Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Animals I Met Today

I'm toroughly enjoying myself here in Australia.

Today I hand-fed a whole load of kangaroos - it's a hot day, so they were mostly lazing around in their dust baths. It was too hot to handle the koalas, they easily overheat, apparently. They seemed quite disappointed about this and followed people around. I figured, considering the natural leg-speed of the average koala, being carried by a person must be a bit like riding a motorbike. Or at least a segway.

I also fed some emus. They were less scary close-up than I expected, expect when they started belching. It's a very alaming noise.
Here are some heat-flattened beasties drawn from life.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Game Of Thrones

Yesterday I drew a knight riding a wolf with a sidecar with another knight with a flaming sword.
Everyone needs a day off sometimes.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Why do you make books for children?"

Some years ago I gave a talk at the annual Illustration Forum in Falmouth. I have no memory of what I said because i was so nervous that I instantly abandoned all my notes and plans and just started talking, and all I remember is that my mouth was moving, there were slides, people laughed a lot and in the end I got applause (and a job as associate lecturer).

Now Steve Braund, the course leader of the Authorial Illustration MA in Falmouth and the organiser of the forum, sent me part of a transcript.
It's a complete surprise, and I really don't remember saying any of these things, but they are all true, so here you go.

‘The reason I do children's books - write and illustrate them - is that I really needed books when I was a child.
That was the time in my life when I really, really, REALLY needed books because I grew up in this little German town. There wasn't a whole lot to do there. There were trees, and aluminium and stuff so I really needed to read books then...reading them and tearing out the pages I didn't like and colouring in the pages I did like. I especially liked books that were telling me how the world is actually a very exciting place, because I thought it should be, and books about how to make things and do things. I worked out that people actually make books at some point, and I was like, ''Oh wow, I want to make books.'' I thought, ''But I'm too small, I don't know how to.'' But I started imagining what kind of books I wanted to make and I made this list which I still have. I'll read you out the list of books I though should exist which I've since been working on:

A book that is a pet to play with, and more exciting than gerbils.
A book that is guide to the adventurer's world, which is much in the same place as the non-adventurer's world but you need maps and explanations
to make it work.
A book to keep me safe.
A book that's actually tasty.
A book that explains how there's a city of pigeons above a human city.
A book that is an adventure.

‘And then all these books would be my friends. They would give me stuff and play with me, and if a burglar comes I would hit him over the head with
a book, and if I got lost I would have a book which folded out to be a house. Basically, brilliant books. I've been working my way through that list ever since I started working. Whenever I start work on a book, I think, which one is it? I hope it's on the list.’

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Circle Rules Football and Citydash

Firehazard is back for 2012! We shall be playing fun games in London - totally the best way you can get exercise without hating it. I find.

We have a snazzy new website where you can join - for free, at the moment. We're building up a network of people who like to play games that involve a lot of running around and not too many rules.

Our first event was a small game of Circle Rules Football at London Fields, it looked like this:

Check out my fancy moves...

There will definitely be a lot more of this kind of thing.

Then today we had a run of Citydash - a fast game of tag and treasure-hunt using mobile phones, played in the City of London. We've been running it before, but now we updated it to allow team-building. Also there is no more crew needed - players get to place targets and be guards themselves.
It was great fun.

Friday, January 13, 2012

No Rats Today.

I'm having a day off the rat book.

I woke up today feeling completely dreadful. I'd exercised, so I felt sore all over, and the upstairs neighbor had done his usual werid stomping routine at night, so I was tired, and I had had strange nightmares for the remaining night, so I was VERY tired actually.

I refused to get up until lunch time, because every time I sat up I felt woozy. Then I decided it was time to have a day off drawing, and that I might as well work my nightmares into my new graphic novel script.

If you are interested, one dream was about catching a demon in the kitchen sink and then being sent out by my mother to a fetisch supermarket to buy it a miniature sofa to furnish the bottle we were keeping it in. It didn't go well.

I would really love to know what the upstairs stomping is all about. It's at very regular times, moves all through the flat and ends with the sound of something being dropped on the floor. Weighted boots? I have no idea. It's maddening.

So, having worked my dreams into the script as planned, and having taken a walk to the nearest bookshop, I shall now curl up on the sofa and read this book:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I'm still drawing fighting rats.

Unexpectedly, as I was listening today to what is officially the Third Best Game Of Thrones Podcast, I heard myself mentioned. That was nice. I don't think I was ever mentioned in a book club before. Yay!
(Don't listen to this podcast if you're a child or I'll get told off.)

Otherwise, I ordered a pack of orange dye to save my favourite moomin pillow that I stained with henna by accident. Life is exciting. Yeah.

Back to drawing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Alexis visited today and helped me out with some more battling rats. He drew a sheet of poses, I'll nab some of them for the big fight scene in our next book.
Here is a picture of a rat being mean to a smaller rat with a fork.
(Alexis had nothing to do with this one, he's more classy than that. You'll recognize it in the final artwork, he roughed out all the proper wrestling poses and such.)

Henna Head

Henna Time Again! I don't know what it says about my character - the main reason hennaing my hair cheers me isn't knowing that my head will be red, but the fond memory of my first boyfriend retching and complaining that it smells like evil rabbits. Whenever I come across something he'd hate, it makes me smile. Otherwise: the studio is being painted, so I am working at home. Drawing rats. There are still rats to be drawn.

Friday, January 6, 2012

From my diary: Being Funny

I'm quite funny. I know because people say so even though I'm not trying, most of the time anyway. In fact, they tend to say it more the more normal I think I'm being at the time.
Sometimes someone I am communicating with (successfully, I think) shakes their head, apropos (I think) of nothing in particular, and asks me if I have any idea how God Damn Hilarious I am being. I don't mind that particularly much. It's much better than calling me "mad" or "eccentric" (is everyone else "cenric"? What are they even talking about?) - also better than just nodding and walking off briskly without any sort of excuse, although I kind of like that as well because people who do that are not pleasant conversationalists anyway. They are mostly guys who say they are connaisseurs of women and ask weird questions like "why do you wear lipstick when you are intelligent enough to know I don't like it". But I digress. There are a lot of funny people in the world. I think everyone is funny, but then I think that it might just be the kind of person who hangs around near me tends to amuse me. I mean, I can't tell, there is no scientifically valid way for me to work out if everyone else is funny even though I think they are. People also often think that I am pretending to be more stupid than I am, maybe in an attempt at being funny. I don't do that, I think people just have a narrow idea of what intelligence means and what it makes you do. It sure doesn't stop people from being ridiculous. Anyway, the strange thing is that somehow I am now being funny for money. I didn't mean to do that, I didn't try to avoid it neither. But it's strange, isn't it? It's meant to be very hard work to be funny for a living, especially if you are female, and even more so if you are German. I'm a female German, what's up with that? Maybe it helps that I do work for Children. Not that people would reason: our children need some cheer, let's get an unintentionally hilarious German lady in here, quick... they don't do that, do they. Also I'd not turn up because a) children are scary and b) statistically I  only turn up to every forth social invite, so that would be not a good strategy, inviting me when your children need anything. The point is: I am often surprised about my job. I sometimes find myself laughing while I am drawing, and I stop and think about what made that happen, because generally I wasn't even trying to draw anything funny. Recently, I have stopped the stopping and thinking because it's just slowing me down, and it's more fun to read the whole book when it's finished and laugh my head off then. I thought about this a fair bit today, and in the end I realised that I was not coming to any conclusion at all, not even a small one. I guess I just don't get my own sense of humour, maybe because I'm German. That's ok. I also do cute drawings.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ipad! Totally!

Noteshelf Doodle
I have an Ipad! And I spent the last couple of days setting it up and working out a new workflow or six.
I've been tapping and scribbling and downloading and synching and uploading and shuffling and clipping and pasting. It's amazing. It really, really is a great productivity tool.

Apps I love already:

  • Celtx, my good old favourite script editor has a brilliant ipad app. I started writing my next graphic novel script straight away - it's just beautiful, the formatted script just flows onto the page and cloud-synchs easily with my desktop computer.
  • Daedalus: a peculiar no-frills text editor that manifests my writings as virtual sheets of paper in virtual stacks. It happily synchs them into Dropbox as simple text files. There are no distractions, and it has much of the joy of working in a paper notebook. Physically shuffling through the paper stacks is really satisfying, and if I need to find anything in a hurry there is a text search function. Yay. I already imported a half-written novel out of Scrivener to tap away on it on the pad. That means something, Scrivener being my absolute favourite novel editor... I might even abandon it!
  • The Kindle app is so much friendlier than I expected - it imports PDFs and other documents, which means I have copies of my own picture books sitting on it now.
  • Noteshelf is a great app for scribbling - in my case, scribbling whole picture book roughs. The pages produced can be shuffled around at will, which means I can produce a full set of rough thumbnails in no time. - It also lets you make scrapbooks of pictures you find elsewhere and handwritten notebooks on a range of virtual papers. (You can even keep handwriting your own diary, although I much prefer the Muji Calendar App for that - it synchs with gcal, wheee!)
  • Quickoffice, meh, Quickoffice is ugly. What can you do. But it lets me deal with all sorts of documents on the go, connects to google docs and generally does all that less beautiful office type stuff that needs to happen sometimes.
  • Evernote! EVERNOTE IS AWESOME!!! I have it installed on all my devices and it's an almighty bucket of ideas, swallowing photos, notes, recordings and anything else I want to remember. I have a notebook for each of my projects, and they are filling up with characters, sketches and insomniac ramblings.
  • Flipboard is a fine way of not getting totally lost on the web reading a load of crud. It makes whatever my social network shares into an ever changing shiny very interesting magazine. The best thing ever to read in the morning with a cup of tea.
  • Dropbox. Dropbox is great as ever. Everyone needs Dropbox.
And otherwise, two things you need if you want to input a lot of stuff: a decent bluetooth keyboard case (I got the Adonit Writer, which is excellent if you have tiny hands and not otherwise) and a stylus (I thought the Cosmonaut looked best - it hasn't arrived yet, so I can't tell).

What I haven't got on it: games, and drawing apps. I really don't feel like drawing on the thing. Might change my mind when that stylus arrives.

All in all: WOO HOOO! It's fun to work with. I prefer to draw on real paper with pencils, but I love to scribble and plan and collect and write and connect everything up with the ipad... it's like an amazing electronic notebook rather than a computer. And I LOVE NOTEBOOKS.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Dream diary

Last night's dream: God is Listening
For some reason God is listening to my ideas. It's not quite the same as listening to my prayers. It's more like he's somehow inclined to realise my more involved inspirations. I am rather excited about this, and sketch out in my mind a planet covered in sweet bouncy foam, just viscous enough to swim in it but not so one would sink. I am just about to design the athmosphere, which of course would need to be breathable, when I get distracted by goings-on in the harbour. A large ship is closing in, with a kind of cannon at the top. A war ship, most definitely. Behind it, some sort of aircraft carrier, also armed. The carrier fires. An almighty wave comes up from the sea. The ship turns its nozzle on us, and foam billows forth, covering everything. I think: aw no, God, not like that... The valleys are flooded, the forests disappear as the foam and water react, sweet radioactive foam bloats up, forming an inviting blanket over all, leaving merely the hill we stand on... People are crying, I am glad they don't know this was my idea. We walk to the edge of the foamy waste. What am I supposed to say - well done, God? I fold my hands and say: "Lord, I am sorry. Please, do not follow my ideas any further. I do not demand for my prayers to be heard, but I pray for better prayers." The foam retreats. I am not sure how to feel about all this.