Schools and Nurseries

IMG_0507For many authors, illustrators and for anybody who has something to do with books and publishing, these couple of months are the busiest time of year. I’ve already started to travel around  schools, doing readings, showing pictures and sketches from my books and doing workshops.

My school visits and workshops are brilliantly organised by Speaking of Books.

IMG_0517Last week I was in Stoke on Trent. I went to five schools and on Thursday I visited NINE nurseries in one day. Modesty aside, I think it’s quite an achievement!

I like talking to children in nurseries. They are fun and you know straight away if you’re doing well or not. The little ones let you know.

The purpose of my visit to Stoke on Trent was to promote and inspire reading in schools and nurseries. It’s not difficult to make children excited about books I thought. Every child likes a good story, good pictures and every child likes to play. I was thinking a difference could be made if  parents would take part as well. I’m talking about parents who find it easier to give a child an i-pad to play with or just press a button on the telly rather than open a book and read to the child.

In fact you can spot a child who is read to and a child who spends more time with a television. A child who is used to books can sit, concentrate, participate and be involved much easier and quicker. For some children concentration is a big effort. A book doesn’t flash and it doesn’t make a noise. A book needs time.IMG_0521As usual I do lots of drawings with children. I can’t have enough of children’s art.IMG_0520Here are some the masterpieces.IMG_0630Just look at this beautiful horse. Isn’t it amazing?IMG_0634I got some drawings to take home with me.IMG_0633A cheetah on a skateboard.IMG_0635The rest of the week I was got on with my book “My First Book of Animals”. I’m pleased to say that the gorillas are now finished.GorilaI also finished a picture of a viper. This is how I did the illustration.IMG_0627

First I painted and printed the skin of the snake,IMG_0628cut a stencil for the patten Snaikand here is the final picture.

That’s it for this week. I’m in five different schools next week, so I’d better get packing.

Flamingoes are finished

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 18.59.52


I spent a couple of days getting ready for a meeting with my editor Denise. We planned to discuss new ideas for two board books and some ideas for picture books.

It’s always nice to see Denise and I was looking forward to showing her my new sketches. As soon as we started to talk about the new ideas I learnt, that we have to postpone the board books. New Health and Safety measures are going to be introduced, so there is no chance I can make any board books with holes and cut outs at the moment.

We are living in dangerous times where a novelty book can seriously hurt you.

So that is that for the board books – done. Then my new idea for a picture book about a Big Dog who is looking after a big garden.Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 18.59.30

“Hmmm, I don’t like this one”, said Denise. “O.K”, said I with a broken voice. That is that for the picture book – done. It was cold and it was raining. What a miserable day it was, but, still nice to see Denise and there are more ideas in my sketchbooks.

Then I had another meeting this week. Lovely Nicola Davies came to visit us. She just flew in from U.S.A where she was getting another award. This time for her and Emily Sutton’s book “Tiny”. Congratulations!

I’m working with Nicola on our new book “My First Book of Animals”. I invited Nicola, because I wanted to be sure, that all my sketches for the book are O.K. and I wanted to discuss all the details I may miss out. It’s so inspiring to talk to Nicola, because she knows so much about the animal world.

It was a great afternoon and it helped me a lot to have a chat about all the pictures.

So how am I doing so far?  Well, I have lots of things ready. I have all the sketches, I’ve measured and cut the papers, printed some of the I need time to do the pictures.

Sailfish is ready

sailfishand the flamingoes as well.

Here is the sketch,Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 08.45.49

work in progressIMG_0618

and the final picture.flamingoThat is all for the the week. I’m now packing for my trip to Stoke on Trent, where I will visit five schools and nine nurseries in four days. Surely, it must be a world record!

Painting Sailfish

I’ve started working on the final pictures for a book by Nicola Davies  called “My First Book of Animals”.
It’s so inspiring that I would like to do nothing else but paint and draw all these exciting animals.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work like this. There is always something else I have to do as well. Little pictures I promised to do some time ago, school visits (quite a few of them in fact) and I was also at the Imagine Children’s Festival at Southbank centre in London.

I did two talks and two workshops. Imagine Children’s Festival is a great event and I’m pleased to say that it all went very well. It was good fun. The children (and their parents) were nice and friendly and also keen to do some good art.FullSizeRender
We made little concertina books based on my book “The Mouse Who Ate the Moon”.The Mouse Who ate the Moon
I was signing books and one of the dads came and asked me a favour. He told me that one of his son’s favourite books was my Animal Opposites. He told me that it is read so much, that the book got a bit battered. Then he produced a copy of Animal Opposites that is definitely well loved. Some of the pop ups were torn a bit, but the pop up peacock was completely missing, so I was asked if I could draw a new peacock into the book. I did …my best. IMG_0499I always like to see my books being well read and used.
Back to ” My First Book of Animals”. I thought I would start with a picture of gorilla with baby. The reason is, that I consider this picture to be one of the most difficult pictures in the book, so I wanted to get on with it. IMG_0614I fact I enjoyed drawing the gorilla. The picture isn’t finished, but I think it’s going o.k. so far.
Then I painted a sailfish. In this case I choose the sailfish because I really like this fish and I couldn’t wait to have a go.IMG_0617
I did the picture twice. The second picture was much better than the first one, but it still needs a bit of work.

IMG_0618And I started flamingoes. It’s a work in progress….well the whole book is a work in progress.

A couple more things to mention. Spending three days in London this week was great. There’s so much going on, but the high light for me was exhibition of Marlene Dumas in Tate Modernmarlene dumasIt’s so nice to see an exhibition of somebody who can still paint and draw. Great exhibition.

Another highlight for me was an exhibition of MA graduates from Anglia Ruskin University and Cambridge School of Art. Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 21.08.02I wished I could spend more time in the exhibition, but I was running out of time. What I saw was very impressive. Lots of great illustrators. One of them is my friend from the Academy of Fine Art in Prague - Zdenka Pozarova. Great to catch up and congratulations!

And one more thing. It was St. Valentine’s Day and I received this nice review of Jonathan & Martha. It’s funny how this books always get mentioned at this time of the year. Thank you myfriendlucy.

Books with holes

Books with holes – I’m talking about my board books of course. I’ve been sketching and making mock ups so that I have something to show to my publisher.IMG_0601One of the books should be about a bird.


IMG_0599I also fancy doing something with mice. I know I’ve done a couple of board books with mice in the past, but in this book there should be not one, but three mice.IMG_0607

IMG_0603To me a board book with holes and mice in it makes sense, somehow.

IMG_0605Talking about mice..I was also asked to do a picture of mice on a red chair.mala mysI suppose that’s enough of mice for one week.

My friend Carl had a birthday this week. He likes cycling, so I did a little picture of a cyclist being followed by a moose. I named it “Sweedish cyclist”. IMG_0610

Good meeting.

Since I wrote my last blog, I’ve received an email from Manor Green School  with a better picture of the hanging mural. So here it is once again, so everybody can see what we did together. Penguins on parade!

image copyThis week I had a meeting with editors and with Nicola Davies. We were discussing our new book “The First Book of Animals”.

I was quite nervous, because it was the first time I was presenting my sketches for the book and was worried about what everybody would say.

I really enjoyed sketching the book. Nicola’s text is great and it’s full of interesting facts. Very inspirational, so doing the research and painting the animals was real fun.

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 17.30.48 Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 17.37.47 Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 17.34.15I was quite surprised, that at the end I counted almost seventy pictures! It’s quite a lot I think, since I started sketching only before Christmas.

The meeting was great. We all worked very hard, trying to choose the best pictures and make the best selection of  animals (not every picture and animal will fit in to the book unfortunately).

At the end we had almost finished the lay outs for the book. It was going much better than anybody thought it will. Yes, there is still lots to do, but there are already some pages on which I can start working.

Painting small colour sketches is relatively easy, but now I will have to do a good pencil study of each animal, because Nicola wouldn’t let me get away with any mistakes. She’s already noticed that I can’t draw whales properly and I don’t know how an anemone looks. I even did a terrible mistake of calling an anemone a plant! It’s something you should never do in front of a biologist. Anemone is an animal of course. I tried to correct myself quickly, but I still got a stare.

This is actually what I’m looking forward to as well. To learn more about the animals. Nicola knows practically everything and it’s interesting to listen to her.


I was also sketching some ideas for board books. I got a bit stuck, so I decided to do a bit of painting instead. Here is painting of a big puffin. This picture is inspired by a drawing done by a little girl called Flo. I’ve already painted it once, but this painting is going to be even bigger. IMG_0597 It’s not finished!


There is a penguin in the school

056I went on my first school visit this year. Manor Green School in Maidenhead is a new and modern school. The staff and teachers I met on the day were very nice and very friendly and the children were excited and enthusiastic, ready to hear some of my stories and ready to do some art later on that day.

I did two talks in the morning. One for the children in the junior school and one for the secondary school. It went pretty well and some of  the children attended two of my workshops in the afternoon.

The school had previously asked if I can include some penguins in my workshop, so with the children, we created a big picture full of penguins.unnamedThere were penguins flying, skating, wearing jumpers and funny hats…. Sixty children were involved in making the mural! We all had great fun and I loved the drawings the children did. I got some of  the drawings to take home.ScanThis is a penguin going to a fancy dress party.Scan 2 A picture full of sunshine.Scan 1 A penguin from Ryan.Scan 4A happy picture with two butterflies.

Scan 3 Another picture with the sun shining from Lee.

Scan 6 Soroush gave me this drawing and as I remember he also painted a very colourful penguin flying in the air using three balloons! 048

That day we also opened a new school library and guess what 052
inside was a penguin, reading a book about Puffin Peter.

It was nice to see the children being so excited about their new library.

049 This is me being also excited and trying to fit into one of the seats between the bookshelves.

It was a busy and very nice day at Manor Green. Thank you for inviting me!

Last week I also continued working on the sketches for Nicola Davis’s book.

GorilaHere is a sketch of a gorilla with a baby,Kangarooa kangaroo with joey,

SeahorseseahorsesSnailand a snail. The book is going to have lots and lots of pictures of animals.

One more thing to mention. “Draw In” exhibition which takes place in Port of Tyne GalleryThe Customs House, Mill Dam, South Shields, Tyne and Wear NE33 1ES

Artists and writers were asked to nominate one of their friends and to do a portrait of themselves and a portrait of their nominated friend. It should be done from memory.  The nominated friend then will do the same. I drew Tony de Saulles

Tony De Saullesand Tony drew me. photo1Here is the list of the other people who are taking part:

Emma Holliday / Sav Scatola

Valerie Laws /  Malcolm Gerrie

Petr Horacek / Tony De Saulles

Ethen Byrne / Faye Leydon.

Lou Sumray / Jason Sumray

Sudeshna Chattopadhyay / Kriti Chattopadhyay

Charlotte Johannes / Tom Adams

Nick Holmes / Esme Patey-Ford

Suzy Varty / plus name to be confirmed

Carol McGuigan /  Topsy Qur’et

Suzy Varty & Bridget Woodhall

It should be a good exhibition. The private view is 23 Jan 6pm – 8pm  and the exhibition will last until 1st March 2015.  Go and have a look if you can!