Friday, December 30, 2011

More rats... rats and rats

I'm drawing and drawing and drawing rats.
Around lunch time, my new scanner arrived - a huge thing. Now I can scan my artwork without folding it, which will please the nice lady who sells it to collectors when the books are finished...
A detail from today's spread
I realised today that I have no idea what I'm doing, but at the same time I always know what to do next. I think that's a good way to work - every new page surprises me.

Also I'm finally absolutely able to just smile about all the people who used to tell me that my pencilwork wasn't much good. I mostly avoided it since college because assorted people told me that inking is the only way to go, and that my pencil drawings looked laboured and clumsy. And that my characters are scary and look mad and like they never sleep. Yeah, maybe they do! Maybe I'm a bit short myself and sleep badly and some days I eat ALL THE POTATOES and then I'm kind of tubby around the middle. Maybe the people who told me to stop drawing in pencil are neurotic whingebiscuits.
Maybe perfection isn't everything!
Also I like my drawings better than theirs. (Just ran through the list of critics in my head, and, yeah, I like mine best. By a distance.)
(Do I hold grudges? You bet. I started collecting them when I was about four.)

And I am seeing a whole lot of pencil shavings in 2012!



Thursday, December 29, 2011

Big Desk.

I'm back from Germany!
Look at the beautiful necklace I got as a present:
Best Christmas Ever.
That's on my hand, not on my neck.

I started straight away to upgrade my winter studio, AKA my bedroom. I set up a huge drawing desk...
View from my bed. It's a big desk.
...and I ordered an A3 scanner, and an anglepoise lamp. In powder blue, because no one wants that and so it's about half price.
Now I shall be working hard to make that money back.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Almost Christmas...

I'm drawing rats every day. They are getting hairier and hairier. Half the book is drawn by now. Alexis came to visit and drop off some presents yesterday, and he said that the drawings were mad, but some of my best work yet.
I wasn't really aiming for a mad book, but I'm enjoying it immensely so that's ok.

I'm working late into the nights... it's great to be a freelancer. You can get up late and look like this and just start working in pyjamas.
I pretend it's for reference.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Working at home

I'm drawing rats. The dinner table is covered in rat drawings. It's the most fun I've had drawing a book. My process is a bit shocking, I just draw the whole page freehand without a rough, then scan it and chop and change it until it fits on the page nicely, then in the end I'll redraw all the bits that don't fit.
As usual, this means scrappy, crinkled and scribbly originals that will give the fear to galleries. But the books looks spontaneous and fun for it, and I care more about that than about neat original artwork.
I love my job.

Yesterday we had a Ghibli day, some friends visited and we projected four Studio Ghibli features in a row. The house feels friendlier for it.

Back to drawing! Tonight I'll be missing another exciting gathering of illustrators in the city because I really want to stay home and bake triple chocolate cookies.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tree! Tree!

When I came home today, best housemate ever had got us a tree and decorated it.
I shall go and buy batteries for the lights...

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Drilling and hammering and sawing is going on next door. We worked out that the landlord is having the building converted to rent it out for more, and are grumbling that it would have been polite to put a note through the door if there is to be drilling walls on a Sunday morning.

Everything is cosy and domestic. I got the box of Christmas decorations out of the garage, and borrowed a huge projection screen so we can watch festive movies. A Studio Ghibli day is planned.

I'm working late into the nights, drawing rats, photoshopping cheese, enjoying the silence.
Last night I accidentally drew an artwork that isn't even needed in the book, ah well. I'll replace it today.

I found another song I really like, By the Mountain Goats. Some of their music is so beautiful...

Friday, December 9, 2011


Thought you might enjoy seeing these covers change as my agent is sending feedback. Change colours! Add scrolls!

She's very right.
I'm starting to realise that I kind of need InDesign and Illustrator now, lettering in Photoshop is RIDICULOUS WORK.
Oh dang it's still all over the place isn't it... no grids :(

That's just cheating

These books don't even exist, but I felt like making some more covers...

The Rescuers

Here's another portfolio piece: a cover for one of my favourite books.
Digitally painted, and fast as well - I'm making these cover in the breaks between comissioned work.
UPDATE: working on it...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

You better like this lady...

'Cause she's starring in my latest book.


I'm working on a set of book covers for my portfolio... three classic books. The first one is Pinocchio, because he's fun to draw.

or maybe less garishly coloured...

Here is the drawing-in-progress.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Black and White

OK guys! I am working on a black and white style for my portfolio. I am working on a portfolio! Oh yes.
So, what do you think of this?

Not the best drawing evar, I know, a bit stiff and all that.
But - a good style for a novel? Ish?

Also: greyscale? Am I allowed greyscale? Must look up rules.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Aldwych Station Inhabitants

I'm going through my photographs from Aldwych station... here are two. More soon.


Wow gee I am BORED. I still have a cold, I've read several webcomics halfway through, listened to five hours of "Game Of Thrones" discussion podcasts... and I actually spent about twenty minutes trying to work out what Bill Murray whispers to Scarlett Johansson at the end of "Lost in Translation" (As far as I can tell: "When I see you at the next business trip, don't forget the tarantula, ok?")

Quite basically if I don't get out of bed and to my drawing desk tomorrow, my head will implode.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Small treasure and adventures

I finished teaching for this year, and events, and everything else that could distract me from drawing. OH YESSS.

I also finally bought a jewellery box, because the cookie tin Iw as using got too small.
Here's part of it. I'm particularly fond of the clockwork jellyfish earrings, and the shiny steampunk ones that Gwyn gave me. Earrings are fun, I discovered, having had my ears pierced at last.
Today I visited the disused Aldwych tube station and took pictures for a mini project... more on that soon, in the meantime here's a poster that's been stuck there since the early seventies.
And now I'll go to bed and read because I have a cold.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Watching the other illustrators at the South Ken festival draw, I noticed how enjoyable crayons are... Kitty Crowther and Marc Boutavant both used them. It was especially charming to see Marc's normally flawlessly rendered creatures drawn in scribbly crayon.
So today I tried drawing my rats in crayon, tos ee if that's the look I'd like for my new book.
I'm quite pleased actually, that's the first drawings I really enjoyed for this project!
The mouth placement is still weird. I'll work it out.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Astonished Platypus.

I survived the South Ken Children's Book Festival!
Four days of visiting schools, drawing on stage with famous illustrators, giving talks and workshops and signing books and drawing things on demand.
I did a bit of "tell me an animal and a mood" improvised drawings on whiteboards and flipcharts as well, it's a nice way to show ways of expressing emotions in drawing.
Anyway, somehow the first request is always HAPPY CAT, and then after several other ones (more often than not including SLEEPY GIRAFFE) the one that always happens is:
This is because, as you know if you've ever improvised anything on stage, the audience will always assume the idea is to trip you up. They think that's funny, when actually it's much more enjoyable to see perfectly obvious things work out well.
Due to this, however, I have become reasonably adept at drawing astonished platipodes. Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

I also did some improvised drawing-on-demand together with Marc Boutavant, and with Stephanie Blake. As one would expect one of the resulting works depicted a princess on neptune who was brought 8 toilets by assorted superheroes and cute animals because she needed a wee. Another was titled (after the mayhem of drawing it had passed) "Harry Potter and The Dolphin In Striped Pyjamas". You can't blame us, the children made us do it. I did enjoy drawing Voldemort with a machine gun though.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Drawing Cats with the Bilingual

I spent the day in a couple of impressive French Schools in the fancier parts of London, along with Axel Scheffler - we got a class each for an hour at a time and entertained them with drawing and chats. He had a bit of a headstart, I noticed that when he walked into his classrooms the children all went "AIIIIEEE AXEL SCHEFFLEEEER", in my rooms they all just went "Bonjour".

Anyway, we had fun scribbling wool and drawing cats and gluing one to the other, and the children asked very good questions. I decided that they were probably future prime minister material because when I was drawing on the whiteboard they liked to get up and correct it. In the last session I got a little bit self-conscious about all that and they ended up shouting : "IT'S NOT A CAT! IT'S A HAMSTER! IT'S NOT A HAMSTER, IT'S A RABBIT!" and so on whatever I did. These were also the first children of any age who complained that my workshop was too easy. I told them they could draw all the hairs on the cats if they wanted a challenge. One girl said she wasn't drawing hairs because she was drawing aubergines, not cats. I agreed that it would be weird.

Of course I also had to draw a cat about to throw up, and a horse. I kid you not. If you ever tried drawing a horse on a whiteboard in front of a class of extremely bright children who laugh at you in French, you know what I'm talking about. Yeah. They did applaud me for that one because I had told them it was difficult.

Tomorrow I have four more workshops for classes of different ages, and some sort of a big talk on stage which I shall attempt to prepare right now.
The main thing I have concluded so far is that French schools have superior canteen food (eight different starters and a cheese course).

All considered, best workshops I did all year. I hope they'll send me some photos, not of me, but of the cat art that resulted. The children really could draw, they were all like: "Un Chat, phwah, trop facile, voila!" - One boy asked: "Do we have to draw like you?" I said: "Well evidently it would be a bad idea, everyone would be shouting at you "IT'S A HAMSTER!" - He nodded seriously and got on with drawing some excellent cats.

It's also the first school visit ever where a child asked me what percentage royalties I make. He was, what, seven years old? What do they feed them? Pure Awesome.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Getting a new NOBROW issue is brilliant...
Getting a reversible one that's half full of beautiful comics is even better...

Seeing one of my own illustrations in it is the best.

Here it is again, flat:

This is the first time I supplied an artwork with separate colour layers, and I'm happy it worked. I want to make more pictures like that, and hopefully have some printed up for sale.

Monday, November 21, 2011


I coloured in some of yesterday's rats. Here's the one I showed you earlier.
I don't often do the cartoony-eyes and bendy-limbs style, but this books seems to want it.
I'm not sure about the shading/highlighting yet, might want to be more subtle, I want the rats to looka bit grubby though. Maybe I'll texture them all over.
I'm drawing with my medium sized Namiki Falcon pen, it's rather a joy...

AHA! Yes, this is better.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rats in the Fog

It's foggy in London.

I just walked back from the studio, having drawn some rats.
Here's one
A good day.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's a peaceful Saturday. I did some novel writing on the train, and the end is in sight, it really is... I'll do some more in a minute.
Most of the day I spent playing with a borrowed ipad. I haven't really liked them so far, but it seems like it's the platform of choice at the moment for interactive literature and art, so I ought to get one to keep track of things. Personally, I'd much prefer an android tablet, but all the big cutting edge apps are still for the ipad.

So far...

  • I worked out how to synch my Scrivener data over to it, so I could actually work on my novel without lugging my work computer around. That's excellent.
  • It's easy to locally save reference pictures off the web. Yay! That'll be incredibly useful, since my laptop takes too much space on my drawing desk, and is unwieldy.
  • I'm not very excited by any of the art apps I've seen so far, but then I haven't seen many because I don't want to buy them on this borrowed pad.
  • I really don't fancy drawing or painting on the thing.
  • Surprisingly the first really exciting thing I stumbled across was a typewriter app. It was wonderful to use, reminded me of my first novel writing attempts... I'll be enjoying sending people typewritten email jpgs. Heh.
  • The keyboard is awful. But then a bluetooth keyboard will work with it. Fair enough.
I'm almost convinced of the usefulness. I'll be completely convinced once I start making my own apps.
Apparently one of Tove Jansson's classic picture books is being turned into a tablet app. I'm generally against turning existing novelty books into apps (what's the point exactly) but I'm looking forward to seeing what they'll do.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I've got things in a rather fancy exhibition!

Some of my images are in a beautiful children's book illustration exhibition in Sarmede, Italy! And in very good company. See here.
I wish I could have been at the opening.
There is a very shiny catalogue, look:

I'm in Plymouth, teaching, and on the train I drew some rats... I'm doing a picture book about rats, and I am still working on the best simple funny way to draw a rat.

Now I'm at the B&B, writing bits of novel. It should be finished soon...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Noisy and prestigious Roald Dahl Event

I don't know if I mentioned that "A Place to Call Home" was up for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. here's a video of a lot of yelling at the venue. It was a lovely event.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Aw, I'm tired.
I'm still not allowed coffee, and so sometimes I go out to one of my favourite cafes and ask for a small decaf latte, so weak that it smells of coffee but really isn't. They kindly make them for me, and I pretend that it wakes me up. It doesn't though.

Nevertheless, I'm getting things done... today I'll write some more novel, and tomorrow I'll draw an artwork for the new picture book I'm doing with Alexis.

Oh, and today the best patch ever arrived in the post for me, from Liz Lunney. Look!
Not sure where to fix it yet. Prominently, in any case.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

App recommendation: TAROT OF THE MUNDANE

The Tarot of the Mundane! It will not change your life. It may just make you feel slightly better about it.
If you have an iphone, go get this (free) app. It's a complete set of Tarot card for you to consult, and every reading is as wonderful as it is dull and drab, predicting vague mishaps and slight events of mild insignificance (a bit more or less so if inverted).
The beautiful and witty cards are designed and written by my friend Sarah, and the app is made by the excellent people at Knifedge.

Do you worry about minor inconveniences? Do laundry concerns keep you awake at night? Would you like to know if The Nutter will sit next to you on the bus?

Worry no longer: here for your mildly occult pleasure & edification is.. Tarot of the Mundane!

The Countess can answer all your trivial queries about what your very dull future holds. She knows all about your embarrassing illnesses, crap parties and domestic appliance tribulations. Her tried-and-tested fortune telling techniques will ASTOUND and AMAZE, sort of. Simply download Tarot of the Mundane onto your Electronic Device, then shake it about to get Your Daily Prediction. Guaranteed some percent success!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Nothing in particular...

It's Martinmas today, the holiday I miss most since I moved away from Germany. It's about looking after one another as the winter begins. I'll light a lantern and drink sweet hot tea.
My latest book is getting to artworking stage, and I'll be spending a lot more time in the studio. My teaching spell is almost over, and I'll happily concentrate on bookmaking.
I also asked for an ipad for Christmas so I can get on with designing some narrative apps. There is much excitement ahead...
I decided that the old novel draft that I've been editing needs another part, several chapters long, to wrap it up. That's what I'll be working on tonight.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Paper Tiger

I finished my accounts! After finding a box full of receipts just when I thought I'd finished them the first time around. And then ordering some more statements from the bank. It's all triple checked and in the envelope and I drew a cat on the envelope and tomorrow morning I'll send it to my accountant.

From My Dream Diary

I'm very tired in the mornings. Here's why. It's like that pretty much every night.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Another burst of paperwork today.
I need to buy some new folders to keep it all in... At the moment there is a shelf with boxes full of mixed papers towering over my bed, and that's not a good arrangement. I bought a shredder today, which already helped a great deal. It has a see through bin, so I can watch the confetti gently snow down. That's more cheery than you'd expect.
I also printed out some nice covers for my accounts. The dreadful things might as well look pleasant.
I know I will end up with some neat and precise books (with drawings of startled animals in the margins), but preparing them is really stressing out my poor non-linear brain.

I'm really looking forward to getting back into the studio when this is done... it's such a wonderful place.
We are painting a mural in the corridor at the moment.
Lack of studio time is making me miserable. I'm going to cut back on everything else for a while, not run around and organise or play city games especially. It's fun, but now it's winter, I want to sit somewhere homely and draw.

Nothing more to say. I've moved the goose-shaped lamp into the living room. That's about it. It's been raining. More interesting news as they come in, watch this space.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oskar Schlemmer, Triadisches Ballet

I just rediscovered an important childhood memory. I saw these costumes in a museum once and was mesmerised...

Monday, October 24, 2011

I'm totally still here!
I've started teaching, which is great fun. I always try to help the students to break their project into workable chunks, and when I get back to the B&B in the evening I think: Gee, I know what I need to do next MYSELF! - Then I do some writing until midnight. It's a lovely way to spend a day.

I'm writing another chapter or two for the ending of my old novel, I realised what part of the story is still missing... I really hope it'll all tie together when this is done.

Also it's getting colder, I find myself wearing my fox suit over my clothes in the evenings.

I'm planning a number of new things as well... a picture book app, a new ambient game.
I think I'll never stick to one thing to do, even when I'm doing well...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Apple Crumble and a nasty word that has "ookkee" and "ping" in it.

Today I made an apple crumble, even though apples are on the list of things I'm not supposed to eat. I'm sure someone will want it, and it smells good, and I had lots of breadcrumbs saved up.
I'm not allowed any of the things I love to eat for a while, as it turned out that pickles are not a major food group for a REASON, no matter how much I like them. I have turned so acidy that I could spit in your eye and blind you, and the doctor says this needs addressing.
So I am having adventures re-discovering alternative tasty foods, today it was buttered corn on the cob.

I'm also still doing my annual bookkeeping, if you haven't heard from me in a while, that's why.

And I am editing the novel. I'm working on a couple of things that I remembered no one ever understood when reading the first draft, mostly why some of the characters feel and act the way they do. It turns out that just as not everyone thinks extra sour pickles make a lovely main dish not everyone has the same set of emotions and experiences as I do. So to make the tale a proper story I need to make the emotions and thoughts of the characters more clear. It's interesting work. Much preferable to bookkeeping.

I also have new layouts to work on for a new picture book - I'm supposed to get the artwork ready this year, so that's another thing keeping me busy.

All is well, and I do love autumn.

South Ken Kids Festival! I'll be there! Will you?

This year's South Kensington Children's Festival, organised by the Institute Francaise, features MOI! Well, also these people:  Quentin BlakeStephanie BlakeMarc BoutavantLauren ChildKitty CrowtherPolly DunbarSara FanelliChris HaughtonJohn HegleyJoĆ«lle JolivetDavid McKeeJulien NeelAxel SchefflerHannah Shaw, and Olivier Tallec...
So book yourselves in and see what happens!
I'm particularly excited about the drawing duels with those excellent artists.

Saturday 26th of November:
Workshop: Draw Cats Galore!
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Book signing
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Game of Consequences
5:00 pm - 5:45 pm

Sunday 27th of November

Drawing Duel with Marc Boutavant
11:15 pm - 11:55 pm

Drawing Duel with Stephanie Blake
12:00 pm - 12:40 pm
Book signing
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cat In Darkness

I drew this illustration today, it might become the cover of my novel or just an interior picture.
I will have finished editing the second draft soon, then I shall make it into an online document and give my friends access so they can edit and annotate it. I think that's a good way of doing it, because the changes and comments will be anonymous and no one needs to feel shy for criticising anything, and it's only a copy so it doesn't matter if someone decides that a whole paragraph should just vanish.
I will keep you updated on the project... I'm very excited about it actually, and enjoying it a lot!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Happy Autumn!

Aah, it feels like my favourite season has begun. Soups! Stews! Harvest celebrations! As you can see, I  started celebrating this weekend. It's very important to expel all those bad spirits before starting on your tax return.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


I'm editing, editing, editing my novel. All the parts are written now, but some of them were written ten years ago, some in a state of utter panic, some yesterday and some copied from a notebook I filled on a train journey to Cornwall.
The continuity is dreadful. I had to consult many maps to fix some of that, and hunt objects and characters back and forth through the story, and follow others to find that their moods and opinions were swinging around from scene to scene in a dreadfully confusing way.
But it is slowly starting to feel like a real novel.
I've found a lovely cafe, and shall sit here and eat brownies and drink tea until I've ironed out the joints, or until it's definitely time to go home.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cardboard Monkey!

I'm working on a pattern for a die-cut monkey toy. This is the first cardboard prototype...
Checking out the paints

Checking out the decals

Trying the paint sample clogs

Throwing shapes in the paint spinner 
in repose 
Just Hanging (we sell lovely coloured cables here)