Category Archives: Illustration

‘Wings!’ on tour

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To celebrate the launch of ‘Wings!’ by Paul Stewart, with collage illustrations by me (published by Otter Barry Books September 2016), I have been on a mini book tour.

A few weeks ago I made a penguin puppet, carefully matching the colours of Penguin in the book, right down to his flamingo-pink feet. Stop one was The Book Nook in Hove – a terrific local bookshop with cafe attached. Paul settled in the big leather armchair to read the story to an eager and sharp-eyed audience (who spotted lots of details in the pictures), after which I organised a craft activity where children made their own mini-stages with a dancing penguin – just like the opening pages of the story, where Penguin is enjoying the Grand Gathering of All the Birds.

Next we visited The Alligator’s Mouth bookshop in Richmond, Surrey – a lovely and well-stocked little gem. And if you missed both those events, don’t worry – we’ll be appearing again at Tales on Moon Lane in Herne Hill early next year – Monday February 13th, 10.30am. Do join us!  Many thanks to all three bookshops for hosting us.

Wings!

coversWings! is published on September 1 by Otter Barry Books, with words by best-selling author Paul Stewart and pictures by me. It’s the story of a penguin who wishes he could fly, tries all sorts of inventive ways to learn – and eventually, with the help of his friends, discovers his true element (published in Dutch too, by C. de Vries-Brouwers).

Paul Stewart’s warm and funny text was a dream to illustrate – though it was a little daunting working with someone known for collaborating with the multi-talented Chris Riddell. We met up just as I was starting work on the roughs, and I asked Paul what he had in mind for the Grand Gathering of All the Birds, at the start of the book. He said he was happy for me to choose. Soon after, conversation turned to music and we discovered we were both big fans of the End of the Road festival, and I had my answer – the Grand Gathering became a music festival for birds, with Swan on a Gibson semi-acoustic guitar and Eagle on penny whistle while Duck takes care of the circus skills area.

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All the pages are hand-made collage, and I’ve included some secret snippets of maps showing some of my favourite places, as well as some lovely mono-printed scraps leftover from a project I did last year with a school in Twickenham.

gower_JPI’ve also sneakily slipped in a few favourite places – when Penguin ‘flies’ with the help of his friends and some string, the background is the golden sands of Oxwich Bay in the Gower, south Wales.

mountainsAnd when he has his moment of despair, it’s against a backdrop of two mountains inspired (somewhat loosely) by Glydr Fawr and Glydr Fach in Snowdonia, north Wales.

swimmingMy favourite page to make was the one where Penguin finally ‘flies’ in the sea. I spent some time sketching the penguins in the glass-walled tank at Marwell Zoo to get a sense of the correct movement.

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Co9C8JFWgAA4dvJI love sewing, so it seemed natural once the book was finished to make Penguin into a puppet. Paul, Penguin and I will be appearing at The Book Nook in Hove on Saturday 24th September – there will be a story reading and a craft activity. Do come! We hope to add more bookshop dates in the autumn.

Writing

charactersI’ve been writing a lot lately – more than drawing, in fact. One of my new projects is developing an idea for a young fiction series. I’m enjoying plotting in a longer form, which is new to me, and it feels like a luxury to have more than 12 double page spreads to fill with action. It’s interesting to feel my way through the process – I can’t help tackling it visually and have created a pile of charts with notes on colourful scraps and taped-on extensions to try and help pull the different elements of the story together. I’m also playing with how the characters might look, and finding a completely non-digital approach quite refreshing…

I found an owl: a sad story

It’s now over a year since I started keeping a comic diary, inspired by homework set on the Graphic Novel course I did last year at the Royal Drawing School, with excellent teaching by comics artist Emily Haworth Booth. I no longer do it every single day, usually a couple of times a week, but it has proved a wonderful space to reflect and record all the hundreds of small things that make up day-to-day life, and otherwise just get forgotten. I’ve got lots of entries inspired by all the funny things the three-year-olds say at my under 5s art group, one about unblocking the sink, and rather a lot involving a pint of beer at the pub. Dipping back into my comic diary from last year brings back so many things that would have been lost forever otherwise, so thankyou Emily for getting me started!

Here’s a sad one from last weekend, featuring a dead owl and a game of dominoes.owl

And then he found Delilah…

Here’s a little taster from the graphic novel I am working on, ‘The Ghost Carp’. It’s a re-telling of Herman Melville’s classic, Moby Dick, but set on the river Wandle, south west London, in the present day. I’ve had a lot of fun writing the text, working in references and quotes from Moby Dick and also things that I have seen, experienced and heard about during 12 years volunteering at Wandle Trust river cleanups. More on this soon…then he found delilah

Bird studies

I’ve got lots of exciting new projects in development for 2016. One is a picture book about a bowerbird and an orangutan – more on this later I hope, but in the meantime here are some character sketches using household paint, watercolour pencil, and good old Quink.birds

Hats, feathers and ink

artkraken1artkraken2I’ve been a fan of Viviane Schwarz’s wonderfully inventive and interactive books for a long time, so when I spotted that she was offering a one-day workshop looking at illustration from a theatrical perspective, I thought it was too good to miss.

Art Kraken is a creative studio run by Viv together with Ellan Parry and Sarah Grange, both of whom have theatre backgrounds – all of which added up to a very inspiring, playful and invigorating day. I won’t go into too much detail about what we did – but it was a huge amount of fun, involved experimentation AND costume changes, and I really recommend booking on the next one if you get a chance.

Wading for ideas

blog_GCI spent yesterday afternoon up to my chest in the river Wandle in the glorious October sunshine, using crowbar and steel toecaps to loosen up mystery objects and remove rubbish from the riverbed. The Wandle Trust holds river cleanups once a month, and I’ve been a regular volunteer for over 12 years (you can see my Wandle Alphabet here).

Casting about for a subject to try making a graphic short (or even long) story about, I decided something set in the river would be perfect. I know every bit of the river so well, and just how it feels to be working in the water, how it smells and sounds. I started thinking about some characters who work in the river, but was lacking a story – until Polly, who works for the WT, told me about The Ghost Carp back in August. Apparently it’s a giant white fish, rarely seen, and it causes a frisson of interest among anglers.

Inspiration struck when I remembered Herman Melville’s epic, Moby Dick – the ghost carp can stand in for the great white whale, transposing the setting from Cape Cod and the wild Atlantic to an urban river (and trout stream no less).

Now the story is coming together, and I’m planning the pages. I took a bit of time out from being in the water yesterday to sketch my fellow cleaner-uppers, to use for reference later. Watch this space!

 

A box of eyes

penguinI’ve been very busy with my scissors lately, working on spreads for a brand new picture book to be published by Otter Barry Books next year. It’s a charming text by Paul Stewart about a penguin who wishes he could fly – with many other bird species included in the story, so great fun to illustrate.

I’m doing the book entirely in collage, so have been racing through the Pritt sticks. My studio is covered in colourful swatches, and I even have a box of eyes of all sizes ready to be used. It’s a medium I really enjoy working in – I’m using all sorts of scraps, some made with paint, others ink, and some are fragments of monoprinted textures left over from my community art project in Twickenham earlier in the year.

Crime scene

story_JPI loved comics when I was a child, and used to go off to the shop on a Saturday to buy the sadly long-gone ‘Whizzer and Chips’ or ‘Shiver and Shake’. Later I made my own comic books as a teenager, mostly inspired by daily life and my sister, while others included a fantasy inspired by a young couple I had seen in a documentary.

Many, many years later a friend told me she had enjoyed a course at the Royal Drawing School, ‘Drawing the Graphic Novel’ – and something struck a chord so I signed up. I’ve just finished the second of two terms there, and loved it – our homework in week two was to keep a comic diary, and I am still going with that, five months later. Our tutor was Emily Haworth-Booth, who was a very inspiring teacher: I really recommend this class.

Shown above is a story I started to develop in class based on some things I had recorded in the diary. These included a dream about an Environment Agency Fisheries Office who investigated murders in his spare time, and a story my old schoolfriend told me about the police combing the railway embankment behind her home for evidence in a murder case, and finding her escaped tortoise. Earlier in the year I visited the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke on Trent, where I saw a range of Victorian murder figurines – in those days people could buy a set of murder-themed figurines, including murderer, accomplice, victim and crime scene – incredible! So I am planning to work this into the story too…

The final class of term was when everyone presented their work – and the range of stories was fascinating. I’m looking forward to hear more of all the stories as the class have agreed to keep in touch and share work in the future.