Thursday 30 May 2013


I was installing my work at the V&A today.   How amazing it is to have a team of highly qualified professionals to help you with stuff!  I can't thank them enough.  Hanging shows is usually a question of me with a couple of bits of string and some masking tape.

Memory Palace opens on the 18th of June.  Come and see it!  I want it to become normal for there to be illustration shows at major museums!

Tuesday 28 May 2013


Just been to the the Hay Festival to promote Memory Palace.  On the train back I played comic book consequences with Isabel Greenberg... Here's the story we made up (also did one about an evil newt but she got to keep that one):

I love that game!  I could play it for hours ^-^

Wednesday 22 May 2013

wearing your heart on your sleeve

There are stories that I tell a lot.  I am getting like your old geography teacher who would tell the same five stories over and over and laugh at them himself just in case no one else did.  Here is one of them:

  Several years ago I was at the opening of an exhibition.   I was feeling rather low and somewhat lost in an adult world that seemed to have so few interests in common with me.   I was at the point of thinking that it was really time to turn away from all the things that I loved and get interested in house prices and mortgage rates when I saw a really nice looking lady standing a few feet in front of me.   In her bag was a Bandai robot.  Suddenly I realised the folly of being dishonest about what I really liked.   How many people here were also secret robot lovers?  Perhaps we were all just too shy to admit it and talked about mortgages because we were afraid of being thought odd.  How sad would that be?  We could have been having a build-a-robot party instead!  I began walking towards the lady to tell her how impressed I was with her... when her small son appeared from behind her and took his robot out of her bag.

  Now I feel like the moral of this story could be:  There, you are an idiot. It has been proven.  But being an idiot I chose to take the thought and not the fact as the real truth.  I wanted to be that robot carrying standard bearer for anyone out there who might be thinking of giving up on what they love just for forms sake.

  On the train yesterday, this happened:

  I was sitting in my Captain Kirk top reading Game of Thrones when I heard someone clapping from the other side of the carriage.  When I looked up I saw that it was a young man and he was clapping me!  It turns out he was from the very new nation of South Sudan in Africa.  He said that he had found growing up there very difficult (he originally grew up in Sudan before the separation).  That there were about one hundred and fifty different tribes in South Sudan and that each one had an entirely different culture and tradition.  When he first discovered Star Trek it struck him how much the different races reminded him of the different tribes at home.  For example his father's tribe, he said, were like the Klingons, respecting strength and personal honour and settling disputes with violence.  He said that he had tried to follow several faiths but actually, he found Star Trek more useful in teaching him a morality that fit his day to day experience!  I wonder what Gene Roddenberry would make of that! 
  Anyway, we chatted for the rest of the journey and he took a picture of my home made Thrones cover.  Turns out we live in the same neighbourhood.  Now I have a friend I can't think I would have met any other way ^-^

Monday 20 May 2013

there's always one... or two or three or four

There always seems to be one picture in every project that just will not come right.  I really try to avoid doing things over and over but it always happens anyway.

Making the pieces for the V&A was particularly difficult because they couldn't be fixed by swapping in elements digitally or physically sticking patches over stuff.  I got into the habit of identifying what was going to be the most difficult bit of a picture and drawing that first.  That way if it went wrong there was less lost labour.

Thank goodness I did that in the case of the first picture.  As it was I had to draw the main character fourteen times before I was happy.  Seems odd now.  They all look fine!

Then there was the seventh picture.  Ended up doing this four times.  First it looked rubbish... fair enough... and the text looked weird - then the charcoal i used didn't fit with anything else - then I measured it wrong...


Sunday 19 May 2013

dogs in blankets

... I'll get back to posting pictures soon... but this is my personal favourite impro story.  It's about dogs... or cats?

Saturday 18 May 2013


recorded this one today... it's about teeth...

stream of consciousness

I am often asked where my ideas come from and have thought of a few different answers over the years.   Sometimes though, the method that is the most fun is to record whatever it comes into my head to say - no planning, no thinking ahead at all, just talking nonsense...

About dusters....

About fish...

About pets and plagues...

About crossroads...

Apologies for the wandering accents btw!  They just come out that way!

Thursday 16 May 2013


 So... On the train to Birmingham yesterday I began work on the sequence for my Loaf submission.  I already had a notion of the shape of the story -  I'd been mulling it over without writing or drawing anything for quite a while.  I knew where I wanted the story to begin and end but hadn't yet committed to the steps inbetween.  It seems more fun to improvise stuff whilst you are drawing.

These were the roughs I made on the trip:

They might not look like much but I hope they will contain all the information I need to construct the first version of the story.
For the purposes of submitting my concept to the editorial team - and for this blog -  I have decoded the drawing into a typed script ^-^!

Some information:  The theme of this issue is friends.  The priest in the story is the same one who appeared in the first issue of Loaf...


(panel break = /)

picture described in italics

/ Something is floating in the middle of a river.  there is forest on either side

/ Children on the river bank

1st child - Look! There's something in the water!

/ older child - I don't believe it!
2nd child - A baby!
3rd child - Is it dead?
1st child Standing in the river having swum to fetch it - It's alive... it's breathing.

/ older child - Who does it belong to?

/ New scene.  A lady is carrying the baby before her through a street in a village.  The children we just met are running behind her

2nd child - Mama, no!
1st child - We found it!
3rd child - It belongs to us!

/ mother - 'It' is a little girl. Will you pay to feed her,  to clothe her?  Will you change her dirty rags?

/We are inside a church now.  The priest is working at a desk in a private room. The mothers words spill over into this panel
mother - She must go to the church.

/A knock at the door

priest - ?

/The priest answers the door to find the mother and her four children outside with the baby

mother - Father, my children have found a baby

/ mother - We have brought her to you
priest - ah.

/ mother - The church must take care of her

/now the priest is  alone with the baby.  He is frantically flipping through books

priest - I know there is a procedure for this...

deacon - WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

/New scene.  A farmhouse, slightly squalid.  A woman is outside with a baby at her breast.  Two boys are carrying buckets nearby.

baby - (distant)  waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
Mrs Arthur - Whatever is that noise?

/ The priest comes into view carrying the baby in his arms.

Mrs Arthur - Father??

/ New scene.  Mrs Arthur is rocking the two babies, her own and the one she is now nurse to.  Her older boys look on

first boy - We are mother's real children

/ New scene.  A frog held in someone's hands

/We see it is the two brothers who have the frog.  In the foreground is a sleeping infant.  It is recognisable  as the foundling baby, though somewhat older. 

second boy - Do it!
first boy - I will
second boy - Go on!
first boy - I will!

/The boy has his arm in the cot. The foundling is awake and sinking her teeth into his hand.  The frog is on her head looking indifferent to it all.

first boy - OOOOOOOOOOW!

/New scene. We are back at the priest's chambers.  As before there is a knock on the door.

priest - ?

/It is Mrs Arthur with the now two year old child.

Mrs Arthur - The child is nursed. The child is walking.  Now you will take her back if you please.  She never would settle with my boys.

/New scene.  The priest is at the door of a shop with the girl at his side.  The shopkeeper is regarding them

priest - Edna, we have often spoken of how you need an extra pair of hands about the place...

/The priest's chambers, a knock on the door. 

/It is the girl and the shopkeeper.  The girl is somewhat older again.

shopkeeper - I am sorry Father.  The girl will not to do.  She is just too lively...

/a sequence of different individuals at the priest's door.  Each time the girl is a little older.

/doctor - too clumsy

/butcher - too loud

/baker - too restless

/blacksmith - too wild

/New scene.  The village pub.  The priest sits with some of the other people of the village

priest - I am at my wits end what to do with that child.
baker - Let her make her own way.  She has the spirit for it!
doctor's brother - She's little more than an infant.
doctor - The old herder would take her.  She's always after help.

/ priest - That must be a last resort.  The old lady is mad as the Mizzle.

/New scene.  The priest and the girl are in a field full of animals.  An old lady is with them

priest - short herder, I think she would make you a fine apprentice...
herder - Yes.

/Now the girl is alone with the old lady who is pointing away at the fields.

herder - Show.

/ the large buffalo like beasts of the herd.

 herder - Beasts.

/ piles of fodder

herder - Feed.

/... at a row of wolf's heads on spikes

herder - Boundary.

/... at some straw in the corner of a barn

herder - Bed

/Now the girl is alone on the straw bed.

/She bows her head and begins to cry

/ herder - GIRL!  no.

/ From her shawl the herder gives the girl a tiny little puppy.

herder -  Friends.

/New scene.  It is a windy day with great puffy clouds.  The girl stands on a hilltop.   She is much older now.  She is holding a staff like the one the herder had.  By her side is a huge dog.  It is looking up at her.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

beast herder

This lady will feature in my story for Loaf magazine.  She herds beasts...

I am contemplating posting the whole process of creating this story as there is quite a short turnover (deadline is the end of May)...  Is that something people would be interested to see?

Monday 13 May 2013


Just attempting to stretch the last V&A picture.  I had to soak the paper in a bathtub and stretch it on a bit of wood bigger than a door.  Almost gave myself a hernia trying to carry it upstairs... 

wild child, now that I don't have to work all hours on the Memory Palace pieces it is time to get back to other projects.  Jim's Lion will be starting up again very soon but first I have to complete my submission for the next issue of Loaf magazine.  This one will be about a foundling no-one seems to want...

Saturday 11 May 2013

little giants

I promised a friend  I would post some pictures from the Galapagos trip I took a few years ago.  I have been self conscious about showing them because I was only just starting to draw after a long time off when I went... it is amazing how much you forget when you get out of practice!  Still, I am a big believer in the notion that what you draw is far more important then how you draw.  With that in mind here are some pictures of tortoises from the breeding center at the Charles Darwin Foundation:

Everything begins in a tupperware box in a wardrobe... if you are a baby tortoise.  The giant tortoises at the breeding center are all kept inside a big wardrobe in plastic boxes filled with sand.  Their temperature is carefully maintained by a complex system of hairdryers.   Curiously this is exactly how my temperature was maintained when heaters were outlawed at a studio I once rented.

The eggs are kept at very precise temperatures between 29 and 32 degrees Celsius because a significant drop or rise can be fatal.  You can also determine the gender of the hatchlings this way.  At the cooler end of the range you get more males, at the warmer end more females.

They can take up to two weeks to make it out of their shells!  Slow Loris would be impressed.

When they've grown up a bit they get transferred to little corrals.  They have identity numbers painted on their backs.  Like Slow Loris they mostly just hang around doing nowt.

That is until feeding day comes along...  then they burst into a frenzy of activity.  They can really motor, these little guys!  In interviews about my trip I have said that they look like a mini demolition derby, what with the corral, the numbers and all.  Can't think of a better way to describe it now.  There were certainly plenty of crashes and pile ups.

lucky 13

I just finished the last picture for the Memory Palace show.  These have taken me since the end of January to complete... and have been in the planning and roughs stage for about six or seven months.  It is always a strange feeling when something you have been working on for ages finally gets done. 

Come and see the show!  It opens on the 17th of June.


Wednesday 8 May 2013

thank you Ray Harryhausen!

I was one of countless children who loved your work with a passion.  You brought my dreams to life!  

Tuesday 7 May 2013

taking matters into my own hands

It's no wonder I never get any book covers published.  I seem to disagree about what they should look like.  Viv showed me a neat technique for removing them and doing your own whilst keeping the book intact.  Moomins and Thrones remain the copyright of their authors, naturally.  These are not for sale... just to make my shelves look nicer. 

Actually Tove Jansson  made lovely covers for the Moomin books.  For some reason new editions don't always have them.

Saturday 4 May 2013

the horror

People often say my work is too scary for kids.  A few years ago someone thought they would capitalise on that and hired me to do the cover for a children's horror story...

This one didn't work out either... perhaps it wasn't scary enough?

Thursday 2 May 2013

last day of term

It was a sad day yesterday, the last studio day I will teach with one of the MA classes at Anglia Ruskin.   They have been great to work with... I will really miss seeing them every couple of weeks.