Monday, 23 February 2009


This poor fella looks a bit depressed doesn't he? Well everyone knows one thing that sharks hate is rain. Imagine not only being grounded cos the tide has gone out but also then it starts to rain. I actually feel depressed every time I see this guy, I don't think he could look any more sad. This is my second full detailed rough. I wish I wasn't being so detailed. You'll notice one thing from the last illustration. And also of course a snail enjoying a picnic and cocktail! He has got a surf board with him too, but I seem to have to get rid of a couple of lines there to make it stand out! Actually the more I look at that surf board shape the less I understand it. How about you guys? I know I can hear ya, what surf board? and then... a snail? and then... oh I thought he was really happy to be in the rain!

I give up.

click on the image to see the large version

Sunday, 22 February 2009


I decided to illustrate Sidney is Orange first. I knew that I wanted to created a bright, colourful book since it's all about colour. I want bold and painty. But all of those finished paintings will need to come from drawings, and the more detail I can get on them the easier the final paintings will be to do. However I didn't realise I was going to get so carried away and put so much detail in as I did. I couldn't stop! So I decided to work through the double page spreads which all have a structure the same as this. Where by one side is one colour, and the other is another.

I saw this drawing in my head and put pencil to paper and here it is. There were a few bits I had to scrub out, mainly round where the Dragon is sitting.

click on the image to see the large version

You might notice that there are quite a few elements in the drawing which don't make sense as yet, like custard and the sun, snot dribbling out of the Dragon's nose, flames, smoke trails and a small smudgy shape in the distance. Well if you see/read the book + see some later pictures you'll get the idea. None of it is crucial to the story though it's just nice detail that hopefully some people will see and get an extra angle on the book from. What angle that is I don't know. Am I rambling for the sake of something to say? Yes, yes you are. Oh, sorry about that.

Thursday, 19 February 2009


Here you are stop your moaning. Below are extracts from each
of the three books to give you a slight flavour of what they're like.


The Day the World Turned White [an extract]

Toby wasn’t scared of anything.

Not GHOULS, Not GOBLINS, Not even things that go
BUMP IN THE NIGHT [because that was usually his cat Jeffrey
knocking things over].
Toby wasn’t scared of anything because
he knew that every bump in the night, or creak on the stairs
could be explained. It was never anything scary, but usually
something very non-scary, like Jeffrey.

So Toby wasn’t scared when he woke up suddenly at four
o’clock in the morning, a time he’d never been awake at before.
'I wonder what the world looks like at 4 o’clock in the morning?'
thought Toby. He decided to take a peek out of the curtains.

Toby’s eyes widened in shock at what he saw!

Was it a GHOUL or a GOBLIN?!

No, there was nothing there at all.

No garden. No sky. No sun or moon. No greenhouse.
No gnomes. No slide or swings.



Sidney is Orange
[an extract]

Sidney is orange. Not AN orange you understand, but the colour
orange. He's been orange all his life. But he didn't want to be
orange any more.Not since he'd decided to become blue.

'No one likes orange any more', said Sidney to himself. 'Sharp clawed
crabs are orange, and traffic cones. No one likes traffic cones, they
get in the way. I want to be blue, like the sea. People like swimming
in the sea, and paddling. So I want to be blue, because everyone
likes blue.'

So Sidney went away for a day, and when he came back
he was blue. He was very pleased. He trotted around all day
smiling about being blue, and everyone smiled back. But the next
day Sidney wasn't smiling any more because he was sad.

'No one likes blue', he said. 'Blue is the colour of rain and sharks.
Who wants to be the colour of a shark? I think I should be green.
Grass is green and people like to play on grass. So I want to be
green, everyone likes green.'

First ever bit of work I created for Sidney is orange is this mock up double page spread.The final one will differ slightly from this, but the style is more or less intact all these years later!


Coolio and the Moose
[an extract]

Coolio is a little girl who is as normal as you or I, apart from
two little things. She likes to eat custard and peas, and her best
friend is a Moose. He's not any old Moose either, he's
Edgar the Moose.

Coolio thinks Edgar is great even though he's not keen on peas.
Or custard. And especially them both at the same time.
Coolio and Edgar have so much fun together they never want the

day to end. They go to the park, run, skip, laugh, play with
their kites, and lay looking at clouds and imaging them to
be many funny, silly and ridiculous things.

One day
Coolio and Edgar were painting pictures at Coolio's house.

They were having enormous fun with all the colours of paint.

But then suddenly Edgar tripped over his own hoof and his
left antler dipped in the red paint! Then he tripped again and stuck his right
antler in the blue paint!

'Oh no!' He cried. 'I better wash this paint off before Mummy and
Daddy see it!' So he scrubbed them, rinsed them, and rung them out as
hard as he could before popping them in the tumble dryer.

Then when the dryer went PING he opened the door and got them out.
'Oh no! They've shrunk', he cried.

'What am I going to do?' shrieked Edgar.
'I don't know', said Coolio, 'will your parents be cross?'
'Probably! But I don't want to find out', whimpered Edgar nervou
'Then we better find you something to replace them with before they see',
said Coolio and grabbed Edgar's hoof and marched him off into the garden...

Detail of layout plans for Coolio and the Moose.
Amazing how difficult it is working out how to split
the text and how many pages its going to take.
Why did I ever think it was going to be easy?


This season is all about orange madam
It all started with the colour orange for some reason. I've just made the connection that I selected orange as my 'colour' on the blog. So maybe I like orange. Well I can reveal I do! Quick write it down, remember it for the £1000 question on 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire'. Burnt orange and olive green to be precise if you need that sort of detail for present buying. So armed with a colour my third book was born. I think it was the first line which gave me the storyline to this book. Again with a simple writing approach and simple style, it has again a repetitive rhythm to it which I think I should drop for any further books I write! The first line is: ‘Sidney is orange. Not AN orange you understand, but the colour orange. He's been orange all his life. But he didn't want to be orange any more. Not now he'd decided to become blue.’ So that was that, the first line pretty much gave me my structure for Sidney’s small journey. It’s all about colour and changing yourself and not being happy with the way you are. The ending was obvious from the start but how it actually was going to work took a few word pushings to work out. All very simple really.

It was very easy to imagine Sidney throughout writing the story. I imagined him from the start as a little scruffy squidge of paint, a brush stroke with eyes. Working out how to express emotion through a paint splodge will be difficult! So, now then, are you ready or have you done it yourself? Book one: ‘The Day the World Turned White’, book two: ‘Coolio and the Moose’, book three ‘Sidney is Orange’. Next blog I’ll give you a snippet of the start of the stories, and also my thoughts on the style of the illustrations and how I intend to work my way through them…


I have not got an elk fetish

Well now. I can't really think where this book came from. Well I do. I've always had a fetish for elks. I mean who hasn't? I won't tell you the full story of where that fetish comes from, but all you need to know is I drew a character called Gordon the Elk throughout art school. Ever since then I have drawn elks. Haven't you? Anyway, I think maybe the title came first, but this time the character was going to be a moose. I mean otherwise it would seem like I'd got a weird elk fetish or something and I wouldn't want people to think that. I think, and I am happy to be told I'm wrong, but I think the title came from the fact I said coolio instead of cool quite regularly about work, home, play and holidays. I think I then one time said 'coolio and the moose' at a friend and then said 'that would make a good kid's book title'. And the rest as they say is history.

What came first the title or the book?
Coming up with a title first and then writing the book seems a bit silly doesn't it? Maybe it was a straight reaction to how long it took to get a title for the first book. But I think I'll stick with it. A silly/mad/interesting title is actually pretty hard to come up with when you know exactly what the story is. But if there is no story, then there are no boundaries. Walter's special egg and the magician's kipper. See? The bottomless cow and the immaculate pat. Hmm... maybe not so good. But hopefully you see what I mean.

With this book I decided to write fast as you will remember, which lends itself to simplicity and economy with words. I cut corners. When Coolio and the moose go to the park I didn't explain the walk there, or much of what they done when they arrived, or the park, or the weather, or all of those other things you explain in a novel, not a picture book. I liked writing like that. It was fun. So now, have you got it? Book one: 'The Day the World Turned White'. Book two: 'Coolio and the Moose'.


What's it called again?
The first picture book I wrote remained title less for quite some time. It wasn't till about a week before I was due to send it off to the writing competition that it got itself a title. I couldn't think of one at all but luckily Rhian came to the rescue and garnished me with a lovely title. I really like the title because there are lots of words and its detailed. That sounds a bit odd, but it sounds slightly older, like a book from 60 years ago or something. Anyway, its title is 'The Day the World Turned White'. A simple story of a boy who knows there are no such things as monsters creeping up the stairs and bogey men hiding in his wardrobe and when he wakes up at 4am one morning, something he has never done before (yes I know parents, if only that were true!), he's determined to stay calm and think of a logical explanation for why there is nothing outside his window but white.

It's pretty simple in its structure and repetitive in rhythm. I always remember books like that being good for that transition period between being read to, reading with, and then reading alone. So it's a slightly younger audience that the book is aimed at as such, but what does it matter what age group reads it? As an avid reader still of picture books, I'm hardly about to start pigeon holing my potential audience. I noticed I'm not the only one to think like that thankfully. Half of the authors/illustrators in 'The Magic Pencil' think the same thing

The text on this book has actually changed quite a bit now I've come to illustrate it. It's amazing how small an amount of words you need if you've got pictures. So I became quite a harsh critic for my over wordy story (when I originally did my very first draft of this book it came in at 1700 words, when actually I was after 700 or less!) and hacked the poor thing to pieces. It thanked me for it in the end.

Monday, 16 February 2009


For those of you who might wonder what drives a man to whittle away his seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months and years writing a children's picture book, and then why he writes another two, and then what possesses him to set about illustrating them all when really he isn't an illustrator or a writer and he hasn't got any children, well, then you better read on...

It's all Mike's fault (part 1)
Back in the day, and I forget when it was, [I suppose I could find out, but I'm not going to bother] my mate Mike who has always been into writing [he's written an (as yet unpublished) novel and comes up with books to write all the time] told me one day of a competition run by Little Tiger Press It was a competition to write a children's picture book. The prize was to have your book published and then I guess be one of their writers, and become famous and buy houses and things, and then there would be film deals and everything, ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. Now, I thought a bit about this, having never really ever thought about writing a children's book before and found little idea shaped nuggets would form between my ears and if they were very lucky they would get scribbled down onto paper and sometimes even REMEMBERED.

The first book
An idea started to form which was based on a comment I made while having lunch with friends. Or was it? I don't know it's all a bit hazy now, but it was basically about a boy who woke at 4am and looked out of the window to discover the world wasn't there. Now I've just said that out loud, as it were, I wonder if I went the right way with that initial premise, that little remembered nugget from between my ears. But that's one of the important things I have learnt through at least the writing process that decisions are difficult, because they could go one of several hundred ways, at least. It's also one of the bits I struggle with the most. With one decision comes more, and more, and then what? This is probably why the initial writing process for that one story took me several months, fine tuning, annoying friends and girlfriend to read through and try and force them to be honest when all you want to hear is 'IT'S BRILLIANT!' and then editing it over and over and over and... AND... AND... AND... IT WAS ONLY 700 WORDS! So once I'd finished it I posted it off. Knees knocking and god knows what thoughts were running through my head of this and that and what ifs. Unbeknown to me I had caught the bug. The bug of telling a story. The drawing would come later, that was also Mike's fault and Rhian's too. But I like to blame Mike.

Let me tell you a story
I think I've had the bug for telling stories for years and years. I remember drawing comic strips as a child, and enjoyed writing stories when I had to at school. I went to college and studied animation which as you know is a great story telling medium and I loved telling stories, however small. I started a novel when I came to my current job. I was in a bed sit for 3 months, a god forsaken horrible grimy hair covered place with a small table and a single bed. Joy. But with me I had an ancient laptop [which I still have] and I started to write a book. Well I didn't realise it was a book when I started I thought it was a very silly letter. But hey, four nights later and I had 5 some what sporadic and rambling chapters. It remains unfinished. But from then on, ALL of my projects were story telling. Series of children's books, short films, long animated films, film scripts, and children's picture books. My only problem was completing ANYTHING. 'The problem is,' said Rhian, my girlfriend, 'you never finish any of these projects, you need to finish one before you go on to the next'. She was right, is right. This is what this blog is about, one man's struggle to finish one [ok three] of the hundreds of projects he wants to create, to have, to possess. It's a struggle though I can tell you.

The other two

Now, yes, you're right to point that out, this blog is called 'The Three Books' and for a very good reason. Because I have 3 children's picture books on the go. How silly. Well doesn't one just seem like I have all my eggs in one basket? Two isn't quite right, and three is a nice balance. So three it is. To be honest it could easily have been twenty by now. I'm not showing off, I'm not saying they'd all be any good, not at all. But I have had at least twenty ideas for children's picture books. And they're just the ones which came to me whether I liked it or not.

So where did the other two come from? Well once that other one was sent off, and probably because it took so long to form, and also because I now had the bug, I sat and wrote a story. Quickly. I think it took about an hour. I edited it once and that was it, done. About a week or two later I wrote another one. Not so quick to do to be honest, but more or less written in a day. The latter two books remain people's favourites too. How annoying eh?

But what about the competition?
I never did win that competition before you ask. Not even slightly.

So why are you illustrating them?
So why am I illustrating them? Well I have drawn for my whole life. I am a motion graphic designer, but also a traditionally taught animator, so I can draw. Not as well as you might imagine. In fact my drawing reached new heights not too long back, maybe 9 years ago in life drawing classes. I had never got on well with life drawing until I went to life drawing sessions off my own back. Something clicked in the freedom and the desire to draw as well as the mates I went there with. Now these stories were ready to go off to publishers, they were edited down, I was happy with them, I was ready. A final read through from Rhian and Mike my unofficial editors, all was ok as far as they were concerned [mike never did enter anything into that competition, don't even think he wrote a word] but... they said 'Are you going to illustrate them then?' WHAT!? AM I WHAT? And that was that. 3 years later and I'm still doing that very thing. Now I'm not a fast drawer for sure, but I'm not that slow. But I work full time, and many other things have stopped total dedication to these 'Three Books'. Anyway, that's where you come in... the stories are written... but the pages aren't drawn.

The final aim
My intentions are to draw up the 3 books in rough form, and send through either printed rough books, or a PDF of them. Then also work up 2-3 colour spreads as finished bits of artwork. Phew, doesn't sound too much I know, but it is!

I won't be putting the full stories on here, or the final rough books either, but I will show the process and snippets. Teasers you might say. Well I hope they're teasing anyway...

Thanks for listening you lovely person
Are you still there? I do hope so. Hopefully this hasn't made your nose bleed or for you to miss the birth of your first baby or the conception or the initial conversation about whether you should try or not. That's not really general enough is it? It sounds like I'm talking to a man, but you could easily be a woman, or both. You might not want kids, you might be too old to have any more, or want any more. You might be too young (although looking at the news today what is too young?). You might be hundreds of different things and I really do hope you are. Keep coming back. I do hope it's even slightly interesting or entertaining. And hopefully at some point in the future you can go into a bookshop whether it be real or virtual and buy not one book because thats not quite enough, not two because that just doesn't seem right, but three. Three books, because that's just nice and balanced isn't it? Plus I'll get more cash.