Art assessment/mentoring with James Foley

James Foley photo
James Foley

James Foley is visiting today to tell us about how he came to be an illustrator—and the details of the fabulous prize he is donating for the winner in the Most Outstanding Artwork category of the Alphabet Soup Creativity Award. (You can read about the prizes for the Most Outstanding Story and the Most Outstanding Poem categories in earlier posts this week.)

Thanks, James!

I write and illustrate children’s books. I’ve recently released my second picture book, In The Lion, through Walker Books. It’s a little like The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly but darkly funny and set in a zoo. My first book, The Last Viking, came out last year. it was written by Picture-Book-of-the-Year winner Norman Jorgensen.

In the Lion (cover)"The Last Viking (cover)"


Most illustrators will tell you they’ve been drawing for as long as they can remember. I started my career in primary school, drawing cartoons for the school newspaper. The paper only lasted one issue, probably because my class faked a fire in the school hall using a smoke machine to get our front page story. In year 7, I won third prize in a state-wide ‘Make Your Own Storybook’ Competition. I later worked on a regular comic strip for my high school paper; political cartoons for a Curtin University paper; and a full-page comic for Notre Dame University’s Quasimodo magazine.

But my professional career really began in 2003, when I drew my first covers for Western Australia’s weekly Quokka newspaper. By the time I finished in 2010 I’d drawn nearly 300 full-colour cartoons.

I like working in pen and ink, pencil, charcoal and watercolour. I also use digital tools such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter and a Wacom graphics tablet.

I have a website and you can also visit The Last Viking blog which goes behind-the-scenes of the picture book.


My assessment/mentoring will contain feedback on your illustration, suggestions for drawing activities, advice on books to look at and artists to look up, and general tips for illustrating books. The winner will need to email me a scan of their artwork for appraisal. I will email back my feedback and tips.

I will also provide a signed copy of my latest book In the Lion.

I remember being encouraged at a young age to follow this dream, so hopefully I can do the same here.

We can hardly wait to announce the winners on Friday. While you’re waiting, you can check out the book trailer for In the Lion. It’s really cool.