Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A doodling ex-Pirate? Where!?

I've got a few trips out over the coming weeks and months, so thought it might be useful to let people know about them. If you live nearby and would like me to sign your book, draw you a skull and crossbones or tell you a pirate yarn, pop along. I may even have my pirate hat on. Or I may be dressed up as (a well-fed) Ming the Merciless!

23rd March: RESCHEDULED!! Waterstones, Chester at 11.30am, with a story and some doodling. Followed by Waterstones, Wrexham at 2.30pm, with some reading, doodling and fancy dress.

Chester and Wrexham Waterstones visits will now be 6th April at 11.30am in Chester and 2.30pm in Wrexham (the perfect time for a dental appointment, some might say).

24th March: Waterstones, Llandudno at 11.30am, with reading, doodling and waffle (followed by scoffing fish and chips on the promenade!)

27th March: Waterstones, Altrincham at 11.30am, followed by Waterstones, Manchester (Deansgate) at 2.30pm. Back to the Duddle family seat in Manchester! My great grandad made clogs in Salford, don't you know....

30th March: Waterstones, Cheltenham at 10.30am, for some reading, doodling and signing.

6th May: Shrewsbury Children's Book Festival. This one is almost local for me, just a little drive from the wet Welsh hills. Although the last time I drove to Shropshire in my Morris Minor, I suffered a full brake failure on the Wrexham bypass! EeeeK!

26th May: Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye. I shall be reading 'The King of Space', maybe a pirate book too, and doing some scrawly drawings. If you like books, Hay is brilliant!!

3rd August: Camp Bestival, Dorset. I'm going to be dressed as a pirate whilst reading one of my pirate books in the Dingly Dell. I may also be swaying with the crowd at Richard Hawley. You could probably play 'spot-the-pirate-hat', but no doubt there'll be a few pretend pirates wearing them too.

There are a couple of other things that might happen later in the year, so I'll update this post as soon as I know!

Friday, March 01, 2013

Happy St.David's King of Space day!!

A conversation with my seven year old daughter, Daisy, at breakfast this morning...

Me: What's special about today, Daisy?
Daisy: Um... It's St.David's Day
Me: Yup. What else?
Daisy: Er... I'm going to a theatre workshop with school!!
Me: Yup. And What else?
Daisy: I get to have a packed lunch!!
Me: Yes, yes. What else?
Daisy: Errrrr....
Me: The King of Space is published today!!!
Daisy: But we've had it for ages.
Me: Sigh...... Would you like another piece of toast?

Today IS the official publication date of my new picture book, 'The King of Space'. Available from all good book stores and the magical interweb!

I was sent a lovely review of the book on the 'Read it daddy!' blog. And somebody on facebook told me their son wants to read it every night. So I feel slightly less anxious than I did a few days ago.

Which is nice.

More to come later...

And if anyone who reads this blog lives in Liverpool and has a little tyrant who likes spaceships, robots and aliens (and funny looking bald men reading stories and drawing pictures), I will be in Waterstones' Liverpool One store tomorrow, Saturday 2nd March, between 2pm and 4pm.

P.S. 'The King of Space' is published in the USA on 13th March!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Behold! The King of Space!

I spent a big chunk of last year working on my upcoming picture book 'The King of Space'. The main character, Rex, was created in 2004 for an online art challenge, and has been lurking around my sketchbooks and doodles ever since. This book was almost my first picture book for Templar in 2009, and then was even closer to being my second picture book in 2011, but in both cases pesky pirates won the day (Oooo-ARR!), and 'The King of Space' went back in the plan chest. But Templar did think it'd make a good third picture book, and it's very nearly here!

Rex is a young boy who lives on a small moon, on his mum and dad's moog farm.  He has a plan to become King of Space. But he doesn't want his mum and dad finding out, because they might be cross. Rex enlists his clever friend, Blip, to help him build a robot army. He also has a crush on a girl in his class called Princess Kooki. Could that be the weakness in his plan?

The whole thing is a bit of an homage to my childhood in the 1970s and 80s, where sci-fi was the best thing since Breville toastie makers and girls on roller skates.

The book will be published on March 1st, but is already available to pre-order on the magical interweb... for example, HERE. I received an advance copy in the post a week or two ago. Here's a bit of a rubbish photo.
The book (right) is the same size as 'The Pirates Next Door', and the poster's a whopper!

So for anyone thinking they might like to buy this book, here's the important stuff:

1. There are no pirates in this book. Actually you may spot a couple, but they don't have much to do with the story. So mums and dads might not have quite as much fun with pirate voices, but feel free to read it all in pirate voices if you like. Believe it or not, I can draw stuff, other than pirates....

2. It doesn't rhyme. I like rhyming books, but this one just didn't feel right rhyming, just so you know. My next book rhymes, but you'll have to wait a while for that one, because I've just started the colouring-in. It's not about pirates or space or moogs.

3. It's got quite a lot of words. Just less than 1500 words, in fact. Which is about 400 words more than 'The Pirates Next Door', and 300 words more than 'The Pirate Cruncher'. This might be a good or bad thing, depending on your point of view. If you don't like too many words, there are lots of nice pictures to look at, and might even be able to work out the story, even if you stop reading when you get past 1100 words or so. My three year old daughter likes it, and makes various sound effects whilst turning the pages.

4. A lot of the words are in speech bubbles and some pages are a bit like comic strips. I like comics. Here's an example:

5. Some of the pages have a lot of black on them. The story is set in the great emptiness of space. Make sure you have a light on when you're trying to read this book.

6. It's got a big gatefold, like 'The Pirates Next Door'. I have been informed by my grown-up readers that these can be a bit cumbersome during bedtime reading. But kids say they love them, so you parents will just have to suffer for the children and remember it's still a lot easier than folding an ordnance survey map in high winds. This gatefold has lots of spaceships,  quite a few robots and some moogs.

7. If you live in the UK, and you buy the hardback, you get this whopping poster. It's 56cm x 81cm. And it's got a Warbot on it. If you ask me, it's almost worth buying the book just for the poster, but then I am biased. I've got mine on the wall above my desk, and it looks fab. I ironed it to get rid of the folds.
If you live in the USA, you gte a line-up of all the characters in the book, on the back of the dust jacket. It's not as big as the poster, but it's still rather nice, and you can learn everyone's names. The UK get the line up too, sharing the back of the poster with the cover art.

8. 'Moog dung' is mentioned quite a few times. Rex lives on a moog farm. And you can't live on a moog farm without encountering moog dung. I live in the countryisde and I could frequently smell aromas similar to moog dung whilst colouring-in this book. It's all part of the moog experience....

So, if you like aliens, alien cow things, spaceships, dung rays, and big robots (or you know someone who does), 'The King of Space' is coming soon, to a galaxy near you.... It's published on 1st March in the UK and March 12th in the US of A.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pirates! At the Oscars!

I spent four years working on Aardman's stop motion 'Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists!', or 'Pirates! band of Misfits!' for those of you in the USofA, and have been meaning to post some of my character designs for aaaages. And then yesterday I found out that the movie has been nominated for this year's Oscar Academy Awards, click here, and that seemed like a very good prompt indeed.

I started (on what was a very small team) in February 2008. I was having a tough time, following the death of my dad in a motorbike accident, and being asked to contribute to an Aardman project was a dream come true. My dad and I watched a lot of Aardman stuff a lot together, and both of us loved the humour, craftsmanship and attention to detail. I was shaking in my boots when I travelled down to Bristol to show the directors, Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt, my portfolio. The first thing I was asked to work on was a 'Very Big Pirate'. I think this was more of a test, to see whether my style would fit. This is the design I came up with...

And then a brilliant sculptor, Bloxy, came up with this...

I worked a few days each week during the first half of 2008, sometimes at home, sometimes at Aardman's Bristol studio, sketching and working on character designs. For most of this time, there were two character designers, me and a wonderful french artist called Zebe. Here's some early stuff...

In June 2008, I was asked to knock out some colour studies of the principal characters, to send to Sony Pictures, who funded the movie. These were done pretty quickly, over a few days...


For the next three years, I worked on and off for a few days each week, producing more detailed designs and turnarounds, for periods as the only character designer, after Zebe went off to work on 'Arthur Christmas'.

As well as character design, I spent quite a lot of time working in the set department, designing figurative elements in the backgrounds, from statues and figureheads to stuffed animal heads. This was really good fun!

There is a 'making of...' book available, which features quite a lot of my drawings. There are a few mistakes in the credits. A couple of the images above are credited to Michael Salter. I think the mistake came about because Mike came up with original design, and then I did a colour pass and a turnaround to tie it in with the other characters. Designing all the characters was a big team effort, with input from concept artists, story artists, sculptors and, of course, the directors, Peter and Jeff, so I'm sure it was difficult getting all the credits in the book bang on target. Here's an example of Mike's original design, re-drawn by me, and later becoming a colour study (above)...

And also, there are a lot of images credited to me that have colour, but I only ever did a black and white drawing!

For anyone interested in animation, and particularly stop-motion, the book is fantastic, and gives a great overview of the movie's development.

Working on 'Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!' was a wonderful job. I've never enjoyed doing concept art as much as I did on this movie. I'm hoping Aardman will have me back one day to work on something else... Or a sequel perhaps....

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lazy bum....

I last posted on 1st June!! That's rubbish!! Lazy me!! No real excuses, except I've been very busy. June and July were spent finishing off my next book 'The King of Space' (more to come later on that). Then I went on holiday with my family (and my Mum) to sunny Menorca, where I wrote a new picture book, whilst lying on the beach, in between being buried in the sand and paddling with my daughters. More to come on that later too. Then I had to catch up with some jobs that were a little bit late, because I'd spent too long finishing 'The King of Space'. Then I went to the Czech Republic to teach a week long course on 'character design for animation' for a fantastic event called Anomalia. Then I came home and sketched out the roughs for my new book. Phew.

This week I'm drawing some roughs for another 'Will Gallows' book, due early next year.

Next week, I'm off to Templar to look at my new book roughs, and will hopefully start colouring-in the week after. I'm VERY excited about this one. It will be fun!

And then today I had some very good news. 'The Pirates Next Door' (Templar Publishing) has been short-listed for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. Hoorah! Or, as an ex-pirate should say 'Oooo-ARR!!' It's now going to be judged by lots of children and a judging panel, headed by one of my favourite children's authors, Michael Rosen. Funnily enough, Rosie has made me read 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt' every morning this week. She must've known something that I didn't.....

Which means I shall be attending two awards events in November, because a little while back I found out that 'The Pirates Next Door' was also short-listed for the Sheffield Children's Book Prize. Doubly funnily enough, my book is up against five other books including Michael Rosen's 'Dear Fairy Godmother' (illustrated by Nick Sharrat).  I'm very excited by the Sheffield awards ceremony. It looks like they have a manic event with a qerzwillion screaming children present... Eeek!

But for now... Until I write an update on 'The King of Space', here's a bear that I doodled at Amsterdam airport, on my way home from the Czech Republic.

I really like this bear. I did once write a story called 'Bear Needs a Poo'. Maybe I should show it to Templar?

Friday, June 01, 2012

It's Hay Feeev-aarRR!

I will be appearing at the Hay Festival next Wednesday! This will be my second year at the festival, and I'm very excited to be returning. I had a brilliant time last year, with an event full of mini-pirates who ran amok in the Starlight tent, followed by an interesting night out with two of my favourite children's book authors, Adam Stower and Ed Vere. Rather too much red wine was qouffed in one particular book shop.....

This year I'm just travelling down for the day, with my family, so will be on my best behaviour and will be steering clear of red wine, because I'll need to drive home at bedtime. But I will get all pirate-y and read 'The Pirates Next Door' (above) and 'The Pirate Cruncher'. Then I shall be a gnarly pirate, and may even do some doodling.

So if anyone's at Hay, with little pirates in tow, come and see me on Wednesday 6th June at 4.00pm! OOOooo-ArR!

Here's a LINK.

Monday, April 02, 2012

The Waterstones Children's Book Award!!

So, no posts for weeks and weeks and then two come along at once...

That was a bit like last Wednesday evening, when 'The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists' was officially on general release, and Waterstones held their annual Children's Book Award at their flagship store in London's Piccadilly.

I was incredibly chuffed to be nominated for the Waterstone's Children's Book Award with 'The Pirates Next Door', but travelled down to London without any expectations. 'Picture Books' was a new category this year, and my second book had just been published, which just sneaked me in as new talent.

I've never been to an awards evening before, so I made an effort and put my suit on. With a tie. And freshly polished shoes. Pirates don't wear shoes very often but I'm glad I did this time....

The suit was a good call, because everyone looked smart and there were glasses of champagne and posh nibbles and it was all very busy in the 5th Floor champagne bar. I was incredibly nervous. My heart was all bumpity-bump, and I felt all hot. And then last year's winner, Sita Brahmachari, announced the winner of the Picture Book category and...... It was ME!!


I've never won anything before. I've come second in a couple of things, but I've never won anything, apart from a storyboard competition with some friends at school. So I was in a bit of a daze, and getting pats on my back from the the lovely folk from Templar and Arena, and spilling champagne all over my arm whilst trying to clap with an award and a champagne glass in one hand, when they announced the other category winners. Liz Pichon won the 5-12 category with 'The Brilliant World of Tom Gates' and Jenny Downham won the teen category with 'You Against Me'.

But I was completely gobsmacked when James Daunt, Managing Director of Waterstones, announced the overall winner, because.... that was ME too!

Double Eeeek!!!

I even had to say something in a microphone to everybody there. I think it was a succession of mumbles with something about not being very good at talking to 'grown-ups' at the beginning. I can't really remember, because I was utterly gobsmacked.

...With Amanda Wood, Templar's Creative Director who had to put up with me babbling on about new book ideas...

...With Mike Jolley (my wonderful Art Director) and Libby Hamilton (my lovely Editor) in a bit of a daze!

People took photos, while I stood around looking hot and a bit befuddled with an award in each hand, mostly relieved that I hadn't worn my pirate outfit. And then I was whisked away to speak to a nice lady from the Guardian.

I now have two lovely trophies on the mantlepiece. Daisy likes to polish them, and Rosie likes to cover them in mucky fingerprints. I keep looking at them, a bit gobsmacked. I was in some national newspapers, there were photos of my gurning online, and apparently the 'Pirates Next Door' has had a spike in sales. I was waffling on the Good Evening Wales radio show on Friday night (I'm at 54 minutes and 27 seconds on iPlayer!), I'm on Radio Ulster's Art programme tonight, and BBC Wales are coming to my house with a TV camera tomorrow.

So a HUGE thank you to all the booksellers at Waterstones who voted for 'The Pirates Next Door', and to everybody at Templar who saw something in my ideas and published my first two books.

Like I said in my last post, it's been a bonkers couple of weeks...