Friday, 3 December 2010

Library Closures

Libraries are closing all over the country. Our town lost its small library two months ago, just one of many. Just as worryingly, there is a pervasive trend to reduce the number of books on shelves and replace them with banks of computers. This means a profound disenfranchisement for many people of older years who don't have computers, don't know how to use them and yet retain a deep love of books.

My mother is one such person. Recently when she visited the large library in the town close by, she went to the floor which had always housed the bulk of the books for years and was surprised to see only rows of computers. She asked where the books had been moved to and was pointed to the back of the room, where she found that a couple of shelves were all that remained of the library's repository of books. The rest of the collection had been sold off cheaply to make way for the computers.

Libraries seem to be seen as soft targets and councillors up and down the land, under great pressure to reduce costs, are slashing the amount of money available to the library service. This is cultural barbarianism. It's taken well over a hundred years to provide the country with its many libraries. It looks as though it will take but a few months to destroy a large proportion of them.

Jeremy Hunt MP and Ed Vaizey MP are the two ministers at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport who are responsible for over seeing the well-being of libraries. I urge anyone who reads this to write to these people, and to their own MPs and protest as strongly as possible about this disastrous policy.

Also you can contact Alan Gibbons and become a signatory to his Campaign for the Book Alan is currently sending an open letter to the ministers and requires more signatures. People like Philip Pullman, Michael Rosen and Jacqueline Wilson have already added their names.

Other links:
Katherine Evans

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Willow Foundation/ Stars on Canvas

I was asked to contribute to the Willow Foundation Annual Exhibition and Online Auction. It's a charity set up by ex-Arsenal goalkeeper and TV pundit Bob Wilson and his wife Megs, in memory of their daughter, and provides special days for seriously ill 16-40 year olds.

They've asked people from the worlds of sport, art, design, fashion, music and entertainment to create a canvas in aid of the charity. In the Children's Illustration section, my little painting, (shown above, with a strangely orange background instead of the actual gold it's painted in,) will be sharing wall space with pictures created by Mini Grey, Keith Chapman (of Bob the Builder, Roary the Racing Car and others,) Sam Lloyd, Korky Paul, Nic Sharratt and Lynne Chapman. In the other sections, people such as Tracey Emin, Jamie Oliver, Zandra Rhodes, John Hurt, Jude Law, Giles Andreae (Purple Ronnie,) Tom Gauld, Blur, Razorlight, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Fry, Dawn French, Wayne Rooney and a whole heap more have all contributed.

All the details can be found here : .
The exhibition takes place at the Catto Gallery, Hampstead Heath on 2-5th December. The online auction runs from 26 Nov to 5 Dec.

Go and break open the piggy bank!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

10 things I learnt at the 10th SCBWI Conference

I attended the SCBWI annual conference last weekend at Winchester. It was the first time I've been to one of these. It was made extra special this year as it's the 10th anniversary of SCBWI British Isles and the organizers decided to have a Group Book Launch for everyone who has had a book published this year. 'Dinosaurs of Doom' was released last month, so I qualified. Someone suggested that delegates should each write 10 things they learnt at the conference. Here are mine for what they're worth...

1) Group Book Launches are far more exciting than doing them on your own.
2) Group Book Launches are far less stressful than doing them on your own.
3) Group Book Launches have the potential to garner far more publicity than doing... hang on. I think I'm beginning to detect a trend here.
4) Group Book Launches are especially enjoyable when David Fickling is giving the address. He was funny, wise, and radiated boundless energy and optimism for the future.
5) Next time, remember to take a camera to a conference, then I can add pictures in a post like this. (You can see some great photos of the event at Candy Gourlay's site:
6) Don't fret pedantically about research. Just make things up. Duh. (Pause for a quick slap of the forehead.)
7) It's never too late to embark on the inner quest for the Holy Grail that is your Unique Selling Point.
8) Maybe it's the mix of unpublished as well as published authors and illustrators that adds to the collective energy, but I've never been a member of a more enthusiastic, innovative and supportive group than SCBWI Brits.
9) It's easy to forget how much creative nourishment writers and illustrators gain from meeting up with each other from time to time.
10) I have SO MUCH to learn about Facebook and all the other digital ways to network.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

SCBWI Badges Competition

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, (SCBWI), recently held a competition for members to design badges for the upcoming conference in a couple of weeks time. I've just heard that my three entries came 2nd, 3rd and the last one (my favourite!) was placed in the top twenty. Not too shabby a result, then. These are they, in the order the judges picked them. Looking at them a second time, the colours are very Farrow and Ball, which could be something to do with the fact that we're shortly going to paint our entrance hall, and I've been looking through a lot of colour swatches lately...

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Dinosaurs of Doom Out Now!

The Dinosaurs of Doom have been released onto an unsuspecting world! The book, complete with Mega Pop-up, rampaging armoured dinosaurs, mad scientists and general mayhem has just been published and is in the shops now! Thanks once more to Hannah Ray and all at Macmillan's Children's Books. Go Time Pirates!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

New Book

This is the cover of the book I've recently finished illustrating -- 'Dog Did It!' It's written by Lynne Garner and published by Piccadilly Press.
It concerns a small troll called Boris who loves green worm soup rather more than he should do, because it has disastrous effects on his digestive system. Boris continually blames Dog for the inevitable smelly emissions, until Dog manages to get his own back. So, all the big themes of literature are covered... friendship, betrayal and farting.
I was quite pleased with the hairy finish I managed to give the trolls. Last I heard it should be in the shops early 2011.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Little Robot Plush Toys

I came across a cardboard box in the attic yesterday, and when I opened it I found a hoard of plush toys based on my Little Robot characters. They were manufactured a few years ago when Lego Media owned the rights, and were released into the shops to coincide with the launch of the TV series. Although you wouldn't normally associate robots with soft toys, I think they work really well, and had forgotten how cute they looked. Lego used their expertise as toy makers to create some lovely soft toys. Now that they've seen the light of day again, they're sat - looking rather pleased with themselves - on a shelf in my studio. The one below is Scary - my favourite!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Dinosaur pop-ups

I've just received this from Corina Fletcher, the brilliant paper engineer who designed all the pop-up mechanisms for the Dinosaurs of Doom book that I finished a few weeks ago. She's printed out my files and dummied up the whole book to make sure that everything works as it should. And the good news is that it does, so no last minute tweaks needed!
To show you the levels of complexity we had to go to, the image below is the illustration I did for just one of the four back panels of the final 360 degree pop-up. A good deal of it is obscured by other features as well, but I had to put in this amount of detail because there are so many cut outs in the panels at the front. Part of the reason this was a long old job!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Please can I Play?

This is an image I did recently. It's a sample double-page spread for a favorite book project of mine that hasn't found a publisher yet. Shame really, because the book deals with some of the anxieties that a lot of young children experience when they go nursery school or start school for the first time, and I'm pretty sure a  lot of parents would find it useful to read to their nervous off-spring. It's called 'Please Can I Play?' and features a little penguin called Fran who is lonely and wants to find a friend to play with. But all the other animals are too big, or too busy or too grown-up to bother. At least at first. I'm sure it would make a nice board book. One day, maybe.

Thursday, 15 April 2010


I've spent three days agonizing over the opening sequence of a book I'm writing. Finally cracked it last night when I went for a walk. I think. It's a constant source of bewilderment that you can stare at a piece of paper or a computer screen for hours without making any progress at all. Then you walk away, think of something else, and it's as if you've sneaked up on the problem from behind and taken it by surprise. Suddenly you can see where all the answers have been hiding themselves.

I also witnessed the little drama shown above when two dogs went for a blackbird. I've been experimenting drawing images without using a line to hold it all together. I'm quite pleased with this approach and will try to do some more in the same style.

Friday, 9 April 2010

1st blog

This is my first blog, so hi to one and all. I mainly write and illustrate books for children and I'll try tell you something about what I do as I go along.

After nine long months I recently finished all the artwork for a book for Macmillan Children's Books called "Dinosaurs of Doom!" It's been quite a slog, but everyone seems very happy with the result. The book is out in the shops about October I think. It's the second in a series about the Time Pirates and it features time travel, evil scientists, lots of armoured dinosaurs wreaking havoc and a great big pop-up at the end! This is a picture of the cover.
Thanks to Corina Fletcher for her wonderful paper engineering and to everyone at MacMillan especially Hannah Ray and Jo Spooner.

So -- it's time to press the button and send my first blog into the big wide blogosphere. I hope it will find lots of little bloggy friends to mix with and not be too lonely out there. Bye bye little blog, bye bye.