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).