Further Goat Maintenance


Page 2 of the continuing renovation of my Old Goat and the Heron project. The plan is to make the pictures more presentable and link them into the pen and ink style of the Local Characters series. On this occasion, I managed to tidy the image up (Goat is much better), but I kind of prefer the colours in the original below. I like the warmer feel.




Musical Interlude Part 3


I was trying to improve the main theme of the previous Musical Interlude – some attempts sounded too Spanish, some too Scottish, some too twiddly, etc. I thought the Scottish version had some potential for development, and it was a chance to do some work with Anne (who happens to be Scottish). Fellow Nosey Crow Jenny Dooley kindly wrote us some lyrics, so I took the off-cut and grew this piece of music.

If you are not keen on Clannad-y, reverb-soaked Celtic wistfulness, then you should avoid this; otherwise, have a cup of tea, lie back and think of lochs and mountains.

Now, back to painting!

Colouring In Practice


I’ve been trying out some techniques for the forthcoming comic book project.

Due to time constraints, I’m looking for a style that will be efficient, but give the work a certain amount of character. It would be nice to do everything in watercolour (like The Old Goat at the top of the page) but it would mean every page would take a week to do. I still haven’t ruled out a traditional approach just yet; it depends on what deadlines I’m confronted with.

This is what I have so far:


The first stage is a rather scribbly pencil layout – I scan that in and place a sheet of paper over my monitor and trace out a more civilised line which I then ink with Faber Castell artist’s pens.

Once that’s in the computer, I drop in a texture to break the harsh blacks up (it’s scrunched up crepe paper). It has a slightly sepia tone, which in my strange mind means the drawing looks like it was done in squid ink and thus suits the subject matter (read Conrad’s The Demon’s Watch to get a feel of the world I’m inhabiting). The colour is applied in Painter, using a watercolour brush which gives the speckled look. I felt that using flat colour (more common in comic book colouring) didn’t give me the rough look I was after.  Lastly, I take the work into Photoshop and add some dabs of digital paint here and there, mostly using a kind of broken pastel brush.

So that’s how things are progressing – the next step is to do a test episode (once it’s written) and refine things. It’s important to find a look everyone’s happy with and stick to it, as there’ll be no changing it mid-story.


P.S. I’m guest blogging today over at David Fickling books – visit there to see my first ever comic work!

Pictures at an Exhibition

ImageYesterday we had a rummage through the pile of ‘Local Characters’ in order to select a few for an exhibition in Summer. It will be called Widdershins, and takes place in Green Hill Arts Centre in nearby Moretonhampstead. There you will be able to view visual delights created by the impressive likes of Alan Lee, Paul Kidby, Brian and Wendy Froud, Rima Staines, Virginia Lee, Terri Windling, Hazel Brown and Neil Wilkinson-Cave.

How come I’m included in this venerable line-up of artistic excellence? It’s because we all live (with the exception of Paul) on Dartmoor and are primarily working in Mythic Arts. I imagine all the artists would admit the area has a profound impact on what they do. Even if they didn’t admit it, it’s true. Certainly for me, anyway.

In folklore, to run Widdershins around a sacred place would transport you to Elfland. This will be a slightly less energetic way of achieving the same result. And you can combine the visit with an excellent meal at The Horse nearby.

More details soon…

Big Post about Dinosaurs


In February 2012 I did the cover for the latest ‘Ology’ book, which, I was told, had Dinosaurs in it. I knew little more than that – even the title was a secret. I followed the brief and produced the required image – it’s a similar format to most of the Ology books that I have worked on previously. Due to an unfortunate computer incident I managed to erase all traces of the illustration, including the myriad stages of development, which is a shame as I was hoping to use it for a highly interesting Blog post. The same incident also claimed all the work I’m about to reveal, but I managed to scavenge some roughs from sent emails; the publishers have all the final art so it could be worse.

In summer I was sent the layouts in order to start work on about 20 interior pictures. I took one look at them and turned the job down. It seemed like a lot of hard work. The publishers were very insistent; I’m easily swayed so was persuaded to have a go.

It was a lot of unbelievably hard work.

If you’ve seen any of the Ology books, you will know they are stuffed full of pop-ups, flappy bits and the like; consequently they are very complicated to design. The remarkable Nghiem Ta at Templar Books is responsible for this, and provides me with an initial batch of page guides which I then scribble over. This particular book developed quite organically; it was written while I sketched and I was able to make suggestions for a lot of the pictures instead of just following the briefs.



I rather enjoy this way of working, but it does mean things can change at the drop of a designer’s hat. For instance, the image below started out with a volcano and ended up with a flustered Archaeopteryx.



Sometimes things need to change to be more sympathetic to the layout – this one needed an injection of colour to make the whole page appear less brown.



Developing the roughs was the easy part. What I’d not foreseen was the difficulty in pinning down exactly what dinosaurs looked like. It seems nobody actually knows, and all representations in books and museums are largely based on conjecture from fragments of discovered evidence. For example, these Diplodocus gave me sleepless nights. There is endless argument in the scientific community as to how they really were. There appears to be a lot of evidence to suggest they couldn’t have walked on land at all due to their massive bulk, and would have been confined to swampy areas. Originally I depicted them with Giraffe-like necks, and although some scientists think this plausible, the majority believe they had a more horizontal gait (because their brains would explode or something). Eventually I changed the picture to suit the majority consensus. Nobody needs gangs of angry palaeontologists hounding them in the night (so I hear).



Another issue I discovered was to feather or not to feather – there seems to be an increasing belief that a lot of dinosaurs actually had feathers. I’ve not shown it here, but one of the illustrations features some Deinonychus – terrifying raptors with vicious claws. Unfortunately they look like angry chickens if you paint them completely feathered. I ended up giving them a sort of mohican and a spinal tuft, which I felt suited their personality.

Oh, and don’t get me started on what colour dinosaurs were…




Dinosaurology is released in September – I’ve not seen a copy yet, but I’ll post some photos of the book when it arrives.