Monday, July 30, 2007


I just had a cleaning frenzy, deciding it would be nice to have some space on the kitchen surfaces to, I don't know, use a chopping board or put down a plate... - I looked for a place to store the juicer, and found another juicer in the cupboard, and a cute vintage kitchen string kitty.
I suddenly realised that I have absolutely no need any more for funny-shaped tea kettles or mechanical waffle irons, fondue pots, a varied range of coffee-making equipment for visitors... My kitchen things used to fill me with a warm glow of security, now I'm just thinking: you space-eaters, you should be paying me London rent!
I scrubbed the kitchen surfaces and then went to put everything that I hadn't got rid of back on.
There was one electric kettle and a jar of onions.
How did that happen???
It's all so... shiny!

Saturday, July 28, 2007


My mum found a story I wrote and illustrated when I was nineteen years old or so. It's one of a lot that I sent to a German publisher, along with a huge wad of other ideas, all original drawings, all of them un-copied because I naively thought I'd see them again (never send originals, folks!) and the photocopy shop was so expensive - they lost the whole lot. Including the original lovingly hand-stapled "Shark and Lobster". So much work! Grrrr.

This seems to be a rough, so it survived.

Maybe I'll do something with it, I have a slightly perverse urge to remember and reconstruct every story these guys lost, make them into books and sell them elsewhere... not that I'm cross they didn't buy any, just that they lost it all and never reacted when I asked for it back, and it wasn't even a cold call - they asked me to send them stuff.
I wonder... maybe I got the address wrong and it never got there??


The Japanese dinner went well, and so did the meeting. So I have an all new adventure picture book project now! - I went to the Japan Center off Piccadilly Circus to get ingredients, which was even more exciting then I'd thought. So now I know about teriyaki Marinade and Miso soup. AND... I found one of the objects I have been questing for in my life... a bottle of RAMUNE! RAMUNE is a Japanese lemonade (the name is a phonetic approximation, try saying it out loud) and it comes in a Codd-top bottle. That's how fizzy drinks were packaged before the rise of bottle caps... it's an odd-shaped glass bottle sealed with a glass marble (held in place by pressure of fizz) which you have to push inside the bottle. There it rattles around as you drink. If you ever dug around in your garden and wondered why there seems to be a strata of clear glass marbles, that's where they originate, they are liberated bottle-stoppers. Since you have to smash the bottle to free the marble, you hardly ever see surviving bottles from that age. But - in Japan they are still in use! Whee!!!
I wasn't sure what to expect - Champagne-style fizz? A big bang?
The marble was quite hard to push down, but then it went and clinked onto the glass stoppers in the neck designed to hold it, and it rocked gently, coated in tiny bubbles... it was very beautiful. And tasted just like Sarsaparilla.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chicken? What?

Ah! A bit double-booked, today. I got a meeting - thought of a new comic-style adventure picture book - but I also somehow somehow agreed to cook chicken teriyaki for guests today. I don't actually quite know what chicken teriyaki is. Well I do now, since I looked it up... and it needs... marinating??? - NOOOOO!

Ah well.

Watched "James Bond: A View To A Kill" yesterday (being fond of Christopher Walken, who looks like he's got a stiff lower back, like me, but quite unstoppable - very inspirational).
As always, I was amazed how Roger Moore's eyes swivel. If you watch it in fast forward (maybe to get to the Walken scenes... or something) it's mesmerising, this static pink face with flitting eyeballs... then a blur of bodies... and horses... then the pink face again, and the eyes, the eyes...

Here's a speedy green horse for you:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Am preparing for my first New Project meeting in some time, looking through old sketchbooks for ideas and listing what else comes to mind...

Inbetween am hard at work reading out Harry Potter. Ooof. I wish someone had edited at least some of the reiterations out. It's ok when you're reading it to yourself I suppose but reading it out I find myself leaving out chunks of sentences - it's all a bit and again, Harry felt remorse, shame, coursing, rushing, gushing through his whole being, his self, when he realised, knew at last, was sure of the mistake, the oversight, the unforgivable, dreadful thing he had done, him, no one else, but, him, Harry Potter... well sort of. It's quite exciting though, but I'm trying to finish it ASAP so I can peruse the internet again without getting spoilered... I won some more points for plot-guessing, but Alexis is infuriatingly ahead. I am just thinking to convoluted-ly, to twisted, not straightforward enough, not seeing the obvious... oof

Grizzled Cats

From and old sketchbook... they didn't make it on my sample sheets, but I like them.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Slap-Dash Samples

I just dashed and slapped some samples on my site - hopefully at a convenient size for printing out. I'll neaten it all up, and stick on some more recent stuff (this is mainly grabbed from my archives - but still good). I felt like something should be there presto... what do you think? Presentable?


Hey, I've been shortlisted for an Early Years Award from Booktrust, category best emerging illustrator. For Timothy Smallbeast... One of the other nominees is Emily Gravett, whose book features a gibbony toy monkey almost identical to Timothy's toy monkey, which is a complete coincidence - I wonder if she has a monkey that looks like monkey, too?
Anyway, hooray for Timothy! And monkey.

Monday, July 23, 2007

More Bio Stuff

Oof. Difficult... am working on the dustcover flaps now. Author picture, again, but different one, then some stuff about me, some stuff about the book, and trying to not look like too much of a fool...
Here's what the photograph looks like so far...

Sheesh, this blog is all pictures of me at the moment, sorry, will go back to artwork ASAP... ooof, biography days.

Saturday, July 21, 2007



I knocked myself pretty much flat working on Friday, now my back hurts. I got up in the morning to pick up my copy of Harry Potter - because whether I like the books or not, I'm not going to miss out on guessing the plot along with millions of other people - and I spent most of the day reading it out to Alexis. We made some bets before I started reading, and so far we have one point each. It's really rather cosy. Also I enhoyed the slightly weird neighborhood feeling of all these people walking into the shops on a Saturday morning all buying the same book from shops that didn't have it on display at all, but kept them behind the counter. And everyone who spotted it under my arm on the way home asked "where'd you got yours? How much?" I replied "WHSmiths, tenner" until someone behind me screeched "TRAITOR!" at the newsagents, I turned and saw it was the lady who runs the corner bookshop, buying milk and a paper I suppose. I replied, inexplicably, "It's not like it's a BOOK..."

Friday, July 20, 2007

Scalpeling plans

Today I'm off to the publisher's to assemble a set of pretty-much-final print outs of the novelty book, scalpel out all the flaps and check how they all fit together. I've not seen an assembled dummy, and I had nightmares of novelty elements combining in rude ways by mistake, so I need to put my mind at ease...
Also I need to get away from the computer so I don't spend all day fiddling with the website again. - I'm going to fill in the sample section in the next few days... Am not completely sure how to divide the work up. Different styles? Sketches, B/W, full colour? Hm!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Can it be true? Yes. Something's appearing.

May I just announce that I have thrown myself into a new battle with my website and started putting it up at and how I do wish I could afford Dreamweaver, I remember being able to actually make everything look like I meant it to.

I was going to animate a horde of Samurai rats for this, but then I figured better to get something up quick while I'm in the mood and settled for a painted loo-roll instead. For now. And as soon as the bloody menu works properly, I'll add samples and all the other schnarf.

D'you think I need a review section with press blah?

Arf - and I forgot a link for the the PUBLISHED & UPCOMING BOOKS section. I guess I need that. Arrh I might just stick them in the biography section. Surely that's ok? Or have some clickable characters run along the bottom of the page in a row? Or both?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


For my next trick I'll look like - this!
A bit like I'm having a vision of great adventures to come. Actually I'm trying to read something without my glasses on.

Biography written! Picture chosen and mailed off! Publishers happy!

Will now spend rest of day working on the website - I've decided to just stick a simple one back up again until I get a snazzy one made. Just so people can grab my CV and some samples and find the blog if they like...

In the Garden

Still looking for a promo picture of moi.

Now that's my favourite. I wish the world would allow that sort of author photograph.
Look - it's summer!
Alexis in the background prompting me complicated tongue twisters to say, to counteract photo-face.

OK I better get back to looking for a serious author face in here...

Not the Promo Pictures

I'm just trying to choose my new promo picture from ninety digital snapshots we took this morning.
Here I am trying to get rid of my photo face by impersonating budgies. Most of the other eighty-seven pictures are... my photo face.

Saji Nib

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Running out!!!

Oh no... I just realised that I only have one more "Keys to the Kingdom" book left to read until I'm through with all the published ones, and what will I do then??? Read Harry Potter instead??? AAARGH! Well I guess I'll read Harry Potter, too. But then??

Anyway, while I was checking for publication dates I came across Garth Nix' own website, and on it this rather lovely interactive adventure.

Until then I hope that "Tunnels" is as exciting as I've been told... any recommendations for another adventurous novel series for me to read? Or one-off brilliant ones? Adventure, fantasy, science fiction...

Biographies... again ...

I'm writing a new autheur biographee pour moi... again...
I really don't like doing that, have I said that before? Things you didn't know about Viviane: one: she really really doesn't like writing biographies.
This time I'm being veeery professional. Normally I go through life stages and education - they like stuff about childhood ("she always wanted to write, blabla"), and it always comes out as... well, a bit sad. I got bullied a lot in school, and of course that had something to do with having a lot of time by myself to think up stories and scribble into little notebooks. But really, I think I would have done that anyway. Now no one bullies me, and what am I doing? Happily scribbling and making stuff up. Also it feels a bit like I'm empowering the stupid bullies, in retrospect, like "thanks for kicking me in the gut, guys, really kick-started my career, duh!" - So now I'm remembering that it's pretty great to be making books, and I'm not so sour any more about not having a husband and children and a family home with a well-stocked fridge. It could be worse. I could have a husband I don't like, a cramped house, no children and still do all the shopping, for example, and still have to write a chirpy author's bio. Or have no head and live in a teapot.
So I'm writing from that point of view. Life's good.
But still, there really isn't an awful lot to be said... I like to wake up, imagine high adventure, write it down, have a tasty breakfast, let my birds fly around the studio, paint, yawn, read, eat some more and watch a fantasy film before bed, and inbetween go for walks and maybe make a toy or bake some biscuits. I think taht's good enough,a dn I've written something along those lines.
Good! So... time for a tasty snack! Hey no... a tasty dinner no less!
:) Yay!

Organised, eh?

Good Morning!

Oof, actually I didn't wake up all that well, even though the day is bright and lovely, somehow I had the second stupid nightmare night in a row. But I got a lovely email just then saying that my new Japanese drawing nibs are about to arrive, and the same instant the doorbell rang and - it was true. They did arrive, in a pretty box. So is a good place for all your manga drawing supplies (in the UK).
I am working on the new book with Alexis, and we seem to have found a good way of working at last. It incorporates a whole bunch of Useful Tips and Tricks I have gathered over the years, which is pleasing. Here's some:

  • First I write my notes, and sometimes bits of actual very-first-draft, all as they come into my head, without worrying if it's any good or if it makes sense and whether I am wandering off. (Thanks Frøydis!)

  • Quite often I have several ideas of what happens, then I write them both down, and imagine them until I see them happen in my head, and then I mark out which one seems to be the truth (and I ask Alexis about it later, he normally knows).

  • I write all this with my trusty writing pen into notebooks, only on the right-hand side, so there's always another page free for notes, which is very much needed when I read the notes out to Alexis and write down his ideas and my own new ideas on the left.

  • When it's a solid structure, I go and write it as a story, on my Mac. Then it goes through the usual stages of draft-editing - I suppose - because we haven't got that far yet! But the story is definitely taking shape now.

  • It's strange planning a story like that instead of letting it grow while first-drafting... but it seems to suit the project... actually it's not strange, it's how I used to work before I got convinced that planning a story through kills it. This one seems to come to life with re-imaginings and plannings. I like that - I've never felt very much at home with running blindly into a story as I write, always produces horror stories I find.

    Saturday, July 14, 2007

    Popcorn Magic

    My room is getting a definite Art Gallery Vibe. I got fed up with the scruffy old drawing board I nailed to my bed as a headboard, so I went and bought a tub of paint in a shade called "popcorn magic" which looked the same as all the other oddly named shades they had in Woolworth's - Almost White. First I painted the board, which was an improvement. Then I painted the huge cork pinboard. Then my ugly ugly speakers. Then any other object in the room that I didn't like the look of, and I packed everything that didn't really need to be on display into boxes. And I got rid of my mixed-up bedding and replaced all the sheets and covers with white cotton ones, and put up white curtains.
    Now it's BRIGHT in here.
    I think I'll do the shelves next.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2007

    Gouache and Ink

    Oooh I do like this gouache! Why did I never properly try it before? Hm, I think when I was in college gouache was desperately un-cool, at least in the cluster of tables I was sitting at. Like overpriced antediluvian goo for people who didn't know how to use computers. But it's absolutely bloody marvellous! You can paint big loads of colour and then paint over it or whatever and draw on top or it and... it's great!!! And not as fussy-masterly as watercolour can look, it's got such a load of charming grubbiness (if you like), or crafty neatness (if you like) - it's reassuring. It reminds me of school-days, when we had to use dry gouache out of our paint boxes (and what a treat the liquid white from the tube always was, and how EVERY colour is like that now). Even the failed pictures have something going for them, in a home-made burned cookie sort of way.

    I also just ordered a load more japanese manga nibs, in different strenghts, I got the one for "action lines" already, now I am getting some for "general use".

    It's such a treat - the studio seems huge since we did our clear-out, and I am getting ready to write the first chapter proper of a book I love already. I put out five black bin bags of mostly shredded paper on the street last night, I can really feel the absence of that bulk! And I found a whole load of gloomy teenage poetry I wrote in school, how useful is that? I'm absolutely keeping that in case I'll ever write another teenage novel.

    Deleter G-Pen

    Last time I went to "Forbidden Planet" I picked up some manga nibs on a whim - always good to try out new nibs - and they are absolutely brilliant! So exciting... I've been using mapping nibs to get a varied line, from spidery to blotchy, but they tend to break and clog when used that way - these nibs are incredibly springy and go really smoothly... such joy!
    And I just found out that there's two other kinds of nibs, extra fine ones and extra smooth ones... I am absolutely going to get my hands on them!

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007


    I am feeding the shredder. I remember reading an article in a lady's magazine ("twelve steps to a happy home" or something) that said Your Bin Is Your Friend, Feed Him.
    That's the motto of the moment... I spent most of yesterday clearing out, producing four binbags full of shreds and four more of clutter and a big box for charity. I also hoovered until the hoover overheated. Today I'll keep going, and when I've definitely chucked all that's chuckable and polished all that should shine I'll start writing the new book!
    Really necessary, this, I noticed yesterday morning that there was a whole bag of SHRED THIS hiding behind the paper recycling, and then suddenly thought HANG ON what's the point in keeping a huge archive of every bit of paper that I ever found interesting for a minute? And almost every letter I ever got? And reference material for college projects??? So that gets sorted, too, now... Aaah, feels so good to get rid of stuff! And I have a proper photo album at last, too!
    So, see you in a couple of days with new and exciting stuff (I already bought a load of gouache, ready to be tried out)!

    Sunday, July 8, 2007

    Not Totally Great

    So today I was going to go and see the Tour de France depart not very far away from here, but I ate a bad lettuce and spent most of the day in bed. The rest of the day I spent doing some paintings that look like they were painted by someone with stomach cramps so I'm not posting them. But I worked out some good bits of story.
    The most frustrating this is that I'll get a tasty take-away delivered any minute now because a friend is visiting and treating us to one. Oooooh I hope I can eat it!!!

    Saturday, July 7, 2007


    Helga is still looking for nesting material. She's been looking at my hair funny for a while, and today she finally went for it, just when I was having my Saturday siesta.

    Friday, July 6, 2007

    Queen of the Night

    Babylonian Goddess not behaving as planned.

    The Witcher

    Yesterday I got my ordered copy of Andrzej Sapkowski's "The Last Wish". I've been looking forward to that for some time - a new fantasy epic about a mutant assassin monster-hunter, told as a series of short stories following his journeyings, protecting the innocent and slaying the fanged blood-drinking murderous and bestial. The author is very successful in his native Poland, where the "Witcher" has already incarnated as a TV series and a swish-looking video game. So now the first Witcher collection is out in English, and I'm reading it.
    I was disappointed rather immediately - it seemed clumsy and unpromising for the first few pages - but by page 15 a character jumped up and started yelling out a description of the royal princess - the first cursed monstrosity the Witcher is to deal with - and I found myself doodling in the margin.

    I really enjoyed myself from that point onwards.

    Here's a spread from my sketchbook... monster studies getting more inspired.

    Good Tidings

    I'm getting lovely mails these days... John sent me a summary of the season finale of Dr Who which I missed (sometimes I have a slight feeling that I am missing TV shows for the joy of having them re-told by someone else) and Frøydis sent me pictures of the night sky in Oslo.

    And Scholastic is telling me that Timothy Smallbeast will be co-editioned in Greece. Hooray!

    Thursday, July 5, 2007

    Amazing Rare Things

    "Nightjar and mole cricket" by Mark Catesby, c.1722-6

    I bought a book yesterday... one of these see-it-and-grab-it buys. It's the book accompanying David Attenborough's exhibition of natural history illustrations from the age of Discovery which is on show in Edinburgh. I very much want to see it, and HOORAY it will caome to London next year. Anyway, the book is lovely... the only flaw is the one that many illustrated books have these days: some of the pictures are jpegged. It's shameful really. What is the point in printing a wonderful image over a full page and then giving a "detail" on the next which isn't a true detail view but just a chunk picked out of the earlier file and blown up regardless of resolution? You'd think if Sir David says "I want to have a close up view of this tiny Da Vinci drawing from the royal collection in my new book" the Queen would say "Here you go, and make sure you have it scanned at high res", no?
    Anyway, it is a wonderful book... there's beautiful samples from the Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo, and a sheet of studies by Leonardo da Vinci of cats and lions, bristling and moving and fighting, plus one dragon amongst them, looking like it just crossed his mind that dragons are maybe built like cats with long necks and tails. (click on link and zoom in to see)!

    Inspired me to sit down and really do those anatomical nightmare monster studies today.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2007

    To Ur and back

    My favourite thing to visit in the British Museum are the treasures of the great death pit of Ur, one of these places where they didn't just bury the dead queen but EVERYONE, along with musical instruments and games to pass eternity.

    The thing I like most, however, is this statue of a goat.
    Seems no one knows what it was for. But it looks very friendly, doesn't it!

    In the graves at Ur they also found the oldest game instructions in the world - along with the board and counters (it's a very good game actually) - and the oldest harps known to the world. They put them together wrong at first, which has to be forgiven seeing that the whole place was flat-packed without instructions when they unearthed it, and they mistook what was actually the tangled remains of two instruments for one really strange and large golden harp with a bull's head. They reconstructed it and said "This is weird and it sounds rubbish, even it's the only one of its kind ever found in the world, it can't be right..." But they worked it out eventually, and apparently it all sounds lovely now. - If you ever find yourself at the British Museum, climb up the stairs around the big round middle bit to the restaurant, and just behind that it's the Great Death Pit of Ur.


    So... I am sticking my head out of the window and the world looks ok. I'll do what I didn't do yesterday because it looked like rain (ha ha) and go to the British Museum for some research.

    Here's the BBC account of yesterday's freak storm... I half wish I'd been outdoors (sheltered though) at the time because all the people I saw out of the window looked so wide-eyed... like they'd seen the ghost of a tornado. I saw a lady striding past the house on the pavement and a car passed leaving a wake like a motor boat, splashing tall curtains of water. She got completely enveloped by water, bucketloads, and she just walked on like nothing had happened. I guess she probably didn't really notice... And the woman across the road was busy working at the drains before their house with a broom, it looked like she was trying to sweep the whole deluge down into the sewers.

    Also the terror level is possibly being lowered from critical to severe, which should mean less stress in town but still lots of space on the tube. Normally one couldn't move in there for tourists at this time of year, but they are the first to get frightened off. Maybe some of them will try to navigate Zone one overground instead of popping up and down the tube like moles on the run. They might have a nicer holiday for it. I'm afraid many will just get marooned on Carnaby street though, trying to calm their nerves by staring at trendy shoes.

    Here's a lucky accident incident for you: I'd left some clothes out to dry on the bathtub and they got splattered with bleach. It took the colour out completely in places... so Alexis painted me a portrait of Helga on the shirt, with more bleach.

    Tuesday, July 3, 2007


    there was a WHOLE LOT OF HAIL.
    I'd just come in from a shopping trip, somewhat dazed because I'd just seen someone being sick through his nose. Then I passed something that looked like a lot of blood in the road but might have been wine, and just when I thought that was a bit much all at once the sky opened up and dumped ice on the city.

    That's my balcony there. It still looks like that an hour or so later. I climbed up on the roof when the worst of the storm had passed to check it wasn't flooding. Then I looked down into the street and saw it had turned into a river of ice.

    New Friends

    The new book is great fun. We have all the cast more or less down now, just need a villain... first trials aren't quite right.

    Sunday, July 1, 2007

    Eight Things

    I just got tagged with... uhm... a blog thing that means I have to write eight things about myself now.

    1) I don't like long sleeves. I don't wear wristwatches or rings. I'd sometimes like to but I just take them off when I'm not watching.

    2) I get very sentimental about food that is served in lots of pretty little units, like spring rolls or neat sandwiches or filled dumplings. Anything where someone had to deal with every item individually and then made LOTS of them and gave me some of them to eat.

    3) I like birds. I don't like dogs as much, but I really want one like the one that lives in the bookshop down the road. It's small and friendly and doesn't smell, and seems to like me.

    4) I get very angry with objects and hardly ever angry with people. I won't tolerate any object in my possession that doesn't work properly. It's best not to come between me and an object that offended me. I have no mercy with objects.

    5) My favourite objects are kites. I also like freight trains, ships, good tools and lanterns.

    6) I got a collection of lipsticks. I find it difficult doing important work wearing no lipstick. Work for me requires a tidy desk, a cup of tea, music when I'm drawing but NOT when I'm writing, and lipstick. I think it's because I've trained myself to equate taste of lipstick with feeling of determination.

    7) I very much dislike people who tell me what makeup I should not be wearing. Especially if they tell me "Men don't find this attractive" - ooooh that annoys me so much just THINKING about it. Uh! Uh! GRRR. WHOOO CAAAAREEEEES!!!! (oof)
    The only thing worse is probably to tell me not to look "grumpy". Well... IT'S MY FACE! STAY OUT OF IT!

    8) Looking at many pictures in quick succession makes me feel unwell. I don't like going to art galleries. I also don't like looking at photo albums and I often find it difficult to watch a whole movie. I read very fast and a lot and then I like seeing lots of pictures in my head, but even that makes me feel a bit woozy sometimes. I like Not Looking At Things, and Looking At Water, or Looking At Things That Spin Gently But Otherwise Demand No Attention.

    There goes. Yah, that makes me sound suitably neurotic... Anyone want tagging next? I don't think I even know anyone to tag... now I'm a neurotic loner, great...


    Work's going well.... Am drawing lots of monkeys and bears.
    Yesterday I went for a walk - to rainy and terror-alerty and week-endy to go to Central London - and walked right into a crowd of people staring at a row of policemen and several police cars in the high street, just in front of the shop I was going to browse. So I went back home and drew some more bears instead.
    I'm not sure anyone else knew what was going on, I guess I'll read it in the news tomorrow. Maybe a suspect arrest, probably something else involving weaponry.
    I think I might take a weekend holiday soon.