Saturday, January 31, 2009


My job today is to collage a picture of an exploded suitcase.
This guy will be part of it.

I think I'll stop now because I'm still feeling a bit ill... I wish I needn't go food-shopping today. Maybe there's something I can cook with frozen peas and a jar of tomato sauce.

My New Fone

I've finally gone and bought a MotoFone. I've wanted one for some time now... e-paper display (whoooo... pretty) NO features (well, you can make phone calls and sort of use SMS and have a bit of an alarm clock) and the most ridiculously long battery life. (I'm not good at keeping my phone charged, which irritates people.)
And every text message comes through like this:





It's got the silliest menu structure I've ever seen, and I love it very much.

Oh, and every so often I accidentally switch on the "voice prompts", which means it shouts "SEND A MESSAGE! CHANGE YOUR RINGTONE!" etc. at me, in case I might want to do anything like that. Heh.

Oh, oh, and it doesn't have any games, unless you count "guess the code to make things happen", which if you win changes the settings.

Feeling Human Again

Oof. Hello world!
I've not been quite myself this winter... it's been impossible to stop thinking about work. Some weeks ago the doctor told me to start listening to classical music urgently, and take some time off before I'd keel over. But I just couldn't stop planning talks and workshops and novels and comics in-between painting and drawing and writing new work... anyway, I got a mean cold some days ago and yesterday I finally gave up and told myself to stay in bed and read a book. I'd not managed to read anything for fun since November or so, I just found myself re-reading the same page over and over again while thinking of work.
And you wouldn't believe how good I feel now, even though I'm coughing a lot. I hope I'll remember, and that I'll allow myself some regular time off work now...
It's weird how something so fun - making up stories in words and pictures - can get so grating when you Never Stop.

Well... back to work now :)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Not Quite Right Today

many cats

Bah. Some days I just can't get it right. Am trying to paint André the cat looking REALLY KEEN. Problem is I need to blow my nose all the time and rather want to go back to bed. I has no zen today.

Meh, the one behind the ink pot is okay maybe. Good enough to call it a day anyway.

Must be Lemsip day

Grnh. I have a cold, and a deadline early next week. And it's work I can't do in bed. Meh.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Monkeying about abroad

So quite soon I'll be going to Ghent for week to do a few workshops with children, there will be all sorts of art and particularly sock monkey making.

The full instructions (in English) are here, in case you feel like monkey-making, too.

I also suddenly felt inspired to plug some decent headphones into my computer and sign up for - so suddenly I can discover new music while I work. Huh. Amazing what they can do with the internet these days.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Morsicant - almost ready...

Here's a hand-coloured photocopy of my one-page comic.

Morsicant comic

Weird weird project. That's what happens if I do little projects squeezed into the gaps of larger ones. Am pleased though!
Now I just need to tidy it up and send it off to be screen-printed (hopefully) or else just printed (also nice).

The week has definitely started.

Uch, yawn. I dreamed stone spaceships shaped like upside-down church spires were landing everywhere and out poured gibbon-like aliens that incinerated all. Then I got up and forgot AGAIN that we'd had a plumber around to fix the water pressure (was a trickle, could now be used to break up demonstrations) and when I turned on the tap to fill the percolator I soaked myself, AGAIN.
So I decided to really make an effort for joy and took my penny bank to the counting machine, shook it 'til my arms hurt and got enough cash back to buy ingredients for a spicy noodle soup at the Chinese Supermarket. And that's what I will cook now while the black ink is drying on my comic. With pounded lemongrass and incredibly fine rings of bird-eye chillies. And the noodles cooked seprarately. Yes.

I think something's gone wrong with the white ink, it's too viscous... it was like that when I first opened it though... I wonder if I can just add some water... does anyone have recommendations on brands of white ink? Must be opaque on black.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Comics ahead...

Yesterday I had a social evening with people I mostly didn't know and who all had interesting jobs... proper ones that make them travel around the world and deal with important stuff. I was very pleased that I could say "I make graphic novels". Which is true. I've signed my first contract for one at last! Picture books are great, but less impressive at dinner parties with international lawyers and such.

And I hope to finish my one-page comic for the Literacy Trust today... the ink at least, it'll take me a while longer to tidy it up and colour-separate it for screen printing. Here's a panel.

I'm wondering whether it would be a nice idea to post a list of useful resources for illustration that I've found on the internet... stuff about binding sketchbooks (like this or this) - but also stockists of really useful materials and open source software for digital image making or basic web design in case you want to give that a whirl but don't want to spend loads on something daunting... would that be interesting?

Saturday, January 24, 2009





Did some doodling...


... I had an unfortunate combination of watching a random bit of "Hogan Knows Best" where Hulk Hogan told his daughter to "hold her breath for 24 hours" before an event so she'd not look fat, and took half a freshly-baked cookie away from her... and I thought: phew, that reminds me so much of parents I've met who don't even want their daughters to be international stars, but just "acceptable"... then I listened to the radio and heard a lady demand every Liverpuddlian should go and have elocution lessons to correct their English, the correct English being "what you hear on the BBC". Now I have a weird pain in my gut and am distracted from drawing, and I am starting to realise that I am actually angry.

I often feel sorry for people who somehow grew up believing that real people look and act and sound like movie stars, and that for some reason they are surrounded by weird deranged mutants instead. That something has gone wrong with the world to allow people to look not like on telly. That it is everyone's duty to try and look their very celebrity-best to deserve love and success.
Am I alone in feeling that people on TV look like they had their skin replaced with weird high tech... stuff? That TV hair has somehow turned into a completely different sort of substance?
Am I just getting old and cranky? I don't know.

Well, back to work. I'm going to put some smudges and fingerprints on my artwork.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Not much.

Well... bit of a daft day, this.
Did lots of things that needed doing, then planned to go out to draw the comic I wanted to draw today but stayed in instead, and finally helped fix the flap on the letter-box which was loose.
I decided to chuck this day in and call it an early Saturday, and make Saturday a late Friday. I hope that by Sunday I'll have it all in the right order again.

Becoming Famous

My dad told me on the phone: "We are pleased you are starting to sell yourself so well... but now that you are becoming famous you have to really think about every word you write in your blog."
"I bloody well won't", I said. Which was a lie, because I already always think: can I write this or will it make my family phone me up?
But he's right. I'll start making a list of products to endorse casually in the hope of getting a free lifetime supply... has anyone noticed how Dr. Ph. Martin's radiant concentrated watercolour is just so much more versatile and brilliant than other liquid watercolours? I really wouldn't know what to do if I ever ran out! Ahemm! Ahemm!!!

piggy bank

Anyway, I just got this surprise present this morning - a penny bank I can tell all my troubles to, and imagine her going SHUT UP I'M BIRTHING! - I've been keeping my loose change in a thermal sock for months since my last bank broke, so this is a great present in every way. Maybe more people want to send me surprise presents now that I'm basically a celebrity - well, I wouldn't know...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Great Crossover Potential

...and just after breakfast I got a package containing magazines: "Let's Knit" and "Your Cat". The cat magazine is recommending "There are Cats in this Book", and the knitting magazine has three full pages on me me me me... and knitting patterns for the cats! And a free crochet hook.

Let's Knit!


They used photos of someone else's knitting to illustrate the pattern, which irks me slightly. They are very cute but, mmmmmm, well, it kind of says I knitted them and I didn't. One of them is by me, so where were the the other two when the photo-shoot happened? Probably gallivanting around in the canteen. Arrrgh hnnngh well mustn't grumble. Full page interview!!!

Several impossible things before coffee

Crikey! Crikey! Crikey!
I normally don't check email before eleven, but today I thought I'd start early and maybe write a nice mail to a friend before the day kicks off. And while drinking my morning coffee I find:

Message from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast: the Random Illustrator Feature on me is up! Hooray! I am very proud. I wonder if I'm the most random illustrator they ever featured. Possible. I sent all the material on the fringe of a big fat bout of insomnia, so it's entertaining for me to read what I was writing there...

The schedule for the big scary university forum talk I'm supposed to take part in on Friday 13th of March. And I am first speaker. Makes sense because I'm the least known, but ARGH! Good thing: 15 minute coffee break after me.

And I'd been feeling impossible before anyway... mostly because I am still not used to showering with Aqueous Cream instead of soap. I used to collect soap, now I'm allergic to soap. So now I need to completely cover myself in a layer of white gloop before getting into the shower, and as soon as the water hits it makes me feel like a fish belly all over. Very odd, especially first thing in the morning.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Flashy now.

There seemed to be some space between lunch and the next job of the day, so I added a Flash Gallery to my site. Completely unsorted at the moment. Is that any good? Hm.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Scaredy Cat

My favourite picture of the day so far. Now for some lunch from the cafe downstairs & the rest of the day will be all dinosaurs and pirates (drawing-wise).

Kittens in Handbags

Today I'll be making a lot of small drawings with my new brush-pen and then turn them into greetings card material, hopefully. If I manage to sell some I'll buy an internet radio for the studio. Mm.

handbag doodles

Kittens in handbags seem a safe bet.

I'm using a brush pen that Dave Shelton gave me when he visited last week... and a sketchbook I bought when I looked at his sketchbook and decided I need a proper sketchbook, filled with loads and loads of sketches. The kind of book you just doodle in all the time. Yes. Brush pens are great, I'd forgotten about them - means I can draw brush-draw stuff somewhere that's not my desk and not worry about ink spillages.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Three Ladies Scaring a Monkey with their Fish Dancing

just to keep you entertained and all that.
(Click to enlarge)

First Cats...

worky work

...and here we go. Bologna book-fair around the corner suddenly, meaning I have to deliver artwork... and here's the first Tiny Cat, or rather the red ink, and while that's drying I'm catching up with my other work.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A day off...

This morning I realised it's high time to take a day off, and I spent it exactly as I was hoping to - playing a WWE wrestling game on the Xbox with a friend.
The thing to do, of course, is to spend some hours beforehand creating wrestling alter egos first. There can be few things more uplifting and relaxing than watching a small version of yourself walk through a cheering crowd (with fireworks) and then fight until they drop while you're sitting at home comfortably with a cup of milky tea. - Incidentally, I chose to make my entrance in a bathrobe with sunglasses, rubbing my knuckles and yelling like a loony, which everyone agrees looks just like me in the mornings.

WWE viv

WWE viv

Here's my bouncing and yelling on the ropes display. Nice.

WWE viv

Surprisingly, the computer even sent a small version of my flatmate into the ring to help me out at some point... oh, I had fun. And to round the day off, we'll get a takeaway for dinner. So there. All good.

Oooh - a Viv Podcast!

Alex Milway interviewed me for a podcast, and so now you can listen to me talk about "There are Cats in this Book", and some other things.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to ramble on and scamper all through the studio and dig out mountains of sketches and dummies and hundreds of drawings of cats...
I'm very flattered, in any case, and feeling important. Ha.
Remember to check out the rest of the website, and if it doesn't make you want to read novels about mice I don't know what's wrong with you.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Huah, time warp...

Hang on, stop, I'm an hour early running off to my meeting... man, this coffee is strong.

Listening to Myself...

I got interviewed! By Alex Milway. What fun... I'll post a link ASAP.
Just got the mp3 through to check it over, and I sure can ramble on about how to best glue something down. But otherwise I am very pleased, I actually sound less weird than I expected (I kept the odd descriptive sound effects and cackling down for the most part).

Now running off to my week-endly meeting to show off my efforts to dummy up "There are Cats in this Book With A Venegance" (working title).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Parskot the Sock Cat

So I posted some Sock Monkey instructions to see what would happen - and what's happening is socks all over the place are taking on a new sort of life. I am particularly glad that I didn't explain how to make the ears, because it really truly does not matter. In fact, it's good not to worry to much about the whole thing, if it doesn't come out as a monkey, it will surely be something else.
Please go and have a look at Parskot the Sock Cat, made by Kasia in Edinburgh one rainy afternoon. And while you're looking, check out the other creatures she's made appear in the world. She even made some beetroot mice happen by some sort of magic.
That made me happy.

Moonpie gets a Letter

Yesterday I got some mail from America.
"Ha! Fan mail!" I said. And it was.
Except the letter wasn't actually to me. It's to Moonpie, the blue skinny cat in "There are Cats in this Book". A nice young girl was offering: "if you don't have a family you can come live with us".
She included a series of drawings that spilled out of the envelope...

"the ocean without a beach"

"This is the beach."

Now luckily Moonpie is alive and well in Cornwall, here she is: I will forward the letter to her, in case she wants to relocate in her old age.
There's also a picture of "Moonpie waterskiing with a blimp", which would convince anyone to retire to warmer climates.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Inky Monkey

Where will it all end?

Am still scanning my old sketchbooks. There are a lot of them, even after I had to tear all the good pages out of them and throw the rest away twice in the last ten years. I remember the first time, when I got ready to move to London and had to reduce my possessions because I had to send all my stuff up by post (no removal van and no new flat yet) - I filled four huge recycling bags with torn sketchbooks and made bundles out of all my life drawings, and I remember lying awake in the morning and listening to the recycling van picking it all up...
I have hit the strata of sketches that go back to then, and to more desperate times...

Life is warmer and safer now.

I'll have to stop scanning soon and run errands and work on some roughs...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lovely Lamb

I've scanned quite enough old pictures for today (still digitising my sketch-books, in case of mice or flood). This is the last one I did, and probably my favourite of the day... the rest of the sketchbook is quite rancid, filled with nasty thoughts about a relationship just past (at the time) but somehow there's this lovely lamb.

And now I shall go and join the rest of the household for an episode of "Pride and Prejudice". Thankfully they don't mind me jeering at it, or if they do, they don't say... I am enjoying it, really, but I can't look at Mr Darcy for too long without saying out loud "what's with the neck-brace then?" or "Nice try! Ha ha!"

The Cheer of Celestial Bodies

I was sad today because most of my friends are having a hard time, and because it seemed like that's been that way ever since I left school. I reminded myself that this is mostly because I have creative friends.

World hear me whinge! WHINGE! AaRE YOU LISTENING?!

My flatmate just came in and typed that last line. Fair enough.
Anyway, I was much cheered when I had the Solar System ceiling light I got for Christmas installed at last - it's got nine planets in slightly random, but pleasing orbits, and it rotates when I press a button.

Solar System

I also got a cheesecake in the fridge, so I think it'll be a good evening.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Twelve Years Ago... drawings looked like this.

Digitising the Collection...

I feel a long night coming on... I finally opened ALL the cardboard boxes under my bed, all of them stuffed with sketchbooks and scraps of paper, mostly just in bundles, some in plastic folders... print-outs of digital work, too (the files long lost)... and I am digitising the lot. Well, everything that I really want to keep, because you never know what climate and mice will do.
And there is such strange stuff! For example, I had forgotten that for a week in college I tried fashion illustration... look:

Tutors explained to me that there probably isn't a lack of lemurs and crows keenly felt in that area, and that one might want to start by having an interest in clothes. True.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Digital Rot

I am spending this week-end tracking down all my old digital image files - ten years' worth of scanned sketches, small illustrations and files to do with book projects. I've set myself up with a big pot of tea, and spread all my CDs over a table so I can pick them easier (it's the sort of work that needs musical accompaniment, I find).

lots of music

Something strange is happening to some of my old files - it's a bit worrying. I'm going through backups from an older computer, and all the jpegs are curtailed somehow... like they are starting to unravel at the bottom. They all look like this:

Some of the old photoshop files have layers missing - with strange effects, one that I opened had lost all the eyeballs, so the characters had ghostly empty sockets.
No major losses so far, but it is a bit... worrying.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Waiting for the ink to dry

Hooray! Dave Shelton drew a budgerigar because I asked him to.
That's just the sort of thing I needed just then... I'm waiting for some ink to dry on a page of drawings of thistles which I want to scan and turn into a wallpaper pattern in the background of a comic panel. It's something that tends to happen when I need to draw a proper illustration, with backgrounds and all. First I add a table somewhere in the picture and draw bottles and vases on it to suggest there's a room, with stuff in it. Then I spend the rest of the day making a wallpaper pattern, tiling it digitally and tracing it off. That's to suggest to myself I know what I'm doing... it feels very professional. Sometimes I make a pattern for the clothes people are wearing, too. I like making patterns. The thistle wallpaper is to suggest discomfort in a drawing of a cold bedroom, incidentally. While I was drawing it, I didn't notice that the studio somehow warmed up. There's an awful sort of a cold creeping in through the floorboards sometimes, depending on how the wind blows.

I'm also happily listening to some sad beautiful music I got in the post from Norway, and I am very pleased with myself for still sticking with my New Year resolution about having a tasty salad for lunch every day. Today I had one with almonds scattered on top, and I read the paper while eating it instead of fiddling about with work.
It's a melancholy winter day, this... it's very nice.

Morsicant Update

Thought some of you might like to see how my big crochet project is going...

Morsicant Head

The head is pretty much finished.

Crochet monster

The body... well I'm making granny squares whenever I have a spare minute - about a dozen of them on the Edinburgh train, for example.

Today I'll start on the comic that goes with this (in the exhibition people will hopefully be able to buy copies of the comic after gazing at this crafted monster).

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Make a Monkey!

Go on, make one already.

(I drew these instructions in a cafe in Scotland one cold morning when the year was extremely young. I think I'll make a collection of craft instructions for projects that allow for a healthy, life-affirming amount of chaos.)

Do send me pictures if you do.

NOTE: Expanded and updated instructions HERE

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

First week... all ok!

Well! This year is starting ok. I got home yesterday and had some international Christmas presents in the post, and I managed today to stick to my New Year Resolution No 1 and eat salad for lunch, never mind what else is in the house that needs eating first - salad is my favourite food but has been badly neglected - there's always something or other around that needs eating first. Also, I don't enjoy grocery shopping, so I tend to just buy a load of stuff every few days, and salad ingredients are never as urgently required as dinner stuff. But I'll prioritise it this year - salad makes me happy, and dinner can always be a takeaway if all else fails. What am I living in London for else???

I also decided that I want my curly hair back. I figured that it could only be due to the hard water that it straightened out some years ago. So I rinsed it with vinegar, fully expecting at least SOME curls to come back... but all I got was frizzy hair, poker-straight and smelling tasty. Must be the chemical dye's fault after all. So I cut it off. I really only kept all that hair on my head anyway because I kind of enjoyed men being charming to me as they seem to be as soon as one's hair goes past one's shoulders. Well, I can deal with opening doors and hanging coats myself if I don't have to put up with this limp mop of stuff any more. I do hope that it'll grow back curly now if I'm nice and not dye it any more.

Nothing much to report else... I just finished drawing some craft instructions and arranged the first meeting of the year. All's well so far!