Thursday, May 31, 2007


I've been cavalier with artwork over the years - once it's been scanned and printed I'm careless about looking after the originals. They seem to get lost or dumped in house moves, and I don't suppose I possess a tenth of what I've actually produced. It doesn't seem particularly precious, and I can always look at it in what I consider to be its final form - the books or adverts or whatever it was intended for.

I do wish I'd kept a few roughs however. These are the drawings that nobody ever sees, ideas in their first stages, sometimes to be developed into the final piece but more often slung into the bin. It's always very difficult to retain the freshness and life of a rough drawing when working it up into a more polished state. Something gets lost in the transition somehow. I probably shouldn't say it publicly, but I almost like the first little sketch for the Winter Wood cover better than the finished article.

Working on a recent book about Leonardo da Vinci, I found that his thumbnail drawings of tanks and helicopters and parachutes gave far more insight into his genius and inventiveness than the great commissioned works. It's amazing that such doodles have survived, but how many more must have been thrown away? Maybe some enterprising apprentice kept a few of them and we'll someday discover that Leonardo invented the mobile phone and the X Box along with everything else.


Currently working on the interior scraperboard pix for Winter Wood. This one will be the frontispiece.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Doing the unnecessary, with love.

I was standing in a pub one day (quelle surprise) and a man came and stood next to me as he ordered up his pint. I couldn't help noticing that he was a Morris dancer. The daft floral hat gave it away - that and the white socks, pig's bladder, ribbons and bells. Not much gets past me.

Most of his costume could have been slung together from the average household wardrobe, particularly if that household contained a few women devoid of any dress sense, but I was quite impressed by the bells. They were mounted about his calves on straps of tooled red leather, all very polished and professionally done, so that I began to wonder if these had been bought new. It occurred to me that there might actually be a little factory somewhere, dedicated to supplying Morris dancers' regalia. Perhaps there was a specialist catalogue for this kind of thing: 'Come to Jolly Rumbelows - for all your Morris man needs'.

It seems unlikely. Far more probable is that hours of time and trouble had been spent sourcing the right kind of bells - from Lapland perhaps - and maybe even taking a class in leatherwork. I imagined this fellow working long hours into the night in order to get his post-pagan symbolism just so. Doing the unnecessary with love.

I'm quoting the phrase from an artist called Sam Smith, a wonderful illustrator and constructor of beautifully pointless automata - a tiger sitting in a rowing boat was one of his that I particularly liked. 'It seems to me worthwhile' he said 'to do the unnecessary with love'. Not a bad way to carry on.

The photograph above is of a dung cart. I took it thinking that I might use it as reference for an illustration, but haven't done so to date. Despite its humble purpose there is still evidence here of the cartwright's skill - the bracketed lades, the quietly elegant curves, the chamfering and decorative paintwork to the axle beam. None of it strictly necessary for a dung cart, but all the more worthwhile for that.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Public transport

This is a lovely little image, I think. It comes from the Port Eliot Litfest website. I should find out who did it.

Books as a form of transport is so right. Get down to your local bookshop or library and hop on the next plane out of here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Work in progress 2

Much tweaking later, and I think I'm finally done on the cover for Winter Wood. The red shown here - sun and leaves - will be hot foiled so that it complements the silver and gold foiling of the first two books.

Next job will probably be the black and white interior pics, although I still have a fair bit of editing to do on the text.