Thursday 27 September 2007

Lighthouse colour study.

On a tiny rocky island in a cold, stormy sea there stood a red and white striped lighthouse... Here is Magnus and Grandpa's home. The artwork is a hybrid of watercolour for the sea base and sky with digital for the lighthouse, island and waves. I want the sea and sky to have a liquid, changable quality to allow for the various weather and sea conditions (a storm is coming...) and also to soften the artwork up a bit when it is viewed as a whole (I have also been experimenting with watercolour in the characters flesh to both soften it and to give that windblown, raw look).

Sunday 23 September 2007

all new Piggy colour study & character scale lineup

Well I wasn't sure about my design for Piggy and after a few days of staring at version one and filling page after page of the old sketch book I have something more appropriate to the character. It wasn't right to have Piggy in profile with one eye visable while Magnus and Grandpa were face on. Also the new design has Piggy constructed from similar basic shapes as the other two characters so they all seem to share the same 'world' (I hope). She also looks more like she enjoys her food (as the story calls for her to wolf down the odd bacon butty or two!). While I was tweaking things I also reduced the height on Magnus' head (even though I want his design to have parallels with the design of his lighthouse home...hence the stripey jumper... his head was just that bit too tall) and modified the eyes on all three (think you were right Kev, ta). The story continues... ...

the finished Penguin Classics Bulgakov covers

It was fantastic to receive a package from Penguin books yesterday containing the finished Bulgakov book covers! As I mentioned on this blog on July 3rd, The Master and Margarita is a reprint from a 2003 silver Penguin Modern classics cover which I won a competition to illustrate (also see my website) while the A Dog's Heart and A Dead Man's Memoir (A Theatrical Novel) were commissioned directly from Penguin last year. My thanks again to the team at Penguin for all their help and encouragement!

While on the subject of Penguin I just bought a copy of "Seven Hundred Penguins" which I recommend you check out at your local bookshop. As the title suggests this weighty tome contains 700 Penguin book covers running from 1935-2000. I wouldn't say that every cover was a winner but taken overall it is an amazing body of work with some real gems. The actual book is also a great piece of design in it's own right thanks to David Pearson ( and if you like what you see I'd also suggest you pick up a copy of "Penguin by Design" by Phil Baines with the book design again by David Pearson.

So there is a reading list for lovers of book design and Russian literature (A Dead Man's Memoir is yet to be published, I believe it will be out on Oct 4th). If you're not sure about Bulgakov I'd say start with A Dog's Heart as the most accessible of the trio (think Frankenstein meets the littlest hobo...) and move on from there.

Sunday 16 September 2007

Magnus colour study.

This is Magnus, the central character in the story.

revised revised Grandpa.

I've had what I thought was Grandpa in my sketchbook for the last week or so but as soon as I went from sketch to colour digital he just wasn't right. I've also been tweaking the story in line with some excellent 'how to' points from reading "Writing with Pictures" by Uri Shulevitz (out has gone the octopus from page15 ho hum, I really wanted to draw him but he was a loose end which I couldn't tie off satisfactorally at the end of the story). Grandpa just wasn't a sympathetic enough character for the story. In many ways I liked having the moustaches in his design (especially for the way in which thay can emphasize expression, I've sketched out raised moustaches for shock/alarm and drooped for sadness/sleep etc...) but they were wrong for the character and kept cluttering up the face, particularly when I wanted to introduce his pipe. Also he wasn't looking old enough and his look suggested to much the admiral and not enough the sea dog. In the story Grandpa is somewhat a figure of fun and as such needed to be less the authority figure (though of course he remains so for Magnus, his grandson). I think this is third time lucky for the Grandpa design.

Saturday 15 September 2007

Grandpa, revised colour study.

There was something not sitting right with me regarding Grandpa's face... too Santa and not enough ex jolly jack tar. This is more along the right lines. (Thanks for the comments Louise, much appreciated!).

Piggy colour study.

I've just finished the first colour version of Piggy...not sure I have her quite yet...maybe she'll look better when I come back to things after lunch...? Magnus comes next.

Wednesday 12 September 2007

FINALLY a new post! "Grandpa colour study."

At long long last a new post. Everyday the blog has languished I've felt guilty not updating. If you've been checking from time to time, many thanks for your patience...and I'm back.

I haven't been away really but am busy working away on a 32 page children's story book idea. I have finished the text (till the next rewrite at least!) and have a basic structure for what will be single page or double page spreads. I have also pretty much sketched out the basic look for the characters and some environments (will try to post some sketch book pages in the next few days). Next comes more planning, this time sketching for the settings and secondary elements / action. After that I'll make a tighter plan for the page layouts then...eventually...the final art and book design. So not too much to do then!

This is the first idea for a children's story book that I've actually seen through this far (many rough sketches and notes for other stories...) and I'm really enjoying the work. I've been studying the children's book sections of my local bookshops, leafing through my collection of children's books and reading some 'how to' books on the subject of children's book illustration and writing. I can heartily recommend "Words and Pictures" by the amazing Quentin Blake, "The art of Eric Carle", "Picture This, how pictures work" by Molly Bang, and so far, "Writing with Pictures" by Uri Shulevitz is very interesting (though some of the colour seperation / preparation for print is outdated).

To cut the waffle, here's the first rough colour study for one of my main characters, just finished tonight. He is the Grandpa of my other main character, a small boy called Magnus. They both live in a lighthouse, on a small rocky island and along the way a Puffin called Piggy makes an appearance. I'll go into more depth later! Hope you like Grandpa.