Monday, December 27, 2010

Season's Greetings...

Trust everyone's eaten their weight in Terry's Orange and advent calendar choccie by now? Fabulous! Hasn't the Christmas T.V. been pants though?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pre- Christmas Tidyings! Ho ho!

It's been a bitty sort of a week. I think everyone's pretty much waiting for Christmas, but also not quite believing that it's almost here. It's a feeling mainly conducive to farting about, not doing much. I myself, have wafted about with a wisp of tinsel and a couple of well-hung baubles for several days, not quite able to commit them to a landing point.

I'm beginning to tinker with the inklings of my feelings about 2011, but I can't say I've really gotten used to writing 2010 yet. I've just finished (I hope!) with my tax return, and it's ridiculous how you can sum up an entire year in just a few (too many!) receipts.

Perhaps 2010 has been a bit of a non-year in many ways. I think it will be remembered (if indeed anyone can bare to remark upon it at all) as a kind of hiccup (or perhaps 'belch' might be a better word) in history.

However the great thing about a year such as 2010 is that it makes people more inclined to stick the boot in! I'm up for fighting for the things in my life that are important to me, and trimming away the ugly, fatty, slightly shameful parts (and I don't mean my love handles.... or wait, perhaps I do!)

Either way, 2011 will be a year of change, and that's quite exciting. I, for one, am definitely up for setting off on a new adventure. Who's with me?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Woking 6th form

Ooh, ooh, I've been very lucky recently. I've been lucky because I got to work with The Lightbox again and the fabulous Woking 6th form College. I was approached by Ali, a mavellous tutor there, to do 2 talks for Woking's wonderful art students. What on earth was he thinking???!

I won't lie, initially I was quite concerned I'd be pelted to death by street cred. My own 6th form experience was a baffling time. Artistically, I'm not sure if the time spent on 'self-reflection' wasn't actually just sleeping in disguise, and I remember long periods of sticking used teabags to large slabs of card. Who really knows what all that was about?

Anyway, Woking's students were far more mature and self-assured... possibly than I am even now!

As I spluttered and waffled, stood in front of my own presentation and in a burst of madness, knocked the wires out of the projector, both groups were warm, patient, and did a good job of appearing to be interested.

It was refreshing to meet a 6th form tutor with such a passion for his work and his students. Ali had a way of simply allowing a class to manage itself, rather than become regimented.

I did two talks; one on being an illustrator, and one on characterisation. I set exercises, based on my own past briefs so they could see a small snapshot of what it'd be like to work on an actual book.

I found the whole thing immensely inspirational.

The best bit for me was checking out their work. I can't recommend Woking College highly enough for its art department. My experience of A-level was very one-dimensional. This lot had already covered; photography, animation and done a bit of photoshop work. It was brilliant having them reveal rather complex thinking behind their projects, and to see how they'd resolved briefs. They were inquisitive and took critique brilliantly. Their work was astonishingly accomplished. And I was extremely chuffed to see some fantastic levels of progress in students in just a couple of sessions. ALL of them brought something new to the table.
I'm hoping I might be able to get copies of some of their work to post up here. In the meantime, you'll have to suffer some of my own GCSE/A-level work.

It was particularly interesting working with this age-group at this current time. I hope it goes without saying that I COMPLETELY disagree with the government's latest shenanigans involving tuition fees. It breaks my heart. However the fantastic thing about art is there is no one way to approach it as a career. No doubt some folk will be wondering if they will now be able to attend university. However, art is all about your portfolio. A good degree course can be a brilliant help, and no doubt it will be trickier without, but if the students I worked with continue with such passion and fervour, if they keep their hearts and mind open and continue learning, they have every chance of succeeding no matter what.

I can't WAIT to see where they all end up. I have a feeling there will be very bright futures there indeed.

I'm SO looking forward to seeing their exhibition in July, and to working with the college again next year!

If you are a school/college/organisation with interest in hiring an illustrator for workshops or talks, please do give me a yell.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ahem... remember me?

My keyboard seems to be slightly rusty. I think there might be cobwebs on my mouse... and a small family of something very furry seem to have taken up residence in my brain. Yes, it has been a quite a while since I donned my bloggers' hat.

It's Friday night. In fact it's Guy Fawkes. I know what you're asking yourself; What on earth is a wild child, party animal like Miss Thomas doing choosing this precise moment to dust off her fantastically neglected journal? Surely she must have a red carpet to stroll down? Rooms to light up? Thigh high boots, a conical bra, and pink hot pants to slip into...? Ahem... perhaps not!

No, my rather wonderful blogsters. I choose to spend my evening with you... wrapped up in a warm cloud of dog fart. For Guy Fawkes is a night my dog enjoys almost as much as the V.E.T's cold thermometer up the backside. And being the caring sharing sort, I'm caring at home with her, and now sharing my pain with you. She's been following me about all evening like a bad smell. Literally, in fact, a bad smell. Fireworks seem to bring out her fragrant side.

Anyway, much to tell you.
1. I'm 5 episodes into The Vampire Diaries and there's not been nearly enough Damon for my liking. Indeed, I've turned it off in disgust, and hope my hearty protest has taught them a valuable lesson in time for episode 6.

2. I went to a rather wonderful talk at The Lightbox, by David McKee (of Not Now, Bernard fame). If you ever get chance to hear this man speak, it's well-worth the trip. He's completely barking, in the nicest possible way. I aspire to be that bonkers by the time I'm his age. And hopefully just as inspirational. I loved his quote (and I know I'm going to get this wrong) about how he writes for the adult a child will become and the part of an adult that always remains a child... I'm sure it made more sense when he said it though....

3. Dobby died.... again. Which means I've been through 3 HP books in the last couple of weeks.

4. I went to a Hodder Press evening, which was fantastic fun. I got to catch up again with Melanie Williamson; possibly one of the loveliest illustrators in all the land. I also got to meet Lee Wildish; possibly one the dishiest illustrators in all the land....!

5. I did two workshops at The Lightbox (will chat further about this over at my lightbox blog later this weekend).

6. I received a one-off, original, unique, totally one-of-a-kind artwork from the totally (but very quietly) god-like Matt Dawson. I now have to buy a mansion to exhibit it in, but I'm entirely convinced it'll be worth the investment. I shall scan it for the next post to make you guys jealous.

7. Start Fitness seem to be hounding me via email. Really, what IS the deal?! Surely they can't know I've eaten one and a half bars of Green and Blacks and a Chris Evans cupcake today, can they?!!

8. I've ALMOST entirely been seduced by the idea of an I-phone. Someone stop me. Please. Please? It would be ridiculous. A girl that rarely leaves her pj's let alone her house does not need that kind of kit! But it has an app to help you work out your zombie survival plan.... want, want...

9. Pooshnoozle is finally going off to be looked at by the powers-that-be at Egmont. December brings with it either an over-flowing sack of publishing goodness, or the lump of coal that is defeat. I feel I've done all I can, so I think I can rest easy and toast my tootsies on the warm glow of hope. If all goes wrong, there's always the welcoming embrace of Egg-nog to look forward to instead.

10. I've almost entirely run out of clean socks. I'd better do some washing.

11. I'm supposed to be going shopping for a bridesmaid dress tomorrow. I'm sure a 1930's silk bias cut will look excellent with odd socks in different stages of disintegration... Hmm...

12. I've been offered an exciting new text for Hodder. Huzzah! It still needs to go to scary Acquisitions, but could be very groovy if it makes it. Nice!

13. Lively Elizabeth is being reprinted in The States! Whoop whoop!

I think that does pretty much bring you bang up to speed with things. The dog seems to have puffed herself out... however you want to take that. And I think I shall away to bed. Hope you have a good one. Thank you and G'night!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

George and Ghost out NOW!!!

Apparently reports are in that the first copy of 'George and Ghost' has landed. My lovely friend, Nick, got his in the post this morning. Very exciting indeed.

I love the idea that my little twosome might be ending up on people's front door mats all over the country... I think George especially is quite a shy character, so if he appears on yours, do be nice!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

George and Ghost- launch dates and party.

Brrr! It's getting a wee bit parky outside, isn't it? On my 'commute' this morning (from my front door, around and about a bit... and then back to my front door) I noticed the sky had developed that Winter bleak, indulgently wretched look- you know the one. It's been grey for weeks, but suddenly it's seems the colour gets sucked out of the landscape as well. It's the look every good Brit waits for, groans, and then enjoys a really excellent, hearty moan about.

"Ooh, Summer's over again!"

"What Summer?!" *chortle, chortle*

"Have you seen Tesco have got Christmas stuff in ALREADY?!"

"£10 for a box of Quality Street- I ASK you!!!" Etc. Etc.

No, this is not a generalisation. Every Brit does it- it's true. You get to a certain age and suddenly, in order to communicate with other people of a certain age, you turn into Nora Batty. TRUST ME!

Anyway, I noticed that the woodland was starting to get that tree graveyard feel to it. The paths were strewn with tiny leaf skeletons. I always mean to collect some up for an un-named 'crafty' project, and always leave it too late. Probably a good thing. I have indulged in this kind of romantic notion once or twice before, filling my pockets with multi-coloured gems. Each time is all fun and games until I discover an earwig laughing evily in my studio chair or a hoard of woodlice in my afternoon cuppa. Oh yes, it's not such a hoot then! The door's flung open and the unfinished collage/painting is tossed out the door amidst a flurry of foot-stamping, hair-brushing and shrieking; alongside tutting and panicked scurrying from the relevant evacuating little beastie(s).

However, this years' "Is it too early to put the heating on?" conversation means only one thing to me. That's right, everybody! Not Halloween, not Bonfire Night, no! It means something even more exciting! Oh yes! It means that the launch date of 'George and Ghost' is nearly upon us! Huzzah, eh?! Eh???! Thrilling stuff indeed!

I got my advance copies a couple of weeks ago- hugely exciting as I received a hardback AND a paperback! This is the first time I've actually seen my work in paperback. Somehow this makes it seem all the more official, since it's the paperbacks we're more familiar with seeing in the shops these days, isn't it? and I think the printers have done a lovely job with both. Hugely excited to see how it does. Currently, it'll just be the hardback on public release, mind. You shall have wait patiently and form an orderly queue for the paperback... In fact, I don't even know when that'll be out.

Yes. So I think you should all chuck on another pair of thermal undies, knit yourselves a tea-cosy hat and go and put in a pre-order. Now, dagnammit! What are you waiting for??? The official launch date is the 4th November, but I'm pretty sure if you chop-chop and get those orders flying, any of you folk wanting it in time for Halloween won't be disappointed.

If you want to come and hear more about 'George and Ghost', I shall be doing two events at The Lightbox in Woking on the 30th October. 1pm and 3pm. Advanced booking strongly recommended (both the Lively Elizabeth events sold out before the day).

There will be all manner of games and activities, including a treasure hunt, a game of 'Ghostbusters', drawing with me (always fun to see how much I screw up!), and a 'George and Ghost' reading. As it's Halloween, fancily-dressed and particularly scary-looking kids (practice those monster faces now, please!) will be awarded prizes.

If you're too far away from The Lightbox to make it to the events (I fail to believe you could have ANYTHING more important to do on that weekend) then you can also order your books via me, which will mean you'll get a personal inscription and a little drawing,- so please, do dry your tears! The book's priced at £10.99 + p+p.

Right, I'm off to go and put my feet in the toaster, and stick a glove on my nose.

Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week; a week in aid of highlighting the ubiquitous and ignorant censorship of books.

These are books that contain; sex, drugs, weaponry, homosexuality, genitalia Etc.- even in an educational context. But the banned list also includes; Sausages, sandwiches, hedgehogs, double-decker buses (American children won't know what they are, so better not include them rather than arouse curiosity) nipples (even on a gorilla- see Lynne Chapman's blog) and facial expressions (it's prefered a picture book gives out unrealistic or mixed-messages than shows anyone angry, sad or scared), anything occult (Bye, bye, Harry!) danger (pots on stoves, children anywhere near stoves... in fact, we know it's a kitchen and the book's about cooking, but perhaps we could leave the stove out altogether...?!)

Some of you may have read about this in UK press. Articles such as this BBC report are well-meaning but completely misinformed when they say 'There is a battle being fought in America over books.' I see you all reading that and looking slightly smug. If I didn't know better, I would be too.

Here, Anne Rooney's brilliant article highlights how this oversea's battle affects UK authors/illustrators and every single UK child. We may not think we're censoring our children's reading over here, but by Golly we are. And the decision to censor has been made long before teachers or parents have even caught a whiff of the books.

As well as slowly maiming our authors and illustrators imagination, I believe this level of taboo limits a child's opportunities to imagine and question. As Albert Einstein said,

"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education."

He also said,

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."

So, take a look here for Banned Book event idea's. You'll never know all the ways that the picture books on UK shelves have been altered/neutered (!) in order to be released, but to show your solidarity, simply have a read of some of the banned fiction texts. You can find a few of them here. 'James and the Giant Peach,' anyone?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lightbox Private View

Read all about the Escape To Wonderland Private View over at my Lightbox Blog. Don't forget to become a 'follower' if you want regular updates!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lively Elizabeth podcast.

Lively Elizabeth's lovely U.S. publishers, Albert Whitman, have put up a podcast interview with myself and Mara to celebrate its' U.S. launch.

You can read Albert Whitman's blog and listen to the recording here

It was great fun to do, if a little scary. You can hear a couple of points where Mara and I are confused as to what to say when. And whilst Mara is a Lady with a capital 'L', I'm just glad I didn't totally disgrace myself.

If you read my Lightbox blog, you'll know I recently did a radio interview in my P.J's. I can confirm that this interview was a civilised affair- Not a slipper or hot botty in sight!!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Piccy

I'm currently working on this, and feeling very cross-eyed with it. Been a while since I worked on something detailed, and am really enjoying it.

I like to put a picture such as this into photoshop towards the end of its' drawing to test out details, so this has been digitally 'beefed up'. Will then go back and redo the 'beefing up' manually since I've now worked out where it's lacking. Don't think I can face it today though. Am at that point where I might grow impatient, go mental with my pencil and cock it all up. Might take a little walk and work on something else.

Am jolly chuffed I got to use the phrase's 'beefing up' and 'cock it up' in one blog post though. Tremendously satisfying. There's not enough 'beefing up' in my life!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Enjoy the States, Lizzie!

Woohoo! It's out! Storming the Empire State Building, shopping its' little heart out in Bloomingdales, tightrope-walking across the Grand Canyon and having a cheeky flutter in Vegas. Lively Elizabeth is officially out in the U.S. and here's the proof!

Here's its first American review, from the August 15th edition of Kirkus. I could marry the reviewer!

'Elizabeth is more than lively; she’s a very noisy whirling dervish. One day at nursery school she pushes Joe. He knocks the child in front of him and thus begins a chain reaction that involves all the children in the class. Each one blames the one behind until they realize that Elizabeth started it all. She is contrite, apologizes sincerely and all is well in this very slight cautionary tale. Bergman describes the action with sharp imagery that is beautifully complemented by Thomas’s bright, spirited illustrations that race across the pages. The children are dressed in a wild variety of costumes and accessories that are flung about and make a resounding, booming noise as they come crashing down. Both the text and artwork capture the chaos vividly. Young readers will delight in details like untied shoes, silly headgear and the classroom frog on the loose. Parents and teachers will find it a great candidate for reading aloud, for it tickles the funny bone while providing a gentle lesson on safety. A sweet charmer. (Picture book. 3-7)'

Be the first to let everyone know what you think of Lively Elizabeth by writing an Amazon review!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lively Elizabeth Released in The States!

It's 3 short days until Lively Elizabeth hits Stateside! I'm so excited. This has been such a long process with so many different dates attached to it; hugely increasing the nerve-jangling, foot-tapping, brain-exploding anticipation at my end. September 1st is the biggest so far. Having it released over the pond will be a big part of the puzzle fitting into place. And I hope it's a piece that fits snuggly and successfully.

As I'm sure I've mentioned just once or twice before (almost as if it *might* have been playing on my mind!) how the book goes down in The States will very much dictate whether Lively Elizabeth 2 will be made.... And as I already know a little of the yummy craziness that Mara's planned for Lively Elizabeth 2, I really hope that happens! It would be an illustrative feast (hint hint!)

I think we've been really lucky with the US publisher. I've had quite a lot of contact with Albert Whitman, and they seem to be really on the ball, marketing-wise, and darned fine folk too. Considering the book was complete when they set eyes on it, there's been very little necessity to chat to us. However, the fact that they have made good effort to involve us has really eased my mind; knowing that this is a company that goes the extra mile with it's authors and illustrators- even if they're physically gazillions of miles away (yes, my geography is pretty ropey!) I know they'll work hard to look after our Lizzie, and the books new American dust jacket is pretty swanky too!

You can buy Lively Elizabeth directly from the publisher, Albert Whitman. But it should be available from any good bookshop. Please request it at your local shops and libraries too.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

PLR petition

PLR (public lending rights) allows an author/illustrator a small earning from each lending of their work from a public library (6p per lend). The government want to drastically cut this funding.

There are but a few JKRowling's, Stephanie Meyer's, and Quentin Blakes. Many of us, if not most of us struggle to make ends meet and every penny makes a difference. Please, please show your support of PLR funding by signing this petition.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Off to Londers with Quentin.

I'm off to take Quentin Fox to his first publishers' meeting tomorrow. It's hugely exciting for the both of us, especially as it's not a publisher I've been to see before. (Expect a pending update on my description of publishing house buildings!)

Many people who aren't in the business assume that once you've seen a publisher, things snowball really quickly from there. Well, they can do. You do hear tales of Emily Gravett types that get taken up by the first publisher they contact, and it does all happen almost over night. Sadly, this isn't the norm though. It can take MONTHS for a story to go through the various stages of acceptance or, unfortunately, rejection.

That said, I'm still very hopeful about Quentin as a character. There is a DISTINCT possibility I'm biased, and he's so much fun to draw that perhaps I'm deluding myself, but I do honestly believe he's got things to do and places to be. Although he's receiving a fair amount of interest from different parties, and tomorrow's publisher does so far seem keen, I shall still approach tomorrow with EXTREME caution. Let's hope he doesn't fall at the first hurdle. I'll let you know how Stage 1 of the operation goes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser

Lots to tell you about the exhibition, so will write again tomorrow (when my head's stopped spinning quite so much). Will upload a couple of pics to my Lightbox blog tonight too. (Please remember to 'follow' that to receive regular updates).

Meanwhile, I went to do some life drawing for the first time in YEARS yesterday, and remembered how much I love it. Great fun. And for added enjoyment, this was in a pub too! What better place, eh??

It was run by a chappie called Jake Spicer, who puts on themed events. Ours was Alice in Wonderland, so I thought it'd tie in quite nicely to the exhibition. I have to say, when I got there I didn't think there had been too much effort put in to the theme. The Caterpillar was a lass draped in green sari fabric and the Queen of Hearts had a ruffle around her neck and hearts on her naughty bits! That said, they're a company based in Brighton, and I think the themes they do on their hometurf are a lot more realised by the look of their website.

The standard of the modelling was brilliant. The girls had such poise; choosing beautifully dynamic poses and holding them naturally for as long as necessary. I hadn't really thought about the complexity of poses before last night, but it struck me that the ability of the models was leading to some quite tricky drawing. I found it brilliant and challenging. I doubt I'd ever get bored of drawing the human form anyway, but the same old poses don't push you quite so much. I did wonder about the folk that said it was their first time life drawing though. I think the setting of the pub was a clever one. It gave a very informal atmosphere. I can't imagine anyone felt pressurised, even if the drawing was tough. It meant a lot more people were asking eachother for help and suchlike and that's not something, in my experience, that happens much in a regular class.

I had a great time, and really hope it turns out to be a regular thing.

The first two sets of pics are 2 min poses. Then a 5 min and a 20 min. Personally, I think I'm better at the short poses. I'm not sure whether it's because I'm less practiced at the longer ones, or that I have to be energetic in the shorter ones, but I think a lot of life goes out of my longer poses. That's great though, as I have a solid goal to work towards in future sessions.

Monday, July 26, 2010

New Work

Ahh, we had a house inspection yesterday. For which, I eradicated my studio of; fossilised banana peel, the random dead souls of cashew nuts (MIA from a lunch long past), and non-descript fluff. It's now lush in here. In fact, I've decided (as of today) that it's so scrummy in its' gleaming and pristine state, I shall never work again; for fear of spoiling its' immense beauty.

In keeping with my new philosophy of non-work, I saw Eclipse. It's not that the Twilight movies are ridiculously good, as such. (When it comes to vampire teen angst, you don't have to do much to please me, anyway). But, they do have this, sort of, lasting atmosphere to them. It took me a good 24 hours to shake the heady scent of teen spirit from my aging neurons. Made me want to dye my hair black and slob about, glaring at everything; from inanimate objects to newborn babies and kittens... oh no, wait, I do that anyway.... well, apart from the kittens (awww!)

My friend, Joe, wrote an article on books that have been successfully made into movies. I think (though he'd probably want to beat me, and then drown me for my book choice) even Joe would have to admit the conversion from book to film has been pretty seemless for the Meyer novels, and that is pretty unusual... although perhaps it's because they're pretty silly to begin with... Eclipse isn't as good as New Moon though. If this makes any sense, it leaves you less room to add your own imagination to the film, and is a bit more prescriptive... perhaps because there's more actual plot to it.

I also:

- went to see The Bush The Tree and Me play. Brilliant band- look them up on spotify and enjoy.

-drew my dog. (she moved before I could finish her properly, so she kind of looks like she has no eyes...oops!)

-discovered Strada chocolate tart (worth an entire blog post in itself)

-watched 17 episodes of So You Think You Can Dance (and what?!!!)

-went to Liverpool to see friends and get beat up by them (BJJ-stylee) and to Manchester Children's Book Festival to meet up with lovely illustrator folk and see my old Illustration tutor; the great John Lawrence, give a talk. Lovely and brilliant man. I hope one day I too have a 'tache and sideys as distinguished as John's. I reckon he's like Sampson, and all his illustrative strength is nestled in them. If you don't already know him, do google him. His work's beautiful.

-saw Inception- ooh, is all I can say... far better, (and the teen in me is throwing a full-blown strop at me for saying this) than Eclipse.

So, you see; my studio's far too lacking in fluff, and I'm FAR too busy to work, anyway. I simply will not sacrifice its' Fairy Liquid sparkle...

Oh, go on then, hand me that pencil and that packet of nuts...

Here's something of my new picture book project. I'm sure it'll change hugely before you next see it, but it was fun working slightly differently in technique. I'm LOVING the freedom of it being picture-led too; being able to draw whatever I want, and just chuck it right into the text. I've been lucky with the texts I've had so far, but there's nothing quite like being able to dictate for yourself where the story goes. (whether the sales people like my slap-dash attitude has yet to be seen- eek! I shall keep you informed.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Cassia's Escape To Wonderland

Remember that meeting I was all of a' dither about? Well, it was all about this; a children's book illustration retrospective. Exciting because... well, for a start, how many children's book retrospective exhibitions ever come along! But also, because I'm getting to exhibit in it, which is terrifying as well as amazingly thrilling.

To accompany the show, I've started up a separate blog, which I think might be slightly less chaotic than my normal one... and perhaps a little more, ahem, well-to-do!

I'll still post up here though with all the general news and gossip.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lively Elizabeth Event!

Just a quickie to say, the marvellous folk at Waterstones Guildford High Street, have been weaving their magic once more, to put together another Lively Elizabeth event.

Details of the event are:

Waterstones Guildford High Street
Monday 2nd August. 3.30pm

for a fantastic book reading and treasure hunt.
FREE fun for all the family!

Here's the link to it on the Waterstones site.

I might sneak down there myself to take some piccies!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Drawing board

It's a long shot (so long that I can't even see the other side of it) but I was wondering if anyone in the Surrey area had a drawing board they wouldn't mind kindly loaning me for an exhibition from August to the beginning of January....? Anyone? Hmm....

Failing that, if any of you have ideas on where I might be able to borrow one from, please give me a yell. So far, I have emailed Ikea (awaiting a response) and my Uncle David... Yes, people, my search has been far-reaching! Any further suggestions, please do let me know. Mucho Gracias to you all.

More soon (I promise!)

In the mean time, here's my first attempt at a character for a much younger audience (yes, the sad irony smacks you in the face, doesn't it?) He was given a warm reception from the publishers a couple of months back, but given his species, I'm guessing he mightn't be deemed appropriate in the UK at the moment, poor guy. Let's hope people react responsibly to what was a pretty one-off tragic accident, and we continue to see foxes out and about... not to mention in children's books!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Couch surfing and chin-wags.

Good grief, I've been pathetic today.

Last night was my first advanced kick-boxing class. Now, now, Children, you may hold those acid tongues. There's no need to remind me that the only thing of which has advanced of late is my rather protuberant little belly; one that is so soft and cuddly it might have been adopted at a pet rescue centre. Why, I had to carry it around all night. I've found kicking is somewhat hindered if your own body comes complete with airbag, but I'm ambitious I tell you. Advanced shadmanced!

If only my belly could be farmed out to a new and loving home though, it would save me a lot of bother. After an hour of intense one two, one two three four, combinations, I'm almost certain I may have a better precipitation rate than that of Scotland. I'm pretty sure I've single-handedly staved off the hosepipe ban...

Anyway, the whole point of exercise is surely to feel better. However, I always feel as if I've gone several rounds with England's current air of defeat... Today, I managed to drag myself heroically to the sofa to eat Waitrose scones (which I've discovered are FANTASTIC given 20 seconds in the microwave) and drink tea. From my cushion throne, I shared generously my new-found athletic prowess, both wisely and copiously, with Andy Murrey (the lucky boy!) Despite the fact I've still no idea what the name of his opponant was, Andy's winning (I'm adamant) was entirely down to my yelling, 'win, you bugger!' at the TV. I'll bet he was glad I was laid up.

I paused my hectic schedule to take a well-earnt nap, and then it's been all go, go, go again since then.

Fortunately, my bout of feebleness coincided nicely with me having just completed a rather lovely job (I shall write a separate post about it shortly). Thus, I feel a little breather today was allowed. It's strange not feeling completely depressed at the completion of a project. I usually feel at sea. I can only assume it's because this has been a quick job, as it's been no less enjoyed, that's for sure. A well-deserved days' hookie to celebrate is really a fantastic treat!

Tomorrow though, I've got a very exciting meeting lined up (I don't want to say anymore about that yet, incase I jinx it!) and I've also got to get back into my Egmont book proposal. So, I shall have to be stern with myself and get back into the swing of things.

Before I sign off, I wanted to mention what a fantastic day out I had on Saturday. I often feel there isn't enough support for illustrators. We're isolated creatures, and I think we often get so stuck in our own little brains, we forget we need the input of others. Perhaps I'm only talking personally here, however I decided to attempt to arrange a little get together of children's book writers and illustrators, and others seemed to be on board with the plan. A nervous cluster of us, from all over the place, arrived outside the ICA (my good friend, Ellie Sandall, suggested a group of illustrators should be called a 'disorganisation' of illustrators, which I think sums things up nicely!) It was a wonderful mix of people I knew from my course, those I knew from Hodder, and folk I knew from blogland, and had never met in person before. I was prepared for it to be slightly awkward, taking us a while to find our stride. Everyone got on instantly though, and tales of joy and sorrow, and frustration and success were shared likewise. Advice was given and received and it made me feel lucky to be part of an industry that attracted such brilliant people.

I'll be attempting to organise another one in London in the Autumn. Interested parties can comment here, and I'll add you to the list. But, there are so many illustration groups out there, I urge everyone to see what's available in their area.

Anyway, I just wanted to talk about it, to remind everyone that we're all out there. No matter how lonely it sometimes feels, we're all still here, going through similar things, and the more support we can give eachother, the better.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cat and Mouse

I just found this guy lurking at the bottom of my bag. Can't really remember drawing him, but it must have been during break at Waterstones. Reminded me quite how much I like drawing baddies!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Publishing houses

Hello my dearest blog readers! How the dickens are you? Isn't 'blog readers' is a dull term? Personally, I quite like 'bloggles', or 'bloggins,' or perhaps (if you were all kindly prepared to don leg-warmers), 'bloggets'...?

Anyway, I hope you're all well and dandy. Things have been barmy, naturally; but a little more so than usual. To give you some indication, I'd say, crazier than a soup sandwich, but not quite as mad as a bag of cats.

I've been working on several illustration jobs at once and have been attempting to fairly price up another couple. I've met up with the Surrey Illustrators (a very fine bunch of people) and I've been down to London to blether at the feet of Harry Potters' people in Bloomsbury.

Incidentally, I know I've spoken about the different 'feels' of each publishing house, but have I mentioned the eccentricity of publishing buildings?

If you lined all the publishing offices up next to eachother you'd have the kind of skyline of which Tim Burton could only dream. What's really great is they're all so unexpected. I always find myself picturing an interview beforehand to try and steady my nerves, but I NEVER get the situation right. I'm half thinking, I might have to envisage a bouncy castle or an icecream van in my mental walk-through next time... just to cover my bases. Publishing houses are all fantastic. They range from shiny, high rises with gated security stations and receptionists, stern and highly armed (with biro's and name badges, naturally), to eccentric tumbledown houses, to Templar's magically warren-y offices (which I'm sure they're short-leasing from a large family of badgers). At the end of Publishing Road, I'm sure there'd be an old, and very esteemed art director that lived in a shoe.

One publisher has wall to wall windowed lifts, so if you're romantic you feel like you're flying, and if you're like me, you feel like you've farted with enough gusto to launch. I'd also note that when visiting said publisher, due to a strategically placed Starbucks below, when travelling higher than second floor, short skirts are to be avoided at all costs. And picking ones' nose is an out and out no-no.

The Bloomsbury offices have THE smallest lift you've ever seen. I'm not joking, it's about a metre and half wide, by a metre deep.... and there's three of us in there.... and we're all the same height. Now, the height thing can be seen one of two ways. With tall people, I tend to be at armpit (or worse still) crotch height. For anyone that's never had the pleasure; introducing yourself when you're eye-to-crotch is something from which it's kind of hard to recover. With people the same size as me, and particularly in a interview type environment, the eye-to-eye thing is always slightly unnerving; you over-analyse your movements until you develop an erratic twitch. On top of that, it's before the interview, so I'm attempting to make small talk AND impress at the same time. On top of THAT, our faces (all three of them) are mere inches apart... I feel like I'm in the Bohemian Rhapsody video. Quick, I think... and twitch, and twitch and think; drop some enlightened phrase on publishing current affairs. Talk apps, talk distribution channels, talk anything but... 'I LIKE HARRY POTTER!' Dear God, when you belt out this inanity, you can only hope you didn't top it off by spitting in anyone's eye or stomping on anyone's foot. And unfortunately, we've still got another three floors to ride...all staring (in extreme close-up) and in palpable silence at my reddening, twitching face.

Thank goodness publishers are a nice breed of human. Whether I'm trying to exit out of the 'entrance' door at Orion, bashing head-long, like a trapped wilderbeast, into the glass doors at Hodder, or babbling incoherantly in Bloomsbury's lift, all of them have been decent enough not to mention it. All I can say is, if they can be this nonchalant at my behaviour though, it does make me think; what on EARTH do the rest of you illustrators get up to????

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Pre-order George and Ghost with its' swanky new cover here (or at any other good book store)! It's now sold to South Korea too- hooray!

As I have nothing I'm able to show for the mo, I'm sticking up some cool links.

Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity -

Emily Gravett drawing Cave Baby -

Alice for the Ipad

Axel Sheffler

Chris Riddell

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The times, they are a changin'

When you work in a microcosm, it's sometimes easy to pootle along, believing things aren't changing. A book might take several months to do, and a couple of years to actually see on the shelf. And when you're pinning your life on this somewhat lackadaisical time structure, you often get a little lost in your daydreams. It's quite disturbing, for example, to see what other people have been up to whilst you were picking crayola's, or absentmindedly dipping your paintbrush in your tea (again).

'Look!' you cry, 'I've managed to make my characters' face look less like the backend of a horse!' Or, 'See here! I've created a triptych using only a pizza box and a vermillion hue!' And upon looking up to receive your *surely quite substantial* praise, you gasp... because what you find is that your best friend's holding a- no, surely not- is that- oh, but it can't be! That's not... a BABY??? Yup, you were unaware that a) they wanted a baby b) they were pregnant (well, ok, so you did know she was pregnant, but surely it could only have been for more than 5 minutes!) and c) that the baby is now almost a month old (in baby terms that's at least a teenager, isn't it? Or is it only dogs this applies to?) So, unless you missed a very important lesson in sex ed... or have somehow confused the gestation period of babies with that of kittens... you've somehow missed 9 months of life... Indeed, you've missed so much life, that your friend's gone and created a whole other one in that time! Crazy!

Ok, so let's cut the 'you' part. I think we can both see through my ruse here. Possibly, 'you' wouldn't be so shortsighted to miss these things. But, me? Well, I'm in shock. Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased, but I'm very much in shock. I'm in shock that I could possibly get to the age that the word, 'pregnant' is not followed a hushed, 'OMG! what are you going to tell your mum?!' I'm in shock that time seems to be going so FAST! I'm in shock that I'm suddenly sounding like my Mum saying things like, 'time seems to be going so fast!!!' Man, I can't take it!

Anyway, here's a picture to take all of our minds off it!

In other news:

The London Book Fair was excellent. It was a rather airless event, with many people not making it, due to things exploding in foreign parts. However, it was brilliant to catch up with old course friends, Kay Bainbridge, Jennifer Miles, Emma Malfroy, and Rosie Brooks, and my lovely Hodder editor too. It was also very exciting to meet the spiffing Jon Davis
who was also lurking in the Illustration Corner. I'm not sure the event itself was worth the £25 entrance fee (I think I'd have to go on a normal year to see) but the company was (in the words of a certain credit card company) priceless.

I've resigned at Waterstones. It wasn't an easy decision to make on a personal level, as I really enjoy working with my colleagues there, but it was quite straight-forward from a business point of view. It's illustration all the way, from now on! (Well, that and stopping child A from inserting a toy giraffe into child B's nostril at the nursery...)

The book event went well- Mara made cupcakes, so of course I'm going to say that! Pictures to follow, as soon as I work out how to get photos off the phone...

Lively Elizabeth reviewed. Yay! I love this one!

Possibilities of a new project to tell you all about soon- very exciting. Please watch this space!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

a bit of a whinge and a whole lot of thanks!

It's been a while since I wrote... again. You see, it's been quite quiet of late, but also far too stupidly complicated for me to get my pea-sized brain around.

Since starting work at Waterstones and the nursery, I don't feel like I've stopped. I also don't feel like I've done very much illustration- Yah boo sucks. It's a strange thing. Combined, the two jobs take up two and a half days; a piddly amount, really. However, since I started a couple of months ago, my role as an illustrator seems to have changed too; becoming very much about promoting 'Lively Elizabeth'. When all the admin-typed stuff that that demands is also deducted from my week (plus, all the regular, boring, house keeping stuff) I reckon I have about 1 and a half days to actually draw. Now, I have to confess, even 1 and a half days a week of proper illustration work is more than I've been doing of late. There has, I'm afraid, been an enormous amount of navel-gazing going on.

Now, my navel is of average shape and size. It doesn't sing or dance. I don't remember it ever having produced a haiku or a sonnet, and I'm pretty sure its' views on current affairs lack depth (if not belly button fluff). By all accounts my navel is average. It does not warrant fixation of any kind. And yet, since the beginning of February, it's been enjoying the sort of limelight, I normally reserve for a semi-naked Christian Slater, or a particularly gooey chocolate cake. Why is this?

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that I defy science. Not in any useful way, mind. I can't fly or turn invisible. I can't even conjur a cup of tea, using only the power of my mind (ahh, how cool would that be?) What I mean is, I'm female, and I'm not a multi-tasker. ALL women are multi-taskers, right?! Well, not me. And to add insult to injury, I'm as spatially aware as a drunk, partially-sighted moth- obviously my brain has no blokey compensations either!

But it's not just that I can't turn my brain to two tasks at one time- dear god, that (to me) would be as exciting as invisibility! It actually seems my brain very much rejects the idea of doing two, or more, tasks per week! No, I tell a lie. I must give my poor, weary neurons a break. It's not really the tasks themselves, it's the way of thinking that's the problem.

Working in a shop, working in a nursery, promotion, and drawing all have very different thought processes behind them, and it's the swapping between these that sets me all of a dither. For a start, I'm not used to having to make sense verbally, dagnammit! Normally, as long as things make sense in my head, that's good enough for me. I don't have to use too much reasoning with illustration. I just know something has to be done a certain way, in order for a picture to work. I have kids at nursery who think it's fun to cover themselves and everyone around them in pasta sauce and snot- strong powers of reasoning are necessary to avoid a bad case of coagulation!

So, here's what's been happening. I've been going to either job, wrapping all my wits about it... (for all my flaws, I do try damned hard to do any job to the best of my abilities). But unfortunately, these are wits I'm not used to using (I guess you could say, up until now, I've been a half wit) and upon arriving home to do my regular work, I've realised that my brain has fried. Yes, fried. And scrambled. And boiled. And poached... no, maybe not poached (but by heck I'm hungry) Hence I end up navel-gazing my time away. The navel-gazing turns to stress, as I realise the weeks are going passed and I've done nothing. And because I've done nothing, the work's mounting up, and the stress gets worse.

Now, I think it's usual to expect a period of adjustment, and let's not forget I've been my own boss for over three years now. However, what I forgot is, part of the reason I love illustration is because I've always been rubbish at dancing to anothers' tune. I don't mean I'm some kind of militant rebel, and I actually really love the nursery and Waterstones. I just mean that I'm so much better with a routine and doing things in my own time. My illustration is better when I have time to daydream about it, and sort of 'live' with the characters a bit. And, above all, illustration is my passion... so... anyway, some further thought needed, I think.

In other news

I want to give huge levels of thanks to everyone who's been in support of me the last couple of months. I got news that 919 copies of 'Lively Elizabeth' had sold before 28th of Feb- that's 2 weeks before it was officially out. At one point it actually ranked about 8,000th on amazon- that's out of ALL the books in all the world! Since it wasn't in the shops then, I know most of those purchases were by you, dear blog readers. I can't tell you how completely chuffed I am. You're all amazing!

'Lively Elizabeth' got its' first book review at the bookbag here. It's a lovely review. We got 4 stars, thanks to Keith Dudhnath. I was going for Tank Girl, rather than Shirley Hughes, but I can't complain at the comparison!!!

I also think Jessica Sage at Waterstones Guildford High Street deserves a huge shout-out, for putting up with Mara and I's demands, arranging the event for Saturday. We haven't quite asked for blue M&M's, baths of Evian water, and private trailers. However, she's been an absolute star for calming our nerves with her fantastic organisational skills. I also want to thank Emma Swabey at Hodder for doing some fantastic activity sheets for the event. I'm going to try and find some way of sticking them up here, as it'd be brilliant if everyone had access to them.

Right, I'd better get on with stuff- I've a shepards' pie to take command of! Applogies for the lack of piccies. I do have some to pop up, but since it's been ages since I've written, I think it's more important I get this post out- I'll try and add some images later.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

ooh, goodies!

Now, I know there's probably some fancy way of lining all these up, but I was far too excited to bother about all that complicated rubbish. What fantastic pictures! A huge thank you to the fabulous Katie, Ben, Mao and Freda at the top there, the marvellous Prospero's Bookshop in Crouch End, and last but not least Claire, Sam and furry friends!
Dead chuffed with them, Guys! Please keep them coming.
I may have some excruciatingly embarrassing ones to add soon myself. Mara and I are doing our first event at the Guildford Waterstones, on the 10th April. Details here. Hopefully, there'll be a fancy dress competition, drawing, a book reading, and much more. Everyone's welcome. Please do come and say hullo. I'm going to be horribly nervous, mind, so if I merely gurgle and stammer, you'll know why. No doubt my dear Ma will be on hand to take a variety of awful snaps of the occasion! Will keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lively Elizabeth OUT NOW!!!

Hooray, hooray, hooray!

Here is the first ever sold copy of Lively Elizabeth! Well, that is, it's the first copy I've seen, that's sold and made it all the way to its' destination. This one has sent itself all the way to.... my good buddy, Mike's, desk... huzzah!

I was thinking of running a little competition. I would love a photo record of places Lively Elizabeth goes. I know some of you have been good enough to buy a copy, and others of you may see a copy at your local library or bookshop. I was wondering if I could please, please, please ask you to take photos of all and email them to me, marked 'Lively Elizabeth on tour'

I'll post any you send here, and there will be a wee prize for the most exciting/creative shots or locations. Thank you all, kindly.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Err... Happy new year????!

*Cass creeps meekly into the picture, pink cheeked and ansy-looking*

Blog: Say you're sorry.

*Cass looks sheepish and defiant, in turns.*

Blog: We-elllllll.....?

*Cass shuffles feet nervously*

Blog: Cassssssss.... do we have to go through this again...?

Cass: Sorry, Blog. Sorry for leaving you so long! (in a rush)

Blog: (sighs) That's ok. Now, get on with your post.

Cass: *bashful grin* OK!

So, in brief, our um... for lack of a better word, 'heroine' has:

-Moved home. To yummy, yummy Surrey. Oh, how she likes living close to so much National Trust land AND a Cupcakery! All the lovely walking amongst deer, rabbits and llamas (don't ask!) ALMOST accounts for the cupcake consumption.

- updated her website. Huzzah! About blooming time.

- Started work at Waterstones and a local nursery. Interesting turns of event, these. Both are working out ok, although she did almost quit on the spot this morning, after being presented with a prize booger (at the nursery, obviously! The staff at Waterstones are very well-behaved indeed!)

- Started work on a new book. Hooray! Keep watching this spot.

- 1 month and TWO days left until the release of her first book. Hardback books rarely ever make it into store these days, so please feel free to go into your nearest bookstore and/or library and ask for 'Lively Elizabeth'. If the shop doesn't ask for a deposit, I'd love everyone to go ahead and order a copy too- when you don't buy it, it'll go out on the shelf and hopefully someone else will. (Of course, I trust YOU all have your copies on order already! ;0) x )

Some of you may have also have noticed the children's illustrators site has been down. It got hacked into a little while ago, apparently. However, it's all in good working order now; and with a brand new face lift too. You can visit my section here.

Other than that, I'd like to draw your attention to the film, 'Cirque Du Freak', if you haven't seen it... and you probably have- I'm always last on the scene with these things! Anyway, having read the book, I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy the film. Films so ofter cock-up a good book, don't they? Anyway, solid script and acting, and the story arc (plus, what they did and didn't take out, plot-wise) worked well. Ahh, Harry Potter- if only you could have been treated as well...!

I think that is all, for now!