Thursday, June 9, 2016

Dear Blog

It’s occurred to me to return to writing this blog in more of a diary form. I did this for a long time and then, nine or ten years ago when life went a bit I don’t want to talk about it, I stopped out of embarrassment and privacy and never went back even though life is mostly completely fine to talk about these days.

Today (it's yesterday now because I couldn't post this right away) I spent some hours battling with an illustration of a girl hugging a dog on a sofa surrounded by dinosaurs for a picture book I’m working on (not anything really ready to put out into the world yet). My picture book is actually a bit I don’t want to talk about it just now with publishing being very very slow for reasons some of which are my fault and quite a lot not at all my fault actually thank you very much. I have another idea that I should really work on at the same time but instead I am mostly doing DIY because after seven months of I don’t want to talk about it (these italics are getting old already aren’t they?) we (Andrea and I) managed to become the proud owners of the flat that we have been renting in North East London for the last three years or so.

Recently the DIY includes my very wonky but now surprisingly solid attempts to convert/recycle our dilapidated and rotten shed into a studio so that I can pretend to go out to work during the daytime. In the last six weeks or so I also managed to re-roof our kitchen bay-window, saving us almost a thousand pounds and instilling in me the misguided confidence to tackle the shed/studio thing.

Currently the shed looks like a padded cell for a paranoid conspiracy theorist (don’t laugh) or, you know, that scene from Better Call Saul with the tin foil, because I’ve covered the inner walls in, well, tin-foil (insulating bubble-wrap foil). Before this I more or less rebuilt the floor and each rotten corner. I don’t quite know how it was still standing, with all four corners rotten away, but now it is standing on firm (again with the laughing!) if ad-hoc foundations. I had to jack the whole thing up using a spade and and anyone who saw from neighbouring windows will have had a good snigger at how awkward the whole process was.

I’ve added an interestingly angled lean-to section (Rudolf Steiner would be proud, if he and I had anything to do with one another whatsoever and he weren’t dead -I just had to google if he was dead, that is how little we have to do with one another, but for some reason I think he was against right-angles). This will hopefully house my drawing desk. It doesn’t have all its walls yet because I haven’t decided how I’m going to do the windows.

And I’ve built an extension to the veranda-ish section. Always wanted a veranda! Last year in a tiny corner of this shed I built four banjos, so it definitely needs a veranda on which to pick at least one of them.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Lifeboat Illustration Auction

Illustrator/Author Emily Gravett has arranged The Lifeboat Illustration Auction in support of The Schoolbus Project. 

There are loads of great pieces up for grabs. Mine is a ltd edition print with painted details (a new technique I've been working on). It is lot 30.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Limited Edition Jabberwocky Prints Available Now!

Limited edition, high quality giclee prints of my illustrations for Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky are available now from

I made these illustrations fourteen or fifteen years ago, but I'm still fond of many of them!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Apple Pencil

Here's a picture of David Hockney's Dachshund that I did using Apple pencil on a 12.9" iPad Pro in the app ProCreate.

I said I’d write some reviews and stuff about working with the Apple Pencil didn’t I? Well, I’ve been too busy learning software and building brushes and experimenting to get very far with that. But I have been spending quite a bit of time on forums for the two best pieces of software for the iPad, namely ProCreate and the more powerful, but for the moment frustratingly unstable Paintstorm Studio. I’m mostly on these forums to learn and to lobby for updates and features that I think are important, but I recently wrote this and realised that it sums up, better than I have been able before, a lot of how I feel about working digitally: 

“I strongly believe that one of the main reasons that real media still appear more expressive and individual than digital media is in the subtleness of mark-making. The more small variables that tilt, pressure, and speed of mark making control, then the more of the tiny decisions and quirks of personality and movement that make a person's art different from another's shine through.

That's not to encourage people to be luddite about the fantastic things digital can achieve, and help them to smooth out or to emulate other people's marks if that's what they want. But artists using real pencils are essentially laying down layers of graphene when they draw -one of the thinnest materials known to man. The miracle of drawing is that a person can control this and express so much. 

It's clear that the Apple Pencil is capable of getting closer to this level of expressiveness than any other digital tool, but when the software (and hardware -the more complex the brushes get) imposes limits it's frustrating! As a professional I have always used a lot of digital because of the control I need to meet deadlines, but I've always missed the subtlety of real media, and often returned to scanned art composited in Photoshop.”

What I was referring to about limits is that ProCreate currently lacks useful controls over tilt and 'dual brush' functions. Paintstorm Studio allows most of this to be controlled -and makes amazing brushes possible, but it is rather glitchy.

Here's a quick demo of a couple of brushes that I created in Paintstorm Studio:

I’m not kidding about how close the Apple Pencil gets to the subtleties of drawing on real paper. Paintstorm Studio allows the user (with a pretty steep learning curve and no real instructions) to see that nearly every variable that is available in a real paintbrush or pencil is there. It’s a bit of an uncanny feeling -but you get over it. There are also several workflow problems with saving and sending files but I don’t think they’ll be around for long.

Take a look around three minutes into this video:

I predict that it’ll only be matter of a few years or less before there is software and hardware available for drawing and painting that can model most real media properly -using fluid dynamics and maybe even gravity modelling (tip the iPad and have digital watercolour drip down the ‘page’ collecting suspended pigment in the indentations of a modelled texture). At the moment you really need to have quite a lot of experience with real paper and paint to get ‘realistic’ effects digitally (which I think leads to some great work in itself -work that is comfortable with it's digitalness -and also some really hideous stuff). I wonder what it will be like when you don’t. On the one hand Total Drawing Freedom! On the other hand Agggh! It’s The Semiotic Matrix! 

Meanwhile in my humble matrix I've been working out artwork styles for my next picture book and drawing a lot of squiggles to try to make satisfying brushes in both ProCreate and Paintstorm Studio.
(I've made so many, particularly in Paintstorm, that I'm wondering about putting some up for sale. Any interest in that? I feel weirdly protective of them -and at the same time that's probably nonsense.)

Despite going horribly over-complicated about brushes, I hope it's clear that I'm really going for simplicity when it comes to the drawings themselves!

[Btw. I've also done some published drawings where I did the linework on the iPad and then finished them on paper but I'll do a separate post about those.]

Drawn with custom brushes (and overlaid textures) in ProCreate:

Drawn with custom brushes (and sometimes overlaid textures) in Paintstorm Studio:

Monday, January 25, 2016



My Instagram seems to be the main place where I'm showing new work and sketches these days, so best head there for more up to date stuff.

I'm hoping to return here to post some reviews and process videos perhaps, detailing particularly my attempts to work with the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro. It is hard to find the time to make and edit these things though.

A semi-sequel to Tiny Cops and Robbers is in the works for OUP Childrens Books, and some of that work should emerge soon as well as various black and white and cover drawings for older fiction.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Tiny Cops and Robbers!

At last! This is the cover of my new picture book Tiny Cops and Robbers. For one reason and another it has been a long time coming together, particularly as on the surface it seems such a simple idea, but here it is! I'm very proud of it. It will be published next year by OUP. More news on this book soon.

I've also just finished some black and white drawings for Peter Pan and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. This book will be published later this year (I think) by Alma Books.

And I built a banjo! It's been a great way to fill in the times when I would otherwise have been panicked about this and that in my picture book work (most illustrators will explain that we're a bunch of worriers, on the whole). Learning to use this or that tool or technique and sawing stuff up in the shed has been an adventure and I've got lots of plans for more and other instruments. I've always tinkered with instruments and the only strange thing is why I haven't begun building them properly before now.