Monday 26 November 2012

Lovely New Home

The 'Lovely New Home' cards I designed for Ohh Deer arrived! I'm very happy with them. They're available to buy over at

Tuesday 20 November 2012

The Wren & The Bear process

Recently I've been working on a brand new illustration for the Enchanted Forest exhibition (for the 200 years of Grimm's fairytales celebration).

I've been taking a couple of snapshots as I've gone along to show my progress. I don't often do this, but I think it's nice for people to get a glimpse into how I work!

As usual I started building the illustration using pencil sketches with ink brush lines on top.  I always try to keep the lines loose and not worry about making mistakes.  I rarely plan my drawings precisely, it's a bit cliché but I find there's a beauty in mistakes and it can often inspire a new idea.  Aesthetically it gives it a more natural feel and is generally more fun (for me) to do.

After I've scanned in a few samples of the rough inkwork, I tend to delve into working out the basic composition and colours through digital means (often I do this before the linework, but I couldn't resist drawing some inky bears and wolves that afternoon).  This is always really rough, and again I don't worry about being precise (er, as you can see!).  I had the vision in my head of the composition and jumped straight to these colours as a basis.  The story the illustration is based on is basically about a battle between the four legged creatures and the winged ones - so obviously that element affected the composition and positioning of the animals - but I wanted to keep the illustration working effectively as a standalone piece for anyone who hasn't read the tale as well.

From now on the process is more or less a case of refining lines, trying out different colour levels and building up textures.  I'm never too precious over an element in the illustration, even if I've spent a long time drawing it - if it doesn't work I won't be afraid to completely change it, or scrap it all together.  Here you can see textural elements coming in, most of these are brush marks in gouache paint that I've scanned and subtly layered. It just brings more depth and a feeling of 'the handmade' that I love to work with in my more digital based illustrations.

Well, here's the final illustration! As you can see I completely changed the style of the wolf and the owl.  It usually takes me posting the illustration on facebook to notice tiny things I don't like - so I quickly delete the post and change it.  I suppose making it public forces me to draw an objective eye over the work and scrutinise it down to the tiny details - I'm not sure exactly why I can't do this beforehand, it would save me a lot of panicky post deleting! 

I knocked back a lot of the line work to make the whole image more cohesive, added flecks of light/dust/insects to give a bit more depth and a more 'magical' atmosphere.  Colourwise I felt the white wolf worked a lot better tonally with the highlights of the white birds.  If you squint your eyes at the before and after you can see the tonal difference between the four legged animals and the winged animals is much more even afterwards. I also made a big change with the owl, again due to colour tones.  The rich, darkness of the tawny owl just wasn't working with the other birds, so the lighter coloured barn owl worked better in this respect.  

There's a lot of variety in line and texturing techniques in this illustration, but I feel it works well - I did have to force myself to stop working on it at one point though! It takes a lot for an illustration to ever feel completely finished.

You can see above that I also tried playing around with hand-drawn text (of the title of the Grimm's tale this illustration is based on).  I seriously have a thing for integrating white, hand rendered typography in illustrations - I'd love this to be some sort of wraparound book cover or poster! 

Anyway, I hope that was insightful! Let me know your thoughts or questions in a comment below...and do make sure you come and see this in real life at the Enchanted Forest Exhibition in London (Foyles bookshop, Charring Cross) from 29th November - 7th December.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Sylvester and the New Year in The Telegraph

You may have seen me post about this already (well, it is REALLY exciting) but it's certainly worth me sharing here.  Last Saturday my new book 'Sylvester and the New Year' was featured in The Telegraph's Winter Essentials supplement! Wowie!

It's really fantastic that Sylvester's receiving so much recognition - it's a great confidence boost for me as I work on my other projects.
SO! Keep an eye out for it! I'm not just saying it because I'm blatantly biased, but I really do think this book would make a good Christmas present.  It's snowy, magical, New Year's related and the hardback edition has gorgeous silver foil on the dustjacket (it looks really pretty!).

A big hip hip horray for everyone involved in making this book so special :-)

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Lovely new home card

Good news! A pretty new card design I finished a few weeks ago has been unveiled on the Ohh Deer website!
So if you know anyone re-nesting in a new place, why not wish them well with this : )

Grab one here!

Monday 5 November 2012

BIG news!

Hi everyone!

In case you haven't already heard, my new children's book 'Sylvester and the New Year' is officially out TODAY! 
So far I've worked harder on this book than anything I've else I've done in my career, and so it being out in the open for scrutiny and/or praise is nervewracking to say the least.  But let's hope it's all on the positive side!

It's been fantastic working with Far Far Away Books on this project (and the other two books I'm currently working with them on).  They've been really supportive and driven in developing the books into being the best that they can be, and with this one in particular we're all hoping it'll be one of those annual traditions that the family brings the book out each New Year's eve.
We've had some really great feedback from bookbuyers so far and apparently they had to ship copies out in advance because of the demand!

It's a really magical story and was a joy to illustrate.  I started working on it in January of this year, which seems like the distant past now!  It really was a labour of love, and I poured everything into it.  
Sadly, whilst I was working on the book earlier this year my Grandad passed away, which was truly heartbreaking.  He was always so proud of me and my work, encouraging my interest in art and keeping all of my childhood drawings (even the really bad ones).  Happily though, the last time I saw him I was able to let him know that I was dedicating this book to him and my Granny - I know he would be so proud to see it finished.
I feel like working on this book has really developed my illustration practice, in terms of both style and process.  Of course 'style' is a ongoing thing and I don't believe it's ever quite set (or should be) but I've stepped up another rung in the ladder of feeling more relaxed and confident in the work I'm doing. 

Illustrating children's books is a gruelling (but delightful!) learning curve.  At times it's absolutely daunting with the sheer amount of work that goes into it, but you pick up so many skills along the way and learn so much about the way you work best.  At one point during this project I was illustrating two other books at the same time! Trial by fire I'll tell you. But! As I said, I think I'm a better illustrator for it - I've been forced to think and work faster in terms of visual problem solving, develop new ways of working and make and accept harsh edits for the greater good.

I'll let you know a little further on where you can get your hands on a copy, and if you do, especially if you have kids, let me know what you/they think. I know my younger self would've enjoyed this book (I bring her out every time I'm illustrating for children, she's a real magical adventure fan!) - it'd be great to hear some feedback from little'uns. 

The book will be available to buy in bookshops (I'll have a full stocklist soon), online and at the Enchanted Forest exhibition I'm in at Foyles (Charing Cross, London) from 29th Nov - 7th Dec this year.

For now you can grab an online copy at places like -

Sainsbury's Entertainment

(Note, these links are all to the hardback editions because the silverfoil on the dustjacket is goooorgeous.  But you can also get cheaper paperback editions!) 

There's also now a Goodreads page for the book, so if you have yourself a shelf you can add it to your 'to-read' section if you like!

If you have any questions about the book or my processes in it post me a comment below! I'm happy to answer anything about it.

I hope you're having a good day! Speak soon,