser and publisher, which has provided me with an extensive library and knowledge base which I am now expanding into the field of book design and illustration.

I was Festival Manager for Storylines Festival of NZ Children’s Writers & Illustrators 2005-2008 organising events around New Zealand
I compiled the reading lists and designed this charity publication, and another that followed it, which went to libraries and schools all around New Zealand

Armed with my experience and accumulated skills I am working to combine my strongest illustration skills, melded with strong influences from the international picture book world, to produce my own warm and inviting book to tempt young children, and the adults who share and choose books for them. The adult must be won over before the child.




I incorporate printmaking into my work and find that the formalist qualities of printmaking encourages a haptic and emotional response from readers. It blends with collage materials to provide an image with depth and resonance.


I’m interested in the way children learn through play, and being physically involved with books, be it through manipulating the book itself, or using content which surprises, and illustrations which augment the text .

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Children love to poke their fingers through the holes and explore the graduated sizes of the pages.


The concept of identity is significant in my work. I have seen the responses when children recognise people, things and places that are part of their personal, community or cultural identity, and endeavour to exploit the potential of extending this understanding through books

T page from ‘Where Shall We Go Today’. Children can explore places and sights that are familiar to them but also make new discoveries.

Some ordinary things that are part of a small child’s life. I’m testing using photography in my publication but also developing illustrations based on the photographs.


My primary illustration style uses simple line drawings. I have been observing the way minimal detail can provide maximum information, in the same way that Scott McCloud explains in Understanding Comics that a face with less information can be more readily identified with. My animal characters have enough human characteristics for readers to see themselves reflected, without being limiting.

When I draw I make multiple iterations of the item, until I feel it has just enough detail to be identified but leaving room for the imagination.

Earlier iteration of publication


Curious responses are drawn from the reader by the reuse of everyday materials in collage. This is not only interesting for the child reader, but also the adults who share the books with them. The history of each scrap adds to the story, which also provides additional opportunities for talking together through the book experience. The use of collage adds resonance and encourages curiosity in the reader as they look for things they recognise from other places.

I reference artists such as Sara Fanelli in my use of collage and found materials such as this Minotaur from her book of mythical creatures.

I have researched Oliver Jeffers (and just had an article about him published in Magpies children’s literature magazine) and find his simple characters and mixed media illustrations, along with the colour palette, hold much of what I wish to achieve in my own books. Fun and entertainment, but depth and intelligence also.

Collage trial to illustrate a child’s desire to fly 
Collage trial to illustrate eating whatever you like

I’ve chosen to use a palette of rich but not garish colour which is reminiscent of 1950s, a time I think of as being when the domestic arena and the everyday was held in high regard. Mothers stayed home with their children and the home was becoming a brighter place in the post war years. it was the time of early television and plastics and other new technology which resounded in the rich colourings. I see this palette used a lot in Oliver Jeffers work and in paint trials I’ve made with success.


I’ve regularly used the Century Schoolbook typeface, largely thanks to research into Leo Leonni and his reasons behind choosing to use this typeface in every one of his numerous books for children as he believed it was the most readable typeface for children. I particularly like this choice when the type itself is not playing a bold part in the imagery of the book, but rather providing an accompanying text.

However the work I’m about to start is going to trial hand drawn type which I hope will play a dynamic part in the images and add personality to the words which in themselves are quite simple.

I  favour hand drawn type such as is used by Jeffers, particularly when based on a formal typeface such as fancy Rosewood, so it is special, but still has the intimate tone of the hand.


I have recently made some mock-up books to test and had an interesting result with a child age 3.5 who has a baby sister. My trials consisted of a board book and two with card covers and 170gsm pages. The board book was passed up almost immediately as being ‘for the baby’. She carefully turned the pages of one of the paper books but lost interest quickly when she saw there was nothing on them. I’ll be returning with later iterations with images and look forward to further expert opinion!


Buniboy is a rabbit with human characteristics, enabling him to be readily identified with by children as he is not a specific race or age. He was initially without gender though has become more male as he has evolved, particularly after I made a model of him which can be (and will in the future) used for animation purposes. This process really brought the character to life for me.

Part of the appeal of Buniboy is due to his soft toy appearance and that is an element I’d like to develop in the future.


I have conducted research into what is considered acceptable in children’s books, and debate about the protection (or not) of children’s innocence and have found that there is much controversy. Should books for children be scary? Do they perceive this content in the same way that adults do? I think we each have our own line of acceptability and I’m interested in discovering where those boundaries are for me and my audience.


About nzbookgirl

NZBookgirl loves all kinds of books, but particularly books for children. 'When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.' Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)

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This entry was posted on August 12, 2012 by in Uncategorized.
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