Back in (tr)Action (cities)

Congratulations to me for the most convoluted Blog title I’ve managed so far.

But it is appropriate as this is all about the new Illustrated World of Mortal Engines book.


I first sketched Philip’s monstrous London back in 2006 when we were working on Larklight. Shortly after, I designed an ambitious cut-through cover for the 2008 re-issue (which booksellers hated as the paperback versions tended to get damaged easily).



As well as applying this treatment (inspired, I suspect, by my love of early 1970’s prog-rock album covers) to the original Quartet, there was a lovely, chunky hardback for Fever Crumb, the first of the prequels (2009).


At the time there was much excitement as Peter Jackson had acquired the rights to film the book and was already tinkering away in New Zealand on digital traction cities. As is often the case with films, the project went into limbo for a good while, but is now completed and due out this Christmas.

For the Illustrated World of Mortal Engines, Philip has worked with Jeremy to flesh out the history of the Traction Era; the book is jam-packed with paintings and diagrams and character sketches by a number of artists. Here a few of my contributions…




The 13th Floor Elevator (featuring Thaddeus Valentine)


The Amazone


The Cloutie Tree from Fever Crumb

I was round at the Reeve’s the other day signing 300 bookplates for a special edition. I’m not sure how you can get hold of one of these at the moment, but keep an eye on Philip’s website as I imagine more details will be forthcoming…



Death, The Undiscovered Study


Here’s another terminally frustrating puzzle from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Emporium. Despite being an entity most people would choose to avoid, Death remains a very popular character and so I was commissioned to bring Him to life in jigsaw form.

Rather like the previous Library puzzle, Death’s home exists in a place where time and space are a bit… bendy. This entails all sorts of perspective-based challenges for the unsuspecting illustrator. Here are some of the stages, from initial concept to workings-out and then a GIF to show how the painting was constructed.d1

d3 2.jpgd3.jpg


I hope that GIF works – I made it late on Sunday assisted by a nice bottle of Malbec so if it displays on your chosen digital content provider, I will be a surprised yet happy bunny.  I’m aiming to show that the picture was built in layers so I could move things around if needed (it was needed) ensuring that every piece of the jigsaw had something of interest whilst making a satisfying picture. It’s a tonal (greyscale) study that I would later paint over in digital colour once everything was deemed tickety-boo.

Here’s the box cover – after all that eye boggling warped perspective it was good to indulge in some flamboyant Art Nouveau-flavoured morbidness.

TGUK-book box template

Death’s Study is available from the Discworld Emporium.

Talking of Pratchett-based endeavours, Neil Gaiman was recently in the UK overseeing the production of the Good Omens TV series. Here he is at the launch of my recent book with Janina Ramirez, Riddle of the Runes.


As this post is all about Death, it occurred to me that if I got run over by a tractor or squished by a falling tree (both eminently likely occurences) this photo would be apt as Neil was the first writer I illustrated professionally and (should an unfortunate event befall in the next few weeks) Janina would be the last…

Podkin Part Three


September sees the release of the latest instalment of Podkin’s adventures. Here are a few of the illustrations…


I have some posh new pencils to help me do the drawings…


They are called Blackwing and only come in three grades. In fact, they are so posh, they arrive unsharpened, as if the mere act of putting a point on them would render them common. They make me feel like an illustrative version of Nigel Tufnel.



Here’s the wraparound cover for the U.S. hardback edition, minus all the titles and text and everything…


The Beasts of Grimheart by Kieran Larwood is released on the 6th September in the UK.



A Crone for Christmas

Or, if you like, an Old Seer for the New Year.


This Yuletide I was mostly drawing Vikings for Janina Ramirez, who has written her first children’s book. You can find out what Janina normally gets up to here.

The deadline was particularly aggressive, so I took the chance to experiment with what I like to call my ‘rough’ style, which is supposed to be speedier than usual. The idea is to do quick, minimal line drawings and let the diluted indian ink do most of the work. Sometimes this worked out; for example the smokey atmosphere around the Crone was done in one watery daub, and likewise below, the crashing waves. Unfortunately I had to spend a lot of time fixing things in Photoshop when I’d drawn a nose in the wrong place or the tone had bled into places it shouldn’t and various other speed-related horrors.


Anyway, they’re all finished now – these are just a few of the thirty or so illustrations from Riddle of the Runes (out in May!).




Mythic Guernsey

About a year ago I started a project for Guernsey Museums. If you’ve not seen any of the finished pieces, go here, here and here as humanly possible.

The Post Office borrowed several paintings and turned them into stamps:



And next, some photographs of the exhibition itself. I’m told it will be around for ten or twelve years, so do pop in if you are visiting the Channel Islands and tell me how it looks in real life.

Guernsey Museum Service - Guernsey Folklore ExhibitionGuernsey Museum Service - Guernsey Folklore ExhibitionGuernsey Museum Service - Guernsey Folklore ExhibitionGuernsey Museum Service - Guernsey Folklore ExhibitionGuernsey Museum Service - Guernsey Folklore Exhibition


Quiet, please.


This is a view of the Unseen University Library, which the puzzle-minded of you might enjoy assembling in the form of a jigsaw.


As you can imagine, there was a monumental amount of work involved in creating the image and packaging, but luckily Ian at the Discworld Emporium has done an in-depth blog post so I don’t have to re-live the horror of it all (I’m fibbing, it was good fun – I’ve done another one since and am currently working on jigsaw no.3 but I’m not allowed to talk about that yet).

Have a read here.


The photographs of the box are from an early prototype and I’ve yet to see the finished version, but you can get a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into if you check out the Discworld Emporium shop.

Return of the Rabbit

Next month sees the release of Podkin part two, The Gift of Dark Hollow. Here are some of the interior pictures (pencil with some Photoshop improvements). This time I had some help with drawing the main character (who proved a little tricky last time on account of his bandaged-up head) courtesy of Virginia Lee.






Ghostly Goings-on in Guernsey


As part of the Guernsey Museum Folklore project I produced a dozen or so pencil drawings. Many feature specific places on the island and the legends that have become attached to them; here are some of the more phantasmic ones…



That last chap is actually a werewolf, not a ghost. Here’s a spectral goat to make up for it.


And I did a painting of the same pesky apparition menacing some innocent kelp farmers:


Pictures for Geoffrey

Geoffrey Bayldon 1924 – 2017


Along with The Clangers, The television program that captured my young imagination the most was Catweazle (played by Geoffrey Bayldon). Only two series were made, but it was regularly repeated throughout the seventies so it seemed to be on all the time – very handy in those pre-video recorder days.

In 2003 I did some Catweazle drawings for a charity that Geoffrey was involved in (details of which as lost in the mists of time) and I was fortunate to have several long chats with the man himself. I wish I had a record of them as he was charming and full of stories from his long career as an actor.

Still, modern electrickery means Geoffrey lives on – both series are available on DVD




battle1We’re back in the world of Guernsey folklore for this post, featuring epic supernatural battles from medieval times.

Big battle scenes are always complicated – getting a balance between a pleasing, readable image and the chaos of violence requires a fair bit of planning. To add to the difficulty there were loads of historically accurate details to include, such as armour, coats of arms, etc.

The legend tells of a plucky enclave of English islanders who were attacked by elves and thoroughly trounced. It turned out that their attackers were actually French, but the defeated soldiers told everyone they had supernatural powers in an attempt to appear less feeble.

Here’s how the painting developed…


…from the first scribbled layout, to a tonal rough (which was found to be useless as I did the flags black by mistake – they were supposed to be yellow) to a more finished pencil drawing. Later I had to add a bit more action to the bottom of the picture as it was deficient in the height department.

Once the painting was finished (pen and ink and watercolour), there was a request to alter the French/Elves’ hair to brown. Terrified of making a mess on the actual painting, I did that digitally, as it had a knock-on effect to rest of the image. The tonal balance was thrown out of kilter so I had to darken and lighten other parts to make it work better.


Next up, a valiant monk sees off a pesky devil…


On the coast lies a large granite boulder named La Pied au Boef. It has a hoof-shaped hole in it, said to be the last mark left by the devil as he legged it having been giving a severe ticking-off, Christian-style. This was one of the easier pictures in the series to do; the only time I got into difficulty was with the colour. It’s a little hard to see from this jpeg, but the painting is particularly speckly as I used my trusted technique of splattering watercolour using a toothbrush to adjust large parts of the image. I could then lift paint off with a cotton bud to get more contrast in.

Not much in the way of development for this one – I went straight from this first rough to penciling directly onto the board, aided by a handy bit of posing from Jason of England as the devil and me in a bath robe as the monk.


To finish things off, slightly off-topic, here’s a demonic hound – one of the fifteen pencil drawings I made for the project.