Saturday, 27 February 2010

A Little Background

The acid test for any illustrator and his style is the depiction of figures in interaction and figures in context. I've been posting samples of my recent experiments with Photoshop, but so far I have managed to avoid placing any of my figures in an environment. Here's a first attempt with a background (though I doubt if 'holding a cat' counts as interaction).

Knowing where to leave off drawing and start using Photoshop to shade and texture is still a challenge. I could have gone much further with the pen, but I held off cross-hatching too much and honestly can't decide whether or not this is a good thing. The result is an image that seems much lighter, with a lot less black than there might have been, but I miss the detail somehow. There's even a little 'painting' going on, although I can't go much further with a mouse. Not without my fingers seizing up, anyway.

Click for a closer look. All observations and advice welcome.

Monday, 22 February 2010

I Won Something!

Anita Saxena, figure skating YA writer and fun-loving blogger, recently held a competition to design a new header for her blog and I'm delighted to say that I won! Visit Anita's blog to see her shiny new banner (and read her interesting and humorous posts, of course).

Anita has kindly mentioned my plan to provide an on-line illustration service for those who want to add graphic, illustrated or drawn elements to their blogs and web-sites. In actual fact, I'm still at the 'wondering about logistics' stage with this plan, although her banner competition has spurred me on. So, while this is still mostly something for the future, if anyone reading this has pressing illustration needs I'm sure we could organise something. And now I even have a satisfied customer to show off.

Thanks again, Anita!

Thursday, 11 February 2010


Well, it's gone. My novel, for better or worse, is now sitting in the in-trays of the depressingly small number of people who publish children's YA fiction. According to my agent, they've been asked to respond within a month. Of course, it doesn't take that long to type NO, but now now, Taylor – let's be positive. John le CarrĂ© says that 'spying is mostly waiting'. Writing is too. Fortunately, I've got my toenails to move onto while I wait for my fingernails to grow back.

Anyone reading this blog who feels in any way warmly disposed to me and my writing career, might like to start crossing their fingers from now. Please. No pressure, just... please.

I had a very uncool, fist-shaking 'xxxxing hell!' moment recently when I discovered that Puffin were about to launch TimeRiders by Alex Scarrow, the first in a series of books about time travelling secret agents who defend the past against those who wish to distort it. But after raging at my computer for a bit, I calmed down and realised that this is probably a positive thing. After all, it surely means that time travel is getting some serious attention in the publishing world, which can't hurt. The word Zeitgeist might amuse anyone here who has read my novel and knows German. In any case, as far as I can gather the similarities are fairly superficial, though I must read TimeRiders pronto.

Later on I realised that this coincidence probably means an automatic rejection from Puffin, which is a less happy thought. Oh, well. To head off a return of the grumps, I've just been on You Tube to look for something to cheer myself up. You might like what I found. Yes, I know that laughing at people who can't ski falling down in the snow is very, very sad, but still...

Friday, 5 February 2010


When it comes to procrastination, there's nothing quite like doodling. I set up this blog mainly to focus my search for a new illustration technique, so at least I can call on some kind of professional justification for not doing what I should: revising a complicated novel.

I've been playing around with the computer a lot lately, looking at different ways to combine traditional and digital methods, and I keep coming back to scanning fabric and printed paper as a satisfying and (crucially) quick way of colouring line drawings. Taking this to its logical conclusion, I have replaced my irritating old banner with an image of me in scanned fragments of my own clothing!

Okay, I suppose I should get out more.

Anyway, if anyone's wondering about the steps, I live in a poky three storey house on the side of a steep hill, so I spend a lot of time climbing stairs. Since I'm basically an aspirational (perspirational?) and optimistic person, a picture of me doing just that seemed appropriate. I left the dog poo out though.

I'm still not quite ready to paint digitally, despite being inspired by people like this. But maybe once I've finally replaced my elderly mac I'll try again.

What do you do to avoid work? And do you have a scarf half as nice as mine?