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The reunion of Elephant and Mouse

Savour the joy!

Ink, blackberries, mashed rose hips, smushed fuchsia flowers, splotched rowan berries and dirt tempera on watercolour paper. (People who are subscribed to my email list got to see how I did it. They’re super lucky.)

20 August 2015
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The reason why: page 7 in shiny happy colour

The reason why I went to the moon for my birthday, page 7 in colour

I love Dr. Seuss books. I like his limited colour palette and large areas of flat colour, so I copied him a bit. I’d like to know what you what you think. Does it work? Does it make you happy? Do you wish I had used some purple? (This book will contain no purple.)

The reason you’re getting a coloured page is that I have hired a successful children’s author to look at my story and tell me if it’s any good or not and recommend changes that will help it on it’s way to publication. I want her to have an idea of how the finished pages will look and there is no way I’m going to keep this little treat from you.

Here is a comparison of the original scan and the tidied and coloured page:

The reason why I went to the moon for my birthday, page 7 comparison

24 June 2015
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The reason why: page 12

The reason why I went to the moon for my birthday, page 12

I haven’t died.

During the last nine months I did a little graphic design project that turned into a massive design project and earned three GCSEs (probably – results day is 20 August). I also rewrote the second half of this book. Twice. I think it is a much stronger story now.

Now I’m back and I’m so happy to be working working on the book again!

Updates may not be weekly quite yet. Over the next week I will be getting the book ready to show to a professional editor that I am planning to hire for a consultation. It may be two or three weeks until the next page but it will definitely be less than nine months.

18 June 2015
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The reason why: page 11

The reason why I went to the moon for my birthday, page 11

Last week I read an interview with new children’s book author Rob Biddulph. In speaking about his drawing process, he said:

It takes quite a bit of sketching to perfect a character, and it’s not until I can draw them in any position and from any angle that I’m ready to get them onto the computer.

That’s a really smart way of working. It would bore me to tears. I work in a really dumb way. I get one good drawing and then assume the next one will work out okay. Last week when I drew the rocket bike from the side, I had no idea how to draw it from an angle. One of my early attempts looked like this:

rocket bike sketch

It was only this morning that I finally figured out how to do it. I’m pretty pleased with the result.

It’s not perfect though. In addition to the usual clean up, this page will require some extra work in Photoshop. Somehow mum ended up with one weird fat leg. I’ll make it match the other one. Also, the plane is shoved too far up into the corner. I will lower in the sky to strengthen and unify the page composition.

I hope you figure out how to do the things you want to do this week.

8 September 2014
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If you like great illustration and want to think about and understand why great illustration is great,

you would do well to read David Apatoff’s Illustration Art. (Click on the images to see them large.)

5 September 2014
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The reason why: page 10

The reason why I went to the moon for my birthday, page 10

This week I start filling some gaps in my education. I’m doing GCSE English, Science and Maths. I’ve also taken on a little graphic design job for a client that I’ve worked with for many years. I will be be busy, but I will do my best to continue giving you a page every week.

1 September 2014
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The reason why: page 9

The reason why I went to the moon for my birthday, page 9

‘Be not afraid of poetry: some are born poets, some achieve poetry and some have poetry thrust upon them.’ —Bruce Willis

25 August 2014
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Quentin Blake’s hands

I’m not very good at drawing hands. I take comfort from the fact that Quentin Blake is terrible at drawing hands. Look at these monstrosities:

15 hands drawn by Quentin Blake

But the thing about Blake’s badly drawn hands is that he obviously understands hands and how they work. Every one of these hand drawings communicates exactly what it needs to. They have handness, especially when seen as part of the whole picture:

Simpkin and his mum

I have a long way to go before I can make terrible drawings of hands with anywhere near the brilliance of Blake.

The images in this post were taken from Mister Magnolia, Simpkin and All Join In.

24 August 2014
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The reason why: page 8

The reason why I went to the moon for my birthday, page 8

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed the the trampoline’s jelly is no longer in a tray. Thanks to some input from Caroline, my friend and one of my email subscribers from southern Arizona, I realised that showing the jelly is better than hiding it in a tray. (For readers in US America, jelly = jello.)

23 August 2014
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Suess’s supporting characters

I love the way that, except for the the two protagonists, every character on these pages from Dr Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham maintains a zen-like calm through the horrific train and boat disaster. First, it’s very funny. Second, it is effective at keeping our focus on the important characters even though all the characters are of similar size and colour.

Green Eggs and Ham, pages 46–47

Green Eggs and Ham, page 47, detail

Green Eggs and Ham, pages 48–49

23 August 2014
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The reason why: page 7

The reason why I went to the moon for my birthday, page 7

One of the aspects of the artwork that will need the most adjustment is the lettering. Pretty much every bit of the lettering will be adjusted to make the letter, word and line spacing right. I am barely good enough to do the lettering myself, and during the planning phase, I tried a bunch of different fonts. None of them felt right. Only the hand-lettering really seemed to fit. Fortunately, Photoshop allows me to turn my wonky words into lines of tidy type with reasonable speed.

18 August 2014
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The reason why: page 6

The reason why I went to the moon for my birthday, page 6

Cora hasn’t made it to the moon, but if she fulfilled the promise of the title in the first quarter of the book, it wouldn’t be much of a book would it?

18 August 2014
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The reason why: page 5

The reason why I went to the moon for my birthday, page 5


11 August 2014
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The reason why: page 4

The reason why I went to the moon for my birthday, page 4

We meet Cora. Sort of. From the back. I realised while working on this page that I have created a rod for my own back with the design of Cora’s trampoline. All those bouncy balls and springs take a long time to draw.

4 August 2014
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The reason why: page 3

The reason why I went to the moon for my birthday, page 3

I learned how to use the scanner this week. I drew a million circles and spirals this week.

4 August 2014
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The reason why: page 2

I haven’t learned how to operate the scanner yet, so this is a photo again. You can see that I did the lettering a a separate piece of paper. I left out a letter on my first try.

28 July 2014
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The reason why: page 1

Page 1 scan

Here I go. The reason why I went to the moon for my birthday page one.

  1. This is supposed to be a scan, but I don’t yet know how to use the fancy dancy A3 network printer/scanner that I have access to, so it’s a photo of the page this week.
  2. I was going to do the book in pencil. Now I’m doing it in ink, and I already like it about 10 times more.
  3. In addition to cleaning up and colouring, a lot of the text spacing needs to be adjusted.
  4. The prettied up version of this book will be available to buy in print and on iPad in 2015.
  5. Please feel free to share your thoughts. Your feedback will make this book better.

Thanks for taking the time to look and read.

21 July 2014
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Enough messing around

A cropped portion of the first page of my children's picture book

Last summer I wrote a children’s book. Then I didn’t illustrate it because I needed to finish my degree. Then— I dunno. I completed the degree in May. Since then I’ve illustrated 1.667 of 32 pages. I’m good at starting things, but not so great at finishing (e.g. Cooking tips). Two notable exceptions are said degree (BA Culinary Arts, first class honours) and a weird little bird book I made a few years ago. I want this children’s book to join the notable exceptions. And so…

Every Monday starting 21 July I will be posting a page of the book in the Secret Comics Club section of this site and on my Tumblr blog and probably on Flickr. The page will just be the raw scan, pre-photoshopping and colouring, but it will give people a chance to enjoy the story and maybe become interested in buying the actual book when it is finished sometime in 2015. It will also give people the opportunity to give feedback. I haven’t got an editor or publisher, but there are a bunch of you, and you are clever and have thoughts, and you might like to share those thoughts with me.

I’m trying to take my own advice.

UPDATE (27 August 2014): It’s going very well.

15 July 2014
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PerChiBooWriMo update

Life is busier and progress is slower than I hoped, but I have completed a draft of the text and descriptions of all the images. The book will be 32 pages. The working title is The reason why I’m going to the moon for my birthday.

12 August 2013
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America the beautiful

This drawing isn’t really for children. If you are a grown-up, feel free to click through. (It’s a drawing about America’s obsession with guns.)

Keep reading
15 July 2013
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On 2 January I listed my planned trajectories for 2013. How it’s going is I haven’t spent much more time playing with family and friends, but I’m making tiny bits of progress. I’m definitely being sillier. I’m drawing a lot more, even though I haven’t managed to get back to The Reverend and Amy.

In my drawing I’m concentrating, quite by accident, on giving my drawings -ness. What I mean is when I draw a cat, I don’t try to make it look like an actual cat, but I try to give the drawing ‘catness’. The drawing below doesn’t really look like a kakapo, but I think it does have ‘kakaponess’.

drawing of a kakapo

4 March 2013
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In olden times before phones were smart we called this a ‘blogroll’

A thing we old people like to do to amuse ourselves is to subscribe to ‘blogs’ via ‘feed readers’. Many of you youngsters won’t understand these things because you haven’t found the secret click combination to get outside of Facebook or else you aren’t sure what to do with writing that is longer than 140 characters. But some of you kids might want to experience the old-fashioned Internet. If that’s you, there is a small chance you may enjoy some of the things on the non-exhaustive list of what I like to read and look at.

Comics, illustration, design

  1. Doodlemum – these are way better than doodles
  2. Dresden Codak – cyborg sci-fi in a weird world
  3. False Positive – webcomic tales of the surreal, fantastic and macabre
  4. Happle Tea – a funny and insightful webcomic about mythology and other things
  5. Hark a Vagrant – Kate Beaton is excellently superly excellent
  6. Doodlemum
  7. Illustration Art – insightful commentary on the world of illustration
  8. Jill Lorraine Turpin has a great take on family life
  9. Marlo Meekins is much funnier and stranger than most people
  10. Nimona – when the sidekick has actual powers and doesn’t follow the supervillain rules
  11. Punching the Clock – surviving the daily fail of big box retail
  12. RUTH AND ANNABEL RUIN EVERYTHING – it’s in all caps for a reason
  13. Ryan Andrews – beautiful engrossing short story comics
  14. Sin Titulo – It’s going to take a while to read, and it will suck you in. Clear your afternoon schedule
  15. The Abominable Charles Christopher – he’s actually not abominable at all
  16. the johnson banks thought for the week is the blog of my favourite UK design studio
  17. Thrillbent’s Insufferable – What happens when you’re a crimefighter and your sidekick grows up to be an arrogant, ungrateful douchebag? What on Earth could draw the two of you back together again?
  18. Willow Wood Starfall – gorgeous comic in a nouveau style
  19. XKCD – a webcomic of romance,
    sarcasm, math, and language.

Lots of words in a row

  1. Doors of Perception – John Thackara’s blog about design, energy and the planet’s future
  2. Heresy Corner – questioning received wisdom on culture, politics and religion
  3. Kester Brewin – Peter Rollins’ mate writes about pirates, theology, education and stuff
  4. Michael Rosen – author and former children’s laureate blogs mostly about education, especially how Michael Gove is ruining everything
  5. Peter Rollins – pyrotheology
  6. What If? – the author of xkcd answers hypothetical questions with physics and funny

Good blogs I’m not reading right now because I’m taking a break from American Christianity and politics

  1. Greg Boyd – with all the shouty Calvinists about it’s nice to be reminded the bible has other salvation metaphors and visions of eternity
  2. Matthew Paul Turner – obvs
  3. John Michael Greer – Druid perspectives on nature, culture, and the future of industrial society. Don’t let the ‘druid’ throw you. This guy is a genius
  4. Larry Shallenberger – author, pastor, writer of this blog that I really like even though he sometimes writes about sports
  5. Love is what you do – she’s actually living the gospel in real life
  6. Rachel Held Evans – obvs
  7. The Beautiful Due – I’m not a fan of poetry. I love this guy’s poetry
  8. Two Friars and a Fool – theology and culture with an emergy kind of vibe

What do you like to read and look at?

21 August 2012
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Maurice Sendak died today

I love what he says about illustrating:

An illustrator, in my own mind – and this is not a “truth” of any kind – is someone who so falls in love with writing that he wishes that he had written it, and the closest he can get to is illustrating it. And the next thing you learn, you have to find something unique in this book which perhaps even the author was not entirely aware of. And that’s what you hold on to, and that’s what you add to the pictures – a whole other story that you believe in, that you think is there. When you hide another story in the story, that’s the story that I am telling the children.

It may not be a ‘truth’, but it is certainly applicable, not just to illustrators, but to any creative work that involves communicating what other people have said or created.

Watch the whole video:

Thank you, Mr Sendak

8 May 2012
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This idiot

cartoon of an idiot

This idiot also likes to point out how badly drawn his right hand is.

5 May 2012
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Totally Famous

A while back Jim LePage and his friend Troy DeShano invited me to take part in the Old & New project illustrating a bunch of bits of the bible. I said, yes. (Obvs.) My piece was posted on 18 April. Hooray! They have also posted an email interview with me where I kind of explain it.

Here are a couple detail shots:

Jael detail 1

Jael detail 2

And here is a link to a slightly larger version of the whole thing where you can read the fine print.

19 April 2012
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You monster!

Ciaran Duffy:

illustration by Ciaran Duffy: Monstermask

Peter Rollins:

Whenever we encounter a person as “other” (i.e. as having beliefs and engaging in practices that are foreign to us) we can often experience them as monstrous. In other words, their beliefs and practices appear unfounded and can repel us, confuse us and even frighten us (sometimes for good reason). However there is what Slavoj Žižek calls the authentic multicultural experience. This is where, instead of looking at the other, we experience ourselves being looked at. Here we have the earth-shattering experience of glimpsing ourselves through the eyes of the other and encountering our own practices and beliefs as monstrous. (Keep reading; it’s good all the way through!)

21 March 2012
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Olde and Neue

Old & New, a project of biblical proportions

A couple of artsy/designy guys, Jim ‘Look at the extra capital letter in my last name’ LePage and Troy ‘I’ve got one too’ DeShano, decided that it is time to bring back art inspired by the bible – they’re right, of course – so they created the Old and New Project. They very kindly asked me to be a contributor. I’m no Michaelangelo, but I drew a picture on my wall anyway. You will be able to see it sometime in the next few weeks. Don’t wait for my scribblings; the site is live now.

14 March 2012
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I made a Christmas gift for the kids in my class at church: a book of advice

17 December 2011
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Still too secret

One of my other web presences is Secret Comics Club which features a weekly comic by me. This week’s comic is below. If you like it, you might like to check out the others.

13 December 2011
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The secret Secret's not so secret anymore

For the last six months, I have been drawing a weekly comic called Secret Comics Club for a small group of subscribers. From today it is available for everyone with no sign up or password reuired. A taste? Here’s one from a few weeks ago:

Marco knew the nickname was inevitable, and didn’t resent it. His true sadness lay in the fact that he became a wholesale paper buyer instead of the hypnotist ninja he dreamt of as a child.

Quick! Click this link. There are 26 more to enjoy.

15 November 2011
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I drew this for Laura Anne who is hosting a great blog series on community

A good thing to do is go to her blog and read it.

7 September 2011
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You are as pretty as you can get inside the shell, so you might as well come out and do some stuff

Comic by Hugh D. Crawford.

I have not learned a lot of things about success, but one of the things I have learned is: just start. Stop planning, dreaming and waiting on whatever and do one thing today to start making it real. Do one more thing tomorrow. Repeat.

It’s true your idea is not good enough yet. You will find out the ways in which it is not good enough as you go. Your idea will become good enough as you go. You may find that you end up with a completely different idea than when you started, but it will be the right idea. And it will be made real.

Here is the parable of the pottery class:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot—albeit a perfect one—to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes—the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

(Source: everywhere on the Internet)

14 August 2011
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This attitude

A thing I think is that the world needs is people like this, people who don’t need imaginary optimism in order to care, people who will love no matter the outcome simply because they are full of love.

The comic is by the amazing Sam Brown of Exploding Dog. I’m loving his crazy monster comics right now.

23 May 2011
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Dear readers of this blog,


9 May 2011
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This is now:

Secret Comics Club

9 May 2011
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Jeff's opinionated graphic

When your culture is saturated, sated and there is no more space to make something new, you can:
a. Remix the status quo
b. Work to destroy the culture
c. Step outside and start something new.

A will probably make you very popular for a while.
B is going to happen anyway.
C takes more courage than most of us have, and you might fail. But what if it doesn’t fail?

18 March 2011
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We all get Flock

I’m pretty sure that everyone who is going to buy my book Flock just because I’m a pretty swell guy has done so already. So in a completely crass attempt grab more of the unsuspecting public’s spare change I am serialising Flock. on my Tumblr blog. Starting next week, I will post one story each week for 36 weeks. Today you get the preface. You can follow all the serial action here:

18 March 2011
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