Sunday, July 27, 2008

What's it with the busy???

Isn't it Sunday? What's going on?

I just had a morning swim (very sensible) and finished the biography questionnaire for Scholastic US (good good, hope I didn't write anything nutty that'll hang around in the internet for years again, like that time I got fed up and wrote my hobby was restoring Victorian parasols).

Sooo - I might as well ink in the next page of Sleepwalkers, no? It's a double spread, no less!

And then I need to get back to my main project this week, which happens to be a fiddly detailed pencil drawing. Somehow it happened that I managed to include one in a book. I know my fiddly detailed pencil drawings aren't all that good, it's the sort of thing you need to do a LOT of to be any good, I believe.
I'm better at sudden Zen-type outbursts of doodling. - But I do find it very pleasant to lose myself in drawing something hairy with all the hairs or fine-tuning the wrinkles of an elephant for a day or two, even if the result may be overworked, without any sense of perspective or anatomy and the shadows going in all the wrong directions... and - no one is stopping me!!! :)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"On the Rocks"

A couple of days ago I went to the opening of an exhibition of glass sculptures by Richard Deacon and Bill Woodrow... I thought they were wonderful. There was a sequence of glass tables named after the days of the week, with glass mammoths wandering over black mirror plateaus, and smooth grey glass slugs living in the glass bottles that started out as the legs of the tables, but on the week-end wandered up and developed in some spore-like way, detached and rolled over the now featureless tablescape... I got the impression that the glass slugs were rather starved in the bottles, so much that some had escaped and eaten part of the tables. I worried. It looked like evolution was suddenly running backwards at speed and sucking things back into itself and enclosing them in clean bubbles, because if you'd grow backwards you'd need no food.. I wanted to ask the artists about it but I thought probably they had important people to talk to.

It made me think about those single-celled animals the size of inflatable mattresses that I once read existed before nature came up with making more complicated stuff, and the giant insects that came later, especially the centipedes that would outrun and eat a person if they'd be around now.

I must be moving up in the world because that was the first event I've ever been to where the free drinks had real fruit in. And the snacks on trays came with matching dips. I thought that if I had to make a site specific installation I would probably end up just making lots of waiters go around with trays of snacks in a complicated pattern and see how the gallery visitors would try to catch them discreetly.


Look what I got in the post yesterday:


... a big fat book containing 366 stories of 366 words each. Sales will benefit a helpline for children. The authors include our very Prime Minister Gordown Brown, also Terry Jones, Anne Fine and I don't yet know who else because I haven't read it yet, but if you turn to page 249 you will find a story titled "HOW TO FIND GOLD" by me myself. It's right next to Raymond Briggs' contribution, so when I checked the proofs of mine weeks ago I got to read just the peculiar tail-end of it (which lingered on the opposite page) and I wondered: who is this grumpy nutter and why does my story have to sit next to this??? - Now I got to read the beginning as well, and I am glad to say that as a whole it makes sense, and makes me proud :)
I've only read a few stories so far, but it seems to me that the very tight deadline has done it good, it feels like you get to drop by all these writers' homes for a cup of tea and demand a story. Impromptu and personal, yes, that's the words.

Oh and I believe it's on sale already...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Home again!

So... the first bit of news I got on coming home is that Helga and Thingummy have moved in together.

I don't know what's going on inside their tiny heads, but it's very cute. They even sleep snuggled together sitting on one egg and one polished pebble, and he defends her whenever anyone comes near by hopping up and down making a loud honking noise.

Then I checked my plants, which have mostly thrived - I had my first harvest of peas. here are the ones we didn't eat before I could take a picture:

Then I found a stack of post on my desk, almost no bills, instead a hand-painted card from Bornholm, a brilliant booklet about penguins that I won in a competition and an invitation to a private view tomorrow night.

Now I am drinking tea and waiting to wake up completely. The trip was pretty tiring for some reason, lots of standing around waiting for security searches to get going. Doesn't help that every airport seems to handle things differently which always leads to a grand scrambling before every procedure, especially if one tries to get all right and ready in advance I find. I queued past a silent news screen when I was waiting to cross the UK border, and they had subtitles running which were very odd, I read: ON SCREEN, BATMAN IS RIGHTER OF WRONG, THE FEARLESS DIVIDENDER OF THE WREAK... I've wondered before how this happens, do they use speech recognition software? I couldn't keep looking because it made me feel a bit brain-damaged.

Meh, I got exciting work to do, but you know what, I'll have a power-nap first.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Need a Computer?

I am still fixing family computers. Today I get to install Linux Ubuntu on a machine that's been shot to hell by Microsoft Mayhem, several people trying to install the 'best' windows stuff on it that they could lay their hands on. Now it took me a day to even switch it on.

I love Ubuntu... honestly, if you ever just want a computer to do 'stuff' with, use the internet, email, scan and manipulate your artwork, write, use it with photos and mp3s, and someone tells you they can 'put you a computer together', take the computer. But don't let them stick on a load of old Microsoft that's left over from somewhere. Try Ubuntu - it comes with a program that will easily let you produce word compatible documents, and with GIMP, which is a fine program to digitally manipulate images with - you can always fork out for Photoshop later.

Also brilliant for children and students to produce pictures and words and generally do all the computery stuff one does. And all for free. With tons of free programs to add over the web. And it all updates automatically to the latest versions. - And there's other flavours of Linux about, if Ubuntu doesn't suit your taste... I am running Xandros on my tiny pc and it's lovely. I am seriously considering switching to Linux for good when my trusty old mac finally dies.

Just wanted to say that after spending hours fixing up rickety old crashy slow noisy boxes full of microsoft rubble. Gah!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Mother's Library

Today I'm getting around to one of my main things to do...

I’m going through the collection of books in my mum’s library to research all those books I had when I was small... I have a lot of memories of books I loved that surface when I am wondering how to do this or that in my own work. And then I can never check because all those books are here... now I’m catching up at last!
This one is ’Bremb’s Tierleben’, an odd book of ’possible and impossible animals’.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My First Ever Toy

Look what my mother found and kept safe for me:

I didn't even know he still existed. He's called Piep. I think he's the earliest thing I remember in the world.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

shoes, shoes again

Even though I spent a weird amount of valuable life time hating shoes... every time I go to Germany I suddenly get a pair. It's that talk about judging people by their shoes I think, even though I can't feel a smidgen of care for the sentiment within me, somehow it must affect me enough to go and have a look at the shoe sale. I look at the shoes and deeply resent being expected to wear them. Then I think: man, I like these snazzy green trainers, they look a bit like Abe Sapien, or Merman, or... and they are really cheap... Then I suddenly own them.
But there you go. Life's a puzzlement.

Lovely Things

I had my haircut! It took three kinds of scissors and an inordiate amount of brushes and hot air and I ended up looking so proper that I went and got some new glasses, too. I meant to have my eyes checked anyway but wasn't brave enough because I secretly thought the constant wibbling I see was due to some terrible thing that would turn me blind soon, but in fact it's due to eye strain, phew.

I'm really enjoying myself, it's lovely to see my family... it's odd (but fun) to see my dad on a motorbike, and I very much liked seeing my most excellent little nephew dudes, radiating as always a generous portion of light of my life and being very excited about 'the Hobbit' which they'd just listened to for four hours solid. It's the first instance in a long time of me coming across any child being that excited about a work of literature that's not Harry Potter. An then it's two children, and relatives, and one of my favourite books ever, so I am happy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Germany, day one


Aaaaaah. My parents' garden has grown a lot since I last saw it... I mean, not bigger, just more green and taller... This here is actually the small front garden, it's just cleverly packed with plant life. Mm.


I also went and saw some lovely summer evening theatre in a quarry - a performance about airports, including confusion about luggage and some fierce security searches. It was pretty much spot-on compared with what I went through routinely the day before travelling here, except no one had to buy tiny plastic bags from a vending machine in a four-pack for a quid to save their face-cream from being confiscated. (I didn't have a quid yesterday, and stood by the machine silently fuming about this amazing rip-off - WHO ON EARTH NEEDS FOUR BAGS IF YOU'RE ONLY ALLOWED ONE THROUGH SECURITY ANYWAY???? - and contemplating fishing what looked like some old plastic bag out of the recycling bin - until a nice young couple gave me one of their four vending machine rip-off bags - I like airport passenger solidarity, people really do help each other through these confusing and frustrating times, bless them - some nice guy gave me a sandwich, too, when I found that the airport shops didn't take my cash card).

Tomorrow I'll have my annual professional haircut, and I'll get my eyes tested at the local opticians for old times' sake.

Greek Timmy!


I just got a mail from Athens, where a friend of mine walked into a book-shop and saw this... Oh, I'm so proud... more than makes up for there not being any Timothy Smallbeasts in Germany.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Finches all shelved now.

Well, it was bound to happen.

Now Thingummy wants to live amongst audio literature, too.

I'll leave them to it while I'm tweaking the comic, so it'll be at its best when I'm away - I added a possibly temporary "cover" on the first page, really I wanted to paint one but there's no way the paint would have dried in time, so now it looks like this:

Am going for the early seventies craft book look there.

New Nesting Site

New Nesting Site

I had some trouble spotting Helga last night, but now I know that she has got fed up with the cage and has decided to make a clean break and start a new nest among the audio books.
She's been stuffing the space with fluff from the sofa blanket all day.

This morning I was presented with a small blue teapot from Japan, so now I can have Lapsang Souchong and do some last bits of work before departing for Germany. Hmm :)

Julie Morstad

It's a beautiful sunny day and I finally got around to looking up who made the lovely cover artwork on one of my favourite albums, Neko Case's "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood". Her name is Julie Morstad and looking at the drawings on her website made this day brilliant already... beautiful dreamlike pictures of people and animals.

It also made me want to go and illustrate some songs, maybe I'll do some of that this week... it would be nice to have some sort of a music and poetry section on my site. I seem to be in a sprawling sort of a mood, must be all those plants growing outside the window, especially the many green tomatoes, in all sizes from pin-head to almost golf ball, and great bunches of yellow flowers.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Packing Up

Am off to Germany in a couple of days... I'll post some more of the comic before I go. But first need to get the travelling laptop ready so I can keep in touch with the world. It's amazing how long it takes to transfer all the passwords and email addresses!

So neat that it has a webcam! I've been using that to run Skype while doing less exciting studio work, which looks like this:

(Am mostly posting this post to see if it's all working as it should.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

More Plans Maybe

Ah. Page of the day is done.
I am enjoying this comic so much that I am thinking of putting some other things online for free... I've got a couple of nice stories that I could never quite get to suit a publisher, but they are just the right format to become little booklets to print out and bind yourself.

I hope the cat knitting patterns will go online soon, too!


Good Morning!

Am stretching and yawning and sipping some cold instant coffee (kettle didn't come on, didn't notice). Next couple of "Sleepwalkers" on my desk and my swimming bag packed to go to the local pool, which is much needed for waking-up purposes since I've spent half the night talking to a friend in trouble - she has an awful job which is so exhausting that she has no energy to find a better one. So I am feeling a bit unhelpful and very grateful that I get to draw and write for money. It can be upsetting, too, when I can't think of anything or have to redo several week's worth or doubt that stuff is good enough, but man, I don't have to get up at four in the morning every day just to work until seven in the evening. Oof.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Save Totoro Forest

Here's a fundraising project for you to look at - the Totoro Forest Project. If you like Totoro - if you like Trees - and if you like lovely pictures, too! - go look right now!

Eric's drawn one!

Toenail clippings

Page five is up.

This morning I took Helga to the vet to have her toenails clipped, they had grown very long in the last couple of months because she insisted on doing nothing but sit on a pebble on a sock in half a tin snowman in the corner of her cage. The pebble (which is now polished to a sheen, I note) I put in there because I noticed that she'll lay an egg and sit on it for weeks every time I took the last one out, even if she'd given up on it weeks ago. The sock Alexis put in because he noticed it stopped her from tearing people's hair out to line her nest with. The snowman tin was a Christmas present, and it just happens to fit her snugly.
Anyway, she's still very insulted.

Now I shall fry up some potatoes and then do some roughs for a new thing that might be a picture book one day (I hope so because it's very funny I think). I can't work on the other book because my note-and sketchbooks are getting scanned for a presentation at the publisher's. They promised to bicycle-courier them back to me before I go on holiday next week so I can take them along... I feel almost famous.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Four pages! That's like, two spreads already!

And page four is up. And I am adding colours one by one. Today, some blue.

It's been a while since I've had such enjoyable working days... it's great to write and draw things and decide all by myself when they are finished. I even had one of my high-powered pasta lunches that I haven't had since college - I used to jump up from my desk somewhere around midday, normally when I had to leave some ink to dry anyway, stride home, cook some pasta sauce that normally tasted a bit weird because I was still thinking of what I'd been drawing, and all the while talking at my then-boyfriend. If he hadn't been there I'd have been talking to the wallpaper. If he ever said anything back, I have no recollection of it because all I was concerned with is get some words out, food in, and back out of the house to get working again. I really enjoyed that time!

And now it's time to run off to a meeting and re-edit some speech bubbles for my next book. Tra la...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Gosh! I spent the whole day in front of the computer, more or less, with the rain streaming down the window. I can't believe that much water can stay up in the sky, except it obviously can't, that's why it's coming down I guess.
You wouldn't believe how often I re-coloured the first three pages of the comic. But now I'm happy (for now), happy enough to stick a link on my main website.
I also wrote the script for what I think is part three, a very small part, "The Dream of Being Tired". I thought of it last night when I couldn't sleep (again).

I think I'll go and bounce on the trampoline for a while to break my physical inertia.

More Signing

I just got some photos via email of the Cambridgeshire event I did recently... I like this one! Am posting it so my mum can see my haircut isn't THAT bad.
I hope I'll get some shiny official ones of me sitting on stage clutching a stuffed monkey or something.

Most likely what I am doing there is answering the question: "Where do you get your ideas?"


I even set up a special lightbox table now...

Peas in the rain


It's raining and raining... I potted out a couple of pea plants and a rose yesterday. This pea was also very happy to get a special curvy stick to grab on to. I had to pot out Tifa as well because the pea plant is firmly holding on to her shoulders.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Evening Already?

Gosh, that was a good day's work, I didn't expect to do a crash-course in all the computery things I needed to work out to get this comic out of the canvas folder it's been resting in and on to the web... Just goes to show that you get more skills doing something you don't have to do at all than doing what you're paid for. Or maybe that's just me...

I am colouring everything now, and it's fun to do. I'm blocking out the areas on the light-box with black ink and then turning them into colour on the computer - the hard thing is to imagine where I would like colour, and where I would like white when it's all black on the paper. It still looks a bit silly, but I hope I'll work it out in a few pages' time.

Syndicate Sleepwalkers, why not!

I am still building the Sleepwalkers site. Now I've added a RSS feed for your very convenience so you can have Sleepwalkers piped into your computer directly and as they appear without any interruption by my pets, beans or thoughts in general.

Here it is:

Sleepwalkers RSS feed

Let me know if it works... and also if you stick it on your Facebook site or anything like that, you're quite welcome to (as long as it's non-commercial), I'm just interested!

By the way, if you don't have a RSS reader, SAGE is one I rather like... It's a Firefox add-on, just sits there quietly until you feel like checking what's new in your world, and thens serves it all up nicely.


I'll colour in the first three pages today and post them... and this morning I stayed in bed and extra hour and made up most of the next Sleepwalkers story. I'm allowing myself to change styles and format when I like... I have no fixed idea on how I would like my comics to look eventually, I just want to gradually work out how I like to make them in a way that's not too much drawing work (since it has to run parallel with the paid projects) but allows for lots of ideas...

Also - this morning on BoingBoing I saw that the guy who is making subway-inflated trash bag balloon animals in New York has made a huge giraffe, a minotaur and the Loch Ness Monster now. Have a look! You know how bin bags look alive when they blow on the wind? It's like he realised they wanted limbs and heads...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Colour after all?

Maybe this comic should be ever so slightly coloured after all... it's hard to make some of it out otherwise, because it's so roughly pencilled.
Here's page two digitally enhanced a bit:

I'll try if I can make it look more natural by painting in the colour blocks on the lightbox, this is just blobbed on with a Photoshop brush, not my favourite look.


Tra la la :)
Ah, I think it was the right decision not to fuss over these pages too much, I was wondering if I should ink them in properly on the lightbox, colour them... but I like them just as they are, because the whole thing was a bit of a trial run to start with, it would be odd to now spand lots of time inking and colouring instead of getting on with it... I'm already thinking about part two, and what that may look like.

I read a bunch of comics while sipping my morning coffee, which must be a good sign because normally I find it hard to look at anything or anyone before I've finished the whole cup.

It's raining and raining, perfect weather conditions for getting some more pages online... :)

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Well, it's rough and ready, it's up and running, you can have a look!


My favourite headline toady: SMALLEST PLANET SHRINKS IN SIZE!

Otherwise: am rather hoping to design the home page of the my comic today. The title, at the moment, is THE SLEEPWALKERS. I'm still working out the best way of posting it page by page while still keeping it well indexed. If anyone has seen a web comic that is particularly nicely presented that way, send me a link for inspiration!

(NOTE: Too late, it's already done. And it'll drive me crazy because I used no templates. Oh Dear. Please tell me about broken links and pictures!)

Comic Beginning

You might recognise this... I have started to work over the pencil roughs of the comic I drew ages ago. There's a whole first episode all ready for inking, but I decided that as it's all for my own enjoyment I won't bother to make it look slick, I'll just make it readable so I can get on with part two sooner! I think I'll post the finished pages as they happen, and make a separate web-page to house them permanently. I need to write an introduction, too, which was always planned to be set before the first scene. Ah well, you'll see...

Lovely Smell

Look what I harvested last night!


Saturday, July 5, 2008


I've had my coffee, I've had my porridge and on my table is a page of almost-inked-in comic. The whole morning has been dark with rain, which is one of my favourite ways to start the day when I got things to draw... now I'm absolutely sure it's the right idea to do some ambitious stuff for myself, because I feel like I'm seven years old and it's Christmas eve, which is pretty good in early July.
I need to take a break and buy some groceries in a minute... might avoid reading the headlines, which are all about the New Cross Murders.

So if all goes well there should be the first instalment of my new comic online quite soon!

Friday, July 4, 2008

My Most Excellent Plan

You know what I feel like?
I feel like making something really nice for myself. I haven't got the time, really, because I am working on three books, but I really feel like I need to be making stuff just for my own enjoyment... at the moment I am just staring at my balcony plants and reading adventure novels instead when I'm not doing my work.
It's not that I don't enjoy the paid work, in fact, it's great. I love it.
It's just that I want to make something really enjoyable that takes lots of time, and then I want to put it on the internet for free for anyone in the world to see it. I don't want to do it to advertise myself or to cleverly try and get it published on paper later. I want to do it because I think making a brilliant thing that takes lots of time just for myself and anyone else who might enjoy it would be like being able to fly.

I'm announcing this now here so people can ask me "how's your brilliant thing going that you'll put on the internet for free?" and I will say "It's going brilliantly, thanks!" and also so that no one needs to ask me "This brilliant thing you're doing there, surely you want to keep it secret so no one will steal your ideas and then you will take it to a publisher so they will give your money for it?"
In fact, if anyone says anything like "you are wasting your time doing this brilliant thing for free instead of pitching it to a publisher" I will ignore that comment and instantly switch the conversation to beans and tomato plants. So if anyone says to you "Viv is being weird, I keep telling her not to waste so much time doing this brilliant thing for free but all she talks about is beans and tomatoes" just tell them that it would be best not to bother me about it any more.

And today I will look at my Long List of most excellent projects that I have been dreaming about over the years and then put away because I thought they'd be too much work and publishers might not like them, and I'll pick one out. It might be a dramatic novel about foxes, an epic choose-your-own adventure, or a comic series about inter-dimensional sheep, an illustrated collection of poems, a podcast of short stories and songs or a Science Fiction adventure featuring Anteaters in Space.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Very Sunny Afternoon

I've been colouring in the bear drawing... crayons are getting soft in the heat. Am too lazy to even stand up to take a proper photograph. Blergh.
Aaaah, the sun... the sun...

Interplanetary Pangolins

Some sketches I did last night in front of "David Attenborough's Life of Mammals" (Episode two, insect eaters). I was thinking about a story about ant-eaters in space that I'd started years ago and never wrote past page one. I hope one day I will pick it up again.


I'm just back from the German Embassy where I picked up my passport. I wasn't in the best of moods because I'd been told I could pick it up "any time, you won't have to wait" which turned out to be Embassy German for "before 10:30 but allow time to queue across the room".
I listened in to some good conversations queuing past the counter where newly-wed English were applying for their first-ever German ID's. First a lady was given the rules along with her new papers: "Your name is now irrevocable. You cannot change it within this marriage. You can have your maiden name back when you get divorced."
Then there was a lengthy exchange between a man who had turned up with a stack of signed papers and was told that this was not in order. He should have signed them at the counter instead. This is more or less what I caught:
"So I sign them again while you are watching now, right?" he offered.
"No. You cannot re-sign the papers."
"So what do I do now?"
"I need you to confirm these signatures."
"Well what do I need to do?"
"An oral confirmation will be sufficient."
"You want me to say that I signed these papers?"
"That will be sufficient."
"Well I can tell you, these papers, I signed them. This one - I signed this one."
"That is all that is needed, thank you."
"I signed this one, too."
"That is all that is needed, thank you."
"This one I signed with a dip-pen."
"This is sufficient now. Thank you."
At that point I was called to my counter.
The guy in charge found my passport and gave handed it to me. "Would you check the details please? If anything is incorrect or missing?"
I looked at it it. "I don't know," I said. "I think my nose is missing."

He looked at it. "It just came out a bit bright."
"You think that's ok like that? Without, uhm, my face, I mean?"
He smiled reassuringly. "Technically this is correct."

Well, I got a passport now, lacking nose but they can always fingerprint me I guess.
I am telling myself it's not so bad but everyone I show it to can't stop laughing and says it is literally the worst passport photo ever.
I'm a bit worried about going to the the US now, can they strip-search me for missing body parts?