Friday, November 11, 2011

The King of Space!

I've recently started work on my next picture book, 'The King of Space'. This has been a long time waiting in the wings...

(a quarter size dummy book that I took along to show Templar this summer)

In October 2004, I entered CGtalk's 'Grand Space Opera' challenge, and came up with the idea of a little kid, who wanted to take over the whole universe and become 'King of Space'. I loved the idea of a small and grumpy boy, wrapping a sheet around himself, making a crown, and wreaking havoc whilst becoming master of the known universe. I did a series of sketches, but never finished the challenge due to moving jobs and trying to renovate a house in time for an impending baby.

But I kept on with doodles of the boy, Rex, and wrote a few short strips, that never actually got drawn. I did use 'The King of SPace' for some Q&A answers (issue 12) in Imagine FX magazine, and a poster workshop (issue 18) too.

In 2007, I visited Templar Publishing with my lovely new agents, Arena Illustration, and amongst other ideas, I took a bunch of drawings for 'The King of Space'. Having originally envisaged the whole thing as a comic strip, I wasn't sure it would work as a picture book, but Templar's Art Director, Mike Jolley, really liked the concept. But first, Templar were really keen on me developing a portfolio piece I'd done called 'Ye Pirate Muncher', and that became my first published book in September 2009.

I was back at Templar in 2010 to talk about a second book, and took along some (very rough) roughs for a 'King of Space' picture book. But 'The Pirate Cruncher' had sold quite well, and Templar were keen for me to write another pirate book, so I wrote a story called 'The Jolley-Rogers', that later became 'The Pirates Next Door'.

But this summer, for my third book, I've been working on ideas for 'The King of Space' and that's what will be coming next, in autumn 2012!

I started a blog in early 2007 which was originally going to feature strips and drawings and general musings, but I'm going to resurrect it to show the picture book process from start to finish (whilst still trying to keep much of the story secret). Click here, or on the 'King of Space' link on the right in my links menu. there'll be some new (and old) stuff there over the weekend!

I also used 'The King of Space' for a concept tutorial for Computer Arts magazine in early 2009. Here's the finished art for that...

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Wallace and Gromit's Animated Art Auction!

Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal is running an online auction between the 1st and 10th November. The auction will raise funds towards the Echocardiogram Appeal to support the Cardiac Ward at Bristol Children’s Hospital.

After doodling away as a character designer on Aardman's upcoming 'Pirates!' movie, I was delighted to be asked to join in with a sketch of one of my favourite characters from the film, the Pirate with Gout. Here it is:

The sketch is in graphite on acid-free 200gsm cartridge paper, and was sketched on a sunny day in a back garden in Bristol. Aardman have framed the drawing too.

The auction is running on ebay for ten days, there are some amazing drawings, paintings and prints for sale and all the money is raised is for such a good cause!

And for a bit more information, the Telegraph and Guardian online are both running articles about the auction...

Thursday, October 06, 2011

'The Pirates Next Door'

My new book 'The Pirates Next Door' was published last Saturday! Ooo-aRR! Available in all good book stores now!

'The Pirates next Door' is published in hardback by Templar Publishing in the UK. The paperback should follow sometime in 2012. The hardback has a lovely fold-out dust jacket that transforms into a poster of the Jolley-Rogers family. I'm absolutely delighted with how the book turned out. It's an identical format to 'The Pirate Cruncher', with the same page count and a fold-out gatefold spread where the Pirate Cruncher's fold down spread was before. But the fold-out jacket makes it feel a little chunkier, and has the poster and a family tree.

I would've posted on Saturday, but I was reading 'The Pirate Cruncher' at Bath Children's Literature Festival. I arrived nice and early with time to hook up my laptop and get changed into my pirate costume, and when I looked into the room I'd be reading in, I nearly fainted. It was massive!! (But very beautiful!)

Afterwards I met one of my long time heroes of illustration, Chris Riddell, and his regular writing collaborator, Paul Stewart. This was a big thrill for me, and I even got a few books signed that I'd taken along (just in case). It was a little funny meeting people I so admire whilst dressed as a pirate, but the kids like it, and it helps me transform from boring old Jonny Duddle, into someone who reads stories to 150 people in a room.

The Jonny Duddle Pirate Experience...
(Thanks to Seven Stories in Newcastle for this picture!)

While we were in the south-west of England, I also took the opportunity to take my family along to Aardman studios. I've been working with Aardman for almost four years on a stop-motion movie, 'Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!', and it was great fun to show my wife and daughters the characters I've helped design, the film sets and modelmaking rooms.

Rosie makes friends with an Aardman bunny in reception...

We had a wonderful time, and everyone at Aardman did so much to make my ladies welcome. We even got a private viewing of some of the finished movie, including some in 3D, which my six-year-old daughter Daisy, absolutely LOVED. So thanks to Aardman, and in particular Amy Wood, for making our visit so magical....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

'The Jolley-Rogers!' (are almost here)

Yesterday I received ten spanking new copies of my new book, 'The Pirates Next Door'! Templar turned this around so fast, I was gobsmacked to get the real thing in my hands this soon! I only finished it in May!! Here's my daughter, Daisy, reading the book in the garden, right after the UPS man delivered the box...

The story follows a pirate family (the Jolley-Rogers) who move to a sleepy seaside town. They don't fit in too well, and soon the neighbours start gossiping.

The hardback is due to be published on 1st October in the UK (and February 28th in the US), and features a fold-out dust jacket. The jacket has a family tree on one side...

And a 30" x 20" poster of the Jolley-Rogers on the reverse...

I was just as excited to get this book in my hands, as I was when I got hold of my first book, 'The Pirate Cruncher'. It's the best feeling, and the culmination of so much hard work by me, and the wonderful folk at Templar (especially my editor Libby Hamilton and Mike Jolley, the art director whose name inspired me in the first place!).

I'll update on publication in October, with more images and news... Meanwhile, I'll be appearing at the Edinburgh Book Festival next Wednesday, dressed as a pirate, reading 'The Pirate Cruncher', and doing some scrawly drawings of pirates, and Seven Stories in Newcastle on Thursday afternoon.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!

A Trailer!! For 'Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!'.... Oooo-aaRR! Click on the image to be taken to the guardian's movie trailer page!

For anyone who's looked at previous posts and knows what I've been up to, I might be starting to sound like a broken record. 'Pirates' this... 'Pirates' that.... Picture books, concept art, picture books, concept art... Blah blah blah...

But I'm very, VERY excited today, because Aardman have released the first 'Pirates!' trailer, and it looks amaaaazing. My three dreams as a kid were to write and illustrate my own books, design characters for a movie and fly a space shuttle. I've worked on 'Pirates!' since February 2008 and designed lots of the characters, props and creatures, so seeing them moving about in a trailer is a big, BIG deal for me. I'm so excited!!

Just the space shuttle bit to do. Are they selling them off?

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Pirates Next Door!
(more news)

So, if anyone out there (in the UK) is super-keen to get hold of my next picture book, 'The Pirates next Door', the hardback has now been listed on Amazon and Waterstones! Hooray!

The hardback will feature a rather splendid fold-out dust jacket with the cover and a family tree on one side, and a large line-up of the Jolley-Rogers on the reverse. A bit like this....

This will only be available on the hardback, and 'The Pirate Cruncher' hardback sold out before the paperback arrived, so if you want to decorate your walls with a funny looking pirate family, AND have a picture book to read in the wee small hours, you'd better order yourself a hardback copy.

If you're anything like me, you can buy the lovely hardback to covet and stroke and keep spick and span, and then buy a paperback version for your kids to clumsily destroy. My children have actually destroyed one of my first edition hardcover 'Pirate Crunchers', and now I can't get anymore, but I'm not kicking myself or anything. Honest. But I'm sure someone out there is kicking themselves that they let their five-year old chew chunks out of their first edition 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' and draw wizards in felt tip in all the margins. So build a shelf that the kids can't reach, pre-order the hardback, and when it arrives you'll know your investment is safe from grubby hands. If you're feeling particularly flush, or want to show off your limitless wealth to friends, you could buy TWO hardbacks and throw one to the little tearaways, whilst secretly stashing the other copy in a plastic envelope on your special shelf.

'The Pirates Next Door' is currently at the printers in the far away land of China, and will be available on October 1st.

Ooo-arr, and all that.
Bang Goes a Troll!

With all the mad panic in trying to finish my picture book, I missed a couple of book publications. The paperback edition of 'Bang Goes a Troll' was published on 31st March! I was quite pleased with the colours and stylization in this one, particularly on the troll.

I've been working on this series of books, called 'An Awfully Beastly Business' by 'the Beastly Boys', for a few years. The first book in the series, 'Werewolf versus Dragon', was one of the first books for which I produced digital black and white illustrations, and it's all now drawing to a close. I've just finished the interior illustrations for the sixth and final book, 'The Great Beast Show'. That'll leave paperback covers for books five and six, which I should be doing within the next month or so, and some collectors cards for inside the paperbacks. And that'll be it.

I've got a few more chapter book series on the go, the 'Will Gallows'series for Anderson Press, 'Accidental Adventures' for Penguin and 'The Archer Legacy' series for Harper Collins.

Next year, I'm hoping to write some chapter books myself. Watch this space...

Monday, June 06, 2011

Finished! Phew!

I finally finished 'The Pirates next Door' (starring the 'Jolley Rogers'). I barely slept over the bank holiday weekend and got all the files to Templar for Tuesday morning, including a nice big poster for the back of the dust jacket (see below, in progress on my messy desk) and a family tree for another part of the fold-out jacket. Luckily, the magical interweb allows me to upload files from my spare-room-office in the Welsh hills, to a friendly computer in Templar's Dorking office. Isn't technology brilliant?

I took a day off on Wednesday, to dismantle a rotten shed my dad had moved from house to house since the 1970s. With the help of my friend David, we attempted to build a new one, only to disturb a bees nest in the process, and realise that the shed floor didn't fit the wooden base. So we each had a nice big bottle of beer in the sunshine instead.

Then it was off to Hay-on Wye on Thursday for my first ever appearance at the wonderful Hay Festival. I had a lovely time and enjoyed the marvellous company of fellow children's book illustrators Adam Stower (buy 'Silly Doggy', it's lovely!) and Ed Vere ('Banana' is my one-year-old daughter's favourite book!). I dressed up as a pirate for my Friday morning event, and was not alone. Well over half of the children in the audience had dressed up too, and I had a terrific time drawing a gnarly pirate under their direction. He even ended up with some fairy wings to keep one little fairy happy. I need to wangle some photos from somewhere......

'The Pirates Next Door' is due to be published in October. More to come!

And for anyone who wants to hear an array of silly pirate voices, the 'Pirate Cruncher' with audio CD is now available from all good book stores! Oo-Arr!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Aardman's Pirates!

For the last three and a half years, I've been working with Aardman Features on a new stop-motion movie about pirates, based on the hilarious series of books (honestly, they're brilliant, buy a copy now!) by Gideon Defoe. This has taken up a big chunk of my life since early 2008, and I've designed a load of characters for the film. It's been the best experience, and I've loved every minute.

But never mind all that soppy stuff, Aardman seem to be releasing lovely pictures for everyone to see! Here's the first official teaser as spotted on 'bleeding cool'...

Here's the Pirate Captain, designed by me and Zebe, with lots of input from Peter Lord (and the doodlers in story, and the sculptors in model-making) and based on some early sketches by Carlos Grangel. In the background you can see little bits of the Pirate with Gout, the Burly Pirate, the Pirate with an Accordion and the Pirate with a Scarf.

And click here to see lot more stuff that Peter Lord has tweeted recently...

Only a year, or so, to go until theatrical release! Oo-Arr! It seemed a long, long way away in January 2008....

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Here come the Jolley-Rogers!

I've been a bit quiet online recently. I've been ignoring my inbox, showing alarming disinterest in the BBC's weather pages and resisting the lure of Facebook. And I've been neglecting my blog. I've even disconnected my broadband, for a day or two at a time. Blimey.

And that's all because I've got a book to finish. The follow up to 'The Pirate Cruncher' is on it's way. 'The Jolley-Rogers' is due to be published this autumn by Templar, and I'm working frantically to get it all coloured-in, so that Templar can do their wonderful thing and turn my computer doodlings into a real book. It's not a sequel, but it is most definitely a follow-up. It's the same number of pages (too many), it's got pirates in it (there'll be no pirates in my next book), there's some treasure, some speech bubbles, a few "ooo-ar's" and a big fold out page. But I've still got ever such a lot to do, and not that much time.

So I'm about to go into hermit mode.

I shall ignore my phone.

I shall ignore my email.

I shall barricade my door to protect me from the little monsters that terrorize my house.

And I'm going to disconnect from the magical interweb until this pesky book is finished.

So there.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Gorilla Artbook!

For the past few years, I've been a member of a small artists' forum, called Gorilla Artfare, and this April sees the release of our first book, aptly named 'Gorilla Artbook: Volume 1'!

(click the image for more info!)

I'm very proud to be part of this book. There are hundreds of beautiful paintings (digital and 'traditional') by around 70 different artists. It's being published by CFSL, who are a French publisher producing beautiful artbooks and comics.

The Gorilla Artbook will be available soon from the CFSL website.

And for inspiring art, check out the Gorilla Artfare blog in my links....

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Pirate Cruncher Audio Book!

A few months ago I went to London and put on lots of silly voices in a recording studio (see December 17th's blog post), and Templar recently sent me an advance copy of the CD.

With a wrinkled 'Pirate Cruncher' in hand, I listened to it with my wife and daughters, and it was excruciating... Does anyone like the sound of their own voice? But they all loved it, and reassuringly, Daisy said "It doesn't sound like you, Daddy. It sounds like proper pirates!" The only downside is that Daisy says she wants a CD player in her room. But she'll just have to put up with the real 'me' reading to her, at least until her birthday.

So if anyone's interested in listening to me attempting a load of silly pirate voices... Preston meets Cornwall via North Wales... The multi-media 'Pirate Cruncher' experience is due on the 1st April, or so they say.


Shiver me timbers!

Splice the mainbrace!

And all that.

EDiT: Amazon got it wrong... The CD version of 'The Pirate Cruncher' is going to be available on 1st June, not 1st April! I'll post a reminder when it's published!

P.S. A big 'THANKS' to David at Heavy Entertainment, who recorded the session,and encouraged me to do the silly voices!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Tales of the Spiffing

As I've mentioned a few times on my blog, I've done a lot of work for Aardman Features over the last three years, designing characters for their upcoming 'Pirates!' movie.

I was having a couple of months off last summer, when Ashley Boddy and J.P.Vine assembled a group of artists to work on a comic anthology called 'Tales of the Spiffing: Comics from the Sceptered Isle'. But then someone dropped out, or they had not enough pages or something, and the day before it was due to go to print, Ashley asked if I fancied making a contribution.

I tried to do a very, very quick comic, it all went to pot and I was in a big huff in my studio. So I ended up adapting an existing image to fit the book, and that's what's appeared in the anthology. Not a comic by me. Just a picture.

But there are lots of lovely comics by other talented artists, all of whom are either employed by Aardman, do contract work for Aardman or have worked freelance on one of their projects recently. Ashley's set up a blog with some preview images and a Paypal link for anyone who wants to get their grubby hands on a copy..... click the image above to be whisked away to the 'Sceptered Isle'!

And Ashley says I can do a comic next time. So I will. If he remembers. Now that I've finished with all the 'Pirates!' work, and I don't go there anymore. I think I'll keep popping in and annoying everyone, so he doesn't forget.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Will Gallows & the Snake-Bellied Troll

Ooops! I missed this one! 'Will Gallows and the Snake-Bellied Troll' by Derek Keilty was published on 3rd February by Anderson Press.

There's a cover by me, with black and white interior illustrations too. There are quite a few full-page illustrations, plus a bunch of vignettes. The author also added a few smaller illustrations of his own.

Here's the artwork for the cover...

Some of the interior illustrations were sketched out on paper, some were sketched directly in Photoshop CS5. And I did some character sketches early on in the process, one of which made it as a vignette in the book, the not-so-pleasant Sherifff Slugmarsh. Here's the original pencil sketch...

And the 'inked' in CS5 version...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Imagine FX no.067... Steampunk!

It's been a while since I did any work for Imagine FX, but editor Claire Howlett emailed me before Christmas asking if I fancied creating a workshop looking at Painter's brushes. I use Painter 11 for most of my work, coupled with Photoshop CS5, so with an open brief, how could I resist??

I did a painting based on one of my favourite Victorian photographs, Isambard Kingdom Brunel standing in front of the launching chains of the Great Eastern. I've been itching to use this photograph as the starting point for a steampunk painting, and this was my chance.

In my spare moments, I've been developing this character for a personal project and it was great to have an excuse to spend a bit of time on him. He's been the subject of various sketches and notes for the last few years, but a very busy schedule has held me back. With a bit of luck and some more time, he may yet see print in the not-so-distant future....

So if anyone's interested in Painter's brushes, my wafflings or just following the process on one of my digital paintings, go and get yourself a copy of the March 2011 issue of 'Imagine FX'!