Monday, 19 November 2012

Helen Holmes - designer at Little Tiger Press...

A month or so ago I did a little blog about head designer at Nosy Crow, Stephanie Amster.

I asked my designer at Little Tiger, Helen Holmes to say a few words too as she is also super talented and a joy to work with.

Here is what Helen said about her love of working on children's books;

I've been very lucky to work with many wonderful illustrators over the years, from established artists to gifted newbies. Each one equally lovely, displaying their own unique talent, along with a shared passion for books that reveals great dedication. And Steven is no exception! He has a fabulous sense of humour and such enthusiasm that makes my role all the more enjoyable – thank you!

Like Hippo, I love wearing hats! Throughout the week I can be seen wearing a collection of hats to suit the variety of roles a book designer may play, such as: biscuit baker, technical advisor, motivator, juggler, counsellor, talent scout and the list goes on! The trick is not to wear too many at once, as it's very confusing and makes you're neck ache! And then, of course, there's the party hat – there's nothing better than a spot of fancy dress to relieve that deadline stress, yee-haw!!

Helen and I are now working on our third book together which is a lovely collection of Nursery Rhymes which will be out in 2013.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Les Pingouins en francais...

Bonjour!  I had a very pleasant surprise this morning when my first co-edition of 'Five Christmas Penguins' arrived in the post.

This co-ed is in French and I think the French publisher 'Hemma' (no nor have I) has done a lovely job of translating the original text - and they have added some fun rhythmical touches such as ZIP! Oh! Oh! and Flon! Flon!

Here are some pictures of said co-ed, which is available in France, Belgium and even HERE on Amazon;

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Good luck to my two little hounds in Frankfurt!

I had a lovely surprise yesterday when Nosy Crow called to let me know I could pop in a grab a copy of the proof of 'Shifty McGifty'.

I was very nervous as, even though you have a pretty good idea how things are going to look, until you actually have it in your hands you don't know for certain - what are the colours like?  Is everything cropped to perfection?  Is there a spider on each page (very important!)

Well what can I say - Steph has done a wonderful job at creating a spangly, shiny and sleek cover with foil moon, stars, text and even the spiders silk - tricky to capture on a photograph as it looks so different under different light sources;

I'm not going to put photos up of all the spread but here is a sneaky peek at one of the spreads from the new Nosy Crow Frankfurt Book Fair (Fayre?) catalogue.

In this scene Shifty and Sam are attempting to make the best buns in town - and are getting very messy in the process!

I hope that the two little dogs go down well at Frankfurt - good luck woofers!

Thursday, 27 September 2012


My first book with Little Tiger Press is released in the UK on Monday (1st October)...

Here is said book;

It is incredibly shiny and festive - the perfect stocking filler for your little loved ones!

To celebrate I am giving away a copy of 'Five Christmas Penguins' and 10 runners up prizes of a Penguin pom-pom;

Now, this year the book is a Sainsbury's exclusive, which means while it is available in lots of other countries on AMAZON and book shops in the US for example, here in the UK you will only find it in these supermarkets.

Now, I don't venture into Sainsbury's very often, so what I would like you to do to be in with a chance of winning a copy is to take a picture of you and the book in said supermarket.

The first person to post their photo with the book (preferably looking happy!) onto my FACEBOOK page will win the book, and the next 10 people to do so will win a festive penguin pom!

Happy snapping!

Finished Scotty!

Did you guess what was missing from the Scottish Scotty?

It was the POM-POM for his tam o' shanter of course!

Fresh from the family pom-pom factory here is his lustrous red pom sitting proudly on said hat.

And here he is in his box ready to be posted off to the Willow Foundation to have more photos taken.

I will update this post when he is on the internet along with canvases by Vanessa Feltz, Peter Firmen, John Hurt and Rick Astley to name a few - an eclectic mix indeed!

The Willow Foundation was founded in 1999 by Bob and Megs Wilson as a lasting memorial to their daughter, Ann, who died of cancer aged 31.  Bob Wilson is the former Arsenal and  Scotland goalkeeper and TV presenter.

I am very honoured to be part of this wonderful money raising event.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Scotty on canvas...

I have been asked to partake in the 'Stars on Canvas 2012' Charity Exhibition and auction which will feature lots of petite canvases by illustrators, television, film and sports stars all in aid of the Willow Foundation.

I will post more about the exhibition soon, but for now I wanted to share the slightly nerve-wracking experience I had over the last couple of days creating my canvas.

I've been talking to my students about creative processes over the last couple of weeks so thought showing my process of painting this canvas might be (slightly) interesting?

Firstly choosing a subject.

As I had been asked to contribute as a children's book illustrator I thought it best to choose something from one of my upcoming books.

There is a little Scotty dog in Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam who is (ssssssssh don't tell the other characters) my favourite of all the dogs in the story.

In one of the books spreads there is a painting above the Scotty dogs mantlepiece featuring one of his relatives playing the bagpipes (I think it's his Great Grandad but we will have to await his episode of Who Do You Think You Are? to find out).

I used acrylics, brushes, sponges and black ink to start building up the layers - here are a few photos of the painting process.

I took a while deciding on a background colour but opted for a textured teal to contrast nicely with the characters palette, then I very faintly sketched the character in HB pencil.

This was the scariest bit - painting the heavy black and strong red onto the pale teal.

Next a cute little kilt and some bagpipes! 

The pipes, the pipes were calling me.

Tassels and pipe detailing next.

A scribbly shadow, some musical notes and some sponged checks.

I thought I had finished at this point but just as I was putting the kettle on I noticed I had forgotten his sporran.
Note the paper plate - saves on the studio washing up!

There it is! (minus one detail that I'm waiting for in the post)

There were a few wobbles hither and thither - I haven't used acrylics for quite some time but I got there in the end and really enjoyed it once I stopped panicking.

I will upload the finished version as soon as I've added the final detail that should be arriving tomorrow...

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Little Animation Test...

Now I DID say that my next post was going to be about Little Tiger designer Helen Holmes but I am still waiting on some info and a photo from her as she is very busy sorting out Five Silly Snowmen for Frankfurt, so in the meantime here is a little aside.

I am about to start animating the trailer for Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam.

I usually use Flash for animating, but as my illustration style is 'pastelly' and textured in nature, the vector-based Flash is a bit clunky.

SO today I have been learning how to use Photoshop for the purposes of animation and here is my first little animation - a little wave hello from Slippery Sam - a Samimation if you will!

Animating in Photoshop is a bit fiddly but I think I will get my head around it enough to create some nice fluid animation for the trailer and all future animation projects (I'd love to animate some of my dog walkers when I get some time!)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Children's Book Designers...

Inspired by a Twitter chat this week with the merry band of Alex T Smith, Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton I wanted to do a little bloggy bit about something different.

No, not the Great British Bake Off - that will be next weeks post, silly.

I have though, been talking recently to both Twitter pals and to my students at City Lit (where I am now heading up the Children's Book Illustration courses) about the role of the Children's Book designer.

Many fledgling book illustrators (like myself) naively think that they will be solely responsible for all imagery, layout, colour choices, and typography.  This, in most cases, isn't true because when you embark on the journey into children's book making you will be helped along by an experienced book designer who is there every step of the way (except wednesdays).

Authors and illustrators are mentioned a lot when it comes to the marketing of a new book release but the humble book designer doesn't often get a mention.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the wonderful designers who have helped me to create my first two books.

Firstly to Head of Design at Nosy Crow, Stephanie Amster who many of you will know or may have worked with at one of the publishing houses where she has worked at over the years including Walker books, Orchard and now Nosy Crow.

Click on Steph to see her Nosy Crow biography

Steph helps illustrators to design BEAUTIFUL books - here are just a few of the many that she has waved her magic Wacom pen over;

Each illustrator works differently with a designer - some will need more help than others, but to feel that you have a companion to help you with any problems with composition, colours, a specific character pose, or what to have for tea, for example is very reassuring.

The relationship is a bit like being Dr Who and the designer is your (subtly more knowing) assistant, though I rarely wear tweed and Steph was never a Kiss-O-Gram (as far as I know).

I asked Steph which of the books she has worked on were her particular favourites but she said it was genuinely impossible to choose as each illustrator has a different set of skills to bring to her (often rather untidy - sorry Steph!) table.  She strives to get the most from each project she works on and is terribly modest about her role in the book making process.

I have been fortunate enough to have worked with Steph on my new book wonderfully written by Tracey Corderoy with Nosy Crow - 'Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam.'  Throughout the process Steph has been patient, supportive and when it comes to getting just that extra bit more from my designs and ideas, she draws them out like a magnificent creativity magnet.

I haven't had to worry about fonts >insert vicar joke here<, text placement or any of the nitty-gritty of all the technical know-how that designers like Steph have imprinted in their brilliant brains.  All I had to concentrate on was making my pictures look as lovely and as strong as possible.

There was a lot of love for Steph on Twitter this week - it seems that everyone who has been lucky enough to work with her has had a great time working with her.

She is also fun to share a bottle of wine with.

Thanks Steph!

In my next post I will talk about the designer of my first board book - Helen Holmes (that's the name of the designer not the book).

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Updated cover for Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam!

Well it's taken a while has my first picture book with Nosy Crow and Tracey Corderoy but we are very nearly there and it's shaping up nicely!

I would love to show you the lovely end papers and other bits and bobs but for now I can only show you the newly designed front cover...

The title, stars and moon will all be a textured shiny silver - we haven't seen a proof yet but we are very excited about seeing it!

The cover has taken longer than I would have thought but we needed the palette, characters and book as a whole to settle before we set about fully designing the cover - I hope you like it...

Click on the cover for more info about Shifty and Sam's debut picture book :)

Thursday, 5 July 2012

An animated book trailer...

I had the honour and pleasure to help the ginormously talented and award-winning author illustrator Nadia Shireen by animating the trailer for her magical new book 'Hey Presto!'  (There is also a little cameo from Good Little Wolf!)

The book is out today too so it all ties in beautifully this week!

Click on the images below to be whisked to the trailer like the fluffiest egg white;

Monday, 2 July 2012

New Stretch mini totes and badges...

I was very excited to get a lovely little delivery of new Stretch the Sausage Dog products over the weekend, comprising of...

Mini tote bags or as I like to call them 'Posh Party Bags!'...

                                                                                 and some brightly coloured badges...

These are all now available from Not On The High - click on the pictures to be whisked there faster than Pinnochio's nose grows!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A sneaky Shifty peeky!

Here is a very tiny miniscule snippet of a building from 'Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam' - my book with the lovely Tracey Corderoy and Nosy Crow.

Now, this building has always had a special place in my heart because it is based on the Folly in Kings Cross, London.  I travel past this little monument every day as I head into the studio and as it is being freshly re-furbished I thought it would be nice to put a little nod to its quaintness in the book.

Nobody really knows the origins of the folly but some people think it once acted as a beacon for the Oyster Bar that used to be situated at the base of the building.  I really like using real buildings and locations in my books - it adds more depth and meaning for me.

Here are some pictures of the folly as it now stands (though currently it is surrounded by scaffolding!) It's lovely isn't it.

In Shifty McGifty my homage to the folly is a Sausage Dogs house where the occasional owl appears to plonk itself...but why does said owl look so concerned?  You only have til March 2013 to find out!

Happy Birthday Stretch!

The lovely people at Lagom sent me samples of my new Birthday card range this week!

The colours (inspired by Macaroons - I'm so dope) have all come out really nicely and I hope this cheeky Dachshund will put a smile on lots of children's faces on their special days.

Here they are hanging up on some bunting with some spotty pegs - this is because bunting and spots ALWAYS make things look really pretty FACT - just ask Queen Elizabeth.  Don't ask Prince Philip as he is a bit grumpy and only saw the celebratory bunting when it was damp.

Click on the piccies to be whisked like a fluffy meringue to the online shop;

Sunday, 27 May 2012

New Stretch Birthday cards launching at PG Live...

Stretch the Sausage dog is making his PG Live debut next week where he will feature on a range of new Birthday cards.

Here are the nine designs;

As you can see, Stretch LOVES to count and can't wait to put a smile on children's faces when they take him out his envelope!

The cards are a collaboration with Lagom who can be found on Stand 441 at the PG Live.

A range of my work can also be seen on the Art House Licensing Stand 614

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Diamond Jubilee exhibition...

It's been a whee while since I blogged - I have been very busy preparing and posting orders to lots of shops and customers on my Etsy and Not On The High Street shops - never have I spent so much time in the Post Office - I now know the names of all the staff there!

My designs and products are also forming part of the 'Right Royal Knees Up' exhibition at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester - if you are in the area please to pop in for a peruse!

Here are some pictures taken by the lovely manager there, Rachael Noone;

Click on the images for more info :)

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A crowned Corgi...

The final design for my Diamond Jubilee range (I've got it out my system now!) is a cheeky little corgi wearing the Queen's crown (he must have nabbed it when she was watching Made In Chelsea!)

All the designs are available online - click on the image to be whisked to the shop :)

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A reflective Queen Elizabeth...

I just finished a poignant little image as part of my Diamond Jubilee range.

I'm hoping the little Corgi's will bring a tear to your eye...

Monday, 2 April 2012

More App Puppy...

He's been reading to many amazing Children's Book apps today so is having a little nap - The Napp Puppy!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Welcome to The App Puppy!

It has been my pleasure to create a little character for The Book Sniffers new Blog site - The App Puppy!

This new site will be reviewing all sorts of children's book apps and will be THE place to go to find out all about what is happening in the world of the latest craze to hit Children's publishing.

Here he is playing with his pride and joy - his iPaddyPaw;

Click on him to be whisked straight to the blog!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Nosy Crow Bologna Catalogue..

The Children's Book Fair in Bologna has been and gone and lots of exciting things are happening!

Here is Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam in the Nosy Crow Bologna catalogue (or should that be dogalogue?) sitting beautifully next to Tracey Corderoys other new title 'Whizz! Pop! Granny, Stop!

The proof of Shifty McGifty is now with us and we are just tweaking bits and pieces and sorting out the cover but its nearly all there!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Illustration/Animation artwork Auction...

One of my prints is to be featured alongside some wonderful illustrators and animators, including the amazing Shaun Tan at the ArtSprint auction this coming Friday 16th March.

Click on the flyer below for more details on the artists involved and the charity it is all in aid of;

The piece I am auctioning was from my first exhibition and is entitled 'High Tea with Lady Pinky!'