Sunday, January 31, 2010

Happy Cat

I just finished and mailed the cat samples I've never quite had the time to finish before, for a possible cat-related project. This one I like best.

I really enjoyed borrowing the dining table in the downstairs flat to draw on - big table, big windows and underfloor heating. Now I'm making plans what space to borrow tomorrow, maybe I'll try out a new cafe...
I am not missing my desk at all, I definitely will leave it in the studio for the next person. I do miss my chest of drawers full of pens though.

And now I shall eat some crackers and cheese. I haven't done that in ages.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Kitties with Carpet

There, that's better. (The title is smudged out because it's a sample for someone else's work).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Today's Kitties

Am drawing kittens, by request.
Had all sorts of pleasant news & the tax worries have dissipated. Hence am drawing at night. Although should stop because foot is dead.
That carpet needs a pattern drawing on but not just before midnight. Goodnight.

Calculating new things

I'm going out for coffee, and I shall take a blank dummy book and scribble down a new idea, something that Alexis and I have been talking about in the last few days. It's one of those that need pacing and calculating before creating characters and words.

People sometimes ask if the pictures or the words come first when I make picture books. In fact, generally the concept comes first, then it's maths - working out the actions that will make up the narrative and pacing them onto 12 spreads or thereabouts - and when that is worked out, I'll cast some characters to act the parts, then I'll stage the whole thing on paper, with rehearsals, mistakes, and surprises, note down the dialogue, and in the end it's all edited and tidied up a bit, and it's a book.
And in-between, clever people tell me when it's not working as well as it could.

What does not really happen is that I start with a character, or a bit of writing. By the time I write or draw, there is always a structure in place that wants to be filled.

I thought you'd like to read this if you're the sort of person who feels daunted by the idea that you're supposed to make meaningful stories out of characters, characters out of thin air, and improvise from scratch. I used to find that daunting, now I know it's just not the way I do things. I don't draw for fun, I draw when there's something that needs drawing. I make things up for fun all the time, though.

Off to scribble blobs and numbers into a blank booklet for an hour or so!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


stuffed fox

I drew stuffed foxes today, to help me think about my novel... I find foxes really hard to draw, and I can never quite work out what size they are. Now I think I've got it down (reasonably).

A sign on the Night Bus

Peak Hours

I just found this on my camera. I'd forgotten I took it: a small sign stuck to the door of some London night bus...

Someone did an excellent job there getting the shade of blue and the typography right, I read it several times until it registered as at all odd.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Hurrah! I finished my tax calculations at last, helped by friendly visits and toast and soup and tea.

Then I noticed that it was my best friend's birthday and that I'd been ranting to everyone about tax returns for days instead of throwing a surprise mini party or anything else useful at all. This will not happen again, I WILL get an accountant.

In the evening we went to Assa by Centre Point and ate enormous amounts of tasty kimchi hotpot.

Today can't really get any better, so I'll just help tidy the kitchen and recover from paperwork and cabbage.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Can anyone recommend an accountant in London? Must be friendly and good with freelance creatives... I am so fed up with doing my own tax stuff, I don't think tax returns should take anyone this long to complete and make them quite so stressed out and unhappy.

A friendly accountant could change my life. Someone who can make me feel better about all this paperwork... I don't mind keeping my own books, it's just the forms, the forms, the paperwoooork... I don't need a computer program or a call center to help me, but one particular reassuring useful person who I shall pay to take away the horrors.

Aw, please help.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Processing Weekend

This weekend I spent mostly coding, not because I can, but because I signed up for a two day course in Processing. I thought it would be a nice idea to learn a simple programming language so I could make small pretty things... nothing more complicated than the text adventures and virtual beasties I programmed in school.
Yesterday morning I coded a blob that turned different shades of purple. Then I made it bounce around. Then I made it so that if I clicked it it turned into a sausage dog. Then I made it bounce faster so it got harder to catch. Then I decided I was wasting my time and went for a three hour lunch with nice people.

After that I came back with a list of things I needed to know in order to program a simple adventure game with locations, an inventory and anything else I might fancy.
I found out that apparently Processing doesn't allow me to save objects into a file to re-load them later. So I worked out how to do it all with text files instead.

Today I found it a bit hard to convince myself to go back for more, and my train was delayed. Thankfully there was hot coffee.

But I did go back, and spent the morning wasting a load of time working around a limitation using confusing nested behaviours and something called an array list. Then I had some lemonade.

When I got back to the classroom I realised I could do it all in one line of simple code instead.
I spent the rest of the afternoon doubting all the other apparent limitations and creating virtual herds of sheep, just to shuffle them around in different ways and replace them randomly with wolves. Everyone else seemed to have changing, rotating, colourful 3D objects on their screens which was very sensible of them seeing that is what Processing is kind of intended for.

Then I went back home on a train that claimed to be the 29:1Y o' clock train to Selhurst, which is the most cryptic mis-announcement I've yet had.

And now I shall have a nap.
(I did rather enjoy myself, actually.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Buying pencils

Time to go out into town - looks grey and cold out there, but I've got fun things to buy. Pencils for me, because I shall be pencilling for the next few weeks. I've decided to go with my original plan for the graphic novel and finish it all in pencil, no inking. Possibly no roughs, neither. I went through a phase of wanting to ink it just to make it look more "proper". But then I felt that pencil drawings will look much friendlier. When I imagine the finished book, I see coloured-in pencil drawings - there's something achievable-looking about them, a lack of "finish" that I think would really suit this book.
I want to draw so that if I could send it back in time to my thirteen-year-old-self she'd say "Wow! That looks like I drew it, but really good!"

And then I need to buy a load of presents, Birthday presents and some late Christmas presents.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Paperwork! Paperwork! I am finishing my paperwork today!
Uggggh, paperwork. It's not even complicated maths. I just don't get on with paperworks. Even if it were just one form with one tick box saying "would you like to tick this box, yes/no" I would need a week's run-up to get it done. I want an assistant. I have this suspicion, however, that unless I'll get good at doing paperwork I'll never be able to afford an assistant to do it for me.

I fell asleep listening to a lovely Librivox reading of The Hound of the Baskervilles and woke up to "Wake Up" by the Ditty Bops. And in-between I dreamt that I met an old friend in the street, said hello, and when he had walked on someone said "I know him, he was in dirty movies, but now he's on Coronation Street", which made me laugh in my sleep. - I've started using my dream diary again, because it's almost time to start drawing the nightmare comics I'm contracted for. So far the dreams are all silly, but normally interesting ones come around eventually when I keep writing them down.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ooh, look, pre-sorted for your convenience and correct socialisation!

Just saw these in a shop, freshly printed.

Just connecting to the internet to check if I've time-travelled by mistake again. No, it still seems to be early 2010. - Weird.
What exactly is wrong with not gendering these?
This is exactly the kind of book I would have ritually nailed to something in the wood and let them rot as a child. Except they didn't seem to be around then. I had books called "The book of brilliant things to make" or similar which included friendship bracelets AND rockets. For goodness sake, world, don't go back there, it's not clever nor funny.

Noisy Cat with accidental ink splatter on chin

from my sketchbook.


Oh, I really overslept. But I had a great dream where I tracked down a fake twin of myself and beat her up until she almost disappeared. She was rubbery, like a squeaky dog toy, and really surprised when I punched her - she was well-dressed and smiled and wrinkled her nose and did a little dance when we met, and quite obviously expected to be liked. Stepford Viv. Urgh.
I woke up really happy. Hope she's gone for good. I sometimes have nightmares about her trying to steal my life and shine it up, and I can't quite explain to anyone how horrific that is. I wonder if everyone has dreams like that.

I think it's to do with all the useful chats I've had recently with friends about female characters in fiction, especially in movies, and how annoying it is that everyone identifies with the male characters and the female ones tend to be only there to interact with the men. Often the more arty and respectable the movie gets, the more irritatingly empty the women are, to the point where they just wander around looking great, but they might as well be squeaky dog toys - sometimes they are disturbed, sometimes they talk, but generally they are just there for things to bounce off them, squeee-bonk!

I must add up my tax-receipts today, hm, I'd like to do some writing instead, but it does need doing...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Happy Phantom


Last night I decided to hand in my notice at the studio. It's a great studio, but I can't help it, I'm just not a studio person. Sometimes I like working there, but more often I am completely convinced my words and drawings are hiding somewhere else, at some particular cafe or in the library. Then I get intensely irritable and start breaking pencils instead of drawing.
I have become very used over the years of being a happy phantom, walking through town and stopping sometimes to drink tea, draw and write and plan. In the studio, I solidified, and the imaginative space around me collapsed. It's a strange phenomenon, but not really surprising, seeing that I've spent all my life finding hiding places to make up stories in.
So, well, I'll stay connected to the studio because it's a nice place to visit, but I'll go back to haunting London carrying sketchbooks and writing equipment, picking up lost gloves to make into hedgehogs and making up songs about pigeons, writing novels in museums and drawing a whole graphic novel in a cafe (haven't decided which cafe as yet).
I'll be officially visible only in the mornings and evenings again.
I'm a bit sad to dump the studio, especially since it's such a nice one, but mostly I'm relieved.

Oh, and mentioning gloves, I bought some red gloves:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nice night out.

Yesterday I went for a meal and a movie with Sarah and Ellen.
The drinks were particularly good. This one had chewy green jelly on top and red beans at the bottom, and crushed ice all through.

We went to see "Sherlock Holmes", which I really enjoyed. It had all the things in that I love about the stories, the mess, the friendship and the outrageous mysteries. And I really, really love Sherlock Holmes, and I really, really dislike most re-launches of iconic heroes. So it was a treat seeing a new version that I thought really worked.
And I loved the suits.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Today I'm working on my fox novel... something bad happened, I have misplaced the Plot Notebook. I can't find it, not after days of searching, and I need it NOW or else I don't know what to write towards. That's the trouble with working on loads of stories in parallel, I do really need my plot notes. Some people say good novels should be written without notes, and that if the author can't remember something it's not worth remembering, but they don't know my brain. I know exactly what happens, just not in what order. In my mind, it's all one big unwritable simultaneous shape. I simply don't make things up in a linear way, and books are linear, so I need notes with loads of scrawled arrows and time-lines in-between. Even for picture books, yes.

And yes, yes, yes, there should always be a backup copy of that sort of thing, but honestly, you should see my filing system. Every story is stored in the format that suits it best. Some are boxes of significant objects, loose pages and backups of files on memory chips, some exist only in digital form with backups on the internet, some are hand-written, with photocopies and transcripts as backup. Much of the material becomes insignificant. Other bits become more important. Any project may rest for years at a time. And every so often it happens that an important set of notes exists only once, in one notebook, while I am working on a couple of other projects.

So... yeah, this one seems to be pretty much gone, and today I'm doing the only possible thing to stop this from killing the project: write write write write it all up again, as much as I remember. I'm taking the opportunity to improve it and simplify it.

I've done a good chunk, and by now it's stopped seeming like a total disaster. I even worked out some things that I remembered being a mess in the notebook.
Still, STUPID of me. I have a special shelf for important story notebooks, why isn't it shelved there??

Friday, January 15, 2010


First studio day of the year. Today's job: draw cute kitties.
Got my pencils, got my reference books, ready, go!

This one's lactose intolerant or something.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Yes, it's still going on!

Via BoingBoing, here's a video of some policemen putting their riot shields to good use:

Aaah. I love London in the Snow - okay, traffic breaks down, no one goes to work or school, but people get SO EXCITED!

Oh, actually it's pretty much thawed since last time I looked out of the window...

This Book is Kind of Finished!

I mean, I just uploaded the final artworks for the hamster book - there will be tidying and tinkering, I'm sure I made some lazy photoshop mistakes, and there still must be speech bubbles and hand-lettering and all that. But yayy! It's finished in principle.

You've seen those guys before, but I've re-done the artwork. Isn't it cosy now...

Okay! Must ink a few dog-collars I forgot to draw, then my work for the day is done already.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Blue dresses, more snow and helpfulness

Hurrah! I went out to check the sale in the fancy clothes shop downstairs and bought a lovely blue dress for a tenner. Makes me look like a friendly ghost.

hey, just to do the opposite of complaining for once: I am very impressed with O2 broadband and their customer service. I was just wondering what was wrong with my normally excellent internet connection and prepared to go through a series of boring checks when I noticed that their customer service line is free to call, and a friendly helpful human being answered the phone straight away - but just then I noticed a series of 02 SMS messages on my mobile informing me of a line fault and the progress of their maintenance already, the last one being "it's all up and running as usual now!" which was true. I feel like an advert. Yay.

Also the scary landscape I'm photoshopping is looking less scary now, but I need a verdant hi-res grassy hill in the picture and I don't have one. And with all this snow won't be getting one today neither. So instead I shall attempt to write some more novel.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Hurrah! I believe my cold is over, pretty much.
So this morning I've been experimentally photoshopping an idyllic yellow sunrise from some holiday snaps to see if I could use it in a story. It's meant to look collaged but not like a photoshop disaster.
So far it looks like the End of the World. Might be the sulphur sky. Might me the glowing horizon. Might be the Tree of Evil that I just noticed actually has a screaming face in the bark. Yeah.

I'll leave this one for a bit and go to Toys 'R Us to see if they have any minature models of foxes, and if not, to have a walk.
It'll all be beautifully bucolic in the end, just you wait.

(Note: Most of the pictures used here are taken just above Moustiers St Marie, in case you want to go there for a holiday, it's not really yellow, although the whole town goes famously completely pink at dawn. They used to bring dead babies there to have them revived by way of miracle.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010


I have a cold. Everyone in the house has it. It's boring.

Also it's still snowing. I wonder how long until they start putting salt on the streets in this city. Salt is bad for trees, but I can't think of anything else that would work. Am kind of worrying they might waste money on snowploughs to push the thin blanket of snow around when the ice is the real problem. The snow never gets too deep here to require anything more than winter tyres but the ice is awful. You can see it forming - it snows, it thaws, it freezes, sometimes within the hour, I'm watching it happen on my balcony while sniffling.

Shall read some more, Earth Sea books at the moment.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Another Time, and other sounds

I just noticed that John Peacock's "Another Time" is available on CDBaby now.
I was listening to some of his songs while writing so parts of the animated version that only exists in my head sounds something like this, and also something like some of his earlier songs which are bouncier (although I'm sure he didn't write them with martial arts sheep in mind, they are well-suited).
"Gravity" I like particularly much.

It's strange how every project acquires a soundtrack, isn't it... my fox novel sounds like Emiliana Torrini's "Me and Armini" and "There are Cats in this Book" was worked out listening to Neko Case's "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood", so now every time I hear her music I think of paper flaps, and I am quite sure no one else does.

Every big project, I think, will be well served by listening to this particular unabridged Moby Dick read by William Hootkins. I was really sad when I realised I'd missed the opportunity to send him a thank-you fanletter, he died in 2005.

Anyway, time to fire up and colour in some hamsters. That's a particularly odd combination, I do wonder if anyone will spot the connections when the book is done.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Small Improvements

I think I shall try and use another cafe for writing for a while. There's one nearby with cheap tea, nice people and free WiFi, and the table by the window is almost always free. When I look up I see a mirror in a mirror underneath a print of Fickle Father Time, which is also good.

My bedside shelf is much improved now by a new alarm clock which allows my ipod to wake me up in the morning. After a month of sleeping through my bleeping mobile alarm I figured I should get one. Also this means I can fall asleep to Sci Fi Podcasts. Yay!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Writing Speeches

Today I've been working on a scene in a novel... one thing that's difficult when you're not working on a longer piece of writing full-time is that it becomes hard to keep track of rather simple things, like who is present in the next scene and what time of day or night it should be. Also for this one I'm having to write speeches now and then, and they need to be good speeches because the character in the story is very charismatic, but in the end the one who needs to actually make them up is me, and he'll have to work with my material, as do they all in this novel. (It's a strange world, hence, where animals talk with a slight German accent and everyone is a bit preoccupied with tasty snacks even in the face of great danger.)
I think I've read an awful lot of badly written speeches in stories (and seen them in movies) where the audience is supposed to believe it's a rousing performance simply because there's a fictional cheering crowd. I'm trying to avoid that, but it's probably best not to try to hard, just write it and fix it later if needs be.

Anyway, I'm getting close to the end of part one (a year after starting the project) - I only made the book two parts because I figured it would take me ages to write and it would be good to have a midway point to celebrate, really.
Right now the crowd is shouting "Speak! Speak!" and there better be a grand speech NOW, but luckily I operate in a different space-time continuum and can stop for lunch first.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I don't know why, but every time I walk from Peckham to Vauxhall or back I think up scenes for Fantasy novels, and always of a sort that I would normally not think of... stories with ghosts and spirits, odd-shaped dragons, people immortal for some reason or another, great deeds and daft banter. When I'm walking along I often laugh because I just came up with a particularly pleasing scene. But as soon as I arrive in Vauxhall, or Peckham, it all fades and I wonder where it even came from. I have a notebook where I write down these particular fragments, and every so often I wonder if I want to try and write a fat paperback with dragons on the cover, just the sort I loved as a teenager. - Yesterday I thought of a couple of characters I particularly enjoyed throwing into a parallel world together, so I went into a cafe and wrote down my ideas, and today I shall copy them into a scrivener file, just in case. It feels like the kind of thing that can sit and wait around for a while, or have new scenes added whenever I come back from a walk. Or maybe one day I'll think of just the right fantasy universe for them.

That's my idea of a Sunday treat, writing something un-comissioned and over-ambitious while burning off librivox CDs. I noticed recently (when trying to write every day and finding it actually enjoyable) that casual writing is more fun than casual knitting, hopefully this will lead to wonky novels instead of wonky jumpers in the future. Yay.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Great Start!

Well, that went well.
I have, true to form, no pictures of the New Year party, even though everyone dressed up. we went out for the fireworks after a merry evening, sleet started falling exactly at Midnight and we all skidded back down a muddy hill in the dark to be merry and warm again.
Today I watched He Man cartoons for breakfast huddled in my dinosaur duvet, which I am officially allowed to do because I write children's books. Although you may do the same whatever your job is, really, time permitting, as I hope you know.

I wish I knew who drew those dinosaurs. They should put fabric designer's signatures on those things somehow. (It's Tu from Sainsbury's, I bought it thinking it would make a great skirt and then decided it was already a great duvet cover.)