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Wednesday, 7 November 2018

CKG 2019

I was really thrilled this week to learn that the The Station Mouse has been nominated for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2019 alongside so many other incredible books so a massive thank you to whoever nominated it.

I'm delighted to see so many friends listed, to see some of my favourites this year being recognised and to discover the books that somehow passed me by.  All picked by children's librarians.  You can see the full list here  and don't forget to check out the CILIP Carnegie Medal nominees too.

What better way to celebrate than with a good book?

Friday, 26 October 2018

Stranger by the Sea

Here's my entry for the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize 2018.  

It was shortlisted and is on display at Orbital Comics until November 18.

Monday, 22 October 2018

One inch squared

Last month House of Illustration issued a Drawing A Day challenge on Twitter inspired by John Vernon Lord.  The drawings were to be 1 inch by 1 inch, one per day.  I looked upon the challenge as a chance to limit myself to one pencil and to only do one version of each drawing: they weren't to be perfect or corrected.  As usual, I ended up with a narrative.  You'll notice I only have 16 and didn't complete the full month but here they are...

Here is the full set

I decided to colour this one properly

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz publication day is finally here.  Sam Hay has written a wonderful picture book adaptation of L. Frank Baum's classic and I have illustrated it.   I feel like I started this project a long time ago, in fact I think I first drew the characters back in 2014.  It was some time after this that I was approached by Egmont to illustrate the book, based on those drawings from so long ago.  
And here they are...

The original gang all together

The book gang

As you can see, everyone has changed a little.  With my original drawings I wanted to play around with the scale of the characters and to have Dorothy be the sort of kid I was when I was little: ready to go outside on an adventure.

After discussing the character designs with Egmont the most notable changes are Lion's shape and size, and the colours which are brighter and more friendly.  You'll also notice that Little Dot doesn't have red shoes.  When I designed these characters I only had a vague memory of the film (which I don't think I'd ever seen in its entirety) as I hadn't ever read the book.  Once I'd been asked to illustrate this I immediately went through the book making notes about the characters, the world and what colours and details were mentioned.   L. Frank Baum wrote Dorothy finding silver shoes on the witch beneath the house, the iconic ruby slippers are actually from the film, and so once I'd read the book I switched Little Dot's sneakers to silver.
The Wicked Witch, soon to be The Even Worse Witch

I wanted the Wicked Witch to be more elegant than what we're used to seeing.  

The Even Worse Witch and her flying monkeys

There's a big difference between doing one initial drawing versus the many sketches it takes to illustrate a book.  The latter means that characters will have time to develop and change.  They developed even further once Sam had written actual words for them and their personalities really began to show.  For me, Scarecrow has been the real constant.  I designed him to be soft and lumbering and I think he's really kept that.  He might be my secret favourite.

These are the original character designs for the Wizard and witches.  The Wizard, who resides in Oz, is obviously in green.  I gave him tools as the original Oz is a bit of a humbug and this was to hint at the mechanics of the tricks he plays.  Sam's Oz is a lot kinder and so these things no longer applied.  I kept his snazzy suit though.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Glinda

My very first sketch of Glinda (the red-haired witch) was horrendous so I'm not showing it.  (Believe me, it's for the best.)  This was a revised version that no-one has ever seen.  I wanted all of the witches to have very distinctive coats and hats.  The Good Witch I wanted to look like a snowdrop as she is described as all in white (the petals inspired the folds of her cloak and her little green hat is the stem.) For the Wicked Witch I wanted a sophisticated hunter look (eagle-eyed readers will notice she has a lion's mane scarf and a flying monkey feather in her hat) and for Glinda, who is described as being beautiful, I went with a sort of 50s librarian chic.  Glinda was never included in any draft I saw from Sam and so no-one has seen her until now.

The final Good Witch (now a very sparkly snowdrop)

Once I received a first draft of the text I drew a few rough sketches of what I thought would be the most fun/important thing to illustrate on that page.  Here are a few of the original sketches and how they evolved into the final images.


Roughs and text placement
Final image
I'm not sure if Sam intended the final book to be set in Kansas but I certainly used it as a visual reference for Dot and Auntie's farm. Their farmhouse was designed by taking my favourite bits from British and American farm buildings, and those clothes poles are from my back garden when I was little.


As you can see, this was before I redesigned Dot's house.


Final artwork

My art director, amazing Abi, and I spent a long time on the cover.  We'd played around with all of the characters running along the road before but we wanted to make sure we explored every possible option to find something striking.

A few of the unused ideas that flooded Abi's inbox

Here is the finished book in all it's shiny holographic foil glory.

Here are a few things I learned along the way...

One.  Never give this many characters their own patterned clothing, especially if they are main characters.

Two.  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum is a great book.  It is full of magic, darkness, adventure and, of course, friendship and bravery which are themes Sam has brought out so well.  I highly recommend it.  Moreover, I recommend you treat yourself to one of the many beautiful illustrated versions out there.  You can start with ours!  It's available now.

If you made it to the end of this post, congratulations!  Here's a flying monkey for you...

Thursday, 31 May 2018

One week to go...

My next book, The Station Mouse, is publishing one week today.  That's when Maurice will begin his new job.  He's a very responsible mouse so he's got it marked on his calendar.  There's still a lot of unpacking to do, but with a whole week to go I think we can let him sleep a little longer.