Feb 20 2014

Midnight on Exhibition

A preview of the “Midnight”exhibition at The Literature Centre

It’s always a thrill to look back and follow the stages involved in preparing a book for publication.

- from its origin and inspiration to the extensive research involved.

- the ‘journeys of discovery’ that help balance creative interpretation with historical authenticity.

- the development of a storyline to the rough drafts and sketches.

- the creative process of the artist that leads to original art.

Midnight captures the bond between horse and rider, the journey to war and an important moment in Australian military history. The Literature Centre invites school groups to view this moving, thought-provoking exhibition – a perfect workshop for students in the lead up to ANZAC Day. Suitable for Year 3 – Year 7
To book go here:

We’ll be celebrating Midnight with an informal gathering at the Literature Centre on Open Day, Sunday, March 16th from 2–3.00pm. Join Gee Jay the light horse for an Anzac biscuit and a cuppa. For details, click on the invite.

Jan 29 2014

Creating Midnight

There can be no better way to research than to follow in the footsteps of your characters. With Midnight, the first step was contacting Peter Haydon at Bloomfield Homestead in NSW, where Guy Haydon grew up and where Midnight was born. Mark and I shared our ideas about making a picture book based on their family folklore. To say the least, they were thrilled that we wanted to bring their family history to life for children. Ali and Peter Haydon warmly welcomed us into their home and generously gave us access to their archive room, where Guy’s war relics are preserved, along with his personal correspondence from the trenches at Gallipoli and throughout the desert campaign.

Inspiration for the first painting:






We walked through the fields alongside the Pages River where Midnight was born and traveled up to the high country where Midnight’s bloodlines still roam free. Here’s a photo of the broodmares taken at Scott’s Creek where they run in lush paddocks with plenty of space to rear their magnificent foals. The Haydon horses have a unique claim of being bred by the same family on the same property since the early 1830`s.

Then Mark and I headed off to Israel to follow the trail of the light horsemen and their various stops at wells for the three days leading up to the charge at Beersheba. This is a remote site where they stopped to water their horses.

Midnight’s story captured my heart. My greatest challenge was to capture the devoted bond between Midnight and Guy. I hope my paintings reflect a deep reverence for a light horseman and his beloved mare.

Here’s my process…from thumbnails to preliminary sketches to the final art:

Jan 18 2014

Midnight – a story within the story

In the fading afternoon light, on October 31st 1917, the mounted infantry division of the 4th and 12th Regiments of the Australian Light Horse took part in one of the last great cavalry charges in history. The capture of the wells of Beersheba, against a well-entrenched enemy, was a glorious hour in Australian military history. The audacious victory held the key to the Middle East campaign of World War 1, and led to the liberation of Jerusalem and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

as told by Mark Greenwood

The spark to write about the light horse and the charge at Beersheba came from a visit to a school in Queensland where I saw the famous photograph of the charge hanging in the school hall.

The photo, and the controversy surrounding it instantly intrigued me. I began reading many light horse books with a view to writing a story that would bring this moment in our history to life.

I’m drawn to little known slices of history where themes like courage and mateship play an important role in defining our past. So I began a search for a story within the story – I was searching for a tale of one horse and one rider among those brave 800 – a story that would give readers a sense of atmosphere and participation and excitement about that historic event.

And that’s how Midnight’s story found me!

I visited the Haydon’s Bloomfield homestead in the Hunter Valley, NSW where Midnight was born. I was graciously granted access to Guy’s letters from the trenches at Gallipoli and throughout the campaign in Palestine.

Then, together with Frané, we travelled to the scene of the famous charge and retraced the places where Guy and Midnight camped in the last few days leading up to the charge.

For me, going to the setting I’m writing about, where the historical event actually occurred, is one of the crucial stages in bringing history to life. It is a fascinating part of the process of writing about the past.


This book was inspired by the folklore of the Haydon family from “Bloomfield”, in the Hunter Valley, NSW. Riding his beloved mare, Midnight, Guy Haydon, a 25-year-old stockman, enlisted with the 12th Light Horse Regiment on 15th of February 1915.

Lt. Haydon was parted from his horse when he was sent to Gallipoli. When he returned to Egypt he was allocated another, but no horse could replace Midnight. Lieutenant Haydon searched for weeks amongst the thousands of army horses until he found Midnight with another regiment. Negotiations between the commanding officers of both regiments to swap horses eventually reunited the soldier and his horse.

During the battle for Gaza, Midnight remained continuously under saddle for seven days and nights – testament to the endurance of this wonderful horse, as well as to the care she received from Guy Haydon.

The Lieutenant and Midnight served together until sunset on the 31st of October 1917 when the 4th and 12th Regiments of Australian Light Horse charged the Turkish stronghold of Beersheba. Riding Midnight, Lieutenant Haydon was one of the first to leap the enemy trenches.

Midnight’s story is told in a simple prose style, accompanied by Frane’s vibrant interpretation in this poignant re-imagining of an extraordinary event in Australia’s history.

This story ends on a solemn note, but Midnight is a hero and her inspiring story is one that I hope many young Australians will read, just as we read about other heroes whose stories have contributed to our national myth-making.

History is about listening and sharing stories. I hope our Midnight will encourage readers to think critically about the tragedy of war. I hope the story will linger in the reader’s memory long after the book is closed.

Midnight – the story of a light horse published by Walker Books Australia.
US edition to be released in 2015 by Candlewick Press.
Buy online or in all good bookstores from February 1st, 2014

Jul 28 2013

Cross Check

It’s not because I love the dull thud of the aircraft doors being hermetically sealed followed by the words, cross-check, nor how I ‘love the smell of jet fuel when I wake up in the mornings’. Since my last posting there were way too many interstate and overseas invitations to amazing places that kept me on the hop. Wasn’t a problem, until I got home and my own family and friends did not know me by name.

Appreciate being home, sleeping in my own bed, pottering around the garden, cooking and most importantly, painting in my studio. With multiple books under contract, my wings are clipped.

I initially created this colour coded immaculate airtight schedule with good intentions – now gone by the wayside.

Happy happy happy as it’s given me the time to complete “The Mayflower” for Holiday House Publishers USA. Here’s a wee mini glimpse.

I so enjoyed working on this project as the editor just let me get on with it – she let me paint. She trusts that I will deliver my best.

The question might arise: Will my intuitive go at a painting be the best or if a publisher asks me to rework and rework something over and over, jumping through hoops with prelim material, will it eventually evolve into something better? I prefer the spontaneity.

And oh…. I discovered Charvin paints when I was in Paris. The shop was right next to my hotel. A true romance has begun with the creamiest gouaches in the world.

May 23 2012

The Book Boat Ships Off

Euphoria. Completed art ready to ship to New York.
The Book Boat for Holiday House Publishers had many ports of call. At the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, where I met the editor Grace Maccarone for the very first time.

Los Angeles and by pure syncronicity, I met the author, Cynthia Cotten (shhh- don’t tell the publisher).

Upstate New York and a visit to the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse for research and finally Fremantle, Australia to create the art.

So what’s in the box…here’s a sneak preview of the art. Click on image to see full spread. To see more, you may have to buy the book next spring. ;-)

Feb 14 2012

The Greatest Liar on Earth – A True Story

“Truth is Stranger than fiction. But De Rougemont is stranger than both”
– The Wide World Magazine June 1899

Received an advance copy of the new book today. I’m thrilled.
Painting Louis’s entertaining tall tales was an artist’s dream. Creating whimsical fish with hairy moustaches, witty flying wombats and a hilarious scene with cannibals was out the normal spectrum of my subject matter.

I tried to imagine Louis de Rougemont’s tall tales could be true. In the process of creating the art I found myself, like many others, struck by the charm of one of history’s colourful characters – a loveable dreamer-a master of “beautiful lies”.

Note from the Author: Mark Greenwood
The Greatest Liar on Earth is a tale of shipwreck, catastrophe and miraculous events.

But beneath the surface it’s the ‘true story’ of an unusual character, perhaps an overly enthusiastic dreamer, perhaps a charlatan, who is forced to confront the consequences of his storytelling.

There was a time when his incredible tales took audiences to places they could only imagine. His popularity grew as people turned to his adventures to enrich their lives. Dignitaries were struck by his charm. He was overwhelmed by invitations to lecture from every corner of the globe.
In later years, when he was disgraced as a charlatan, Louis earned a meager living telling stories to anyone who will listen.

In The Greatest Liar on Earth we are left to ask – after we have been entertained by a ripping yarn – does it matter if it is actually true or not?

Walker Books Australia: imminent release
Candlewick Press USA : Release Date: October 2012

See the Trailer. Click here.

Dec 17 2011

Three Books in Three Weeks

In other words, research til you drop. Ten flights, three rental cars, and one traffic violation complete with state trooper saying, “Ma’m, step out of the vehicle.”

Book One: MAYFLOWER Travelling to Plymouth Massachusetts to the Plimoth Plantation

Book Two: JESSE AND THE BOOK BOAT Travelling to Syracuse New York to the Erie Canal Museum

Book Three: MIDNIGHT Travelling to Be’er Sheva, Israel.

It was “work” highly mixed with fun seeing family and friends along the way.

Exciting to see my book FACEOUT at Barnes and Noble on Fifth Ave in NYC and fun signing a book contract in person at Holiday House Publishers.

All is all 2011 was a blessed year. Travelling all over the world, catching up with family, fellow creators, and speaking at International events. Visiting the holiest of places on the planet where I made wishes, lit candles and whispered dreams. Buddhist temples in Japan, Hindu temples in India, the Jewish Wailing Wall, Christ’s Tomb and Allah’s Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
As an Agnostic, I covered all bases without prejudice.

Peace on Earth in 2012

Sep 14 2011

Kids, kids, more kids and some children too.

Supposed to be painting, but it appears I’m visiting schools on a daily basis.
Five new books on the horizon so next year I’m back to my day job*.
*Unless the invitation comes from somewhere exotic, remote, or unturndownable.
I’ll miss all their eager eyes and cheeky grins, and funny comments like:
Kindergarten students:
“We have your photo in the library,” they say in unison
“That’s lovely,” I reply.
“But you don’t look anything like the picture,” they add.
“Oh, why’s that?” I ask.
“You are sooo much older in person.”

Sep 11 2011

Still Life

Louise’s oranges. The scent of the oranges envelopes the house and Louise has inspired me out of my blog block.

I want the fruit to last forever. Every sweet orange brings me back to her. I loved being with Louise as she meandered in the orange grove at Frog Lake with Baldrick tailing behind.

I wrote her cards from my travels, if only to imagine her walking to the mailbox to retrieve. There was a permanence of these hand written notes. Emails can be fugitive; tonight I desperately search on my computer to find any correspondence that remains from Frog Lake.

This week, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) WA announced that the inaugural Louise Schofield Award has been presented to WA author Meg McKinlay.

May 26 2011

A Speck in a Mass of Humanity

img_0487A wise old friend once said, “India will take your mind apart and put it back together again”. img_2513

This was my third venture into India. As always, it’s a humbling experience, to feel but a speck in a mass of humanity, where life and death confronts you daily.

India is not a holiday destination. It’s an adventure on survival, keeping every wit in check. Every sense is pushed and pulled to infinity and back. Even for the cynical, one cannot help but have some sort of spiritual and/or philosophical experience being surrounded by temples, mosques, shrines, pilgrims and devotees.
Mark Twain said, “India has 2,000,000 gods, and worships them all. In religion other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire”. img_2741img_0634

Remembering my first trip 30 years ago, visiting a temple in Varanasi, being swept along with the crowd to find myself in front of a holy man offering holy water from the Ganges, well holy moly, I nearly died from dysentery.
I’m such a different traveler now, embarrassingly obsessed with bottled water and sterile hand spray. Shame in a way, after spending tons of money on unused diarrhea pills and exotic injections.

This adventure took us to Rajasthan, Hyderabad and Kerala,

In Jaipur, we looked for uncut gemstones and stayed in the devine Click here: Samode Palace and Haveli. Being summer, as in over 100ª, we were the only guests and had the Palace all to ourselves.img_2583img_2571img_0633

Wish I could share a few picture from Shane Warne’s last cricket game playing with the Rajasthan Royals. Security was insane. Little did we know, no mobile phones or cameras are allowed into the ground. What to do with all our gizmos? We tried telling security that Shane himself gave us the tickets, yea right. I asked a TV camera crew if they’d hold on to them, which they obliged. I prayed they’d find us in the crowd. Not only did they find us, they plastered close ups of our token Caucasian faces all over Indian TV during the game.

We ventured to Hyderabad, where western tourists rarely travel, researching a new book. Looking for a 16th century landmark pillar took us deep into a slum in the old Hyderabad. Some “houses” were kept immaculate, some utter hovels. Here’s the pillar and some of the children. slumphoto1

And finally to Jew Town (Ft. Cochin) in Kerala. I know, I know, but that’s what it’s called.

I recommend everyone go to India at least once in your life, or if you are lucky to believe in reincarnation…in one of your lives. My book “The Bird Who Was an Elephant” was inspired by this belief.Udaipurthe-bird-who-was-an-elephant

Mark Twain once again, “India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most astrictive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only”.
To see more photos, go to my Facebook page.