Monday, June 30, 2008


I was waiting for the surprisingly-coloured bean flowers to open...


... and suddenly the Pea plant had already done this!


How? How? How can a plant make a whole pea-pod that quickly without me noticing when I am spending hours every day observing everything closely?
Look how green it is, and how tiny, and look at the minuscule peas in there... HUZZAH! The first food item I successfully cultivated from a seed! :D

Sunday, June 29, 2008


teddybear sketch


Just been watching the football and sketching scrubbly pencilly things, mostly because I need some pencilly pictures to practise colouring-in of same.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

New Feet!


I got my shoooes!

And... they are a bit small.
But this time I got out my sewing kit and made them fit. It's a work in progress, taking two hours yesterday already to adjust the heel.
By now they are pretty great, except the big toes are too tight. But the size up is too wide, so I am determined to make this work.
These shoes could do with some healthy competition, I think, I'd like to see different makes of this sort of thing, and preferably not made in China, shipped to America and imported to the UK. I wonder if it would be possible to hand-craft some.
Hm, I might cut off the uppers and re-knit them as a sturdy toe-sock-shoe, for starters...

(A bit later now, and they fit brilliantly now, hooray!)



I just found a picture on my camera - Zoƫ must have taken it just before the battery died. That's BEFORE several hundred autographs, I'm hoping to get another one soon to compare.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Suddenly: 300 children

I'm just back from Cambridgeshire, from the "read it Again" award ceremony. It's a great award to be nominated for I think because it's actually voted for by thousands of real-life children! It was the nicest book event I've been to so far, actually. They really do impressive things there to promote picture books.

I held a speech in front of about 300 children... They looked like less as an audience, but felt like more when getting their autographs. I'm really good at writing my name with a big flourish now, which is good. And I managed to only say two unsuitable things while answering questions. Well maybe four. But not very. And my speech was ok as well, they said. It was quite short.
I think I said: "I didn't expect to be the first person to be asked to do a speech today because I am far down in the alphabet, and frankly I am quite frightened. I thought I might be, so I brought my stuffed monkey. Here he is. He he makes me feel a lot better. Uhm. Well. I would like to tell you what my favourite book is and when I started drawing but I honestly don't know at all. I just really like books, and I think I've always been drawing. About the book I wrote which I've been told you've all read I can say that I think it is mostly about this: Sometimes when you want to be strong but you feel small you need something to make you strong, maybe your mum or your favourite pyjamas or your stuffed monkey. And that's ok. You can still be a hero. Or make a speech for example. Erm. That's it I think. Thank you!"
Then I got a trophy (not the winning one but a highly commended one) and I can't believe what sharp edges it has. I wanted to say it was the pointiest trophy I ever got but in fact it's the first one, so that wouldn't have been very impressive...

Afterwards I went for tea and baked goods with some of the other people involved (who were charming and let me have all the cinnamon swirls, even though the cafe only had two of them and everyone else had to eat mostly biscuits) and I ended up detailing how you best keep warm in a wetsuit, but they did ask, so that was ok. Yes. I rather liked them, actually.

I'll post some pictures when I get them, my camera ran out of battery but I've been promised to be sent some.

And now I can drink up the second half of the miniature bottle of red wine I got given before the speech (don't like to drink more than a small glass at a time, so swiped it in handbag).
I think I did well! Next time I think I can probably make the speech without the monkey. Hm. Yes. Good.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Budgie Bouquet

Budgie Outing

And here's where we keep our budgies. Under the ceiling. Best place for 'em.

Dream Monkey

bedhead monkey

I just realised the headboard of my bed looks VERY boring these days, so I painted a monkey on it.


This sketchbook from two years ago has become very yellow and transparent. I kind of like it!

There's quite a week ahead for me... something planned for every day, meetings, signings, visits... so today I am doing all the sitting at home yawning drinking coffee part of the week. I've reactivated my Freecycle account to feed my surplus studio equipment to artists in the area (tables, scanners, anything too big to ebay or too odd for the charity shop), which fills me with a feeling of goodness.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

On the Court

Yesterday I practised some basketball and chalked the marks on the court for Alexis' team.
I had loads of chalk left...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Studio Day...

I don't know what you do to keep yourself in the right frame of mind at work, but I find red lipstick helps.

Studio Face

I'm working out a technique for doing a number of "vintage" - looking illustrations... I basically have it down now, but I'm still experimenting with different kinds of paper and tea.


I've got so much SPACE in my studio now! It's incredible... and I found a whole stack of CDs when we emptied one of the cupboards to move it, so I have nice music to work to, too. Hah.

Here's one of the experiments:

It's hard to tell from this picture but it's all very useful.

While the paper was drying I went out and drew marks on the basketball court in the park for a game later on, with a piece of chalk on a long stick, and on the way back I drew a cat on a wall really high up (not often I have the opportunity).

Friday, June 20, 2008


What! There are drawings on this blog! How! No!!! Just when you thought: I'll settle down for a nice bit of ranting about shoes and beans!
I do apologise.

What Lovely Post!

Today I got a parcel from Germany with some books which were very important to me when I was small and very useful to me now... and a card (HAND PAINTED!!!) and a toy robot from Canada! It's like my birthday came round again after almost three months :) Thank you mami! Thank you Eric!

lovely things in the post!

Hmmm I think you can see that this version of Smaug made an impression on me when you look at the deep sea monster in "Shark and Lobster"...

Have to run off to a meeting now, wish me luck!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hm la la

Well-ho! I really enjoyed myself. Found a nice sofa away from the noise and sat there and chatted to lovely people.

And today it's sunny, adn I am at last doing some more drawing. I thought I'd have to organise getting to an award ceremony next week, but just when I was about to book my tickets I got a mail from the publisher saying they were taking care of it for me! Hooray :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Weekly Shoe Rant

Getting ready for the party... I can't believe I have to wear SHOES again. Either something is wrong with me or with the rest of this part of the world. The only pair of shoes I have that goes with this outfit is pointy at the front. Why are shoes ever pointy? Feet aren't pointy! Why is it that foot-shaped shoes are so unpopular? Why do people tell me I have to wear non-foot shaped shoes to be taken seriously? I don't want to need a mobility aid in a few decades for wearing stupid shoes now!
By the way, my second pair of toe shoes arrived, this one is too small. Now my flatmate and my landlady are both walking around totally delighted with mobile toes in lovely toe-shoes and I have to wear stupid pointy shoes again! Meeeeeeeeeeeh!!!!!!!! Booooooooo!!!!!!

Ok, calming down and eating chocolate and thinking how brilliant it is to go and see all these lovely people in a minute. Argh, I will be rude to them because I'll be in a mood about my feet... sigh...

Putting Things Into Things

Another day of sorting stuff. Finding nice tins and useful stuff to keep in tins all jumbled up in big boxes, and filling great big Ikea bags with stuff to go to charity, and planning to learn how to sell stuff on ebay at last.

I don't know how long this arranging and re-arranging has been going on, but for the first time it seems like all the right furniture has arrived. I've been given a nice big desk and we shunted Alexis' towering drawing desk (it's taller than me!) into a corner from the middle of the room.

In a bit I have to take a break and find something to wear to a publishing party... it says they'll have live music, I hope there's somewhere to hide! Always difficult with parties in the kids' book business. You know how at every party there's someone who backs up into a corner and just stands there and hides out? Sometimes you get more than four people gravitating for safe corners, then they have to mill around a bit to keep the time any two of them stand in one corner to a minimum. Now if you do a party involving lots of authors and illustrators chances are there are so many people trying to stand in the corners that some seriously shy people end up in the middle of the dance-floor instead. - I'm not saying we are all wallflowers (definitely not so). Just a goodly proportion. I've been known to end up hiding under a table, myself, although not for some years now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I went to the Lido today - oh it was cold and brilliant. I wish I could go every day!

Otherwise I have been shifting furniture about for days - I got a new desk, the birds have all moved upstairs, all new, all good, everything all scattered over the floor but I'll have it re-shelved soon.

Upstairs, all is well. Here's the living-room shelf today.


I should install a webcam really.


Well, you wouldn't believe the amount of emails I am getting asking me to post some photographs of the beans. It's basically clogging the system. Some of those mails are by A-list celebrities and leading politicians, and there's at least one anonymous one who I strongly suspect is coming from outer space, believing me to be some kind of expert in anti-gravity vegetable cultivation. PLEASE you all beg me. Don't just TALK about them ALL THE TIME, show us some PHOTOS! Maybe we can all come around to your house and settle down to watch a little slide show, just a couple of hours or so, maybe some time-lapse shots and some leaf detail, nothing special.
Guys! Guys! It's Just Beans Really. Even if they are pretty majestic.

Here you go.

balcony garden

And here a little dramatic shot from really low down.

runner beans

Monday, June 16, 2008

Get yer Cats in Order!

What ho! I just noticed not only is my latest effort available for pre-order on Amazon, they even have a lovely little "look inside this book" feature. Yayy!

I took my only copy of it to a photography show in Brick Lane last week because my friend Steph was there and asked me to come and bring it, as it features one of her cats (or two). It was really fun seeing it being handed around, everyone going "whooo" and "whee" and turning the flaps and pages.

And this morning some visitors came by from Belgium and suggested that I go there next February and do a monkey-making workshop for children in a library to go with an exhibition... now that WOULD be fun. I keep planning to do some workshops and never get around to it, I seem to need people asking me to!


It's preposterously early because I woke up at half past two from a dream of hundreds of mice. One of these dreams where I had to yell myself awake as a tide of mice poured over the edges of my bed into the cracks between the floorboards.
Then I was so hungry that I needed to get up and have a pickled egg sandwich at three. After that was still so awake that I read Orwell's "Down and out in Paris and London" until four and then I noticed the dawn, so I climbed out on the balcony and watched the world until five. I wouldn't have thought there were people walking their dogs that early in this street. And I actually watched the beans grow a bit. SO THAT'S when they do it, between four and five in the morning. Lots of pigeons flew down the street, and I watched the street-lights go out. They don't all go out at the same time.

I think it's the coffee I had, a friend visited and brought some freshly ground. I only have one cup of instant a day, and it's instant because in the morning I am incapable of making anything more complicated. So I had some real black coffee in the afternoon.

It's odd having all these extra hours now, I wonder if I am awake enough to do anything useful and/or amazing... but all I seem to be able to do is look at things...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lovely Thing!

Wind-Up Bird

I just got this in the post... a scrabble-tile pendant from an etsy shop called homestudio. I couldn't resist it a moment - It's a wind-up bird! It's Really Shiny! It's made from a wooden scrabble tile! It even has the letter R still on the back! Yayy!

I am really enjoying buying hand-made things... isn't the internet miraculous for that! It seems to seriously cut down on the amount of other stuff I feel obliged to buy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Age Banding - No Thank You!!!

Those of you who live in the UK will have heard about this... there is a new "Industry Standard" looming. Childrens' books are to be "age banded", that is, published with a label that suggests an appropriate reading age.

I think that is an absolutely appalling idea! - I don't know about you, but I remember having a hard time in school for lots of things I did that weren't "proper". I wasn't wearing the right clothes, I wasn't listening to the right music... and it was easy for the other kids to decide what was right or wrong because it was decided via charts and labels and on a "surface" level. One of the few things I felt safe and happy about were the books I was reading, which included precisely everything I felt like reading. And one wonderful thing about reading books to me back then was that no one could instantly judge what I was doing. And believe me, they tried. I distinctly remember the looks of some of those kids trying to find something nasty to say, and all they could come up with was some lame thing about reading books in general, maybe something about the title or the cover - but the one thing they couldn't say was that some higher authority was disapproving of me reading that book and so giving them the right to take it off me and chuck it up into a tree with impunity.
I would like to keep things that way for curious children.

I understand that parents may be worried about the content of some "young adult" books, but this really, really doesn't seem like a good solution to me - but just like another way to put small people into small holes.

So I signed up at No to Age Banding.
Oof, feeling a bit better now.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What was I doing? Why am I here? What's going on?

Just back from the allotment... I thought it would be nice not to have coffee but let the fresh air and exercise wake me up instead. So I spent quite some time staring blankly at a load of beans, sticks, the watering can and some holes in the ground I could not quite remember digging, and I was very happy to stop by a nice cafe on the way back and top up the caffeine after all. I hope the beans are all in the ground and ted to sticks, I am quite sure they are but it's all a bit hazy.
Some tomato plants self-seeded from last year, I dug a couple of small ones up and put them on the balcony. Very exciting.
Now back to the drawing table.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

eMail Advertising - It's for Mugs

my mug.JPG

So I got one of these emails - offer for a half price photo mug. So I started playing around with old photographs and clicked some buttons. So this morning I start with a coffee from a mug featuring some of my favourite pictures of things friends made... it says WHAT ARE WE GOING TO MAKE TODAY? along the top, and underneath displays a melted gingerbread man, a knitted bunny puppet, a nest of eggs, a basket of sock monkeys, a pig mask and a chalk cat.

Mmmmm :)

Today I am going to buy a new Sharpie and finish the new dummy book.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday Morningness

I just finished burning 22 MP3 CD's of audio books from Librivox to free space on my computer. Hooray! And my runner beans are running up into the sky, and I have finished half the dummy book I'm supposed to draw until Thursday, so I might have some time to write some song lyrics.

I also read some of Sir Alec Guiness' writings for breakfast, he seemed so very annoyed about the whole Star Wars thing that it made me doubly happy to have his action figure watching over me in the lounge. Quite the contrast to everyone involved in the "Lord of the Rings" films, they all seem so keen to do some more of that... I don't know, I think maybe it isn't a bad thing for a fantasy film to have some actors who think it's all a bit silly.

What am I doiung in here actually? It looks AMAZINGly sunny out there! Bye!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Strange Note

I noticed this some days ago while I was on the tube. It was stuck to an overhead advertising poster. I hope Rob saw it too, whoever Rob is and whatever he is doing with that advice...
Gateway to another dimension, anyone?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sharpies and Dungeons

Pom, pom, piddly pom... I am having the most marvelous days since I have started to not have to work before five. In the late afternoons I feel I've had a great day and am completely charged up to do a few hours of concentrated work. Yesterday I sat on the balcony garden to draw a load of roughs straight into the brilliant layout dummy the designer printed for me. I used a sharpie pen, which is normally too scary and final for me, but I ended up with some scrawls that did the job just right.
Today I planted out my tomato plants into separate pots (they grew too big for the joint pot) and pinched out some shoots, then I went to the library and got some more fantasy books and an autobiography of Sir Alec Guinness, and worked on a picture book script for a bit... and now I can stretch and yawn and then do some more work. Mh!

I also went and saw the new Indiana Jones - I thought I could take it (I decided to just remind myself of the dafter parts of "Temple of Doom" whenever disappointed in any way) but I must admit that the first hour or so made me experience a physical reaction I've not had in a movie before. My hair was actually standing on end all over as I felt a part of my childhood seep away that I hadn't known was that important... when the film started and that CGI prairie dog came popping into the picture looking like it had taken a wrong turn en route to Narnia I sort of screamed inside my mind, surprised about what a wuss I was.
I did rather enjoy it in the end - one thing, because my favourite lady - Marion Ravenwood - returned, and secondly because I made myself imagine that it wasn't a movie but a comic or a novelisation or a video game. But every time the theme music kicked in I felt like something uncanny and dreamlike and disturbing was happening, like it was me who was staring into the eyes of a long-dead yet glowing alien skull, adn like I should really run away before it was too late...
Anyway, I think I'll re-watch "Raiders of the Lost Ark" ASAP. That is one of the three films I remember watching with my mum without her falling asleep, and with my dad and us both laughing... and I remember trying to write a screenplay for Indy 4 with my best friend, we figured that if it was brilliant enough it would get made... I spent many days in the library researching, and staying up late drawing maps for a dungeon that would hold the Staff of Aaron which could part the sea and decide wars and would turn into a snake when thrown on the ground (genius! ideal!), and there was a writhing pool of water-snakes and some truly awsome traps... well I remember thinking they were awsome... I think I would have agreed that alien skulls would be more awsome, but, but, but... but...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Scraps and Notes

Here's a corner of a sketchbook page about a character that I might use.

It always takes so much planning and research until I can start on a "finished" illustration - that used to worry me a bit, now I have realised that's just what I do. Many illustrators seem to work out the pictures in their head and then draw them as they imagine them. I am always impressed and think they must have very visual minds...

I don't think in pictures at all, in fact it baffles me every time that my hands know how to draw something that I haven't imagined. It's like I think the word "dog" and draw a dog without imagining a dog clearly first, and normally it looks a little bit odd that way.
So I need to work out what every item in the picture looks like, and why, and how every character feels, and why, and who they are, and if they often feel like that. I also need to do very detailed drawings of the characters so that I can then draw them again and leave all the detail out. Makes sense to me - if I don't know what stuff is, how can I leave it out properly?

So I do an incredibly small amount of actual finished artwork... my illustration work is 90% research and planning and 10% roughs and finals.

It's almost artwork time now for two books, which is very exciting! You should see the stacks and stacks of notes I've got and then look at the doodly did-this-in-a-minute final artwork that comes from it, you'd laugh.

Weirdly, I dream in pictures. In fact, I think that is the reason I draw things, I am trying to show things as they are in my dreams. I think that's why I never feel a great urge to draw stuff I like in the real world (except for odd things that I really really want to remember) - it already exists, and that's enough to make me happy. But my dreams only I can see, and I forget them soon after I wake up except when I'm drawing and writing...

After Meeting Morning

Good Morn!
I'm starting this day with a cup of moroccan mint tea, with mint from my balcony, instead of the ususal instant coffee kick-start. I've decided not to try and work in the mornings and make use of evenings instead for a while, seeing it's summer and that I work better in the evenings anyway and that the days can be used for all sorts of amblings and observations which I'd otherwise miss trying to get some work done on caffeine while people phone me up every time I am almost concentrating.

I presented my book of sketches and notes for the new project yesterday and it went down well. Huh. I'd been quite worried... I've never done a project with someone else's text before and I am not used to the freedom - if I write the text myself it gets edited and edited, now that the text is already done I can just go wild on the illustrations, or that is what it feels like, comparatively. Such a different job!
So now that I've got the characters worked out, I'll need to do a set of seven "main" illustrations to go all through the book, and when they are set in place I can fill up the rest of the book. Yay!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Off I go... a meeting to show all my work from the last couple of months or so... very exciting. And good thing to get some feedback I think, since my last few designs had gone a bit...


I find that happens when I don't check in with the editors every other week or so.

Sunday, June 1, 2008



Hm, bit tired today. I was working late yesterday and only when I got to the train station this morning, running on two spoons of instant coffee, realised that it's Sunday. I thought it was Monday already... so I went back home and read a book on the balcony and yawned a lot, and now I am about to start drawing again. I am trying to train myself to turn the TV on. I find that really hard... I just forget it's there, and end up reading all the time, which means I get less work done. I know Serious Artists are Supposed To Draw Without Distractions - that's all very well when you're fired up and focussed, but when you're not (like me most of the time) it's really useful to have something to soak up all the rogue brain capacity that would otherwise make me think about spaceships or imagine people I don't like being chased by wild boar or wonder what's in the fridge.
Anyway, it's really hard to read a book and draw at the same time, so I'll try and switch the TV on once a day now. I wish there was a series on I'd like to see... something with birds, or some fantasy stuff and not too much smooching or sword fights, and maybe people could go to sea and discover things, or maybe something about giant robots... hm... whenever I try and get into a new TV series I find them much too demanding, you know, when you miss one minute and then can't understand any of the plot ever again... I always lose interest when I have to work out convoluted stuff backwards... and everything is always so super-tense, like the most important thing is who is sleeping with what, which I find is a concern predominant in the least enjoyable times of life... High adventure would be good... something not depending on giant story-arcs... or... pffft... aaah I am already getting into the right numbed state of mind that leaves exactly enough capacity to get this here drawing done. Oh and "Life Of Birds" is on! Yay!