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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.

Friday, 27 April 2018

The gift

Yesterday I was working on some new story ideas but I haven't really made any artwork for a while so today I made myself a small gif.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The Station Mouse at FCBG

On Friday I was lucky enough to receive an early copy of my third picture book The Station Mouse.  Here it is in all its shiny cover-foil glory.

It follows the adventures of Maurice, a mouse, who works in the lost property department of a railway station, and is published by Andersen Press on June 7th.

I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the FCBG Golden Anniversary conference this weekend and had a lovely time chatting alongside Lizzy Stewart about our work.  Here I am showing sketches and trying to explain what makes little Maurice look like himself.

Photo by @minervamoan

Here are a few of the images I discussed.

Bottom left is the very first image I drew of Maurice

(left) An early page from my sketchbook exploring what Maurice does all day
(Right) A final page from the book

Thumbnails and dummies.  This is me trying to see if all my story ideas fit together.

Attendees of the conference were also able to get their hands on early copies of The Station Mouse.  It's nice to know there are already a few out there in the world being read.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Pigeon P.I. paperback publishes

My second picture book Pigeon P.I. is published in paperback today.  Hooray! 

Complete with a snazzy new blue cover, the lovely people at Andersen Press have managed to cram all the nice little details from the hardback, including the secret cover underneath the hardback dust jacket, into the paperback.

Available from all lovely bookshops today!

And to celebrate there are now some pigeon based prints in my SHOP.  


And prints!

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

I've been listening to an audiobook of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll today so here's my White Rabbit.

and Alice falling 'down, down, down...'

and the sleepy dormouse, who's my favourite character in the whole book.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018


A little picture of Nana from Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie.   I drew it a while back but I've only just got round to colouring it in.  I was interested to read that she was a Newfoundland.  My friend has a black Newfoundland called Hamish who is a whopping great dog and a big softie.  So I've borrowed him for my Nana.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The Wizard of Oz

Finally, after months of working on it and keeping quiet, I can reveal that I've illustrated a new picture book version of The Wizard of Oz adapted by Sam Hay and publishing with Egmont in September.

It's more than a little intimidating to reimagine a classic like this but I hope that for young readers it'll be a fun introduction to the land of Oz.

You can read a little about it  here on the Egmont blog

My art director, Abi, and I spent a long time working on cover ideas but in the end we wanted something that really showcased the characters.  Here's a sneak peek...

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

#illo_advent 2017

This December I decided to take part in #illo_advent again, where you draw a different festive illustration everyday.  If you follow the hashtag on twitter you can see many different illustrators taking part.  It can become quite time-consuming so this year I decided to limit my colour palette in an effort to keep them simple and save time.  Here are this year's batch.

Here's a closer look

Week one

Week two

Week three

I gave up on day 21 as I'd just finished the artwork for a new book and as much as I wanted to complete my advent set I was eager to begin my holiday.  I did do one final image for the 25th though.  We have a Christmas day birthday in our household so I try make a card that covers both occasions.