Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The New Book...

I seriously re-started working on the new book today - it's to do with Edward Lear's "Jumblies".
I did a lot of research last year, more than I realised, even though I remember spending time in the Natural History Museum's library reading every book they had on Lear.
I was amazed when I opened up my reference books and found them covered in notes. I'm very grateful to my past self for that - it allowed me to spend the day happily immersed in tales of exploration and adventure.
This little guy is one of the characters. I like his attitude.

Otherwise - I am still flat-hunting, and would be grateful for any leads to either a one bedroom flat or a nice flat-share in South London, Brockley area preferred, but others would be okay if it's a bright and cheery place. The one I looked at today was a fine size, and very quiet, but somehow it seemed a sad place. I'd like something more leafy and... happy. - I'd also be happy to go flat-hunting with other people who are looking for somewhere to live in London, surely there are some illustrators or writers or other like-minded people who'd enjoy sharing a house with me?
Get in touch!

Monday, June 28, 2010

There are Cats on Rhea's Desk!

Author Rhea Krcmárová just sent me a link to her Flickr set of cats on her desk from Vienna. She says they are keeping her entertained when she's writing. Here are some, but there are loads more... and finally I understand why Tiny is making that strange face: he's singing!
You can fill your life with cats, too...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I met a eucalyptus tree today...

...it was such a hot day, but the tree was cool. I wonder if that's because it was full of eucalyptus sap. It smelled great, anyway. I wish I had a tree like that behind the house so I could hug it every day and smell like a cough sweet.

Sarah took that picture, I nabbed it from her blog.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Me, Showing Off

What I haven't told you about was the CILIP Greenaway/Carnegie event at the BAFTA on Thursday. Where I was shortlisted for a medal. I didn't win. But... (these photos are all by Sarah McIntyre and here is her proper write-up of the event)...

I got to meet Chris Riddell and David Roberts (and lots of other people, but here I have photographic evidence you see)

I jumped in front of Neil Gaiman for press photos, and grinned like a loon... he did win his award, and gave a rather good speech which you can watch on Sarah's blog... I didn't get to talk to him because he was covered in other people, but that's ok. I quite wanted to thank him for being honest in his blog about the difficulties of being a writer because reading that encouraged me a lot when I needed some encouragement years ago, but that seemed a weird thing to fling at someone out of context.
Then I did a surprising load of impromptu cat drawings for the autograph-collecting children present, until my publishers dragged me off to buy me ice cream at the Fortnum and Mason's Cafe. I felt it necessary to order the most serious sounding one covered in fine honey. Then we turned half of it into champagne floats, which is about as rock and roll as it gets in picture books I believe.

It was a great event, the speeches were moving, I had loads of fun and I didn't mind one bit that I didn't win because it was an amazing shortlist to be on, and because I got ice cream anyway. Now go and read Sarah's proper report.

 (Alexis got ice cream, too.)

I am looking for a new home!

Things are happening! It's rather frightening, actually. I am looking for a new place to live.
After years of lodging, it's time for me to find a space of my own... I haven't decided yet whether I want to have a studio flat for myself or share a house, or even find a two-bedroom flat and then audition for a  flatmate to go with it. I've started looking, anyway.
I would like to move to Brockley, because that would be in walking distance of a lot of nice people I know. So if you know of a place, please let me know. Somewhere bright, preferably with a garden, a nice kitchen to sit in...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Strange Sounds

Yesterday was very exciting.
I started on a new book, actually one that I've been working on for years but now it's time to start on it properly. I went to see the art director and we spread all my notebooks and sketchbooks over the desk to look through them, and we made a plan of the plot, or rather extracted it from my notes. I realised I'd been heavily leaning on "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" to try and structure it, which is a good thing, because otherwise it would just be a big load of very odd things. It's nice, making a book out of a load of odd things. Mini Grey said recently that a book is like a box, a container for many things, and this one certainly is.

Then I went back home to record readings of the next two picture books that'll be coming out, the sequel to "There are Cats in this Book" and "A Place to call Home". Alexis read the second one, being the author. They are very different sessions - mine was a mater of sitting on the sofa emoting and purring a lot, his involved sticking a range of objects to his face (a shoe, a cardboard tube, a watering can, a plastic soldier's helmet and a metal cup) to alter his voice, which meant that he had to do some of it from memory, because he couldn't see anything.
 Here's the back of the book in question, which may explain this a little bit.

It'll be rather awesome.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Black Glove Beast

I finally got around to turning some black gloves into a beastie.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wrestling hamsters

More old sketchbook stuff. These are early sketches for a book I just finished, which in fact now does NOT contain wrestling hamsters.

Sketchbook page 2008

I'm still enjoying looking through old sketchbooks. 2008 was obviously a phase of me drawing while watching movies.
I especially like the weird notes, no idea where they came from.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cat sketches

Thought you'd enjoy some cat sketches. These are from 2007, and mostly from photographs I'd think.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Equipment overload

Oh argh eek.
I got a bout of heartburn, I think, that doesn't happen to me often... ouch!!



I'm waiting in for a delivery, and am too tired to cook lunch... if I cook when I'm this tired I set fire to stuff... didn't sleep well at all last night... I would go out for coffee but I don't know when that delivery will arrive... and my roughs are at the publisher's, so I can't quite practise drawing scenes from the comic... and the only think I can convincingly make up is what I'm doing myself...
Waiting, waiting, waiting, thinking about food... if I take a nap, will I hear the doorbell?

In any case, pencil drawing is the way to go. This looks MUCH better I think.

I'm hoping someone's enjoying seeing my hit-and-miss approach to finding the right technique for a book. I've never been much concerned with style, I just draw the way I draw, really, so it's all about finding the process that makes my drawings look most suitable to the task at hand.

The name of that bear, incidentally, is Bonifacius.

Bear disturbed by light

I'm still experimenting. No, that's still not the way to do it... but it's starting to make sense.
I think pencil and ink stick combine well, but I shouldn't have used the felt-tip pen for the dark shadow, and I should have decided that there was light coming from the top before I started drawing. Shadows seem to be a main concern in this, actually, maybe I'll have to may out the light sources for every scene before I start drawing it.
Right now I'm thinking I should draw everything in pencil and ink washes and keep the other drawing implements just for drawing the scenery. And I should work quite small. And maybe I should use digital highlights at all, get all the tonality in the drawing and colour completely flat.

It's difficult getting the balance between spontaneous and messy...there's quite a lot of materials to learn to understand first. I think I need to do a couple of days of doodling to properly make friends with some of those pens I collected. At the moment I still feel a bit like many of them are just surprising acquaintances of mine, I keep asking them "So... what is it you do again?"

Airplane journey, January 2007

I think the first part of the graphic novel that I want to draw is a dream sequence in the sky. I've known for years that I'd eventually get around to it, so I've been keeping notes on plane trips.
Here's a section of a 2007 sketchbook (see, I do observational sketching sometimes)

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Black-and-white Sheep

Testing testing... testing line, size, tone, colour... not too neat! No, neater! Draw some shadows! Aaaah, look what you've done now, it's all smudgy! Quick, some flat black! More texture! Aaaah, overworked!
Am enjoying shouting at myself - no pressure, I can always just draw it all in pencil if this doesn't turn into a sensible technique eventually.
Mentioning digital colouring: colourlovers is a brilliant place to find inspiration for limited palettes. But remember: using other people's palettes commercially without permission is wrong.

This is the Black and White Sheep, doing some beast-whispering.
His name isn't mentioned in the book, but I am telling you here that it's actually Gregor Nebel. Just so you know slightly more because you're reading my blog.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Back to the drawing board...

...using all the implements in the house. Am going to work out a technique for how drawing the graphic novel this week.

This week's Doctor Who musings: I liked the Van Gogh episode, against my expectations, and despite both the music and the general feeling of whoops-we-dropped-the-alien. Also, the doctor delivered yet another cartoon facial expression made credible (amazing skill, that) this time: compassion. I didn't even realise there was a cartoon expression for compassion.
I am rather fond of the "historical" school television flavoured episodes, hoping for more.
Anyway, amazing how many different ways people invent to pronounce "Van Gogh".

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Reviews! What? Wow!

I just went for a bike ride to Battersea park, just to do something other than rest flat on my back after the Hay festival... and now that I'm back I remembered two more things I meant to say to do with that event, as my brain is going back to normal service.
Firstly, I got presented with a rose and a picture of cats, and I really like those cats a lot.

Secondly: I went to read some of the reviews on the CILIP Greenaway shadowing site, and argh, it feels rather wonderful to know that there are a whole bunch of people out there who hope the Cats will win, and who can give reasons for their opinion, too... a lot of children liked the same bit best that I enjoyed most myself, which is great news for my working method (imagine they'd all liked the bits best that I found horribly hard to do! Phew.) I liked the negative reviews too, actually. I would like to encourage children to be critical in their reviews, because I think they often feel that the best thing to do is to write something that sounds exactly like the ecstatic blurbs on the back covers. (Of course sometimes that's just what you want to say, and then so you should. But criticism is more than allowed in a review!)
I feel taken seriously, which is a very nice feeling indeed, and I wish I'd read the whole lot before my talk because that's what I'd have said when they asked me how I felt about being on the list!

I won't reply to any reviews good or bad because that's bad form, but there's one I to quote, it criticised: "No one says BIFF" (as in the huge speech bubble on the pillow fight spread).
YES! Well spotted! I AGREE! I didn't think anyone said BIFF neither, but it was the best I could come up with after asking around. I should have just had an actual pillow fight with a bunch of native English speakers and taken note of what they yelled naturally. Live and learn!
I noticed some people in America thought Biff was the name of the stuffed dog on the sofa. I have since decided that Biff IS the name of the stuffed dog on the sofa, that's what I imagine when I'm reading it out, and it helps.
Please do feel free to stick new and improved dialogue over your copy, in any case, everyone (not the library copies though)!

ADDENDUM (after a short flurry of communications reassuring me that I shouldn't be upset about the BIFF): in case this came over as sarcasm, it isn't! I really laughed when I read it and made a note to tell people I'd been discussing the BIFF with at the time and say "See? No one actually says Biff!" which is what I said back then. Although I admit I have started saying "Biff" myself since because I had to practise saying it so much for readings. I repeat, that boy knows his stuff.


I'm back from Hay! That was brief. But good.

I arrived in the evening, had a wander through the abundant local foliage and a rest in the hotel bathroom, which happened to be much sunnier then the bedroom, so I stacked all the pillows on the windowsill and read Mojo Magazine (which I bought because it's edited by Tom Waits this issue) and drank instant hot chocolate and wrote things on the hotel notepaper.
Then I went to see what was going on at the festival site (tasty food and Laura Marling in concert, as it turned out).
Then I slept very badly, and when I got up fiendishly early for my event all my hair was standing on end, but I'd brought some hair wax, which is incredibly organised I think. In fact, all went very well.
I had a lot of strong coffee which propelled me through the talk at high velocity - I was a bit worried I'd annoy Grahame Baker-Smith and Anthony Browne with my ramblings, but it all turned out enjoyable. I even remembered to do a quick drawing demonstration in the end. The children present were supposed to enter a competition drawing animals and so I told them if you draw an animal without reference, just try and get the shape right, and that's easiest if you imagine what it feels like to be that animal. Or else, start with a shape and fit the animal inside, but think about what kind of mood or activity would make that animal fit into that shape, and then draw it that way. That got some applause, which was an unusual thing to happen to me over breakfast.
Here's a squirrel I drew to demonstrate squirrel-shapedness. Here I was thinking about what it does with its paws, because that's the bit I can relate to most immediately in my memory of what squirrels are like, and the rest just follows. - Paw cut off in this picture, sorry, but you see it's kind of pointy that way.
Grahame's new book (FArTHER) looks awesome, by the way, and Anthony Browne seems really as nice as everyone says, I wish I'd had more time to ask him things about apes and drawing but I had to run off and sign books and draw cats for people, which was also good.
And after that I was too tired to do anything, so I went back home, even though there was a multitude of brilliant things to see... but I just really needed some sleep.
I did take my camera, but all I photographed at the actual festival was this blanket people knitted at Hay last year (there were several of these).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Day In The Life

  • Wake up self shouting "Meh, bah, urrgh, bah" for some reason. Probably because shoulder hurting from drawing.
  • Writing down account of dream about decadent holiday resort where tame lions are released into jacuzzis covered with netting so neither tourists nor lions can get out.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My reference sheets...

Am I doing this the right way around? I think so. After drawing all the roughs, I'm starting on the reference sheets, picking out the best sizes for all the characters... here are some... the monkey and dog were a bit smaller than expected.
...and, finally, making a note of how the sheep's noses look. They all have different noses, which settled over the course of drawing the roughs. And eyes, and stances, actually. And sleeves, that was a surprise, sheep have different style sleeves. Maybe you can't tell from these scribblings, but I can, which is the main thing at the moment...
Now it's high time to finalize the other characters, work out how baggy Bear's fur actually is and whether Monkey has a stripy belly and all that.