Visits and Wedding

Last week was a week of visits and also one wedding. On Sunday I travelled to Holland and visited friends in Breda. I had a great afternoon with Achille and his little sister Aube, who I met for the very first time, and their parents Christophe and Mathilde.P1090607Mathilde Stein is a writer of children’s books and an artist. Dear Daisy Dunnington is my favourite.

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It was a nice day spent with such a lovely family.

From Breda I travelled to The Hague. My hotel was right by the beach. Nice. The next two days I visited the  International School Of The Hague.

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The school was big and modern. The children clever and friendly an so were the teachers. I was looked after very well. I did some talks and we made pictures of course. I also met some Czech children and their parents. P1090625We did lots of drawings.

P1090626I like this one. It’s a fish on a bicycle.

I also had a great evening with Marieke and Melanie from Gottmer, one of my Dutch publishers. Gottmer published “A New House for Mouse” six years ago and we won an award in Holland. They are going to publish the sequel to that book “The Mouse Who Ate the Moon”, this year.

I enjoyed my trip to Holland.

I came home on Tuesday night and next morning was the wedding. Helen and Deirdre get married! Helen and Deirdre are great friends and Helen is godmother to my daughter.

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The day was beautiful and the wedding was such a fun.

IMG_8044 We all got a little present to remember the day. It was a brooch  done by Melanie TomlinsonBusinessCard
 Yes, one of these. If you don’t know Melanie’s work you have to look at her website. I love her sculptures.

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Really nice day. Lots of love to Helen and Deirdre! IMG_8139

And then it was Easter and everything which belongs to it. Including two days trip to London and an egg hunt in Somerset and eating chocolate. Egg 1

I’m of to Andover this evening. One more school visit and next weekend I’ll be in Newcastle. On Saturday the 26th April I’ll be at Seven Stories doing talks and an Master Class on Sunday the 27th April.

I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve Finished!

This week I didn’t go anywhere! I spent most of the week in my studio working on my book. The book is the sequel to “A New House for Mouse” and “The Mouse Who Ate The Moon”.

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I love this stage of my work. I did all the important preparation during the last few weeks, so now it was mainly printing, painting the background and collaging.

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Although I’m glad I’ve finished the book I also wish it could last a bit longer. I still have to do the cover, but it can wait for the moment.

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I’m off to Holland to visit an international school in The Hague and see my Dutch publisher Gottmer. I’m looking forward to my trip.

Friends

I also found time this week to paint two little pictures for my friends

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and decorate two Easter eggs. That’s it. I have to pack my suitcase.

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Honk Honk!

Good news! My board book Honk Honk! Baa Baa! is one of the four shortlisted books for the Craigmillar Books for Babies prize.Honk Honk! Baa Baa! I’m very exited about it and the main reason is, that you hear about board books so little. It’s as if board books aren’t important at all, but the opposite is true. Even very young children deserve good quality books. Board books are often the first introduction of visual art to children.

7 cI started my illustrating career with two board books. To this day I’ve published twelve board books and another two are waiting to be published in August. A) Board books

This week I continued to travel around schools. I visited the really nice Wickford Church of England School in Wickford in Essex. I was there for two days, so at the end it felt as if I knew everybody. The children were very excited and we painted and drew a lot. We made lovely books.

photo-5The children were very young, but they were so confident and they made amazing pictures. Here are just two examples. Good school, nice teachers, great teachers.photo-3

So far over the years I’ve visited many schools and so far I was very lucky and if sometimes things didn’t go the right way I  have enough experience by now to get things right. But I always think “it goes too well and one day I won’t be so lucky and one day I will go to a school where I won’t be happy. It’s bound to happen”.  Well, the moment came this week. I thought I will write about it, but then I thought it’s also the children who could read this blog and it certainly wasn’t their fault.  So perhaps I will talk about it some other time.

I also had time to work on my new book. Working on the final pictures is the best part of my job. I’m enjoying every minute of it.8

Next week I should be home, sitting behind my desk and working hard. I must finish the book, because then I’m off to Holland. Another school visit.

3And the last thing I wanted to mention is the interview I did with Julie Danielson for her blog.  Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.   There are lots and lots of my pictures and sketches to be seen!

Schools and more schools

Scan 3This week I visited three more schools. At one of them I got a picture from a little girl. It’s a picture of me! First I thought she was exaggerating a bit, but I have to admit, after a month of travelling around schools I really do look like that.

I was in nice schools this week. The first one was Garswood Primary School in Wigan. It was great. Then I went to lovely Otterbourne Primary School in Hampshire. The school was very friendly and I was very well looked after by the head Alison Langrish. Alison knew every child in the school and she knew a lot about art, so the children were also nice and clever. Very good artists too. We painted and drew lots of beautiful pictures. We made a mural. Here is one of the self-portraits I was presented with.

Scan 3 copyOn Friday I was in Thornden School in Eastleigh. The school was great. A really good Art department run by very nice and good teachers. photo-8This time I worked with older children. The girls and boys were 12,13 and 14 years old. I did a talk about picture books and then we did a workshop. We made little books together.photo-5I don’t work with this age group very often, so I was really impressed by the skills and the enthusiasm with which the children worked. photo-6Judging by the fact that some of them didn’t even want to go out for break, I can say they enjoyed the workshop and so did I.

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Some of these books were amazing!photo-2

I can say that I was definitely inspired by some of the students’ ideas.

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I was home over the weekend, trying catch up with my book. I’m now half way there (almost), but I have to leave the book on the side again. I’m off to …some schools next week.IMG_7386

Toucan on Trafalgar Square

IMG_7395This week I visited only one school. Sambourne Primary School in Warminster. It is a lovely, small school. My wife’s cousin Sarah is deputy head teacher there, so it felt like a family duty. Children were great and teachers were nice as well. Thank you Sambourne for making me welcome and thank you Sarah for looking after me so well.

P1390528As always I get lots of pictures from children. One boy was rather exited about me drawing a fly, so he practised a lot. He did lots of flies and I was presented with one sheet of them. I think they look great. Scan 1Here are more pictures. IMG_7397And one of my favourite. IMG_7396Though this one was from one of the schools I visited a week earlier.

The rest of the week I spent catching up with my other work. I finished a commissioned picture I mentioned last week.

IMG_7371It’s called “Suzy Goose and the Jumping Cow”.dupliI found it exciting and also a bit strange painting on canvas something I normally do on paper by using collage. It’s like making a copy or falsification of your own work.  This is 914 x 610mm, acrylic on canvas.

IMG_7388I also finally finished the first picture for my new book!

IMG_7398I found time to do a little picture for my friend’s birthday. It’s called “Toucan on  Trafalgar square”.

The last thing I want to mention is an exhibition by my friend Vladimir Hanus.hanusI love Vladimir’s work. If you are in the Czech Republic go to see it. If you can’t make it, at least look at his website – www.tan.cz It’s worth it.

Ever changing Mole

This week’s gone quickly. It’s March, so I keep traveling, visiting schools, showing pictures and talking about books. This week more than ever I’ve spoken to children in nurseries. I like this age. They can be a really good audience. The secret of handling the event with very small children is to have a small class, make your self also small (not so easy in my case) by sitting on a small chair and start with some colourful pop up book. I use Animal Opposites.animal opposites I also do drawings in my talks. It does the trick.

BimtL5vIcAAFOOCOn Thursday I was in Frome. Hunting Raven Books organised their annual ABCDay. I had a nice day and managed to meet  fellow writers and illustrators. Here is a picture -from left Christopher William Hill Anna Shuttlewood ,Karin from Hunting Raven Books who organised the eventFleur Hitchcock  and  me.   

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Covers of Christopher’s, Anna’s and Fleur’s books in order.

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Mark Robertson  was also there, but had to go before the photo was taken.

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It’s always nice to talk to other people who make books, but on occasions like this there is never enough time as you can imagine. We all are busy doing our part in the event. But I could see children walking out of each session with smiles on their faces and I could hear them shouting and laughing with excitement. I actually did managed to see a big part of Mark’s talk and it was brilliant.

It’s sunny outside and it’s so hard to switch from school visits to working on a book, but I did work a bit more on my “Mouse book”. Can you spot the differences?Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 20.40.35IMG_7329IMG_7368It’s the mole who is changing  shape.

IMG_7369I was also commissioned to do a picture, so I started working on it as well. Here is the work in progress.

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On Wednesday I’ll be at Sambourne Primary School in Warminster. My wife’s cousin Sarah is teaching there, so I’m looking forward to it!

Fellow Artists and World Book Day

IMG_7346And so we had World Book day. Speaking of Books is keeping me busy. Last week I visited five schools. From Weston Super Mare to Radlett. I’ve seen and spoken to hundreds of children and lots of teachers. It was a nice but busy week.photo-3It’s always good to see children being so excited about books and pictures. We made concertina books together and drew lots and lots of animals.photo

In every school I got some Thank You cards and drawings to take home with me.  I have a big pile of them and I wish I could show them all, but it’s impossible. Here is one of my presents.IMG_7345

I like it when children tell me that they also want to write books or illustrate when they are grownups. I like moments, when a  teacher realises that the naughtiest boy in the class or a girl who can’t spell, are actually very good at art, or they can come out with a great story.

I could write for a long time about my visits to schools, but I’ll mention just one day. On Thursday I was in Arnhem Wharf Primary School in the Isle of Dogs. It was a nice modern school. Children were excited and keen to do some art. They were good at it. They had a good art teacher and in fact the school was full of nice friendly staff, who knew their children very well. I was with primary as well as with nursery children. I didn’t stop all day, but I enjoyed every minute of it. So if you Katherine are reading this blog, thank you very much for organising my visit and for making me so welcome.

One of the teachers, Alice, introduced me to a little boy, who wants to be an illustrator. His name is Guled and he is only 4 and half years old. He gave me a present. His own book of animals.

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 I was really impressed with the boy’s work. The drawings are amazing.

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I love the toucan

IMG_7337and the elephant.IMG_7342 Here is a seal.IMG_7338 My favourite picture is this ostrich running into the picture. Great sense of movement and composition.

Guled’s favourite animal is the giraffe, so here are two giraffes from my sketchbook.

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This one is a giraffe falling.

109On Monday I’m in three schools in London in Hackney. I’m taking part in Pop Up Hackney project. I will also do a talk at the Booktrust conference in Birmingham on Wednesday and on Thursday I’ll be in Frome for ABC Day 2014.  I’m looking forward to it!

 

I’m doing it again

Last time I said that I’ll be probably writing about mice this week. I was wrong. It’s not the mouse that is the problem. It’s the mole and also the size of the rabbit.

I had a meeting with my editors on Tuesday. I packed my drawings and went to London. I was quite happy with the work and I thought I’m presenting the final sketches for my book. I was wrong! It took Denise and Louise (my editors) just a few minutes to explain to me, that the sketches are anything but final.

The mole wasn’t quite right and the continuity in the book wasn’t brilliant either. Of course I tried to argue a bit, but there wasn’t much point. They were right …. they always are.

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I made some changes and I’m going to make more.

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I’m sure the pictures will make sense to you when they are in the book. I’m drawing it again.
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It’s World Book Day on Thursday and it’s the busiest month of the year for anybody who writes, illustrates, or is in any other way involved with books. I’m going to visit five schools this week, three schools, one book festival and one book conference next week…I don’t look any further ahead. It’s for sure, that I won’t be working on my book much during the next few days. Maybe just as well. It will give me some time to have a rest and be able later to look at my work with fresh eyes.

But not everything was bad. After the meeting I went to Tate Britain just to have a look at nice paintings. In the Tate’s book shop I found my latest book Animal Opposites. animal oppositesIt always cheers me up to see my books in galleries. I studied fine art and it’s becoming certain to me, that my paintings won’t make it to the Tate, so having my books there is not bad.

 

 

And what’s more, the book had a sticker Best Seller. Good.

Talking about books with animals…. One very exiting bit of news I want to share. I also had a meeting with Nicola Davies.  Nicola has written many amazing books. She is also fun to talk to and she has endless stories and facts to tell about animals and …WE ARE GOING TO MAKE A BOOK ABOUT ANIMALS TOGETHER!

I’m very exited about it. It’s a bit early to talk about the book,but one thing is for sure. It will have lots and lots of interesting animals in it.

Do you know what is Nicola’s favourite animal? Pangolin.

IMG_7327Here are some drawings of a pangolin from my sketchbook. “It looks like a walking pine cone”, Nicola said. She is right.

 

Mouse, lots of mice.

This week I was mostly drawing mice – again. I also went to the Southbank Centre – again. I was in there last Sunday and I went again this Friday. I didn’t mind at all. In fact I wish I could have stayed longer. The place was packed with children and parents, writers and illustrators. Sothbank 21.2.I talked to children about a cat who drinks hot chocolate, showed some books and did some drawings. It was great fun, but I could stay only an hour, because then I had to be in a small bookshop in Herne Hill called Tales on Moon Lane.

21.2.14Tales on Moon Lane is a lovely award winning independent children’s book shop, which is doing a lot for children and everybody who loves books. They had their own Half Term Festival. On Friday afternoon I came early and sat on the sofa, sipping coffee. Soon the book shop started to be busy and before I knew it I was surrounded by children. You can imagine what kind of children – children who like books, stories and who like to make things and draw.21.2.

I don’t remember when I saw any bookshop being so busy. Can you see me in the picture? During these few events some parents came to me and mentioned my book “A New House for Mouse”. They told me, that it’s their child’s favourite and that the book is well used in their homes. It made me extra happy, because the second book with the same character, the little mouse, is going to be published this summer.A New House for MouseThe new book is going to be called “The Mouse Who ate the Moon”.Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 19.16.06 And if it’s not enough this week I was busy working on the third book with the little mouse.

In preparation to promote ”The Mouse Who Ate the Moon” I was working on a poster and some activity sheets.mouse and the mooon

Here is the picture for the poster. I’m thinking of giving it away in a competition, but I don’t know yet what the competition should be about. Oh well, I still have some time to think about it.Find the bannaHere is one of the activity sheets. Can you find the way to the banana?How many Bananas can you see?And another one. How many bananas can you see?How many stars can you see?And how many stars can you see? Next time, I will write probably about mice again.

Drawings from the Museum

This week I was working on my new book. I was mostly drawing mice, rabbits and moles.

To keep continuity in the book I draw all the main characters first and then cut them out. I use collage in my books, so I can do that.IMG_7316
I draw each character from each illustration at least three times. Like this I can relax and don’t have to be too tight with the pencil.

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This book is going to be the third with the same characters, so I should know the characters well, but it’s true only to a certain point. I always try to add a bit, do the illustrations a bit differently. What would be the point just to repeat myself?IMG_7317O.k. I know the mouse well by now, so I can play with the character a little bit. The rabbit is more difficult. There is lots of painting involved, but the one who is really difficult to paint is the mole. The mole needs to be dark, almost black, but you still have to see his face. The more I tried to get him right the more tight he is. I’ve spent lots of time painting the mole.

I also went to London. On Sunday I was taking part in Imagine Children’s Festival on the South Bank. I did some drawing, a bit of talking and a workshop. The children and parents who came were really nice and creative, so I think I can say that we all had a great time.

In London I had two afternoons just for my self. I went to Tate Modern to see the exhibition of Paul Klee (again). I love some of his pictures. Especially this one with fish.fish-magic-1925 This one is my favourite. I remembered that I painted a picture with fish myself some long time ago. Here it is.14This fish I painted resembs another fish by Paul Klee.paul-klee-golden-fishI also went to the Natural History Museum. I forgot that it is half term so it was packed with people. The Natural History Museum is great! All the bones and skeletons, animals, stones, exhibitions …. 119I didn’t know where to go first.104 2I also went there to see the exhibition “The wild photographer of the year”. It was awesome. I thought I will show here my favourite photo, but I don’t know which one to choose, so here is the winning picture of the year 2014. I love it!the winerIn the Natural History Museum they are very kind to me and they keep a good selection of my books. Animal Opposites is one of then nicely exhibited in the middle of the room.animal opposites

I’ll be at the Southbank again on Friday at 12.30 pm and after that I’ll be rushing to Tales on Moon Lane in  Herne Hill. I’ll be doing a workshop, some talking, reading and drawing!
116And one more picture from the museum.