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...
Bonkers! Ooo-ARR!

What a bonkers couple of weeks.... I've been to a movie premiere, another premiere-type-thing for the same movie, a book award night, and then I did a Q&A at a London cinema and tried to talk about interesting things about being a character designer. Until last Wednesday, I'd only left the village three times since Christmas.

It all started on 21st March, with a very swanky premiere for 'The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists!' at the May Fair Hotel in a swanky bit of London.

We were given swanky individual bottles of champagne (with straws) on the way in, which was the start of a swanky evening with a little too much in the way of bubbles. I travelled down to London on my own, by train, but Aardman had sent a coach load of folk, so it was lovely to see lots of friends from the studio. Peter Lord introduced Gideon Defoe on stage, who wrote the book the film is based on, and then introduced David Tennant and Hugh Grant. And then the film started with no adverts! Brilliant! No boring adverts! Hoorah!

And the film was really, really, reeeeaaaally good! Although I spent most of the time looking at the character designs and wondering what I could've done differently. And then when the credits rolled, my name was right near the beginning, which was rather good too. And on the way out of the theatre, I chatted to Peter Lord on the way down the steps, and then briefly met Terry Gilliam, one of my all time heroes, when he came to shake Pete's hand, and then asked Bill Bailey where the toilets were. Then I bumped into Pixie Lott by the bar, Not 'bumped' in a cool, sophisticated way, but more 'bumped' in a too-many-posh-drinks-for-a-northern-bloke-not-looking-where-I-was-going kind of way. Hobnobbing or what??

It was all far too exciting. And then I drank far too many glasses of champagne at the party (they just kept topping up everyone's glasses!!) and spent an hour-and-a-half trying to find the way back to my hotel, using 'maps' on my iPhone. It only took twenty minutes to walk to the premiere, so I've no idea which route I took back. I woke up with a fuzzy head, and somehow caught a train back to Wales.

On Sunday, I took my wife and eldest daughter to the movie's Bristol Premiere, where everybody who had worked on the movie brought along friends and family and there were lots of screenings, tattoos, face-painting, and pirate-themed balloons. It was a late night for Daisy, but we had a lovely time, and I actually enjoyed the film more, because I just watched it without worrying about my designs. Me and Daisy both dressed the part, and Daisy had Cutlass Liz painted on her cheek for the rest of the week.
We were back home on Monday, and the on Wednesday I was off to London again for the Waterstones' Children's Book Awards at Waterstones Piccadilly. More of that in a minute, but the whole evening turned out rather well.......

I was back home on Thursday, but off to London again on Friday morning for Arena's showing of 'The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists!' at the Stratford Picture House, followed by a Q&A with me. It was quite nerve-wracking, but the audience were all very polite and asked nice questions and Tamlyn from Arena made sure I was suitably lubricated with rum for the event.

We got back home on Saturday and I feel a bit overwhelmed. What a bonkers couple of weeks. It's back to normality now, and more importantly, back to the drawing board to get stuck into 'The King of Space'.

Phew.... Colouring in.... :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Window Shopping...

We had a family day out to the seaside yesterday, and spotted 'The Pirates Next Door' in the window of Watersones, Llandudno!

It had a nice spot amongst the shortlisted titles (and a couple of imposters), right in the middle... Daisy and Rosie were very excited and Rosie toddled into the shop shouting 'Daddy's book! Daddy's book!'

Also in the window was (fellow Arena artist) Alex T Smith's 'Claude in the City', which I've just bought for Daisy. Alex is brilliant and funny and the Claude books are full of his wonderful illustrations, so I've got my fingers and toes crossed for both of us, for the awards ceremony in March!

I'm going to be a little quiet online for a while, so I can give my next book, 'The King of Space', my full attention as I head towards the impending deadline.... My router will be turned off, my noise cancelling headphones turned on, and my Wacom stylus will be a whirl of doodling action.

Meanwhile, I may occasionally post some 'work in progress' on my 'King of Space' blog.

I shall return sometime in April, if everything goes to plan....

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Aardman's 'Pirates!' Production Blog

A little while ago, I wrote a load of waffle for Aardman's production blog , which chronicles the production of 'Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!' movie (or 'Pirates! Band of Misfits!' if you're in the US of A). I tried to give a brief description of my job on the movie, with a few illustrations to help explain the process.
The Pirate with Prosthetics is one of my favourites, because he was one of the first characters where I had such an influence on the finished puppet. And he's a funny looking chap too. If they make any toys to go with the movie, he'll be the first on my shopping list.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2012

I found out recently that 'The Pirates Next Door' has been shortlisted for the The Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2012. The prize aims to "champion new and emerging talent in children's writing" and I'm hugely excited to be shortlisted!

yeh, I know... Same old Picture....

So here's another one!

This year the prize was opened up to include picture books, and is now split into three age categories: Picture Books, 5-12 years and Teen fiction.

My fellow Arena artist, Alex T.Smith has also been shortlisted in the 5-12 category for 'Claude in the City'. Alex produces wonderful illustrations and stories that are full of humour, and his picture book 'Home' is a particular favourite of my daughters. Daisy's due to start reading 'Claude in the City' as soon as she finishes 'Fantastic Mr.Fox'....

I mentioned last week that the first edition hardback of 'The Pirates Next Door' is out of stock at Templar. The hardback is still available in book shops, and there may be the odd copy online at some retailers. But if it's difficult to get hold of, the paperback is now available to buy from Waterstones HERE, or in-store.

I think Templar are also planning to do a second, smaller run of hardbacks which should be available in April or May.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Will Gallows and the Thunder Dragon's Roar

The second 'Will Gallows' book was published on Friday by Anderson Press. 'Will Gallows and the Thunder Dragon's Roar' is available in all good book stores and online emporiums now!

This is the second in the series by Derek Keilty, following 'Will Gallows and the Snake Bellied Troll', with covers and black and white interior illustrations by me.... Here's Hox Swillet, a mean old snake-bellied troll and train station manager.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Sold out..?

So it seems that Templar have sold out of the first edition hardback of 'The Pirates Next Door'! There'll still be copies in book shops here and there (Waterstones in Bath has 55 copies!) and some places might have them online. But for anyone in the UK who was slow off the mark, the paperback is now available (3 months early!!) on the Waterstones website... Here.

And there'll be a few more hardbacks available in April with a second printing.

And if you're not in the UK, you might be getting your own version soon anyway. Countries publishing 'The Pirates Next Door' in 2012 include the USA, Australia and Brazil.