Tuesday 30 April 2013

this never happened

I'm so happy that Bell X1 are using my pictures on their new album!  I haven't had much luck with album covers in the past... or book jackets for that matter.  Here are some designs for an album cover that never happened:

Can see why they didn't go for the one with the leg... and the little people on the table actually... but otherwise, what's not to like? ^-^

Sunday 28 April 2013


... so it was fun to be a tourist too.  Never been to Chicago before.  They have an amazing natural history museum... among other things.

  I did a couple of drawings while I was there:

people at the Art Institute of Chicago

fish at the John G Shedd Aquarium

The big fish in that last picture is an Arapaima.  They can grow over two metres!

Saturday 27 April 2013

Zena Sutherland Awards in Chicago

I have just been on an amazing trip to Chicago to attend the 2013 Zena Sutherland AwardsA Place to Call Home won two prizes last year, Best Overall Book and Best Text.  This year the University of Chicago invited me over to present the awards and to collect my prize from last year... This awesome poster:

I was very impressed with how thorough the whole process was and how engaged the children were with it.  No joke, I think it compares very well to some of the best prizes judged by adults - and I'm not just saying that because I won!  These are super bright kids and the depth they go into when assessing the various titles is amazing.  From beginning to end it takes almost six months to select a winner in each of three categories, Best Text, Best Illustration and Best Overall.  The children even design their own detailed assessment criteria.

If you want an idea of how much this award means to them, listen to the reaction to the announcement from last year!

Monday 22 April 2013

set building

One thing I was playing with a few years ago was to draw an elaborate set for a sequence then draw the characters on top.  Just as you would in an animation cell.  I think I might try that again for the next issue of Loaf 

The second and third pictures in this group do sort of animate.  Poor butterfly!

Saturday 20 April 2013

making shapes

Lately I have been doing a lot of experimenting with with the way I make images.  I have been trying a method where I first paint a coloured shape or group of shapes and then use line to resolve the shapes into specific places or characters.  Sometimes I add a third stage where I wash over sections of the shape with additional colours.  All the additional colours show a little of the base colour behind them and I think this helps to unify them somewhat...

I used this technique on the cover of the forthcoming Bell X1 album, Chop Chop and also for several spreads in the Selfish Giant.

Thursday 18 April 2013


I have work in an exhibition opening in Lisbon today, at the Centro de Arte Moderna... this features pieces I made for a residency programme on the Galapagos Islands.  I will be posting more about this later.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

monster mama

Here is a sequence following Bobo's mother as she goes about her day:

Monday 15 April 2013

Jitterbug freestyle

When I was working on Jitterbug Jam I became really interested in the different relationships inside the monster family.  I made a lot of drawings exploring how they interacted with one another physically, trying to work out what happened when I put them together in various combinations.  It was a fun thing to try and it really helped me to get to know the characters...


wall scrawl

The other day I did a drawing workshop with children at my local bookshop, Review.  We made HUGE drawings on big sheets of paper covering the whole of their wall downstairs.  It was great fun... though we did the drawings in charcoal so we all came out looking like Victorian chimney sweeps by the end.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Hal 9000

At the moment I have this staring down at me from the top of my desk.  It is for a film being made about the V&A Memory Palace exhibition.  Whenever I am working it takes two pictures a minute... the idea is that when they are played back we should have a cool stop-motion sequence of some of the images being made.  It is kind of freaking me out though.  I keep expecting it to talk to me in a reassuring voice:  That's a very nice rendering, Dave. I think you've improved a great deal. Can you hold it a bit closer? That's Dr. Hunter, isn't it?

Thursday 11 April 2013

a few more pages

Here are some more bear and elephant drawings from the While You Are Sleeping preparatory sketchbooks.  On the same pages are some drawings of pirates that made a huge difference to my work at that time.  Anyone who draws a lot will be familiar with the feeling you get when you make an image that seems like it is a step closer to where you want to be.  These drawings were just like that for me.  For the first time I felt like I was drawing the whole figure as a unit instead of a collection of parts...  Now I needed to work out how to draw them actually doing something instead of just standing around making nice shapes!

26 beasts

When I was making While You Are Sleeping I made a couple of sketchbooks that I am really proud of to this day.  True, I was slightly crackers when I was making them but sometimes that can help creativity along a bit...  I will try and post pages from them now and again. 

Here is a sequence of twenty six each of bears, elephants and small, stuffed dogs, all characters that I needed to design for the book.

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Beegu's parents - hula hoop fail

I recently went to a rehearsal for a possible children's theatre version of Beegu.  We talked about some scenes that were in the early versions of the story but didn't make it to the end.  One of those scenes features Beegu's parents trying to figure out the hula hoop she has been given...

 ... and Beegu losing it watching them

I hope that the show happens!

Tuesday 9 April 2013

what I learned so far

Here's a summary of what I've learned so far from my perspective book...

The horizon is a plane level with the eye line of the viewer/painter/drawer/witness/whatever
(knew that one already! ha!)

The principal vanishing point is a point on the horizon directly opposite the viewer (I'll call them that from now on).  A line from the viewer's eyes to the principal vanishing point would be perpendicular to the horizon.
(I knew that one too... I think ^-^)

All lines parallel to the one between the viewer and the principal vanishing point will meet at that point (so long as they are on the plane of the horizon or any other parallel plane).  Any other parallel lines on the plane of the horizon or any parallel plane, whichever way they point, so long as they are parallel to each other will meet at the same vanishing point on the horizon line.  This point will be where they would otherwise cross that line.

All planes parallel to the horizon will meet at the horizon if allowed to continue... think of a set of shelves.
 (I knew that one, definitely!)

Any parallel lines not on the plane of the horizon or a parallel plane will meet at a point directly above or below where they would have met the horizon had they been on that plane (confused yet?).  This is easier than it sounds - I tried it out.  Just draw a line at right angles to the horizon line then draw a a diagonal line that crosses it - either above or below - if you draw other lines that meet at that point they will appear to all be parallel and all be on the same plane.

Here are some drawings I made on the train trying to get my head around these things:

This is going to be really useful!  Why didn't I learn it when I was fifteen! Arrgh!


drawing geek

When I was small I would always look forward to being better at drawing in the future.  I knew that if I kept at it, my developing brain would magically understand things that had been total mysteries to me not six months earlier.  It was a great feeling.  I used to go back and draw improved versions of pictures next to their originals in my old sketchbooks.  As a little more time went by I would look back at these improved drawings, realise they were rubbish after all and draw a new improved one beside the other two... Then one day my brain stopped growing.  I would look back at old sketchbooks and think, damn, that looks just the same as the stuff I'm drawing now!  Finally I stopped waiting for things to improve on their own.  I realised I was actually going to have to make a conscious effort to learn new stuff if I wanted to.

As time has gone by I have tried to learn about all sorts of things that have previously baffled me.  It is always a really exciting thing to do.  There are few better feelings than the one you get when you understand something for the first time.  Last year I tried to learn about colour.  It turned out to be a HUGE and vastly complicated subject (who knew?) but I was able to learn a great many things that have helped me immensely since.  I moved the frontier a little bit and next time I go back and try and learn more, I can start from a little bit further in.  For example, I would really like to know how  and when to paint those amazing luminous colours you get when light shines through something translucent like a leaf or a cloud or an ear...  I've tried guessing and it always looks very wrong!

Anyway... I was going to be taking a long train journey the other day and I was looking for something to read.  I saw a book called Perspective for Artists.  My first thought was, I know about perspective already.  My second thought was, I tried to read that once - it was impossible.  Clearly I didn't know about perspective after all.  Like so many things in my professional life I just kidded myself I knew it because it's sort of embarrassing to admit you don't!

Three pages in on the train and I was learning new stuff.  It turns out that my entire knowledge of the theory of perspective could be expressed in two pages of text.  Hmm.  No wonder I don't draw many buildings!


And here is a Jim's Lion preview pic...  I'm really looking forward to getting back to work on this story!