Also good news, I just heard from comics reporter Matt Badham that David O'Connell and I feature in an article about the small press that he wrote in the latest edition of Comics Heroes magazine. Thanks, Matt!
Look, we made ourselves a studio sign! Yesterday we had an appointment with Steve Pill from Artists & Illustrators to interview me and photograph our working space to feature in their magazine. Steve said not to do any tidying up, that they wanted to see us in our element, but then he sent through this earlier article about a guy's studio in Chelsea that looked like rooms from the Wallace Collection. After we'd all rolled around on the floor wetting ourselves with laughter at the comparison, we decided we at least needed to hoover and then thought we should make that sign we'd been talking about for at least six months. So here it is! That's Steve on the right, looking shocked at the state of our tiny paper and yarn sweatshop.
I hadn't read a copy of A&I for a couple years, it always seemed more of a Sunday painters kind of magazine than a cutting-edge journal on illustration. But Steve gave me a recent copy and I was pleasantly surprised to see a three-page article about one of my favourite printmakers, who's become a bit of a British icon, Angie Lewin. She follows on from a rich tradition of artists such as Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden (and loads of '50s and '60s textile and ceramics artists that I vaguely know of but have lots more to learn about). Good stuff. Steve said my interview and studio photos should be in the October issue.
Last night Alex Milway rallied a bunch of writers, illustrators and publishers who will be involved in the upcoming Crystal Palace Children's Book Festival (Oct 23, book now!) to meet each other over drinks at the Royal Festival Hall. What a great evening! I'd never met Lerryn Korda before, and was totally taken with the aesthetics of her Little Nye books. I managed to come home with a signed copy of Rocket to the Moon, and I'm sitting here oo-ing over her colour palettes and nicely shaped blocks of colour that don't rely on outlines. I need to get all four books and read the stories, but the artwork is superb. Here's a version of Little Nye's house that you can print, cut out and stick together.
I hate to use the word 'iconic' twice in one blog post, but the pictures and characters do have that sort of iconic quality of Dick Bruna's Miffy or Lucy Cousin's Maisie Mouse. It was great comparing working notes with Lerryn (a Cornish name) and discussing workshop ideas for the festival.
The other lovely surprise was getting to meet the team who create the Stripey Horse books, illustrator Karen Wall and writer Jim Helmore. (They also happen to be married to each other.) Stripey Horse always pops off the shelf, and it's great to know they'll be part of the festival.
Alex Milway had a look at my sketches and gave me some more valuable landscape drawing tips. (Here he is, sketching out some of the stuff he's talking about.) He encouraged me to focus more on the tree's movements and overall shapes instead of trying to fill them in with so many details. He also likes to make the horizon the focal point of his own pictures, and always find a way to work a fairly clear path up to the horizon. He recommended I look at work by Samuel Palmer and Ivon Hitchens, and for composition, the motorway landscapes of Richard Diebenkorn. And here's Barnaby Richards and Gary Northfield mucking about with the Little Nye books. Gary suggested I use larger paper and stop using my titchy little pens and try using a brush pen or charcoal instead.
So this morning I tried to find a bit of land where I could actually see a bit of horizon that wasn't covered in skyscrapers, and drew a bit of scrub on Blackheath. I think it's possibly my least favourite drawing so far, my pen was playing up, and I was cold and wanting my breakfast. But surely it's all grist for the mill. Last night Ed Hillyer was suggesting I should draw gritty, urban scenes instead (were you calling my work 'twee', Ed?) But practically everyone I know thinks they should be drawing gritty urban scenes, and there's a lot to be learned from nature. Besides, whenever I find myself a bit stuck in drawing one sort of thing, if I learn to draw something completely different or experiment in a different medium, it almost always helps the other work. For example, for me, making little characters out of Sculpey clay was the best thing for drawing better comic characters. So learning how to draw trees should make my urban landscapes all that more convincing. And besides, I need some fresh air. (So there, Ed.)
One last glimpse of our fab little sign and the sheep just around the corner. (The speech bubble's Gary's: Hello, spare us a copper, love?)