Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Artwork for sale

I just noticed that some really nice bits of artwork from A PLACE TO CALL HOME are still for sale at Children's Book Illustration, including the cover image and the pile of sleeping hamster babies...

Go grab them! Can't quite believe I'm actually selling those... tsk!

Auto Correct

I've never quite got on with the auto complete/auto correct/swipe functions on my mobile, but at least it's quite inventive in its scenarios.

Fractal Monster

@keara_stewart took a picture of my drawing demonstration back at Comiket... I forgot to take one myself.
Check out the Fractal Monster!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Angry Mud Soup

Susie Tyler interviewed me for her blog, Susie and the Pencils.
We talked about books, friends and angry mud soup.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Stories, by Alexis

Alexis has started to publish some of his improvised stories on Soundcloud. You can hear them for free here.
I'm not quite sure how he does it but he's certainly full of surprises and voices.
The Prince of Shadows, drawing by Alexis Deacon
My favourite is the story of the Prince of Shadows, which I had something to do with although I'm not sure what exactly. It's from some years ago.

Forest Hill

Ellan and I are still viewing flats... by now we are quite sure that we want to live in Forest Hill, or at least in walking distance to it. I lived there years ago, and it's become a bit more exciting since then... a brilliant place to have coffee, sit in the sun, go for a walk, meet friendly cats...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Flathunting Song

Here's a little song to celebrate that my friend Ellan and I are still looking for a London flat to share.
You don't know of one, perchance? Two bedrooms? Or one with a lounge that can be turned into a second bedroom? With a garden? Budget of about a grand per month? In South London?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Drawing dogs

Today I've been mostly trying to turn a lovely dog I met in a park into a picture book character.
I also drew some other stuff and practised singing silly songs.

Monday, May 13, 2013


Today I got around to drawing a small thing for a magazine...
Here's a detail:
I've just learned how to do spot colour channels, and this is all drawn in pencil and then pasted into separate channels instead of layers. Very odd, but brilliant fun.
Here's a bit of the original drawing, featuring an angry house:

Sunday, May 12, 2013


It's a weekend of adjustments.
First, I was given a big drawing board for my studio desk.

Then I walked around South London, making plans for moving there... I visited old friends and their kids, went to a playground and photographed some amazing toys. These space people are for hanging on to and spinning around fast. They are made by a German company, but I forgot both the name of the company and the playground...

I visited a new café and bought some great coffee beans, and returning home got finally fed up with the performance of my cheap burr grinder. I took it apart and adjusted it. (Keeping all the safety switches intact, dad!)

Then I made a very fine coffee.

The next thing I need to fix is my best dress... a moth got to it, and ate a hole into the exact middle.

My fault for forgetting to bag it up. It's a very delicate knit, so I can't really fix it invisibly... I think I'll embroider something on it in white. But for now it's stashed in the freezer to kill off any remaining beasties.

Time to get back to work now, I need to draw some dogs for a new possible project...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Popzara review of Sleepwalkers, plus interview.

Popzara posted a wonderful review of The Sleepwalkers, plus a pretty long interview with me about it...
But more than anything, Schwarz treads confidently with a story that demonstrates a profound respect for readers, regardless of age, one that never underestimates or speaks down to them. Beautifully illustrated in both style and substance, The Sleepwalkers is not padded with shallow feel-good affirmations and over-populated with stock characters, which may frustrate those with a need to have everything spelled out for them (or their younglings). It rewards those who give in to its infectious sense of optimism in discovering one’s own place in the world. It would be a mistake, given the author’s previous work, to think this a story only for younger readers. This is a special book, written and drawn by a special person, intended for everyone.
Ah. I'm happy.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Interview on Playing By The Book

There is a fun interview with me on Playing By The Book Blog. I seem to be talking about a rabbit poltergeist, pencils, dancing in the street, dressmaking, surprise dispensing machines and the devil being really annoying.

Awesome Robot Cecily

Make sure you turn the sound on.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Free Comic Book Day at Gosh Comics

Me drawing Little My on the window at Gosh Comics. (Photo by Gary Northfield)
The finished My! With dollie.
Gary and his Rupert the Bear.
Warwick Johnson Cadwell's Tank Girl. So cool! (Note the excellent Robot Book in the window behind her)

I drew some Marvel Superheroes. Hulk, Wolverine... drawn from memory.

...The Silver Surfer and Galactus.

Check it out - A WHOLE SHELF OF ME! YESSSSS!!!!!

Friday, May 3, 2013

What it feels like to write a picture book story

I often get asked for advice by people who want to write picture books.

What I think you should know is what it feels like to produce a picture book story.
The questions I get asked most often are “how do you get the ideas” and “how long did it take you to find a publisher”. Sometimes they ask "isn't it annoying when people try to edit you?"
I think many people expect it to work like this: get an idea, write it, then prepare to be bounced off by loads of publishers until you get lucky.
It's not like that.
This is what it is like, from my experience and from talking to other authors.

Think of it as theatre. Picture books are a lot like theatre, 32 pages of performance to help parents entertain, educate, encourage an audience of one - over and over again. Thousands of copies, each one a paper theatre. You provide the script, the sets, the costume, the stage tricks.
What will your show be about?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Croc and Bird

I've been rereading my favourite picture book...

Croc and Bird, by Alexis Deacon. I've known Alexis for a decade or so now, we have made several books together and spent much time making up stories and drawing pictures. I never cease to be amazed by his drawing skills and the sincerity and warmth he brings to every story.
I caught glimpses Croc and Bird being made when I was visiting, with huge drawings of parrots and crocodiles taped up on all the walls... I think it was already my favourite book before it was even finished.

The back endpapers are covered in animal drawings, and give you an idea of what Alexis' sketchbooks look like. He does a lot of animal sketching, going as far as Galapagos to draw wildlife.

Croc and Bird hatch from two abandoned eggs on the beach, and naturally assume that they must be siblings. They are heartbreakingly cute little critters... bird is a pink, featherless tiny creature of endless optimism who seems to know exactly how life should work - food can be trusted to arrive if one waits with ones beak wide open, a nest is essential, and when the sun comes up, one sings to it. Croc is a slightly baffled but very well-meaning little lizard who goes along with all this and makes it work. They are a great team.

They grow up together, practising all the important life skills... flying, floating like a log, climbing, dancing... it evidently doesn't matter if one of them is better at anything than the other.

But things change. I won't spoil the story... just look at these illustrations. Night-time forests, trees full of birds...

None of this is digital, it's all hand-drawn and painted. Some of the foliage is collaged.
Alexis has a small flock of budgies living in his house, so the birds are extremely well observed.

I love this book. It makes me happy.

Please let your child make art.

You know those baskets of colourful pencils that children are offered for every activity time? The sort you can pick up cheaply in every supermarket? They look like a bucket of dreams waiting to happen. Children grab them by the handful, and dig through them like they are raiding treasure troves.
And truly they are buckets of dreams, and nothing more, because you need to dream pretty darn hard to make them work at all.
Have you ever used one of them?
Did you think: it's a wonder what a child's imagination can do, I can't draw a THING with this?
I'll tell you what. This is because those pencils are actually rubbish. Those are fake pencils. Okay?
The reason children take handfuls and dig through them with so much energy is because they are trying to find one that works. They know to go for the shortest nubbins at the bottom of the box and leave the longest ones which no one else could get anything out neither.
They are foraging, with great determination.
Imagine what that determination could do.