Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Christmas Spirit?

No, sorry- it's only me!

Well, Winter's taken hold like a bad habit. I have a chill in my bones and icicles for tootsies. I've managed to accumulate an extra layer's warmth... in blubber, as the surprising diet of mince pies for brekkie has become part of my recommended daily allowance. Well, how else is one supposed to feel good about the 24/7 rain, and the excessive application of darkness at this time of year?

So, I know you're probably all dying to hear of the fizzing gossip and champagney, conversational, bubbli-ness of the Hodder Christmas party, but tough! I want you to hold on to your proverbial horses! In fact, how about making them a cup of tea and getting them to put their feet up? Because first, I want to talk about some other bits and bobs.

Right. So, I'm moving! Huzzah! But also... ahhhh! Yes, after wrangling with the entire Southern property rental market (oftentimes coming out black and blue all over- with the vague feeling that another small part of me had died) Liverpool and I are parting ways. We've been together nearly three years now; not quite long enough for marriage and kids, but it's certainly been no fling! I have good friends up this way now and little nooks and crannies I've claimed as my own. (Such as 'The Egg Cafe' off of Bold Street, and 'The Moon and Pea' on Lark Lane- splendid cake, I tell you!) I find myself missing it already.

Nevertheless, in a couple of weeks time, I'll be speedily putting up our Christmas tree in Surrey, in the effort to appear to myself that I've always lived there. Scary! I have to say, I'm fairly rubbish with change- mainly as it takes me a couple of years in a house to learn to leave my door keys in the same place each time. All right, I know it sounds small, but if it took you several days to get out to buy milk, you wouldn't be laughing either!

But also, there's the whole, 'making new friends' issue. Working alone has it's downsides. I don't know if you've ever tried it, but it takes a while to make friends in your own kitchen; A very long while. And if you achieve success, you'll almost certainly be carted off to the funny farm! So, yes, I strongly suspect I might have to LEAVE the house to find an answer to this problem- I'm getting the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.

That said, I've already made two lucky discoveries. One is the talented Sam McCullen, who'll be living up the road from me, and the other is a group of Surrey children's book illustrators that meet up regularly for coffee and cake- I likes the sounds of that already! I shall keep you informed of my progress.

Ok, in other news; My website has been due an update for some time. Well, that's not really news, is it? Appologies- quite, quite mis-leading. Truthful, however. In fact, in the near(ish- let's not get too over-ambitious here) future, I do hope to revamp it completely. I'd like to add 'editorial' and 'advertising' sections, and I also have crazy, grand ideas to do a 'Lively Elizabeth' off-shoot to the main site, containing activity sheets and bits and pieces for kids to download. In the mean time though, you'll have to make do with the bare essentials. I've finally updated! HOWEVER, I'm awaiting my new phone number before I upload it, so I shall give you a yell once it goes live. Here's a glimpse of the new picture book section though.

Also, I recently got some surprising and rather thrilling news about 'Lively Elizabeth' AND 'George and Ghost'. Both have conducted themselves remarkably well and have gone off, behind my back, and sold to Israel! Excellent stuff! I had absolutely no idea that they were even being considered there! I do love that kind of surprise and I can't WAIT to see both translated. There's something that feels so very official and important about a translated book!!!
I've put up the pages of the Hodder Frankfurt Rights catalogue, concerning George and Ghost, for you to see.

What else? Hmm... I think that's all really. I suppose you can get those proverbial horses shod and saddled once more, as the only thing left to cover is the Hodder Christmas Party....

But, by Golly it's getting late, so perhaps that'll have to wait until tomorrow afterall....!

Friday, October 30, 2009


Ahhh, November. Scary how fast this year's going, isn't it? It doesn't help that the later months of a year are so much more dramatic and exciting and look-forward-to-able. I sort of wish the rest of the year away, just waiting for them. In fact, the first quarter of the year tends to drift me by, completely unnoticed. I think the thing is, that the early months have no discernible features. I mean, apart from spelling, what is the difference between March and April?

March and April are 'nice' months. Months with limp handshakes; ones that'll always offer to make you a cup of tea, but you hope you don't get sat next to on the bus, for fear of far-too-intimate conversations of Mrs Nextdoors bunions, caravan-ing holidays and kittens. July and August? Kind of sweaty and overbearing, laughing too loudly in quiet places, or lacking- with 'could do better' scrawled across their report cards, and disappointed, pasty faces all round.

October, on the other hand, brings a firework display of colour; with the sound just slightly out of sync, so that it's November that literally starts with a bang. December romps past with a fat man fumbling in people's stockings! Who could ignore that?!

I think the general consensus will be good riddence to 2009, but I'm going to do my damnedest to make its' last 2 months count.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More B+W Doodles

My head feels like it's got a tribe of elephants traipsing through it in mixed stillettos and clogs. Possibly, the biggest elephant might also have a drum 'n' bass fetish and the youngest has taken up the tuba...

I'm hoping this is a reaction to the terrible culling of thousands of baby 100watt lightbulbs, and not the dreaded lurgy. Ahh, 100watt lightbulb, I so mourn your passing. And damn you, 60watt! It's like working through a nicotine stain- I demand better working conditions. At this rate, we'll soon all be working by the light of a glow worms' buttocks!

Anyway, here's another doodle. I may have to stop myself working in b+w soon. I'm loving it way, way too much... I'm sure it's not healthy...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lively Elizabeth on Amazon!

Ok I admit it, ego-centric, control freak that I am, every 0nce in a while I google myself- (mainly to check my site taggy things are working in the search engine- honest!) but sometimes just to see what I've been upto when I wasn't looking!
I was honoured to see my good and exceptionally talented friend, Paul Milne, had linked me from his site- Thanks, Paul!

But I was also hugely excited to find 'Lively Elizabeth' on Amazon! Very strange feeling indeed- especially as I just stumbled across it. I wasn't expecting it to be there until the New Year, at least. It makes it really real now, which is actually quite a butterfly-inducing, experience. I mean, it has a proper ISBN number and EVERYTHING!!! It feels a little like the moment you realise you might actually get that super-cool toy you've been ringing in the Argos catalogue for several years in row! Gosh! Well, all I can say is, please place your pre-orders now, People!!!!

But I have to say, my favourite personalised google reference was this, from the Iowa Old Press (brace yourselves- it's news to me too!)

'Somebody told us Saturday that Cassia Thomas and wife have 250 young chickens. They aim to get them big enough for the market at Easter time.'

Excellent!!!! If ONLY I could claim to be that Cassia Thomas!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

b&w doodling

Right, you may have noticed that this isn't the George and Ghost log post that I promised. I AM writing it- I swear! It's just LONNNNNNG, and as I'm trying to write it thoroughly and at least SEMI-seriously, it's taking forever. It is on its' way though, and you can be rest-assured it haunts my dreams, an endless knitted mass of words twisting about my subconscious, like the DNA of guilt!!! I'll try and get it up some time in the next week or so.

In the mean time, here are a couple of doodles I'm playing with. I've been trying out the Chris Mould biro technique, with something that resembles more of my old, MA style. The biro was interesting. It's actually a medium I've always enjoyed using (too many years of not doing homework and scribbling in the margins, I suspect!) but I was always told to use a 'proper pen' when doing art. Despite knowing there are no rules in art, it's amazing when I realise I have somehow imposed some ridiculous ones on myself. To this day, it would never have occured to me that I could use biro- but I think Chris has proved it's quite as valid a medium as any other!
The first one's entirely biro, but I quite liked leaving the background in pencil in the wolves one, to take it further back in the picture.

Yes, I am aware that her teeth are quite obscenely large, by the way. I got a little carried away. It was quite nice pleasing no one other than myself, and if that means bunny incisors, well so be it!
Although, I'm pretty certain I'll gravitate back to my pencil, I do love how using a different, temporary medium changes the way you work. I wasn't feeling too confident with my drawing before I started the top image, but simply using a biro (where I would ordinarily have used pencil) gave me so much more flow than I've actually earnt (colouring George and a wee bit of a holiday after, has made me a complete drawing slacker!)

Stylistically, I'm also enjoying going back to my roots. Something I'm hoping to carry through a little in my next picture book projects (combined with my present approach) and also, in building a portfolio geared towards a fiction market.
Hence, I'm having a stab at putting my doodles into colour. Here's my colour rough. I find the problem with colour, is that it often deadens or overpowers the line, if I'm not careful. You can see this in extreme with the flat colour rough. I'll keep you up-to-date with it though.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Announcing the New Booktrust Early Year's Award winner, Miss Mara Bergman!

I will get back to talking about the month's news, but I decided whilst I was on the subject of 'George and Ghost,' I'd better get around to the method overview I spoke of a while back (see next post- expect it to be long... very long! Get a cup of tea ready... and a zimmer frame!) Am I confusing you? No, it's not me jumping about in topic, it's you practising the senility that'll set in, whilst reading my next post!

Quickly though, here is 'Lively Elizabeth's' wonderful author, Mara Bergman, receiving the Booktrust Early Years Award (in the pre-school category). Mara's the tiny, wee, lady on the left (she may even be as small as me- I must ask!) She's pictured here with Nick Maland, her illustrator from 'Oliver Who Travelled Far and Wide'. You can read a description of Oliver here

It's an amazing commendation to win such an award, so huge congrats to them both! Also, to ex-Anglia Ruskin students, Simon and Kazuno, shortlisted in the Emerging Illustrator Category. Well-deserved by all!

Also well worth a read, is this interview with the rather fabulous, Chris Mould. It's brilliant to see someone I admire being interrogated so thoroughly!!! Plus, it's a site with many other fantastic interviews to boot.

Inspired by the interview, here are the most recent pages of my sketchbook; drawn on a stinky train down to South Wales, last weekend. I really loved the girl, sitting opposite me. She was so mysterious, with this dark, cascade of hair, and endless fiddling to get the right soundtrack for the occasion. Throughout the journey, I never saw more of her face than just the very tip of her nose!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Last Month - Part 1.

Err... right. This one's going to be a bit of a stream of consciousness, rather than my usual, meticulous, *ahem!* ever-so-structured prose!

This is partly because this whole month feels like it's been more of a stream of consciousness than my usual, meticulous, *ahem!* ever-so-structured life.... Well, that is, it's been a bit different you see. Usually, my life consists of; getting up, dog-walking, getting dressed (yes, in that order), working, eating, working, eating, So You Think You Can Dance, bed. Things in my life tend not to leap about in pace much. I get work, I panic about work, I panic some more, and then I settle down into a routine to get the job done... and just when things are getting really comfortable, I finish the job, wondering why on earth I was ever worried.

This month has involved me balancing different projects; something I've never done before, which makes the whole process of having a good panic so much trickier to schedule in, I'm sure you'll understand. Sometimes it's been difficult trying to remember which project I was panicking about. In which case, I came up with a cunning plan, and panicked about not knowing which project to panic about- ahhh! See! I don't miss a trick!!!

Anyway, irrespective of everything else, my priority had to be to finish the cover for George and Ghost; in time for it to go to New York (the week before last) and to the Frankfurt Book Fair next week. You might remember me saying everything had gone smoothly with George and that I thought I'd completely finished it. Well, it turns out, the toughest thing about George WAS finishing it.

In essence, I think the problem was, it's a subtle and sensitive story. However, 'subtle' and 'sensitive' aren't really words that sit well with covers, where things have to be bold and eye-catching in order to sell. So the issue, as I saw it, was to find something that was true to the story, but that would still stand out. Not easy.

In the book, I've given the little ghost character a scrap book, so my idea was to have the book look like Ghost's scrap book. This is an idea we carried through in the endpapers, I think, to great effect. However, having put it together this way for the front cover, I wasn't happy about the brightness of the colours and the way the text sat (thinking it looked too modern), and Hodder felt the red was over-powering and it looked too dated! Anyway the result, we all agreed didn't work, and so no one felt too agrieved at the idea of trying something new instead.

We're now going with a variation of one of the inside illustrations instead, which is not quite what I'd expected, but the important thing at the moment, is those crucial (and increasingly rare) co-edition sales. I feel so proud of the book and hope it does really well. However, it is Frankfurt that will have the last say on not just its' cover, but its' future, really. I will post updates on both, as I receive them! Please keep your fingers crossed for George, Ghost, and me!

I've stuck in a segment of the original cover for you to see.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lynne Chapman Exhibition

Right, in my recent 'pants-ness', I've missed out on blogging some fairly important events. Upon hearing this statement, let us pretend that you and I are both unaware of my tendency to walk with close proximity to the path of interest... and yet to wander off at the first bog of banality. Let us, for once, suppose that I am the sort of blogger that actually stays on target, and reports all manner of excitement. Here is what I would tell you...

Actually, first I have to tell you, incidentally (and just to once again prove the above statement to be true!) I often like to look up synonyms for words, and check these out;

'banal, insipid, vapid, flat, jejune, inane mean devoid of qualities that make for spirit and character. insipid implies a lack of sufficient taste or savor to please or interest . vapid suggests a lack of liveliness, force, or spirit . flat applies to things that have lost their sparkle or zest . jejune suggests a lack of rewarding or satisfying substance; a jejune and gassy speech. banal stresses the complete absence of freshness, novelty, or immediacy . inane implies a lack of any significant or convincing quality '

I love 'a jejune and gassy speech'! Being a Cass of very little brain I have, of course, chosen to hideously misunderstand the 'gassy' part. *snickers*

Anyway, back to the important stuff. One such important event I have yet to remark upon, is Lynne Chapman's Exhibition, Giddy Goats and Dippy Dinosaurs.

Whilst I've met Lynne a number of times now, and consider myself reasonably well-up on the fab-ness of her books, this was the first time I'd seen her work 'in the flesh'. It always makes such a difference to see the originals and get an idea of how big someone's working. Also, even with such improvements to the printing process, the colours always look a little more alive in drawings. I think it gave me a better appreciation of how much detail she works in too... and her patience too- must be a bleedin' nightmare in pastel!

Another thing I'm always impressed by, are those people who create the whole thing on one sheet of paper... I know this is the traditional way of things, but it's something I've never had the guts to do. I've always prefered to colour digitally to order to counter my dreadful ability to 'cock up!' And more recently, I even do the foreground and background drawings on different sheets of paper. It struck me with her work that there wasn't all that much margin for error, and that level of commitment has got to be marvelled at. Not to mention that seeing the originals in their full glory, has so much more impact too.

The show itself was well laid out. The pictures were tiered in height, so kids had a row at their eye level, as well as the adults. This was a simple, but brilliant idea to make sure all audiences were properly catered for. I actually find it quite hard to really look at work in a gallery setting, so would have prefered the show to span two rooms (although, I understand that the regular exhibition had to continue in the other rooms). I think spacing it out would have given it a little more room to breathe, and made it easier for my mind to relax and process everything I was seeing. It was quite a busy exhibition, and every piece deserved just as much attention.

Also in the room, were activity stations for the very young, all based on Lynne's books; Again, a master stroke, and something that's routinely forgotten in other 'family' exhibitions.

It was brilliant to see the lady herself once again too, understandably somewhat in a whirl from a days' worth of storytelling and workshops. We all agreed Giddy was probably our favourite work. According to Lynne, almost everyone had said the same; Something she believed was possibly due to the use of more dramatic perspective in the work, making it stand out from the rest. (I also reckon Giddy is probably hands-down my favourite Chapman character though too!) I wondered if all the fantastic perspective shots in her current book were due in any way to the feedback she'd been given from the show?

It was also lovely to meet fellow artist, Phil Alderson and his beautiful partner too, with possibly his most gorgeous work to date; his baby daughter, Martha- who quite frankly, puts other babies to shame in the cute stakes! I dunno what they've bred this one from, but I'm thinking sugar and spice and all things nice... And those that know me, KNOW I'm not a baby person!

All in all, it was a brilliant afternoon out, and more importantly, it's been a great success for Lynne- And children's book illustration in general, to get this degree of recognition. Very exciting!

I hope she doesn't mind that I've stolen her piccy, as being somewhat of an eejit I forgot to photograph proceedings!

The show is still on until the 7th of November, at the Central Art Gallery, Ashton under Lyne. Go! Run! NOW!!!

Happy Birthday, Dear Blog

Happy birthday, dear Blog
Happy birrrrrrrthdaaaaaay, deee-arrrr Blo-oggggg
Happy birthday dear Blog!

1 year old last week, I say! And didn't it go quickly?! Good grief, I do believe it's fair flown by! And what has become of my blog one year on...? Well, hang on, let's see... I'm sure I left it somewhere under this dust bunny....? Perhaps beneath these cobwebs....? Ye-essss, there it is! Excellent. And I expect you're now all a blether, bashfully wondering, 'But I didn't bake a cake....' and 'But, I didn't don my finest, fancy pants...' Or perhaps you're thinking, '...And what does one BUY a blog anyway...?' Well, now then, now then, settle down, Children. It really IS the thought that counts... And after you're done thinking, please do send cheques, choccies and cards immediately! Failing that, it would be FANTABULOUS to acquire just one more follower; An extra special birthday follower, with chocolate sprinkles and sugar on top. I do so loathe odd numbers and 50 is darned near the perfect blog present! Any takers....? Yes? No? Ahhh, I can see I'll have to resort to bribary on this one!

Ok, so here's a picture I've been working on. The technique isn't quite as I'd like it to be, but I think it's a question of going onto a different image now, rather than attempting to re-work this one.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Making School Libraries Statutory

If you've got a second, please look over and sign this petition to make school libraries statutory. Children have far too little contact with books as it is. Without school libraries, I'm positive some kids would get away without seeing books at all.

And, if that's not incentive enough, you can keep a watch on the petition for all the famous authors/illustrators and publishers signing up!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lively Elizabeth- you GO, Girl!!!

Ahh, today has been a little cracker. I woke up KNOWING it would be a goodun. True, there were no Disney birds or puffy-white-haired, pepperpot ladies whipping me up a ball-gown from stray table cloths- Quite frankly though, I'm not sure that that wouldn't have been distinctly creepy, anyhow- surely a day that starts off that way, ends with padded walls, padlocks, and rocking in the corner....

However, today just felt good from the word 'go'; Which is quite glorious, since yesterday I was in a complete stinker of a mood, and stomped about getting terribly irate with inanimate objects.
'Grr, Hoover- you suck!'

-Well, actually, ours doesn't- not since something large and suspicious dislodged itself from behind the laundry bin and disappeared, scuffling its' protest all the way up the nozzle, like your average asbo teen trapped in a police van. My inner-Columbo deduced that it MIGHT once have been a sock... Anyway, our Hoover let out one last wheezy groan of pain, and exploded, with a 'pumph!' in a cloud of dog's bottom fur and toenail clippings... See, now I'm actually getting quite teary thinking about it, Poor Hoover- All the good times we've had together; me grunting and sweating, while it gently wafted dust about and deposited it MERE centimetres away from where we started... No, no, actually, just like the dust, I make a U-turn and return to whence I came- Stupid, cheapass vacuum- why couldn't you have been a Dyson like your cousin?!

But, back to today,

So far, its' immense beauty has manifested thus-ly (is that a word?)

* I listened to Imogen Heap's new album, followed by the song, 'Koop Island Blues' (guaranteed to make anyone feel just that smidgeon cooler than God intended)

* I consumed two jam donuts before breakfast (Yes, I know, but, look, if I have to pay tax, and all that other goshdarned, dull, grown-up gubbins, I most certainly am going to take advantage of the few fabulous advantages of being an adult! The other's being, of course; NOT having to have a bath before bed and the ability to use a plethora of 'colourful,' language concoctions whenever you like- particularly when addressing household, cleaning apparatus...)

And this is the stonker

* I just got word that 'Lively Elizabeth' shall be winging her way to THE STATES, when the book comes out next Spring. When I read the email, I actually did that little hand clap you see 2 year olds do. And then I punched the air, 80's style- just for good measure. And since then, I've been bouncing about like an idiot. It's probably the best news the book could have gotten at this point. Huzzah! I don't yet know any more details than that, but I'll let you know when I find out.

Also, following a final frantic weekend of 3.45am starts and 11pm finishes, the insides of George and Ghost have been signed off by everyone and gone off to proof now- Admitedly, many of the last minute tweaks were under my own governing. The cover is also pretty much done (I hope). My editor is pleased, but it still has to tiptoe quietly past the Big Cheese at Hodder, Anne McNeil. Also, Rights and Sales, and obviously, Catriona Hoy, the author. At this point, my work feels kind of like Atreyu in The Neverending Story; You know, the part where he has to get past the sphinxs without them opening their eyes and turning him to stone! However, I really like what Claire and I have put together, so I hope it makes it in one piece. Anyway, it would be great to show you a little more of that, very shortly.

Right, now I'm off to pay attention to that third (and highly lonely) donut and to watch my boyfriend kill things in the new Batman game. Ahh, a celebration fit for a King! *ahem*

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Introducing George and Ghost

I have just consumed the hugest plate of feta, pitta, roasted peppers, salad, hummus and olives (Actually, I lie. I aspire to eat the very sophistication and chic that is olives... Unfortunately I find them to taste like one's mouth after a bout of gastroenteritis. Either that, or the inner sole of an athletes' shoe...) However, despite the fact that I can't stand the things, I always feel a sense of joy when olives are placed on my plate. There's an immense gladness that the waiter hasn't taken one look at my inane grin and swiftly replaced them with alphabetti spaghetti...

Anyhoo, I 'did' lunch. 'So what?' You ask. 'You went to lunch. Big deal!' Firstly, yes it was, thank you very much; All that food for a fiver- Bargain! And secondly, you're completely missing the point! I had TIME to do lunch!!! Which means, HUZZAH! I've FINISHED THE BOOK!!! *

*Well, almost- I still have the cover to do, but don't you be raining on my parade, now!

Good grief! And it feels really good. I'm very fond of the journey this book's gone on. The author, Catriona Hoy seems pleased, and Hodder too. I think we're all feeling a bit collectively chuffed that it's all gone so smoothly thus far. As per usual, all could go belly (and many other body parts) up at Frankfurt, or else maybe the thing won't sell when it comes out. However, I think I'd still be really proud of it.
I had intended to take the week off; to mooch about, take a pick-axe to the washing up, and watch horribly atrocious movies . However, as we've previously discussed, I'm simply no good at time off. Thus, I've already started on a new project. I'll let you know how it goes. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I'd like to thank my family, my dog, my cat (who's now dead) and the bin men- for doing such a goshdarned good job!

Ok, I feel quite guilty as I've been such a horribly bad blogger of late, but the lovely Studio Petite has awarded me with the 'One Lovely Blog' Award. Thank you very much, Studio Petite. Sorry, I've been a bit rubbish of late- I felt I needed to stick up a new post before I could accept it! Please see, 'Ooh, hello, do you come here often?'
The condition of the award is that I pass it on to 15 other blogs, I consider to be topnotch.

So, with no further ado, I give you the very wonderful;

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ooh hello, do you come here often?

Erm... well, no not really, now that you ask!

Ok, so it has been a WEEEEEE while- My appologies. Do I have a note from my mum? No. Did I have some sort of dramatic accident involving the loss of limbs? No. Do I have a fist full of very poor excuses? You bet your sweet left butt cheek I do! Well, alright, it's more one bigg-ish excuse and a couple of small and feeble ones, sort of flapping about ineffectually. However, it's all you're getting, so be satisfied!

The smaller ones involve the invasion of parental units, a decidedly unappealing incident involving my dog's anal glands (parental units unlikely to return for some time...) and a new-found love of getting down and dirty with sweaty fella's during MMA (mixed martial arts)

Yes, People. Yours truly, everyone's (second... or possibly third) favourite short arse has finally found a hobby. And that hobby has 3 rules. The 1st; Do not talk about fight club. The 2nd; Do NOT talk about fight club. The 3rd; Wear clean undies and just a splash of summat nice... (well, we're not animals...!)

I can now kill an assailant, utilising an array of horrific manouvres, and cackling all the while in a manner MOST evil. HUZZAH!!!*

*However, all postures do (of course) require my wannabe assailant to be

a) Asleep
b) Unconscious

c) Dead

in the moments prior to my attack. Since, quite frankly, I'm not all that good yet!

Anyway, when I've not been flouncing about, attempting ninja kicks (and looking uncannily like Winnie The Pooh attempting the high jump) I have been working on my BIG excuse.

That is, that I have been bashing away at this here second book- Currently sitting at Hodder, awaiting their and the authors' approval.

Now, I know you were all probably expecting a blow-by-blow account of the books' high's and low's during the process- particularly since I bent your collective ears so intensely, and so regularly, about the last one, but it didn't transpire to be particularly easy to do so.

I'm not quite sure why. I guess it all seemed to come together so fast. I suppose that really is the difference between working on first and second books i.e. The nerves- As the time period on the two books was pretty much identical.

It's been easier to have the confidence to 'switch off' when I'm not working too, and therefore blogging hasn't been at the forefront of my mind. With 'Lively Elizabeth', I was so paranoid that if I gave myself the day (or even evening) off, everything I'd worked on, and all the progress I'd made on the project, would go 'poof!' into dust. When I physically couldn't look at photoshop any longer, blogging was a good way of letting Elizabeth know I still had one eye on her!

I've still had wobbly moments with 'George and Ghost', I do think that's part of being a book illustrator. Like the person that goes into the office and has occasional problems with their colleagues, I'm never going to get along with my characters ALL the time. However, knowing the process involved this time, and the knowledge that I HAD now done this before, made the rough patches much easier to deal with. It also made the many, many good and exciting bits all the more sweet!

Anyway, I'm sure I may yet fill these pages with anxiety, woe, joy and hysteria, concerning our dear George and Ghost. The feelings of un-ease and 'over-tired-toddler-ness' that arise waiting for publishing approval are still rampant- Will they like it? What if they don't? These feelings thrash about, holding hands with my general control-freakiness, obsessivenses and sadness of seeing a project almost finished. There's always a period of mourning for me, afterward. Not to mention, THE FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN! What'll I be working on next? And, when?!
Until I get that approval, I also can't show you too much of what I've been working on. Here's a couple of rough character sketches I did at the beginning of the project though.

Eventually, what I'd like to do is show you a piece from beginning to end. I've been inspired by watching the process unfold, over at Lynne's blog*, and I'd love to do a really condensed version of how things work 'about these parts!'

*Incidentally, if you haven't already seen that Lynne's doing an exhibition in Manchester, all the details are on her blog too- can't wait to see it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

If I were Prime Minister...

I thought, since there may soon be a vacancy for the position, I'd have a little brain dump on the countries' problems. Of course, for the record, I'd be truly rubbish as the P.M. The power would go straight to my head, and before long I'd be banning people over the height of 5ft, making it the law to eat cake for breakfast, and sending people to the firing squad for not laughing at my woefully pallid attempts at humour. Besides which, I spend a large part of the day wearing an old sock on one hand and, let's face it, no one could take that seriously. (Oh, for a tablet glove of my very own... alas all my pdf's smell of feet...)

So, that acknowledged, I shall stay reasonably clear of the life or death stuff i.e. cake, buns and gateaus. These are treacherous (and sticky) playing fields indeed and I should like to start on firm footing. Thus, I shall mainly look at my area of expertise. Some would say this was navel-gazing, but I declare myself multi-talented. Yes, Madam Speaker, Sir, I shall pass judgement upon books.

Law no 1.

All books should have pictures. Yes that's right. All of them! Aside perhaps, from Katie Price's last 'efforts', of course... No child should ever be exposed to that hideousness... And, quite frankly, she just looks so badly drawn! But yes, all those other luscious booky wooks should most definitely be illustrated. Who says picture books are for little kids? And I don't mean little tiny vignettes. I want all singing, all dancing, full-colour plates! Listen up, People. I have a dream...!

Law no. 2.

Anything different SHOULD be published. Yes, it may not sell, but shouldn't we have a looksee, rather than always publishing more of the same?! I want to see truly grotesque-looking children in books. I want to read stories with completely miserable endings. I want scary, wary, ugly fairies on every page, gosh darnit! Strange, odd or weird characters- Come one, come all, and let the children rejoice!

Law no. 3.

I want to see an end to this worrying mollycoddling of kids in literature. All those wonderful and inspirational, and horrible and terrible people in history were brought up on tales of all sorts... And they turned out to be wonderful and inspirational, or horrible and terrible just the same. Why, oh why, do we think this generation will be any different. Let kids be kids, with all the goodness and badness that that entails!

Law no. 4.

No book should ever have picture and text repeating eachother. This is something I strive to live by... partly because if I did not, I'd bring upon me the wrath of my good friend Claud, who's responsible for instilling this mantra in me... And then she'd almost certainly over throw me. And since, by now, you're all eating sweet meats instead of shreddies and laughing insanely at my latest wonderful witticism about the cow walking into a bar, I most certainly would not want that!

So, there we go. That's what I'd do if I were Prime Minister.

In other news; Huge congrats to Anthony Browne, the new children's laureate. He's only the second illustrator ever to grab the position; The first, of course, being Quentin Blake. So I'm quite, quite thrilled to see what he gets up to. Not to mention that he's the only UK illustrator I know of to have done a picture book almost entirely in b+w pencil, which (as far as I'm concerned) deserves a medal all of it's very own!

Here's a picture of the lesser spotted Hotbotamus; Complete with more commonly spotted 'my dog, Sheebs,' hairs all over it!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cover Me!

So, here it be; The final cover for Lively Elizabeth. What do you think?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Work Update

Well, it's been a chocka couple of weeks. Last week was several shades of 'meh!' workwise; With overtones of 'slow lorris' and undertones of 'snail'. At the beginning of this week, I was already well into Book 5 of Harry Potter, so for those of you that read my last post, you get an idea how wobbly things were...

This week has contained the more wholesome flavours of Linford Christie, 'shooting star', and a side order of 'cheetah'- And, oh, how I glad I am. Not a MOMENT too soon. By the time I finish these drawings and get them approved, I'll only have 2 1/2 months left to get them coloured.... which is, ooh, mebbe 3 days per piece... if I don't have a day off until I'm done... I would probably recommend those that know me, stay away- I don't reckon I'll have much time for bathing from now on, and the only tea you'll be offered may be several years old... with bits of dog bottom fluff floating gently on the surface.

So, what made it all click into place? I sometimes think it helps to have a whole bunch of drawings together. You stop being so (anal)ytical/neurotic and start appreciating the collective weight of a (hopefully not-so-dead) body of work. Whilst I work, I like to keep as much of a project on the wall as possible. It helps me stay in a project until the bitter end... and also to keep checking and re-checking my continuity (currently, my characters' pesky little ears keep sliding too far down his head, and I've drawn more than one hand back-to-front...!) There is also something quite impressive about pinning two full sketch book's worth of work up at once. It's hugely confidence building. Of course, it's not all roses. Occasional (and complete) grotesque, fugli-ness still lurks amongst my little nursery of pictures. However, since I now have more (vaguely) right-uns than wrong-uns, I feel quite zen about re-doing bits.

Something else which really spurred me on, was a wonderful package of work I received from the rather remarkable Svein Nyhus- inspirational stuff indeed! It's a real shame his books aren't available over here- They should be on every child's shelves. However, it does make my little collection feel all the more special to me. My Swedish friend assures me that Norwegian and Swedish are fairly similar, so I'm going to go over to hers with a big glass of hot milk, my slippers, and Svein's books, for a bedtime story.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lively Elizabeth's Bologna-ise success!

It looks very much like Lively Elizabeth, the little minx, shall continue to excede my own meagre holiday plans. As I've just come back from sunny Wales, I've heard from Hodder that Elizabeth is set to go international! Apparently she did behave herself at Bologna and in fact went down a triumph- Woohoo!

This is great news indeed. Although Mara is a seasoned pro, I knew I, as the newbie had the very great potential to boldly and proudly sink a perfectly good ship. Since the artwork itself was commented on positively, I now feel able to be a little more confident about the future.

However, as of yet, nothing is definite; No eggs have been placed in a single basket and no poultry, of any sort, has been counted. It does mean though that I can breathe a very small sigh of relief that Elizabeth's off the starter block. Once I know anything more definite, I shall pack her cossie and shades and give you a shout!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

artists block

I'm drawing like a drunk gibbon at the moment. My pencil and I seem to be having some major translation issues. I say one thing... it skips off and throws me a moonie from across the paper. Erg! My very wonderful and talented friend, Faye, says it's all about cracking that first picture and then things will be easy. I know she's right. However, it's always a tad worrying to have 'artists' block when you have deadlines. I also know it's because the drawing is 'official' that it's not going well. I could go away and merrily draw 20 kids that AREN'T in the book, but the one that IS just won't come out of my 2b!

I have developed rituals to combat artists block (I tend to do stupid things, like tidying my sock drawer too, but they never help!)
1. I pick a film that I've seen over and over before, and which bares some similarity to the mood or theme of the work I want to create. Either that, or if I'm drawing children, I watch Teachers' TV to refresh myself as to how kids move. I find drawing with only half my attention on the page cuts down on the amount of neurosises my brain can throw at me. Before long, I usually haven't a clue what's going on on the screen and have a full page of pics.

2. I listen to Harry Potter. I listen to audio books throughout the entirety of a project. It helps stop my brain going, 'Is it lunch time yet? Is it lunch time yet? Is it lunch time yet?'

The only part I do in silence is the storyboarding, as I find that requires more active thinking. However during the rest of the project, if things are going badly, only The Fry will do. I've probably listened to the Harry Potter series over 20 times now. It's my comfort listening and it's got a pace and tone that suits ANY project. I've not found anything else like it for the ability to throw it on and get on with work. I never seem to get sick of it and it generally gets me through the tricky beginning and tedious end parts of a project just nicely.

3. I go out. This one I always forget about, as it seems like a reward. And I shouldn't be allowing myself rewards if I'm not working now, should I? However, I realised in the last project that I couldn't keep drawing children without reference. I wasn't allowing myself to go out, so therefore I wasn't getting the reference and my drawing was suffering. Although I enjoy lifedrawing, I don't often remember to take a sketch pad with me and I'm pretty pants at it. What I do tend to do though, is to pay attention when I'm out. I'm quite good at remembering a movement and storing it in my head. If I'm around kids enough, I find it relatively easy to imagine them doing different things, even if I haven't seen them doing them, because I remember the 'gist' of the child. It's when I become disconnected from this 'gist' that I'm on a losing streak.

So, yesterday I watched the horror that is 'My Girl.' Today I listened to Harry Potter. It's not true to say that I've made NO progress, but it's been slow, slow, slow. So, tomorrow, I shall go to the kids playground and draw there. Dang, I hope it's sunny...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A blog in place of a real blog (which turned out to be utter rubbish!)

I tried to write something about the SCBWI event I went to today, but I've just read it back and it's the blog equivalent of over-toasted marshmallow. I might try and come back to it tomorrow when my brain is less smushy.

I also did some life-drawing on the train, which I'm going to refrain from inflicting upon you all- see how much I value you your eyes!

I shall now away to fill myself with all manner of bad things; i.e. pizza, icecream and Gossip Girl. Gazooks! I forgot how much concentrating for the day exhausts you...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

whether the weather will cheer me up.

I'm feeling ever so slightly below parr this week. I think it has a great deal to do with the disappearance of Mr Sunshine.

Don't get me wrong, I am not a big Summer fan. I do not do Summer well at all in fact. Largely because it seems to equate itself with all things 'girly,' and I'm far from an expert in these matters. Summer is for dresses and shorts and tanned limbs and people who's face's actually have the mass to peer out from beneath sunglasses. Summer is not for jeans and hoodies (my only attire- no really, I've been to both meetings and parties in this ensemble) and white flesh (that doesn't even have the ability to go that endearingly British shade of 'fire engine' red, of which we seem so proud). It's not for sweating or squinting. It's not for DOING anything. It's for sitting daintily outside of cafe's in something long and floaty and sipping iced tea (I have strong suspicions that iced tea might actually be a substance more sinister... involving cats...! Keep that under your sombrero's though...)

Anyway, what I do like is a darned good Spring or Autumn. I like the sunshine without the heat, and the pressure, and the huge hoards of students and families that suddenly claim the parks and tut at me for letting the dog wee too closely to them (little do they know, she was on strict orders!) I like watching plants pop up from soil, decked in their fanciest outfits. And I like trees bookending the Summer with their own colourful displays. I do not like men wandering around Tesco with no tops, larger cleavages than I have (at either end of me!) and their beer bellies dusting the floors as they go.

Oooh, anyway, the sun must have heard me and is making a brief appearance so I shall go and enjoy it. If it's not sunny where you are, you should most definitely cheer yourself up with this.

Hands up who's looking forward to 'Where the Wild Things Are' The Movie? I really hope it's good. I'd love to do a book as dark and brilliant as that one day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bologna Bites the Dust

Alas, it is the last day of Bologna Book Fair 2009. I somehow thought there would be more coverage in the publishing journals, but I guess they must do a following week post-mortem, when all the figures are in. I slightly regret not getting myself together to go, expensive as it would have been- It seems such a shame to have completely missed my first book being shown. Obviously, I couldn't have crept into the meetings (perhaps disguising myself as a litter bin or a truly hideous, gurning, lampshade) but I'd have loved to have been part of the outside hub-bub. The Cheer Squad, as it were. I'd definitely like to go next year. Especially if I manage to have another book there. I'm dying to know what really goes on.

I spoke to my art director about the new book this morning and she does assure me she's heard the show's bustling. I'd certainly like to believe her take on things above the quote from Jean Feiwel, in, 'Publishing Weekly' that, "I knew attendance was down when I walked right into the ladies' room." Well, that quote was taken from the first day so I'm sure it's picked up greatly since *eek!*

Come on, People- Sell! SELL!
I went for cake and chat with, the very talented, Gemma Raynor a couple of days back. She'd just been sent a Korean copy of her book, 'What's the Time Mr Wolf?' 'What's the Time Mr Wolf?' came out a few years ago now in the UK, but it had just been released there (complete with weird and wonderful back spreads of korean pictures and text, translating all the 'english-isms' in her pictures- brilliant!) Anyway, the fact that her book is still converting into different languages and new markets, years on is promising. I guess Bologna is only the main selling place.

Here's one of my 'in front of the TV' doodles. Since I have a little time on my hands at the minute, I decided to have a go at colouring it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bologna Book Fair

Well, tomorrow is the last day of the Bologna Book Fair. It seems quite bizarre that the thing I've been working up to, and also the one everyone has been speculating so much over this year, has passed by nearly unnoticed.

Of course I've been checking The Bookseller's site for updates on an almost hourly basis. And I've definitely been tempted to click refresh immediately every time nothing new comes up... just incase... However, yesterday and today have been ridiculously normal. House-workey, doodlingly, dog-walkingly normal. And meanwhile, somewhere in Italy, Lively Elizabeth is doing her thing. I'd like to think she's swimming rather than sinking, but who knows, and I can't help her anymore.

I think I'm particularly ansy because I have no visuals to attach to what's going on over there. With all the doom and gloom talk about this year's fair, the most my brain can muster is a small stall behind which little publishing figures hold up books, yelling,

'Two for a pound! Getcha books here! Two for a pound!'

Thursday, March 5, 2009

you may mock...

Huzzah! My art director, Claire, has been chugging away this last couple of weeks, getting all the book jackets ready for Bologna. Last time I spoke to her, she had five still to do and only the slightest hint of a whiff of panic in her voice- that's professionalism for you! Anyway, I emailed her today to tell her the colour roughs for the second book were in the post and hey presto, she emailed me back this piece of loveliness!

This is her mock-up of how the jacket will look, so now we await Bologna feed-back on it. Even if the overall look passes the test, the illustrations will still need deciding on and drawing. I think they'll be similar poses though, as they suit the shape of the text pretty well.
Also, I'm very excited to say the fantastic Mr Svein Nyhus dropped by so, not only am I immensely honoured, but I now have a blog address for him. Everyone go look. His work is absolutely amazing. It presents a truthful portrayal of kid-dom I think i.e. some of it's quite dark and yummy, with a good dose of humour but essentially the whole goshdarned thing is beautiful and precious. Unfortunately, since he's Norwegian, I haven't got the faintest idea what he's actually talking about in his blog, but I'm sure they're great words of wisdom!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Time for Tea

I'm getting to that stage of the day when I can't see straight and suppose I should probably stop before I do something disasterous. This rather sane thought usually occurs to me just as my finger is hurtling gleefully towards the 'close and don't save' button, and right before I think 'ooh... er... bum...! How long will it take to redo that, I wonder...?' So, bunking the trend (what an anarchist I am!) I'm calling it a day.

It's quite frustrating that I can't put up what I'm working on at the moment, but it won't be long until this book's completed too. Arg! Think I'm getting to that age when I'll go about remarking on how 'time flies' to anyone who'll listen. Surely it can't be long before I start catching buses PURELY to regale queasy-looking teens with grotesque tales of corns and bunions...? It's good to have something to look forward to, eh?!

I thought I'd stick up some more 'Lively Elizabeth' prep work in the mean time...!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Life drawing

I thought I'd be bold and try doing a 'Lynne' on the train today. By now, I'm sure you're all familiar with the pretty smokin' lifedrawings that Lynne Chapman seems to sneeze out on an almost daily basis.

I, on the other hand, have been a very naughty girl and haven't really done any life-drawing since the first year of my MA. I mean, I have occasionally been known to doodle on trains. However, for some reason I always seem to be sat so that I face the winning composition of the back of a chair, an unattached hair tuft and a rogue ear lobe... not interesting viewing, no matter how large the ears or how hairy the hair.

Either that, or I'm sat nose-to-nose with my muse. Quite frankly, that's just not the way to get to know someone.

Anyway, today I was lucky. First off, a rather attractive, but more importantly (ever so slightly more importantly!) nearly stationary bloke. I love drawing action, but it has to be big actions to be fun. E.g. someone playing tennis or dancing. Someone consistently alternating between one elbow and another, interspersed with periods of nose-picking is just annoying... and grim....

On the way back, I had a range of backs of heads to choose from. This, in itself, might have made a nice study but I couldn't get a good angle on it. Eventually, I was engaged in a conversation about 'The Specials' and 'James Brown' with some merry Liverpudlians and gave up on the drawing altogether.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Character Studies and the Cass Oscars...

I thought I'd begin to post some of the preparatory work I did for 'Lively Elizabeth' so you can see how I've been working.

There are an awful lot of little characters to keep a hold of in this book, so I'm afraid several forests were felled in my efforts to get to know them. I have literally piles of these studies. I know I shall have to ditch a lot of them. My work, as we speak, is stealthily creeping out of my studio and is edging its' way to towards total house domination... It's quite the dictator, I can tell you. Fears that I may one day lose the dog amongst hoards of tiny, 2-D children are well-founded.

I have never tried to sell work before, but I may be driven to attempting to give it a whirl this spring. I've no idea even how to go about selling work. I know some folk put stuff on Etsy, but does that work? If anyone uses the site, could they please let me know how well it does for them?

In light of the weekend's Oscars (and since I appear to have some space to fill next to the picture), I thought I'd award my own.
Most Stand Out Picture Book goes to:

Kazuno Kohara - The Haunted House Published by Macmillan. Kazuno's work is quirky, feisty and really stands out on the shelf. I'm impressed that it was published, actually, as the colour scheme alone makes it a bold and gutsy choice. Bravo, Macmillan!

Funniest Picture Book goes to:
Melanie Watt- Chester's Back
Published by Kids Can Press. Ok, I confess; I haven't actually read this one. It's a bit of a leap of faith really. But I loved her first one so much, I'm sure the second is just as great. I'd never heard of this publisher before, but they've obviously got their heads screwed on the right way around.

Funkiest Picture Book goes to:
Jill Lewis and Deborah Allwright- Don't Read This Book
Published by Egmont Books. I love the styling on this one- great to see some anarchy in kids books! Probably for the older end of the market (as it's quite wordy). I'm lucky enough to have seen it at proof-stage and have been not-so-patiently waiting for it to come out ever since. Brilliant madness. Out now.

Best Book of last year goes to:
Chris Riddell- Ottoline Goes to School
Published by Macmillan. I may be biased on this one, as I loved Ottoline. The format was ingenius and the pictures astounding. It's true, this one just isn't as good- mainly the plot is a little sloppier, which makes it slightly harder-going (given that it can't be over 1000 words, that's no real problem, mind!) The pictures are still incredible though and since this is the first Cass Oscar Presentation, let's call it a political move!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A new beginning...

So, my first book is unofficially finished. Whoop! Whoop! -'Unofficially' because, whilst I'd never admit to being something as daft as superstitious, I certainly don't want to tempt fate! (yeah, yeah... I know. Well at least I stopped counting magpies- Mainly because I don't know the correct prediction for a person who spots a flock of 27 of the little blighters. I'm pretty sure it can't be good. I have a suspicion it's along the lines of, 'you're a sucker who should spend more time out of your studio and in the company of others' and/or a sign that the world is at an end... Either way... best be sensible about stuff, eh? Just don't step on the cracks whilst doing it.

So, the cover does still need doing (of the book? You remember, that's what this post was supposed to be all about!) However, we think that might not be until after Bologna Book Fair, where the book will be making its' debut (eek!) Apparently, sometimes publishers take a cover mock-up with them to get feedback before commiting to a final design. This, I think, is what's happening in my case.
Of course, I knew how important a book's cover was, but I had no idea how many things needed to be considered when doing one. It seems to be quite a science, and a mini-project all of it's own. Apparently it can be a pretty contentious topic and I've been imagining Bridget Jones style publishing/sales punch-ups over font choice etc. We shall see what wins out.
I found out that the title isn't just a title either. I thought the writer just picked something that sounded right, but apparently those 3-ish words almost have to work like a strapline, describing both the story and it's character so as not to confuse an audience. I'm told many books change titles a couple of times before hitting the shelves.

With that in mind, this book's going to be called Lively Elizabeth- I'm guessing you know where we're going with this one... Mara Bergman's text is all about a little girl who's a little too OTT for her classmates and who finds out there are consequences to her over-bumptiousness.

The title describes the process of illustrating it pretty well too. I've often had days when I've felt like putting Elizabeth to bed without her tea. However, she's been an awful lot of fun to have around too. She's taught me a lot about how to work with a text, the process behind making a book and about living with a character. I hope it does really well for Hodder and Mara because (here comes the cheesy part!) it really has made me a better illustrator attempting to rise to the level of Mara's text. Thankfully, everyone seems pleased with the end result. However, it's now upto Elizabeth to stand on her own two feet in front of the rights buyers at the fair, next month- Please, please let her behave herself!

(The first pic is the second colour character sketch I did. The second and third pictures are from spreads in the book).

Anyway, in the name of something which is most definitely NOT superstition, I haven't yet had my official post-1st-book celebrations (although I have allowed myself a quiet and ever-so-sophisticated 'whooping' session, whilst dancing around the table)

My main nod and a wink to the whole 'finishing' affair so far has been to un-teather the beauty that is my brand new Ikea 'desk of dreams'; which just this day, emerged magnificently from its cardboard cuckoon. A few rather colourful utterances and 2 sore thumbs later and Huzzah! I am now working ACROSS DESKS on the next project. There's something so fabulously grown-up about working on multiple desks; makes me want to drink espresso, look carefully windswept, don a pencil behind my ear and call everyone Larrs... Next move is to get a phone in the studio, but I don't yet trust myself with the responsibility... I'd probably end up prank calling my downstairs phone and giggling myself silly.

So, onto the next book. I'm not sure how other artists like to do things, but I've realised it's necessary for me to have a face-to-face thrash out of ideas at the beginning of a project- It helps make sure everyone's on the same page (it's so hard to avoid that pun, isn't it?) Anyway, I popped my thumbnails, pants and toothbrush in a Sainsbury's bag (classy, eh?) and dashed down to Londers for meeting with my editor and art director.

The second book's going to be the absolute opposite of Elizabeth in style and tone, which keeps me on my toes and is great, as I'll have a lot of variation early on in my career. Elizabeth is minimal in backgrounds, naughty and nicely girly. The new project is thoughtful and melancholic, with a boy as the lead. It will have loads of yummy full-bleed backgrounds and probably completely OCD amounts of detail.

We covered a lot of ground in the meeting (not surprising really, given that I was in there for over 3 hours, and we only paused to look vaguely awkward as I dribbled sandwich pickle down my chin...) We finalised layouts and I've since done a colour character study too, which has really brought the project to life for me.

I'm going to aim to hand-in worked-up roughs next week and if all goes to plan, it will go to Frankfurt in October. Damn it, it seems my work has a more exciting travel life than I do!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The art of relaxation

It was pointed out to me (I don't remember exactly when, but it was no doubt during one of the many times I've chosen to repetitively poke my fella in the forehead with my pokey fingers, chanting, 'talk to me, talk to me, talk to me...' etc. etc. You get the idea...) that I don't have a hobby. At the time, it wasn't 'the time' and the response was little more than the slight expulsion of steam via the aural canals, a puffing sound (resembling an overweight rhino on heat) and a very frosty, 'I draw!!!' But since then, that observation has become an elephant in the over-stuffed, cubby-hole room of my mind... What's more, I have realised it's not only that I don't have a hobby, infact I have absolutely no idea how to relax at all. Who knew it was a learned skill?! Relaxation is an activity, actively requiring... active acts! What a conundrum...

I have noticed other people effortlessly relax. They relax with the greatest of ease, simply stopping at the end of the 'work portion' of their day and slipping with barely a ripple into 'play' section. They garden. They cook. They read. These are NOT advanced acts of relaxation we're talking about. We're not talking tantric, yogic, meditation with a side helping of the Alexander technique and a sprig of chamomile here. (Can you get sprigs of chamomile? Or does it just grow in teabags?) These activities simply require a little regular time set aside and a moderate amount of dedication, perseverance, patience and motivation. And the trouble here is that I'm actually breaking into a sweat just thinking about these necessary requirements. Isn't it just easier to work? I know how to do that. Since my internet went on the blink and I had to go 'cold turkey' on my habit of looking every 5 mins for potential dogs to rehome, I can also actually say I'm GOOD at it too. It just sounds like too much work to learn to relax.

The thing is though, as romantic as it's sounded to me all these years to 'think art,' 'breathe art' 'live art' and 'BE the art,' there's no eventual escape from the small fact, that that's really a rather stinky pile of pretentious twaddle! I'm just simply NOT Picasso. I'm a midget getting high on a diet of M&S iced buns and stress. Where's the romance in that?! Nope, there's no doubt that if type 2 diabetes and a heart attack are to be avoided, a healthy dose of relaxation is in order.

But where does a beginner start? There are no regular hours to being an illustrator. You work until you get the job done... or you've carked it in the attempt. Setting aside time to NOT do anything, when you've got 'plenty to be getting on with' is tricky. You end up just counting down the minutes until you can start again, thinking 'thank god that's over and I don't have to do any more of that pesky 'nothing' anymore!' So, I think the best idea for the beginner A.K.A Me is to pick something they/I can do any time for any length of time.

I've started running. I wouldn't say it was a hobby. It's not something I particualarly enjoy. Sweating isn't one of my favourite things and that chesty feeling of iminent doom even less so. It was more a case of my fella suggesting with subtle hints (involving a puce face ((his)) and an EXTREMELY ANGRY retaliating pointy finger) that if I didn't find another outlet, either my or (most likely) his head may explode. So, there you are, I jog... vaguely... for not very long... but I jog. And during that time, I don't think about work. It's a start. I'll be making vol au vons, souffle and potting... er, things, in no time at all. Just you wait and see.