Sunday, April 28, 2013

Springtime in London

I'm back on Instagram. All right. Whatever. I just want to swap pretty pictures of stuff I see with other people. I'm not going to give them high res artwork though. Just everyday stuff I see that makes me happy... Here's some.

A Finnish friend visited and brought this.

Hyde Park

A smiling old dog I met.

Cream Tea in Kensington

Awesome Robot In Motion

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Base Units ready to go!

VISION has been added. MOTION is enabled.

Dancing battle robot.

Robot Moods.

Aluminium Robot.

Photo Booth

Photo Booth between photos

Engineering (photo by @deanbeswick)

Networking (photo by @deanbeswick)

Greeting Robot

This one has a self destruct button which is securely taped over.


Engineering team

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Emma Collins drew this lovely portrait of me hunting for a house.
I'm looking hard, it can't be long until I find the perfect little home!

If you know of a nice two bedroom place in South London, let me know.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Launching Sleepwalkers! It happened! What!

It's just sunk in....
I had such a great day at Comica Comiket where I officially launched my graphic novel, THE SLEEPWALKERS. I spent the day chatting and signing, live drawing and being interviewed, making new friends and meeting old ones.
People like the book! I am so happy.
It's been such a load of work, years of thinking and planning and writing and drawing and colouring, designing and waiting... and now it's out. For real. I can't quite believe it. It's been out for a few weeks but it only feels real now.
I don't even know what to say exactly... so I'm just saying thanks everyone who helped, and thanks everyone who read it and told me that they loved it, and I hope it'll help some of you with your own nightmares...

If you're interested in seeing how the whole project developed, look here.
THE SLEEPWALKERS - published by Walker Books

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Awesome Robot - now with more tubes!

Neill Cameron tweeted these pictures today.


Base Unit with Tubes


Nothing I can add, really.

House hunts and Comic fairs

Life is stressful, but excellent.
I finally get to move out of Tower Hamlets - I never liked it here. Now I just need to find a new place... I hope I can move back to Peckham, where I feel at home. In any case, I'm looking forward to a new happy home full of nice things where I can sit, drink tea and make up stories.

Yesterday I went to Comica Comiket to launch my graphic novel "The Sleepwalkers". I did some live drawing to music for an audience, and as always drew so fast that it was all done after half the time. Ah well. - Then I chatted with all the excellent comic artists and publishers - it was great.
I'm so glad that people like my comics, both "Welcome to your Awesome Robot" and "The Sleepwalkers". I saw photos and videos of whole families of cardboard robots, and I signed a good load of books. It made me happy.

Do forgive me if I will be obsessed with houses for a bit until I find one - London is just so amazingly expensive. It always seems impossible to find a place that's affordable, nice, has the right shape and isn't falling to bits... until one suddenly appears. It'll happen.
Do tell me of any bright two bedroom places that allow cats... I hear some people actually do own houses, if you are one of them, why not rent some of it to me? I'm nice and I make books!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Looking for a new home!

I am looking for a new home in South London!

My friend Ellan and I are planning to move into a friendly two-bedroom place.
Must be bright and cheery, with a kitchen to sit in and chat.
We are friendly, tidy and reliable tenants - a theatre designer and a picture book artist.

There is art, and a cat, but neither will harm the place in any way.

If you would like to rent to a couple of excellent creative professionals, or know of a good place, let us know!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Monkey and Duck review

They especially got into trying out the activity parts...

So glad no one got hurt! These two are living dangerously.

Alexis Deacon

Now here's something grand: Alexis Deacon has a blog!

The Railway Children, by Alexis Deacon

You might know him as the author and illustrator of "Beegu" and other wonderful picture books (My personal favourite is "Croc and Bird"), and the author of two books I illustrated, most recently "Cheese Belongs To You"!

Alexis is one of the best when it comes to drawing, I mean one of the best people alive as far as I know.
He also knows his stuff when it comes to storytelling, and I expect that his blog will feature some very useful posts for anyone interested in illustration, comics and picture books.

He's already blogged a load of previously unpublished illustrations, and stuff from his amazing workshops. Go have a look!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Creating a character: AMALI

Meet Amali! She's one of the main characters in my graphic novel, "The Sleepwalkers", which is out THIS WEEK. It's been years of planning and writing, drawing, colouring and putting-together. I thought you might like to see some creative process to get an idea of what was involved.

Excited about plans for a new adventure.

Amali is a sock monkey, magically brought to life. That much I knew from the start.

The making of Amali (the crafty part thereof)

I've run a few workshops making sock monkeys, and caused a few hundred of those odd creatures to be made that way. In the back of the book you can see a photograph of one of them: a child made it in Belgium. There is also an early character sketch.

A detail from the author page (that's the pencil I used, it's from Muji).

My first sketch of Amali and Bonifacius

Amali is one of the characters that were originally invented by my friend and collaborator Alexis Deacon - he came up with the idea of a monkey, a bear and a dog working together to save children from bad dreams. His original characters were of a different disposition though. I remember the monkey being a somber, serious person. I thought that the bear was somber enough already, and that there should be a better gender balance, so I turned her into a girl.

After that I was a bit stuck. All the other characters seemed to come to life naturally in my imagination as I wrote the first draft, but Amali refused to. She didn't appear fully formed in my head like the three sheep in the story had done. So I tried a few of my usual tricks.
The first one is to base a character on a friend. I know that all my characters are to some extent based on myself, so I ask myself what that friend and I have in common, or which of their character traits really impress me in some way or another.
I tried to base Amali on a friend of mine who is very imaginative, bright, poetic and athletic, but also worries a lot at times. That helped, but she still felt like an awkward construct.

Working out the "costume" - early stages
I spent a lot of time designing her "costume", that is, her fur. I considered the pattern of the socks she was made of. I gave her black pants and boots, like a superhero might wear. I gave her cute flicks of hair, thinking of Astro Boy, and more flicks to build an odd collar that seemed to suit her.
I realised that one of her basic character traits was being a born superhero. She was literally made to be a hero; made out of socks, but still. She couldn't take her hero boots off if she tried.

I thought of the sock monkeys that families had made in my workshop. The kind of character that emerged there… those monkeys mostly seemed to be extremely self-satisfied. They reflected the pride of their maker, wearing a big grin stitched on after a whole hour of sewing and stuffing and designing and succeeding in it all. Those monkeys knew they were awesome, even the most wonky ones with exploding limbs, and the ones made from terrible ancient tennis socks.
Not a smidgen of self-doubt. That's what Amali is like, too.

sock beast
One of the sock creatures made in one of my workshops (this one is a cat, but you get the idea).

The book includes a page of instruction for you to make your own monkey, of course.

The next important piece came from another trick. Some years ago, when I was having trouble with my work, I saw an improvised theatre performance. It was a good one, the sort that seems like magic. I went and bought the book they were selling in the interval: Keith Johnstone's "Impro". One of the best things I ever bought, that was.
In there, I found a technique called "Fast Food Stanislavski", which was all about writing a list of basic motivations for the character to consult every time they did anything.
So I wrote a list for Amali of things she wants.
She is curious and wants to explore everything.
She wants to be a hero.
She wants others to be happy.
Then I thought back to the very first scene Alexis and I had written about her. She was going on a deep sea rescue mission enclosed in a bottle. From that I wrote:
She likes to be in small spaces.
That made me think about her character in a new way, because it is something I did myself as a child, and it came with a set of emotions: I used to hide in boxes, cupboards, drawers, because I liked the feeling of being outside the world. I didn't exist for a bit. It was so peaceful!
I realised that if anything should upset Amali, she would always hide in a small space. But what could upset her? What could upset a person like Amali, who seems so incredibly happy?
She doesn't want to be left alone.
She wants to have a plan, and things to go as planned.
She doesn't want anyone to get hurt.
She doesn't ever want things to end badly.
I trusted that set of rules, and consulted it while I was writing, and after a while bad things happened... and Amali started to react to them. She did things I had not expected, like yell at people, and eat a whole jar of jam so she could hide inside it.
Panels from the comic.
Her need for happiness inspired a page between chapters that is a recipe for banana milkshake, as a distressed monkey would feel comforted by it. I think stories and recipes go together brilliantly. - There is a full pasta recipe in "The Godfather". You can eat exactly what these guys are eating right then, and actually you would really enjoy that meal as much as they do. It's like magic, a little piece of the story manifests - and that nails down a corner of that story in the world of the reader.

Milkshake recipe detail.
The last piece didn't fall into place until I started drawing the comic.

The size chart I used. I am terrible at keeping characters at a constant size.
Amali is so much smaller than the bear, who she interacts with a lot, that simply to get her into the same panel she has to climb all over things… and all over him. I realised that she would do that with everyone all the time.
And that way, she somehow made a connection with the other characters as soon as she appeared visually, and finally came to life.

Panels from the comic.

So there, that's my creative process for you, hope you enjoyed it, and maybe you want to meet the other characters… they are all in the book, and it is on sale now! Ask your local bookshop. (It's published by Walker Books London, Walker Books Australia... and yep, there's an American edition by Candlewick Press.)

Oh and you can try to make contact with Amali at @TheSleepwalkers. She's in charge of the Twitter stream when Gregor the sheep is busy doing other things. There are odd temporal and dimensional distortions at work, so you can't use Twitter to call them to fix your nightmares, which is a shame. But they are nice to chat to anyway.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Look at this awesome family of robots.

The excellent Children's book review blog PLAY BY THE BOOK has tested out my robot building book and blogged a full review. Go read!

"A craft book about building robot costumes out of cardboard boxes, Viv Schwarz’s book is like no craft book we’ve read before. It’s a bedtime story as well as a round-the-kitchen-table manual. It’s a fill-with-breakfast-toast-crumbs kind of book whilst you start planning the instant you wake up. Indeed it’s very much an I-can-DO-this-and-I-want-to-do-this-RIGHT-now kind of book. Oh, and it is funny. VERY funny."

Well... This makes me very happy.
Now let's hope it gets warm enough soon for more awesome robots to take to the streets!

Monday, April 1, 2013

I made a leather sketchbook cover.

I like to work in A5 sketchbooks and notebooks, generally, and I tend to have at least one per project. That gets quite confusing at times, and I thought it would be nice to have a cover that holds a set of them at a time so I can carry all the ones I am working on at the same time.

This design is inspired by those lovely Midori Traveller books that have appeared on the scene recently - they are great, but not a useful format for me. Too narrow. So, anyway, here's how I made my own.

I got some vegetable tanned leather (apparently it folds best). It's about 2mm thick and reasonably rigid.

I measured out a rectangle to hold a bunch of books, with a comfortable margin around them,

I made three holes each at the top and bottom of the spine and threaded elastic through them.

I tied the ends in a way, making sure to keep even tension on them.

The ends went back through the middle holes...

...then I tied them together, so I had four strings of elastic stretched across the inside of the cover.
(Took a short break to play guitar on them here.)

Proof of the pudding: it all seemed quite flimsy up to then, but once I threaded a few sketchbooks in, it all held together nicely.

Even smaller sketchbooks seemed reasonably comfortable, although I expect they'll be annoying when I try to draw into the larger ones. - I kept one band free to clip in folded pages of A4, because there are always some meeting notes and print-outs that need to be kept safe.

I experimentally attached a clip for a pen, but it seemed a bit pointless. Pretty, though. - There are all sorts of modular parts that can be bought for Midori Traveller sketchbooks which would fit in here, special pockets and such. I think I'll make my own, but if I see a nice part in a stationery shop I'll probably buy it.

I took the books back out and threaded another loop of elastic through a hole in the spine.

Cut notches in the cover to help the elastic stay in place, and rounded off the corners.


I will see how I get on with it and post any major improvements.
If you make your own, let me know how it goes and if you come up with fun ways to integrate your beautiful stationery stash... I think I need to add a pocket in the back to keep some of this VERY IMPORTANT STUFF in: