Final touch

IMG_0678This is a finished book!

“My First Book of Animals” has more than fifty double spread pictures. I’ve been working on it a whole year. Last week I finished the last illustration from the book and felt a kind of relief. I always fall for this. I think the book is finished as soon as I finish the last illustration, but it’s never like this. There are always little changes and adjustments and there are endpapers to be painted and a contents page and end of chapters…, so in the end it’s been a couple of busy weeks for me.

A.contence paperHere is the mentioned contents pageWhale 1and some of the illustrations from the book.Arctic Tern

Zebra copy

“My First Book of Animals” is divided into five sections and each of the sections finishes with information about certain animals. I wanted these end chapters to be different. I wanted the drawings to look as if they had been taken out of somebody’s sketchbook.FullSizeRender copySome of the drawings were quite challenging.FullSizeRender_3The book will have a sleeve cover.My First Book of AnimalsSleeve covers are nice, but then you have to do one more cover for the actual book. Here is one of themIMG_2907and here are details of some other options.Scan 6One of the butterflies?Scan 3Or perhaps another beetle?Scan 2Or an egg?

Scan 1What about a hummingbird? I like the hummingbird.Scan 5I got myself carried away. The truth is that I enjoyed painting these small images.

Tomorrow I will tidy up my studio. I do that every time I finish a book. If you imagine, that this book took me a year to work on you can imagine what my studio looks like.

I’ve already started throwing away some paper and cutouts. I found this drawing, which I quite like. It’s a sketch for a giraffe.IMG_2888

Here is one more drawing from my little sketchbook I wanted to show you.FullSizeRender_1It’s a drawing I did this week when I heard on the radio that one of the last four white rhinos has died.  It’s sad, sad news.

Back home and home again

IMG_2603I’m back from my annual trip to the Czech Republic. I try to do this every year. Travel to my homeland, stay in my friends’ summer cottage, go for walks, paint in the woods, write new ideas for picture books, trying to chop wood and survive by cooking for myself.

I love this place so much. IMG_2600From the front door of the cottage you can see an apple orchard, hills and woods. The back door opens in to the wood.

onen svetThe days there are almost always the same. A walk in the wood, counting mushrooms, painting in the afternoon and writing in the evening.

IMG_2621Some of the mushrooms look beautiful.IMG_2542I paint outside. I love the autumn landscape and the low light in woods is magical.IMG_2577Here is one of my paintings.IMG_2807If truth be told, I probably spend most of the time just sitting on a tree stump looking into the wood.
IMG_2608I also paint in the orchard (that’s when it gets too cold to be far away from the cottage).IMG_2799I love the evening. Playing music, sitting  by the fire and making up stories.FullSizeRender-2This one is about a tiger.
IMG_2833 I tried to write about a frog as well.IMG_2834There may be also a story about a girl call Lucy.

Not everything I write there is usable, but I always come back with some ideas and material I can work with later in the year.IMG_2647Not far from this place I saw a white dear, honestly! I told my friend about it. He knew he lives there and he told me, that the first time people saw the white dear, they thought it’s an escaped goat who now lives with dear. Now, there’s an idea for a story, I thought.

I had an amazing time back in Czech Republic and it’s always very hard to come back and pick up working where I left it.

But it wasn’t just work for me. I had time to meet up with friends too.

I briefly met a little chap call Martin Hasa. He was only three years old, but just as his parents he likes books and he can paint. This picture is called “All the animals”.Martin Hasa 3roky - Vsechny zviratkaI like his picture very much.IMG_2794Since I came back I was busy finishing “My First Book of Animals” (still lots of work needs to be done in the next couple of weeks), did a window in a nice book shop “Jaffe and Neale” in Chipping Norton, popped into “Stream Festival” in South London and visited the really nice book shop “Alligator’s Mouth” in Richmond London.Aligater's mouthI’m now back in my studio. I’m learning how to draw a beaver so that it doesn’t look like a guinea pig. It’s not easy, you know.

I looked at my sketchbooks for a guinea pig, but haven’t found any. This animal is quite similar. It’s a bear though.151

BLUE PENGUIN is released!

Blue Penguin                                                                                             Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 20.11.42

cover ?My latest picture book is called “Blue Penguin”.

I got the idea for the book two years ago. It was a nice autumn evening and I was raking leaves in a beautiful apple orchard, thinking about one of my friends that I haven’t seen now for a longtime.

His name was Richard and he was very different from everybody else I know. He used to say and do exactly what ever he wanted to say and do at that moment. Behaviour like this could get him into a trouble from time to time, of course, but Richard didn’t mind. He was used to be different.

Richard was fun to be with and I liked being his friend.Scan 4
So that day I got this idea to write a book about a penguin that was different from everybody else. I started to write the same evening.

The next day I fitted the story with thumbnail sketches.Scan 8
Some books are difficult to write, some books just pop out. It felt as if the “Blue Penguin” is one of the books, which comes easily.

I really enjoyed sketching and writing the story and I couldn’t wait to show it to my publisher.

Scan 3I’m very lucky to be published by Walker Books and I’m also lucky to work with two very good and nice editors. They nodded their heads as they were reading it and then they said: ” We like it, but it would need a little bit more work.” I’ve heard this many times before and I know what it means. The hard work started there.

IMG_9620We had to tidy up the story, make it shorter, simpler…. My editors and I worked on the text on and off for months. I must have about fifteen versions of the “Blue Penguin”. The book, which seemed to be at the beginning so easy to write, now turned into rather hard work.12. jpeg
To be honest I didn’t mind to rewrite the text and I liked the process of editing the story, but at the same time I couldn’t wait to start to illustrate it.

I could see the pictures in my dreams and I was so looking forward to getting on with the artwork.

Finally after a year we agreed that the story is now ready. I did the pictures in a month or two, almost in one go and I enjoyed every minute of it.Blue_Penguin_3

Even when the illustrations were done we still discussed the text. My editors are never happy until everything is just right.

I had to change some sentences and it meant that I had to change some pictures too.

We also took some of the finished illustrations out, so it all fitted with the changes.

Below is one of the illustrations that didn’t make it into the book.IMG_0202.JPG

Blue Penguin was probably one of my most challenging books to write and one of the most fun picture books to illustrate.


I hope it was worth all this work.9






My First Book of Animals
The dummy of this book is currently being presented at the Frankfurt Book Fair.  I’m looking forward to hearing the feedback.

The book is almost finished but one of the most challenging illustrations I’ve kept to the end. It’s a picture of beetles. Here is the very first sketch for the picture.Beetles
I talked to Nicola about the text and decided that in this case the picture itself should say the story. Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 16.07.55

workHere is the work in progress. I printed and painted each of the beetles separately. I spent lots of time looking at the variety, sizes and mainly the colours of beetles. The colours are just unbelievable. I wouldn’t have been able to make it up!brouciI also looked at my little sketchbooks for more beetles and sure enough I found a couple.zahradnik
Here is a great stag beetle who just landed on a farmer’s head.Beruska
A gardener attacked by a giant ladybird.F.K
This is Mr. Kafka just a moment before he wrote “Metamorphoses”.zapas
Two wrestling beetlesvelky brouk
and one rather big beetle on the table.Blue Penguin

My new book “Blue Penguin” is going to be published on the 5th November! For that reason my next blog is going to be about….BLUE PENGUIN! Here is a drawing of somebody who also loves penguins.kiss the penguin


Frog and Frog

I started this week at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. The festival is always well organised and a great event to take part in.

I had a brilliant audience and I decided to read my new book “Blue Penguin” even though it’s not been officially published yet. I was quite surprised when during the book signing people had brought the book with them. Waterstones  in Cheltenham managed to get a couple of copies early. How exciting!

On Tuesday I was in London signing 200 copies of “Blue Penguin”. I always do a little drawing in to the book and it took me almost two hours. Together with a couple of meetings it was a rather busy day.

Since then it was just about painting frogs. I’m talking about the picture for Nicola Davies’s “My First Book of Animals”

Here is the original sketch. Very colourful poison frogs.

Poison Arrow FrogsSince the first sketch the text has changed and we included another three species. Just doing the research and watching documentaries about frogs takes time. They are so fascinating!
frogs copyHere is the final illustration (minus the text of course).IMG_2514The tadpoles of Poison Dart frogs stick to mucus on the backs of their parents. In the upper reaches of the rainforest trees, the parents deposit their young in pools of water that accumulate in plants.

I had a feeling that I must have drawings of frogs in my sketchbooks.

101This frog is having lunch.247This frog is reaching the moon.201. plavaci zabaThis one is a great swimmer.190This one loves fish.189. Lov na zabuThis frog is being hunted 188and this one is jumping with a kangaroo.187If you see a frog wearing a crown and you happen not to be already engaged or married, just kiss it.
IMG_2517Oh yes, look what my publisher did for me to promote the latest book “The Mouse Who Reached the Sky”.CQpVkfzUAAAP1cj Isn’t it nice?


Birds, birds, birds

Birds of ParadiseAn illustration of birds of paradise is the latest addition to my pictures for Nicola Davies’ “A First Book of Animals”. I sketched the page like this, but Nicola reminded me that the birds of paradise live in the dense rainforest and therefore it would be good to show them in their natural habitat surrounded by leaves.

If you’ve never seen birds of paradise watch this documentary, because apart from the amazing colours the behaviour of the birds is fascinating.

Birds of ParadiseHere is the finished picture.

I started a new picture for the book. It is a picture of a beaver making a dam, but although I did two pictures they didn’t look right.

Instead I thought I will show you some other pictures of birds from my little sketchbooks.114

I was quite surprised by how many drawings I found. It was good fun to go through them all. Here are some.159They are mostly made up birds like this one. Can you see the fly?182

This one is also made up. I think it started as a duck.106I have a picture of pigeons and a white crow on Trafalgar Square.105This picture is a bit similar.71 Here are a few parrots223and more.211

One very heavy woodpecker.239

I call this picture a winter bird.191Talking about winter, this is what I could see from my studio window.194

More strange birds.198One very brave bird.224

This stork is also rather brave, but it’s because he’s never seen a gorilla before. Looking at the sketch it seems that I’ve never seen a gorilla before either, but it’s just a sketch.196

This stork has incredibly long legs.154This bird is in danger179and so is this duck.168More crows in the rain (as I saw once walking on the Malvern Hills).128Then I have some birds which are almost human.177This bird looks definitely like somebody I once met on the train.
This one looks more like a nightmare. 14

I don’t remember what this picture is about, but there is definitely a bird.

113I like toucans…and cycling, as a matter of fact.195And the last one is a bird in bed.122