Saturday, October 31, 2009

Travel preparations again

Ah. I am fully awake.
My morning coffee that is normally needed to kick-start my brain has recently been replaced by strong tea. My flatmate has added me to the pet-care routine, that is, in the morning he uncovers the birds and makes me some tea. I am very grateful and hope he keeps doing it, it's the best thing ever.

Today I shall be finishing the slides for my illustration/writing talks at the University of Cornwall next week. I must make sure I've washed enough clothes as well... I think i shall be taking my standard travelling uniform of nice t-shirts with long-sleeved jumpers to wear underneath, and a couple of 501 jeans. I worked out a couple of years ago that the shape fits, and now I can just buy ones on ebay instead of going to clothes shops which I loathe. - The shirt-over-jumper thing is a recent innovation which allows me to keep wearing my T-shirts for longer. Hooray. I definitely am going nerdier with age. Am expecting a ponytail to materialise soon.

Anyway, yawn, I better go and bounce on the trampoline a while seeing I'll be sitting at this desk most of the day...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Just Some Tuesday

Today, I shall be colouring in many hamsters. I decided to try and check over all the characters in the whole hamster book, and make them hamster-yellow while I'm doing that.
Then it'll be easier to think about the background colouring.

Otherwise... I'm taking two big bags of clothes to the charity shop at last, I'm implementing a new Zero Tolerance policy for clothes I don't really like very much - I'll only have clothes I love, and none of that "This t-shirt is still good to sleep in" or "maybe I'll be wanting to go to a costume party in this" talk. My clothes cupboard already looks so much better... I might throw out a load of old books next. Yay.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Oil Tanks

I love my Tate membership. I love walking into exhibitions for free, not knowing what to expect and not feeling like I have to get value for my ticket (sometimes it's very nice to just walk straight back out of an exhibition). I love sitting in the members room and thinking and drinking rose bud tea. I go there by myself to feel completely happy and inspired... but I will upgrade my membership so next year I can take a friend, just in case something like the Oil Tanks Tour happens again.

I was allowed to explore that sprawling lovely dark industrial space with a group of other curious Tate members, and I can't wait to see it opened to the public for performances and exhibitions. It's brilliant. They are planning to keep the industrial feel of it, and I really hope that means they'll keep all the different levels - when I walked around there I kept suddenly noticing walkways and doors and stairs high above or beneath. It felt like it might stretch for miles even though we I strolled around for fifteen minutes or so.


Everyone took pictures with their mobiles, most of them probably look like this.

I enjoyed wearing a hard hat, and I enjoyed that they were projecting bits of "Rosemary's Baby" and "Planet of the Apes". I felt like saying "Thank you for having me, Tate, I had a Lovely Time," and like maybe I'd be given a cup cake on the way out. Instead I went to the cafe, which was good enough.
I'm happy now.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Return of the Tea

mug of teeeeeea
That's the most important news. Cheers.

Otherwise... I had a lovely meeting yesterday looking through my various projects with my main publisher, and you know what, the projects are looking good. The sequel to "There are Cats in this Book" is colourful and pretty, I took home a printer's dummy to have a last think about all the words (there aren't very many words in there, so they better be all the right ones).
We looked through the book that Alexis wrote and I illustrated, and even after months the stupid cute little characters are so distracting to look at that they interrupt meetings because anyone may in the middle of a serious discussion of layouts suddenly realise how stupid they are and start laughing. That includes myself. I can't quite believe I drew them.
Then we had a think about other projects... it's all going rather well, I'd say. I'm glad. There's much for me to do, and all of it enjoyable.

Today, however, I am cleaning the flat. Scrubbing floors and everything. Except I just ran out of steam, and all I'm doing is drinking lovely cups of tea while watching Stephen Fry being amazed by animals on the BBC, and animals seemingly being amazed at Stephen Fry. It suddenly reminded me of this vivid dream I had years ago where somehow a small booth with Stephen Fry's head in it was installed on all street corners for the benefit of the public, and I wondered how they managed to get so many of his heads... anyway, I thought: hey wow, it's come true! Stephen Fry on demand!! Amazing. I feel I predicted Twitter.

No, I haven't filled in my tax returns form yet.

Yes, that's a photo mug. No, you probably can't make out what's on it: it's a pig head, a knitted bunny, a basket full of sock monkeys, three canary eggs, a melted gingerbread man and a chalk drawing of a cat.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I'm thinking about talking animals

Flatmate gave me a toy sheep and a toy bear for my animal collection. I'm carrying them in my pocket and thinking about the comic I'll be drawing soon, featuring sheep and a bear...
Here's the sheep.

Got sheep on my mind

I spent half the night thinking about a workshop I'll be leading in Cornwall... I thought about things I have to teach, and remembered that one of the main things is something I've been neglecting myself in the past months. If you can't make something you want to write or draw exist in your head, make it exist some other way first... play with toys. Go for a walk and pretend something. Draw a map.
I got so excited about remembering this that I had to take a sleeping pill after midnight, otherwise I'd still be in bed making plans about what to build next.

So now I am drawing a map of the sewers that my characters need to go down in the chapter that I've been trying to write for days... it's a very scrawly map like a child would make, with a lot of arrows and scribbles that mean DARKNESS or WHAT IS THIS??? IT'S WET!!! and WEIRD NOISE.
I think it's working.

Monday, October 19, 2009

NaNoWriMo Approaching

It's almost November! Which means that soon my tax returns form has to be out of the house and on its way to Glasgow, but more importantly it means another month of frenzied typing trying to write a 50,000-word novel. Yayyy! It's almost NaNoWriMo already!
This time it'll be something experimental that I wouldn't write otherwise, to keep me from getting precious about it (which is what happened last year after two weeks or so). I won't be writing it in order, but in a jumble of scenes which I'll shuffle about in Scrivener to keep myself amused. It'll be autobiographical every time I can't think of anything better and wildly made up when I can.
Come on, join up, what else are you going to do while Winter creeps up on you... get yourself one of these blankets with sleeves on, think up a password and a title... add me as your writing buddy - and in two week's time, LET'S GO!

Oh and mentioning Scrivener (again, I'm still in love with it you see) - they are doing a rather brilliant deal for NaNoWriMo. You can try the program for free, and if you manage to hit the word count by end of November and want to buy it it's 50% cheaper. Here's the special trial version.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Argh. It's tax return time, and my back hurts. Too many scraps of paper. I'm sorting the ones that can easily be sorted, and making a heap of ones that need dating or indeed pricing... then there will be a round of putting them in order, and then a round of checking through my emails to see if I forgot anything big, and then I need to sort through my bank statements to nail the few last bits. It'll be very neat when it's done. At the moment it's mostly three boxes full of paper scraps.

paperwork heroics

So I bought a superhero bedspread to cheer myself up, I'm sitting on it to do the paperwork, and when that's done I'll cut it up and make it into a dress.

Please send me entertaining things, I am bored stupid and this will take some more days.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rodent linguistics, and very good cake

I got cross with the world (more particularly I got cross with dense people writing sickening homophobic articles in newspapers I don't read, and about the lack of jobs for friends of mine who need them, two unconnected cross-nesses creating a badly buzzing headache) and took myself out for a coffee and cake. look, I felt I had to show off this cake. It's Very Good Carrot Cake.
perfect carrot cake
As you can almost see, instead of writing the fairly straight-forward adventure scene I meant to be writing I was amusing myself with translating bits of dialogue into a rodent language I made up some years ago. Skitakatkabochskimeh = Don't worry about the stranger. Bele. Skoeetsateyteyla-ee. = Wait and see, what will happen will happen.
I admit I'm not completely sure I got it right, it's quite a difficult language to get your head around since it has no tenses, instead it expresses everything as existing in different versions of reality - "I want some cheese" is the same as "Cheese belongs to me in urgent dreams", and "Don't take my cheese" is the same as "You own my cheese in my nightmare". It seems that to a mouse everything that isn't now is some sort of a dream. They also have no words for good and bad, but an amazing array of subtle shades of like and dislike. So "I accept this out of decency, but I don't like it really" is easy to say: Chnii. But some other things are bloody hard to express, especially causality. In fact I have completely forgotten how to say "because" in mouse-ese. And out of sheer mouse-mindedness the whole sentence always runs object-to-subject. I really wish I had not made that rule up, I just thought it would suit the mind of a very small animal who worries more about what is done to it than what it is doing. - And their names are Really Long, so they tend to just call one another Szkoo. They have some nice poetry, but it really doesn't translate.


I don't think this chapter is happening today.

I took my dog to the beach.


The Darkness (at the Tate Modern)

I went to the Tate Modern to see the Darkness.
Inside, people crowded against the invisible back wall. A woman turned to me and asked: "Is this all there is to it?"
I said: "I think it's a bit more than there should be, actually."
She laughed and I felt rude, because I had been meaning the light, not the art, really.
"I thought we'd go up some stairs," she said. "Or something."
"Ah well", I said. "But hey! Look!"

Jedi Youngling in the Darkness 2

One of the silhouettes that walked in the entrance like alien visitors waved a stick of light. A Jedi youngling!
I watched as he ran around and around the Darkness.

Jedi Youngling in the Darkness 2

"I think this is really good!" I said, but she had disappeared.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Row row row

This is only partially coloured in because I have a cold but I felt like posting something before retiring to the sofa with "Macroscope", which is a SF novel I have to read for a reading group tonight... I hope I'll feel better by then, ugh.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Novel-writing again...

When I was traveling to and from Germany last month I corrected through the first chapters of a novel I started writing a year ago, and which I'm hoping to finish before the year is out (well, at least I want to get the first half done and dusted).
I just finished transferring the corrections to the actual draft.

I've thrown out a good bit, and then thrown out some more, and just then I threw out almost every instance of "she realised that" and replaced things like "she rose to her feet" with things like "she got up".
I'm very happy with it, and now I shall make my list of scenes that I've been scrawling into my little orange notebook in August (I think) into virtual note-cards in Scrivener, ready to be filled in with story. I'm glad it's all planned out, when I first started writing I was flying blind, and I did come up with a lot of good stuff that way, but at some point it was definitely time to stop improvising and lay down some structure.

Now I've lit some candles because it's autumn, and I shall spend the rest of the day writing while listening to Emiliana Torrini's "Me and Armini" which has become the soundtrack to this novel in my head since I bought it last November and played it on a loop while writing as much of the story down as possible...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Book Coming Up...

Just one page to show for now:

It's almost finished now. Just needs colouring in, lettering and putting together in the right order.
If you've followed this blog you can spot some familiar parts...
It's written by Alexis Deacon, illustrated by me, we both laughed ourselves silly every time we worked on it, and it won't be out for another year, but... it's coming.
I've become very fond of these seven little hamsters, I hope they'll have a nice time at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
And yes, that's the artwork that required me to tear up a whole load of paper with my teeth. I'll actually re-do it a bit less digital-looking - but it's fine for now.


I think I drew this in the Dortmund airport departure lounge.

Otherwise... am staring into space, and contemplating making chutney labels. Bit dazed by thoughts of wrapping up the new picture book soon and starting the comic.

Friday, October 2, 2009

This Week's Discoveries

The last few days were exceptionally pretty here in South London.

By the supermarket, Starlings have claimed all the signs, you can walk in and out of their songs.

Planes are writing in the sky, which is pollution but good to read.

Plane Writing

I noticed a ship I'd not noticed before.

Deptford Ship

I even found some fossils.

Urban fossil

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reading Books

I just got questionnaired via email again - here's what I wrote about the importance of sharing books with children.

Because being a child is being an explorer, and grown-ups have the duty to help them on their way.
Also: a book is a small world. If you share it with a child you will learn to know each other as equals, readers both, thrown out of the house and into an adventure together. It might make things much less surprising when they start telling you what they think of your own world.
It's also important for adults to know that children might not agree with your taste in books, and realise that that is a good thing, too. Children need things to disagree with. In fact, your child might have some books to share with you that'll make you think.

Myself, I'm reading a Haruki Murakami book at the moment ("Dance Dance Dance"). I went off his writing for years because the female characters annoyed me, but I'm very much back on track now, thinking about copying out some of my favourite sentences, like one about the protagonist's life being like a squirrel asleep with its head against a nut in winter.

You should be getting MORRIS, THE MANKIEST MONSTER, illustrated by my studio mate Sarah, because it's the most beautifully disgusting picture book ever, and it's just out!