Sunday, December 30, 2007

Off To Edinburgh!

Happy New Year everyone!
I'm getting ready to go to Edinburgh for a week, I might blog from an internet-cafe if I remember my password!

I just bought a second travel bag, a sturdy leather satchel that will serve as a handbag and sketch-bag abroad. I was a bit puzzled when the shopkeeper was overjoyed about my choice of brand... I thought it was a bit silly, myself, for being "pre-distressed" but I figured real life will catch up with it. He explained that he can't really shift them in this area because "black people don't like it". Hm!!! For a minute I had visions of being caught out with a white supremacist bag quite unexpectedly, but then I realised that was... stupid.

I picked up provisions from the supermarket, which took longer than expected because the lady in front of me was paying with three plastic bags of un-sorted coins, which the checkout lady counted through patiently for a while, then she sent her away to the cash-counting machine. It turned out she only had five pounds when she needed sixteen, so two of her bags had to be un-bleeped again, item by item. The whole thing took a long time, and everyone seemed very cheerful about it and saying "it's hard to judge these things, isn't it". That was so unusual... I so often get people physically fighting in the queue before me for smaller reasons.
The customer seemed very nice, too, I wondered what her life was like.

Tra la, off I go!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Year Plans Already

As you see, the jumper is progressing. I've started on the sleeves. I haven't finished the back yet, but I thought starting on the sleeves would be good for morale.

Also I have started making up New Year Two aims: see things and make things. I want to travel to places I really want to see, and go exploring, rather than try to get the best out of London (I know it's one of the most vobrant and exciting places in the world, but... oof... we don't really get on). And then I want to make things that aren't books. Books, too, but not ONLY books. Objects, useful ones and beautiful ones, and maybe I can learn some new skills. So! Tomorrow I'll go and find myself a good backpack and then I'll start planning properly! I'm planning to try and visit friends around the world, and do some exploring day trips, too... it's all very exciting!

Now my parents will phone and tell me to get a suitcase on rolls instead of a backpack. It's an ongoing discussion, that. I firmly stick to backpacks being the most useful thing if you have to do any walking outside airports.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Almost Christmas Now

Last night I went to the South Bank to watch Kneehigh's "Rapunzel", which was very pleasant. I didn't quite know what to expect, and it turned out to be almost a panto. That is, there were all the elements that I (as a non-Brit) am aware of, but toned down. The hissing was very polite, and the shouting optional. And there was a HUGE live rabbit on stage. So - I can tick off another Christmas item, have gone seen Christmas entertainment. Now I need to get back into town and look for the last couple of Christmas presents. Yawn.

Here's a lovely plate I inherited from my Gran... isn't it pretty? I'll keep useful things on it.

Oh, and if any of notice me missing on their Facebook friends list: I deleted myself, on a whim really. I just never kept up with the virtual ham sandwich/head driller/morris dancing/sumo wrestling/cheese fondue invites and was starting to feel a bit bummed off as well about the compatibility quizzes. ("You and Jim have a TV taste compatibility of 12%. You secretly think he's a sentimental prat for liking Sleepless in Seattle and he never told you he only watches Star Trek at your place because he's lonely on week-ends. We have posted these results to everyone you know and suggest they have all their favourite things in the world laughed at and dismissed by clicking HERE.") So far, it's lovely to be rid of it, and I'm finally catching up with my emails.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

RIP Henry-bird

I am a bit tired, because Henry the finch died this morning after a night of sad scrabbling. We're burying him in a Coer de Lion camenbert box with the millet I bought him yesterday so he could have some for breakfast (he had a bite). He was the smallest bird in the house, but with the biggest beak, and he was in a pityful way when I bought him last year, but he'd perked up a lot inbetween and spent most of his time here all-singing, all-dancing and lording it over the feeder. I was very fond of him.

All I have to do today is re-letter some speech bubbles, and then I can go off to town, bay some paper and see a show.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Beedle Madness...

Soooo... J.K. Rowling auctioned off a handwritten copy of "The Tales Of Beedle the Bard" (for a sensible charity, I v. much approve) and all we can say from the pictures is it looks a bit like it's written with a BIC (which I find very endearing, actually). So now I recommend watching the prescient web reviews of the stories within while there's still bits of raunchy fan fiction being mistaken for the real thing. There's a Beedle Wiki going already, and I recommend reading the plot of "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" before it gets deleted by people who know better... Quote: "the horrible heart is "pierced" by the beauty of her skin and the scent of her hair. "Grown strange" from being disconnected from his body for so long, the now "blind" and "perverse" heart takes savage action."
Mmmm'kay.... I really hope Amazon won't hurry with their "official" reviews!!!!

(NOTE ...and the second after I posted this someone deleted it all, but I saved it for my collection!)

(ANOTHER NOTE) ...and now Amazon HAS posted their official reviews and... the peculiar fan-fiction WAS the real thing!!! OK, I'm happy now.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

It's Printed!!!

It's just an uncorrected proof, some of the colour needs adjusting and I need to re-letter some speech bubbles... BUT it's all there, on the right paper and with a snazzy dust cover. This is my favourite spread! Thanks to the whole world knows: cats like cardboard boxes.
I think I should try and get an edition printed in LOLspeech - the original script almost was, actually, but we decided to try and offer complete sentences to the human toddlers wherever possible. Not on this spread, though :)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Back from Germany!

I'm back! And quite tired, because I had a meeting in the morning directly after arriving last night. Last meeting of the year, and lots of good feedback!
I looked quite amusing because I was wearing the new clothes I brought back from Germany - all very elegant items chosen to make me look understated, tasteful and generally respectable. In Germany, that worked pretty well. In London, I suddenly look like a Timelord. Not a bad look, makes me feel I'm on a mission.

Meeting went well, I got a copy of my latest book, uncorrected proof, and I'm very proud. I must post some pictures soon... But now I'll go and look what groceries I bought, I was going so fast today I did it fully subconsciously...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The full spread!

Good no?

The Sushi rolls and Sashimi are from a shop. The rest is home-cooked and sliced... SO MUCH FOOD!!!! AND there was Miso soup...

And now I have to run off and catch a plane, seeyoulater.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Blade Runner

Oof. Am preparing food for some guests who are coming around for an evening of watching the Blade Runner Final Cut and eating Japanese style food. Uh. Still have to set up the projector and arrange a whole lot of foodstuffs... well Alexis is doing most of the arranging. I don't find food presentation is my forte. The best I could come up with is a Cityscape of bamboo skyscrapers with carrot smog, after failing to do any abstract compositions. I don't think I got Zen or whatever you need. Am a bit worried that it might come across less "wow, elegant!" than "ew, someone touched my food" to food-savvy Londoners. Well, more for me if so.

Also have to pack to fly to my Gran's funeral tomorrow, and there is a craft fair on at Lordship Lane, but I'm too tired to go there... oh and I got to prepare for a meeting the morning after I come back from Germany. Moo.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Painted birds

More morning paintings. The parrot looked a bit poorly so I worked on him some more, now he's less painterly but more happy. Am learning to do thin washes, as you see, hence paintings getting more fuzzy and light in places. - Hooray!
I much prefer painting on cardboard to canvas...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


I've discovered it's a better start into the day do do some painting exercise than to throw myself straight into picture book work...

Today's painting.

Old Horse

How funny! Just got this picture in the mail, it's a scan of a T-shirt I designed in school as a souvenir of a school trip... I'd forgotten about that. Just about everyone in my year must have been wearing this at the time... apparently there was a popular song about a horse and a fly going round on that trip.
Style hasn't changed massively in the last... uh... fourteen years, no?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

London Life - Sun in your Eyes

Good News Everybody, I've just decided to do some observational work.
Here's a conversation I caught earlier today while going out to buy some crisps and cut-price electronics from the German discount store.

Click to make big.


Friday, November 30, 2007

I Need More Hours In My Day

I'm working on a little fairy-tale tonight, after finishing my drawings for the day.

You know what I'd really like to do? Put together a book of brilliant things, collecting drawings and paintings and stories and more... ooof, picture books are a lovely medium and all, but sometimes it's frustrating to shoe-horn every single idea I have into 12 spreads in full colour for toddlers. - I'd like to stretch my legs a bit... Then my sideline projects wouldn't be so sidelined any more - I often have exciting ideas that I could just start on and make something, but I know I need the time to chew on a picture book concept instead...
I wasn't even all that into picture books a child, but instead obsessed with anthologies. Ah well. Grumble. Passing moods.

I'll stick that fairy tale into a box to start a collection, maybe one day it'll just be enough to be a big book of many things!

(Of course there's still the comic project, but I won't trust it to not morph into a picture book before I've seen it printed.)


Realised today that I haven't used ink in ages. Whoah, what a relief. Must remember to switch media now and then.

And some doodles...

Back Scratching

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rose Umbrella

Hmmm, I haven't done all the writing I meant to do today, but I found a really nice SF radio episode on the web, "Tunnel Under The World", see Sidebar.
I think I'll re-read Puss in Boots (am going to base a new story on it) and eat chocolate and take notes.

My Gran died two days ago, and I am thinking of her - I just found a picture on the web of an umbrella I would love to have and I am wondering if I'll ever see it on sale, and thinking it's the sort of thing I could have sent her a picture of and she'd made me one for Christmas, that is, when she was a bit younger.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Crayon Shopping

Gosh, it's a surprise busy day. Must go and get some boxes of crayons at once, because Alexia is visiting in the afternoon to do some crayoning together.
And I need to eke out some time to put down notes for a story... I thought this morning that I need to do some projects that don't involve me coming up with stories because it's just too slow going, it always takes months before I get a concept ok'd for publication. So I thought: why not illustrate a classic? And then: Why not write a story based on a classic? And now I am inspired again.
It's not that I can't come up with anything myself, just that I find it hard to come up with things that publishers agree four-year-old children would like (and their parents, I guess). It's a complicated business.

Off I go into town then... very swiftly since it's GREY out there.

Ah, and as you see, I've decided to mix typed and handwritten entries depending on whether I happen to be at the computer or somewhere else at the time...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Play Pen

A copy of Martin Salisbury's latest collection of new children's book illustration came through the door this morning (Alexis' work is featured in it, hence).
I've been looking at it for ages... I've never seen so much illustration I loved in one place! I normally don't like illustration collections, but this one - Colours and shapes and lines... paint and ink and papers... like beautiful flowers growing after a big grey rain.
Looking at it makes me so happy I'm almost sad!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Waking Up in November

Go and see This...

I've heard some of it beforehand and it's brilliant.
In fact, go and listen to "The Wicker Cat" on his myspace page, do... (there's one called "Fish You Were Here" as well which I wrote the lyrics for, I remember the first time I showed them to someone he said "I'm glad to see other people have trouble writing things that make sense, too" - Hah!!!)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My First Home Knitted Jumper

...modular knitting rocks!
Knitting with chunky wool rocks extra.
This is going to be my new jumper.

Monday, November 12, 2007

So... Yeah.

Am a bit sleepy.
Last night I was sleeping unusually soundly and comfortably until at midnight someone ran the lamp-post outside my window down. It folded right into next door's front yard. At one, the carbon monoxide alarm malfunctioned. Around two there were bright flashing lights and the noise of the lamp-post being sawn down. At some point the burglar alarm downstairs tripped. Now here I am scribbling cats without much deep thought.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Now that my desk is set up comfortably I am spending time on the web again... and my first grand discovery is LIBRIVOX. A growing collection of free audiobooks read and donated by members of the public. How good is that??? Am listening to "Bartleby the scrivener" right now with a canary on my shoulder and have "Dracula" downloaded for the afternoon.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thinking about dogs

I'm still thinking about dogs...

When I'm working on a new project and thinking very hard I tend to do a lot of drawings that are not at all like what should go in the book... very realistic and detailed, or intensely scrawled, or just plain hairy, sometimes I think about a character for two hours and keep working at the same picture while I'm thinking so in the end it's cross-hatched almost through the paper. Some of them are quite awful, some are rather nice. None of them are ever in perspective.
I've almost learned to not show these drawings to publishers, but sometimes I forget... I always find them interesting myself because they show creative process.
I've had emergency meetings about them sometimes, when publishers call me in and have photocopies of them prepared covered in notes and white-out because they think I've gone dangerously off the rails.
Or people look through my sketchbooks and pick these drawings out and say things like "Wow! This is so much better than what you normally do! Much more mature work!" or they say "This is almost a good drawing, you just need to learn more about line!" (often about the same drawings actually) or "That looks a bit raw art, I don't like it if you do that" - And I go "Arrrgh, they aren't... they're just for me! - Go away!!!!"
But I still find it important not to edit my sketch-books for presentation, I think that would lead to me throwing things at the wall.

I've noticed that a lot of professional illustrators I've met have sketchbooks completely devoid of such things, instead just sketches that any publisher would accept as roughs that aren't inked in yet, or interesting yet non-threatening exercises in style. Maybe it's because I don't think in pictures.

Anyway, more dog-thinking now.

Red Wool

Hmmm. Woke up happy and looked out of the window. Had coffee in bed reading a lovely book and watching the birds have a morning flight. Then I walked across the room to find my desk ready for work. This is a contrast to waking up in the window, being stared at people having coffee on the terrace next door, and then getting up, falling over some books and bumping into my desk which is already covered in birds, and more books. I like this new room-layout.

I need to do some serious sketching work today, and later on I'll maybe knit some more squares towards my new jumper. Although I need some more shades of red for it... I think I'll ask people for balls of lovely red wool for Christmas, so it will be different reds all over...

I'll blog sketches later, haven't hooked the scanner up yet.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Lots of Space!

So now I have space for crayons and paints and paper an glue and ...

Also I promised to paint a duck. Here's my first attempt. Hmmm I wonder if I'll paint a background...

Art Spam

Aaah quick go and look at this lady's work... She's been turning spam emails into art. I want some of them as posters.
...Helga likes the new setup. She's exploring, and decided that the CD player is a good place to sit. She is very curious about where the music comes from... just then she was hopping from one speaker to the other, putting her tiny head against them to find out. Hah. - It's so NICE in here now!

Ready for the Grey Days

It's been chaotic days... the huge desk that was so high that I had to work on a converted barstool has left the building. It took two men to carry it out in four parts, and it still tried to decapitate them on the way down the stairs.
When it was gone, I suddenly had space to put up two sensible-sized desks instead, one just for drawing, and I changed the rest of the room around so taht now half of it is my bedroom and the other half is the studio. It's amazing. It's like a weird dream... I drew a whole book on that desk, and the book before that I drew on a coffeetable sitting on the floor, and the one before that in pieces, on other people's sofas, mostly. Now it looks like for the first time I can draw a book in a studio-setup that looks like the sort of thing I imagined when I first started working... I might even get some extra shelves for art materials!
While sorting through the studio we found a tub of pastels which I shall clean later today... I read they can be cleaned up by shaking them in a jar of rice.

I also started knitting a jumper while fretting about the layout of the room... I found a book in the library about "modular knitting" and it's great fun, just knitting neat little squares and triangles and then assembling things from them. Which means that all the bits of bad knitting I do while trying out odd wool or patterns I don't quite understand I can just edit out, and just sue good pieces for the jumper, hooray. I think I'll end up with a patchwork blanket of bad samplers as a bonus.

Anyway, no knitting now, trying out new desk arrangement instead. Computer works, check!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Nothing going on

...nah, there's nothing going on at the moment at all. For example I'll have lunch in a minute and then go for a walk in the park, and in the morning I knitted a wash-cloth because, well, I'd run out of wash-cloths. In the afternoon I'll do some work and then I'll have dinner.
I like it when nothing goes on, bit boring for you though, quick go read BoingBoing or something.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pumpkin Alternatives

I've been working in some places that weren't my usual cafe, because I felt like it after blogging that I never did.

I went to the local library, which is architecturally famous

and looks a bit like a pumpkin, no?
The main library bit is in the overhanging part, and the windows are so low that you can only look out when you it down. Which is nice... tehre's a row of tables all along. And if one is lucky, there's the table by the crooked-tooth-window which is much bigger, then you get a load of clouds to look at as well as the peckham roofs.

Then there's my local cafe.

And here's another pumpkin alternative I made yesterday.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Hm... work seems a bit slow-going, maybe that's because I'm doing three projects at once. It's that stage between books where it's a case of which new project gets contracted first, but they all need to be taken far enough to be proposed at one of them grand meetings where publishers decide what and who to spend on.

I got separate sketch-books for all projects, here's the one that's least developed, but most straight-forward:


...featuring, at last, some birds.

And here's a bit of an early bit of thinking in another one...


And at the same time I am happily letting my computer clean up and archive all the lovely audio-tapes in the house, starting with the Sherlock Holmes stories. I completely wiped my iTunes to make space.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Just in case you haven't decided how to dress up your kids this Halloween...

... here's something I spotted in Woolworths!

Nope, you can't do better for money.

Am so tempted to get one and have no reason in the world... might it be used as a Christmas tree? Or just put into storage?

Poems and Moths

I feel like writing a poem today, so I shall, because it's not that often that pretty words are in the air, and I have an idea, too. If it comes out well it might turn into a picture book proposal, all illustrated in many shades of red and one shade of blue.

I also want to darn some jumpers in the evening... I did the annual moth check some time ago, and they'd been at some of the packed-up jumpers. So I froze the jumpers and then washed them, now they are dry and ready to be fixed up. Most of them with the right-coloured yarn, but some are so moth-eaten that they might want colourful patches.

I didn't go drawing today, but my friend came around and we made apple-and-pear crumble, which was exactly what I wanted to do anyhow... outdoors drawing trips can be a bit less than exciting on a grey damp cold afternoon. And apple crumble had been on my mind for weeks!
I also bought some very snug warm slippers, and a load of butternut squashes to roast.

I find it hard sometimes these days to hang on to what I feel is the main thing I do in life to be happy - making things nice. I don't know if it's a London thing or an age thing.. I always knew how to make things nice in my little home town, and in Cornwall, too. You find a lovely place, like a garden or a beach or a house, then you bring some extra ingredients, or decorate, then you bake a cake or cook some picnic food or a big stew and then you tell everyone around to come along and be happy. For some reason I could never really make that work in London... sometimes it feels like working against the hive-mind or something. Like doing that sort of thing is just peculiar and bumpkinish. I feel a bit like a displaced Moomin thinking: Funny, I was SURE it's time for a celebration.
I do like take-aways and shopping trips and eating out and cultural events and all, but part of me doesn't quite understand why it's not sharing big stews this time of year.
I shall make more of an effort, and bake cakes and make soups. The last soup I made was thin and boring and I wasn't sure why I made it so big, because people were visting for a take-away evening that day anyway, and half of it is still in the freezer now. - I'll make a stew next, with red wine, and dumplings on the side. Yes!

But first I'll eat leftover apple crumble with custard and write a poem.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bah, pumpkins.


It's cosy here, and I'm feeling a bit slow and a bit glum, but I always feel a bit glum this time of year, especially this week. Makes me think of swirling leaves.
In fact, I don't seem to have much luck around Halloween ever. I think it's because I have a vague idea of celebrating it at home with cookies and autumn leaves and candles and hot chocolate and maybe a scary movie that ends well, but I can't ever seem to get that organised, either nothing happens, or people convince me to go out somewhere and I end up somewhere noisy and cold, probably dressed up as something that seemed a good idea at the time. I hate fancy dress parties. I like the idea, but in reality I never enjoyed one of them.
I'll make an effort this year, maybe I'll roast a load of squashes and bake something... oh I feel grouchy.

This afternoon I'm supposed to go out on a drawing trip, but it does look to me somewhat like it might be too cold and grey to hold a pencil... hm.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


My desk looks nice at the moment...

And I'm experimenting with painting without lines. Not because I menat to, but because the pencil don't work on canvas. Hah.

Monday, October 22, 2007

LIDL art sale

HOORAY! I've been looking forward to this all last week... LIDL is conveniently selling extra cheap art materials from today. Got all this for £15!

I shall paint beautiful things on canvas and sell them at a profit! :D
Am just working out how to hammer the little wooden wedges into the back. Hmmm, taxing...

Anyway, however, if you've got a LIDL in your area check it out, they got easels and portfolios and (probably not very good) paints, and o.k. brushes...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Audio Books...

I don't know about you, but I've found that one of the best things in this studio is the unabridged Moby Dick Audiobook (read by William Hootkins). It's long enough that listening to all of it easily takes me through the production a whole book's worth of artwork. And it's absolutely brilliant, vast and wonderful, and I wouldn't want to miss one chapter...
I want more audiobooks in the studio, and man they are EXPENSIVE. Except... on tape, from charity shops. But do I have a tape player? No. Do old tapes tangle up and fade the day after I buy them? Yes. So here's my latest studio investment... a tape-deck that's also got an USB out and comes with software that's supposed to easily convert tapes into MP3's. Now I'm shifting all the music I hardly ever listen to off my hard-drive to make space. Hooray!! :) Am looking forward to this in a big way!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lovely Ladies

...turned an unfamiliar corner while walking today and lo, pretty sights...

Lemon and Poppyseed Muffins

I'm in the caffeine-intensive phase of a new book, two weeks of producing presentation material o net a new contract. And there's just one place for me to go at that stage... or any stage that requires concentrated creative thinking... or rather: a number of more or less identical places, reliably spaced in this country... it's bad but true: I head for the nearest Cafe Nero and put myself at a window table with a cup of cofee and a lemon and poppyseed muffin. It needs to be that combination for optimum performance. There's something about the reliable interchangeability... nomally I like variety in my cafe experiences, but not for work. So if you find a muffin paper-shell with traces of lemon and poppy muffin and a whole load of pencil shavings, you might well be on a hot Viv-track. This one photographed in West Dulwich today.

I got a lot done, in fact I got to the stage where I needed to go home and get cutting and pasting novelty elements.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Beautiful London Day

Good meeting today, am getting ready to get a new cat-based project on the road.

Then I walked along the River again to the art-shop, and it happened to be the most beautiful autumn day yet... here's some Riverside Views:

One of my favourite things: one of the miniature groves of weeds that grow in the middle of the Hungerford Bridge.

...the big fish...

... and some very blue sky.

I bought some tinted charcoal pencils, and "Rubber Soul" on CD, a canvas board for more painting, and a tiny Darth Vader because he looked lovely and small and just like a Samurai.