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.