Friday, 23 December 2011

And I almost forgot to say....Fluff and Billy will be on CBeebies!

Very exciting news.....Fluff and Billy is being read on CBeebies at lunchtime on Wednesday 28th December. Apparently it will be around 12.53pm which I think will be after an episode of Pingu! My publisher says the schedule is subject to change but fingers crossed the penguin pair will be making their tv debut very soon!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Happy Christmas!

I just wanted to wish you all a very merry Christmas! I am currently in the middle of producing artwork for a new picturebook so apologies for neglecting my blog a little. My desk is covered in paper and paint but I have dug out my wacom tablet in order to give Fluff and Billy some festive hats! Happy holidays!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Old handmade Christmas cards

I mentioned in my post The Story of Fluff and Billy Part 2 that I used to design Christmas cards for a living. I started my greetings career by making handmade cards and selling them at markets and to shops. Some of these designs ended up in Paperchase - off the top of my head I think it was in 1996 but I can't be sure! As you can imagine, they were quite labour intensive so making thousands of them was quite a challenge (a slight understatement)!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Christmas Cards!

I made these cards a while ago but thought it was a bit early to post them. Now that they are playing Christmas songs on the radio I feel it's time! The cards feature Billy modeling a very fetching felt hat!

Fluff and Billy in Foyles St. Pancras

Spotted! A hardback copy of Fluff and Billy in the St Pancras branch of Foyles. I may have pulled it out slightly for the photo! I am pleased to say that Fluff and Billy is also for sale in branches of Waitrose now.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Weekend excitement!!! - Julia Donaldson Picks Fluff and Billy as one of her 'Books of the year'

I still can't quite believe it..... but in The Guardian newspaper this Saturday Julia Donaldson, Children's Laureate and author of The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, What the Ladybird Heard and many more, selected Fluff and Billy as one of her books of the year!!! It's such a nice thing to happen - thanks Julia Donaldson!

I was spending the day at my friends' house when I got a text from Pam Smy (one of my tutors from the MA course in Cambridge) and an excited phone call from my friend John to tell me the news - so big thanks to them too!

You can read the whole article on the Guardian website here.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Banner dilemma!

Well I tried a bright banner to match my website but I wasn't quite sure so I've now replaced it with black and white smaller text. Still not sure so it may well change again soon.......

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Updating my website!

I have been attempting to update my website this someone who is far from technically minded it has been a bit of a struggle for me! There were several things I couldn't work out how to do and I couldn't seem to swap the background pattern so I ended up just switching it off and opting for this multi-coloured text instead!
Maybe I should change my blog banner to match....

...mmmm...not sure now I've done it!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Canvases for SOS Children's Villages

Yesterday I went along to the exhibition of canvases painted for SOS Children's Villages organised by White House Arts in Cambridge. There were many, many paintings on display in the hall including these two by me (see my previous post about the pirate canvas here). When we were packing up to move studios I found a spare canvas of the right dimensions so I ended up painting an extra picture with my favourite blue cars on!
Artists were asked to donate the works for nothing so that all proceeds from sales went entirely to the charity. I was very happy (and a bit relieved) to see that both my pieces had been sold!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Cambridge Festival of Illustration

Last night, Quentin Blake was at Anglia Ruskin talking about his work. He showed all the stages of making his latest picture book (a collaboration with Russell Hoban which will be published next year): from dividing up the text; sketching ideas; working out a storyboard; drawing full scale roughs; and making the final artworks. It was great to see and I'm looking forward to reading the whole book when it comes out.....

Tonight is a graduate night at Heffers Bookshop. The graduates who will be there include me(!), my studio friend Marion Lindsay, Nadia Shireen, Rebecca Patterson, Simon Prescott, Ellie Sandall and Marta Altes. If you are around Cambridge tonight please drop by.... I believe there may be a glass of wine in it!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The story of Fluff and Billy Part 3 - Dummy Books

After I'd finished a storyboard I was happy with, the next step was to make a small dummy book. I would really recommend doing this as it is so helpful to see how the pace of your story works and to check that the scale of your characters is varied through the book. As you can see from the covers above I had also started to play around with techniques to use for the penguins but I will talk about that in a later post.
As you can see from these phone pics (please excuse the blurriness), I make my dummies as a concertina. I went to see the marvellous Mini Grey give a talk about her picture books while I was a student on the MA course, and this was a method she shared. It makes it very easy to cut out any pages you're not happy with and replace them with new ideas without having to make a new dummy.
I showed my first dummy book to Pam Smy, a wonderful tutor on the MA course and she suggested making more of Fluff and Billy falling out and the ensuing silence. We then worked out a way of changing the pagination so that there would be an extra page with no text at all, emphasising the break in their friendship. I then changed the dummy book accordingly, and this is how the story stayed until it was published 3 years later!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Fabulous Five on Library Mice

I was asked by Melanie of the Library Mice website to compile a list of 5 books on a theme of my choice. I opted for five of my childhood favourites - you can read about them here.

I really would have liked to have chosen a 'super seven' so that I could have included a couple more books! These are:

Tales of a One-Way Street by Joan Aiken and Jan Pienkowski
I loved both this and A Necklace of Raindrops by the same duo. I found Jan Pienkowski's illustrations totally magical and as someone who didn't easily make the transition from picture books to chapter books these were a great way to bridge the gap.

The Early Bird by Richard Scarry
Although I have already included one Richard Scarry book in my list, this certainly deserves an honourable mention. Not only is it a great story of friendship with all the funny details you'd expect, it is also a beautifully produced book which I still enjoy looking through. The edition I have is a 1970 Collins Early Bird Book printed on thick, matt paper with a cloth texture cover. It does bear the scars of being well loved as you can see from the picture!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Fluff and Billy review on Library Mice

I am pleased to say that there is a very positive review for Fluff and Billy on the website Library Mice. To read it click here!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Illustration Friday: Stripes!

Stripes and spots are definitely my favourite patterns so I was very happy to see the topic of stripes. I've decided to show two animals of very different scales who both rock their stripes!

A windy day at the zoo!

Last wednesday I went drawing at Whipsnade Zoo for the first time this year. It was very windy - the zoo is located on the Dunstable Downs and is quite exposed to the elements. I felt very out of practice and hadn't managed to find my fingerless gloves before I set off but I really enjoyed the day!

There was a new baby elephant (which I didn't manage to capture properly) but this elephant was foraging on a grassy bank near the enclosure fence.

The lemurs were not impressed with the weather at all and were all sheltering in their house.

The lions slept (as usual)!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Drawing at the Zoology Museum

I felt like doing a little bit of drawing this I did!
I went to the Zoology Museum in Cambridge and drew this model that hangs from the ceiling. I'm not quite sure what it is - I was thinking it was a pterodactyl but I'm not sure the head matches! If anyone has the answer please let me know!

Friday, 28 October 2011

The story of Fluff and Billy Part 2 - Developing the idea

I now had an idea for a story where one character copies everything the other character does. I decided that to make the story more interesting, the two friends should fall out at some stage before making up again at the end.

I then had to think about:

What or who would the two characters be?

What actions would they be doing/copying?

How would they fall out?

How would they make up?

As my previous projects on the MA had involved child characters, I decided to make these animals of some kind. I thought about two bears or a bird and a bear but decided that the characters needed to be a similar scale so they could interact easily. I used to work as a Christmas card designer before starting the MA, so maybe the idea of penguins was a leftover from those days - my top 4 Christmas characters were always: 1. Santa: 2. reindeer: 3. snowman and 4. penguins! (If I remember I'll post some of my old designs closer to Christmas)! I thought the contrast of black and white penguins on water and snow would work well so I made my decision......penguins!

I then started working on very rough story boards - drawing thumbnail ideas of what the two penguins would get up to.

As you can see, these were very basic! I wanted their actions to fit into their environment so things like sliding, swimming and splashing seemed to be the way to go.

I originally called the penguins Scruff and Billy - Scruff was big and scruffy and I just liked the name Billy for a little penguin! But when I was drawing Scruff, he looked more fluffy than scruffy, hence the name change!

Initially, I thought the pair could fall out by getting carried away when spinning each other around. One of them would take a tumble and get in a mood. However, I thought it might be better if the copier deviates from the pattern at some point and so when Fluff rolls a snowball, Billy throws a snowball.....straight at Fluff!

The making up started off as Fluff pulling a funny face to make Billy laugh but soon switched to a spot of tummy tickling!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The story of Fluff and Billy Part 1 - Where the idea came from

I had a launch night for Fluff and Billy at Heffers Children's Bookshop in Cambridge last night. I shared it with the lovely Marion Lindsay and Elizabeth Baguley who were launching their book Ready, Steady Ghost! Thanks to everyone who attended and to Michelle and the staff at Heffers for organising everything.

In the run-up to the event I had a few emails from my friend's mum who wanted me to talk a bit about the process of making the book - I found the idea a bit scary but I'm so glad she applied the pressure! I prepared a short sequence of images which explained the progress of Fluff and Billy over the many months it took to complete. It seemed to go down well so I've decided to share it on my blog!

Part 1: Where the idea came from

Back in 2008 I was in the middle of studying for my MA in Children's Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art. I was working on my diploma project (which became the book 'Not Me!') and needed to practice drawing children. I was lucky enough to get permission to go into the university's nursery to draw and observe the children there - it was an amazing experience to see how a big group of kids interact, and the staff made me feel so welcome. As well as sketching, I made little notes in my sketchbook about the things the children said to each other.
One conversation between two children went as follows:

"I'm making a beeping noise."
"I'm making a beeping noise."

"I'm going to stop beeping."
"I'm going to stop beeping."

"I'm going to sit over here."
"I'm going to sit over here."

The way one girl was copying everything her friend did got me thinking..... and that was the very start of Fluff and Billy!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Fluff and Billy: book of the week at Peters

I was very pleased to hear that Fluff and Billy had been chosen as a book of the week at Peters Bookselling Services. I was lucky enough to visit their showrooms in Birmingham last year to talk about Not Me! and to meet the staff there. Thanks to James Wilson at Peters for taking some pictures of the display for me!

And the winner is......

Drumroll please! Having put the number of entrants of my Fluff and Billy giveaway into the random number generator I am pleased to announce that the winner is......Moira Millman! She will be getting a signed copy of Fluff and Billy do everything together! and an artwork too. Congratulations Moira and big thanks to everyone who entered!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Illustration Friday: Contraption

While mulling over the topic of 'Contraption' and also trying to think of new story ideas I realised what it was that I really Ideas Generator! So here it is!
Don't forget to enter my current giveaway if you haven't already - it's open until Friday 14th October. Click here for all the details.

Monday, 3 October 2011

GIVEAWAY!!! Today's the Day!

Today is the day that Fluff and Billy do everything together is officially published so to commemorate this I am doing a giveaway! To enter all you have to do is: a)be a follower of this blog and b)leave a comment letting me know you want to be included in the's that easy.
The draw closes on Friday 14th October at 2pm BST and the winner will be selected at random.
The prize is a signed paperback copy of Fluff and Billy do everything together (a dedication of your choice can be included) and an original signed painting of Billy (approx 70x90mm). Good luck!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Two weeks to go!

Yes, it's nearly time for Fluff and Billy to make an appearance! Their book is officially published on 3rd October in the UK.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Pin the Tail on the Giraffe!

My friend's daughter will be 5 years old next Sunday!  I made a donkey for last year's party so wanted to branch out and do a different animal this year.  I was debating between a zebra or a giraffe: the giraffe won!

Friday, 16 September 2011


I was asked a while ago if I would be willing to paint a canvas for a charity exhibition in aid of a new SOS Children's village in Chipata, Zambia.  As far as I can remember  I've only ever painted one canvas before but this time I have tried to make it look like my picture book work.  Each canvas submitted will be for sale for £45 on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th November at the Farnsworth Hall, Chesterton Community College, Cambridge.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Illustration Friday: Influence!

As you may have noticed, I've not participated in Illustration Friday for a while. Things have been quite hectic (with lots of work in the pipeline and a studio move) but apologies for being so inconsistent. My next book is called Fluff and Billy do everything together and will be published by Egmont on October 3rd in the UK. It is going to be published by Sterling Books in the US. It features a little penguin called Billy who is under the influence of his bigger penguin friend called Fluff! I'll try and organise a giveaway closer to the publication date to celebrate their venturing out into the big wide world!

Monday, 15 August 2011

French trees!

I have just returned from a week's holiday in France. It was very relaxing.......
I went with the intention of doing lots of drawing but only managed two trees that were in the garden where we were staying!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Cambridge Folk Festival 2011

I spent most of the weekend at the Cambridge Folk Festival. I didn't do very much drawing but here's a selection of pictures from my sketchbook. The scale on the top one is a bit dodgy but shows Nathaniel Rateliff doing his stuff in the club tent - one of the highlights of the festival for me. There are some better drawings from last year's festival here!

St Ives: The Island

Monday, 1 August 2011

Cambridge Zoology Museum

A while ago I was designing a bird character for one of my books. To inspire myself I went to the Zoology museum in Cambridge to draw some of the birds they have on display there. So here's a couple of my sketches!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Collage remedy for illustrator's block!

I have been struggling to focus on my illustration work lately so on Friday I decided to have a play around with a technique I used to use a lot more - painting textures on to paper and then collaging them. It was great fun and really helped me to get back into my work - my remedy for illustrators block!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Out with the old, in with the new!

This is the last picture of my old studio...we had to take the door off its hinges to get our plan chest out!

And this is the first picture of my new studio... I've emptied a few more boxes since this was taken and am starting to settle in gradually....

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Goodbye studio!

I can't quite believe it but this is my 100th post! It's a slightly sad one.....I am in the process of packing up my studio. The building we are based in is going to be knocked down and replaced with a travelodge. We've been really lucky with this building - when we moved in 2 years ago it looked like it would only last 6 months. Last year we got to move into a perfect room with lots more light and space than the room/cupboard we started in! As you can see I haven't managed to take everything down from the wall yet....... and in my usual style I've wasted time that should have been spent packing adding yet more decoration! Me and my studio buddies (see the post below) are due to move into a different building in a couple of weeks if everything goes to plan. Fingers crossed!
Latest news.....I've just said goodbye to my trusty calculator which I've had since the 1980s. It saw me through 'A' level Maths, my (brief ) spell of accountancy and beyond! Well over twenty years. Sadly, it's not working properly anymore but I wanted a picture for posterity!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Show and Tell: The Picturebook Makers

The artwork for Bertie form Not Me! is currently on display at the Ruskin Gallery in Cambridge as part of an exhibition celebrating the first ten years of the MA in Children's Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art. Some of the work is by past students like myself, some is by tutors and visiting lecturers from the course and some is by established picturebook artists such as Axel Scheffler, Alexis Deacon and Oliver Jeffers.
The private view was last night- I took some phone pics of some willing models pretending to be interested! They are illustrators Lisa Wilkens and Marion Lindsay (my studio buddies) and Jim Butler who teaches on the BA Illustration course at Cambridge School of Art.