Welcome to my blog! Here you'll find many samples of my finished art, conceptual work, unpublished material, and other miscellaneous jobs. You can find a complete list of my published books at this link.

I currently have signed copies of THE GREAT MONTEFIACO, WHACKO THE CHOOK, THE PUMPKIN EATER FROM PONDICHERRY, and THE SHIKKER COLA COWS available for purchase. For more info, please contact me at whackothechook@internode.on.net


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Toilet Humour

Today I worked on one of the more unusual commissions I sometimes get asked to do.

A friend, and avid collector of original artwork and cartoon memorabilia, had two panels on his toilet door he wanted me to fill.
Thank god the door swung outwards! I didn't fancy a day sitting on the can to paint!

I was free to come up with whatever I wanted, which is sometimes tougher than if I was given some kind of guideline. I could have done something completely random, but typically these sorts of pictures just end up looking grotesque, and I figure most people wouldn't want to look at something too grotesque whilst taking a dump. So I decided on something a tad conservative, something 'classic', though with my own spin on it...

The top panel is titled 'Fowl With A Pearl Egg Ring' (based on 'Vermeer's Girl With A Pearl Earring', obviously), and the bottom panel is 'Son Of Whacko' (Magritte's 'Son Of Man'). Both these pictures are not entirely new, I've had these floating about for a few years. I did semi-photoshopped versions of them a few years back when I was working on Whacko The Chook with Mark Svendsen:

They were done merely for my own and Mark's amusement. But this commission was a good excuse to do proper painted versions of them.

I got these done in one day, I didn't think I would. I intend going back to add a varnish over the top, and when I do I'll get better photos of them using a better camera...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Character sketches

Concept sketches for a book I've just started...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

CANCELLED, Part III

In late 2005 I was sent a text "NOAH'S OCEAN COMMOTION" by a publisher in the UK. About this stage I was in the process of sending out my manuscript for WHO FLUNG DUNG? to various UK publishers, and this was one of them. So I think when they saw my work on that, they decided I'd be suited to this text. I actually don't know who wrote it, I was never told, and I've never seen it published since (not under this title at least), so if anyone has any information in that regard I'd be curious? It was quite a fun story, so it'd be a shame if it was canned.

My concepts started with the three main characters, a Lion...

A Gnu...
And Noah...

The feedback to these was they weren't cute enough. They thought they were too stylised, and not soft enough in their features (again, had they researched my body of work...). So I went about 'cutifying' them further...

I don't think I'd gone quite this cute in my work up to this point. My wife (who is barometer for everything I do) thought they were adorable, but alas, again, they weren't cute enough. I wanted to secure this job, as I was desperate for work, so I gave it one more shot...

It still wasn't right. I honestly couldn't work out what they were after, but it became clear they were wanting a style that was not my own. The characters were starting to look like plush toys by the end, and this is as far from my established style as I was willing (and able) to go.

It was a mutual parting in the end. Subsequently, barely a week later, Meadowside Books caught me on the rebound and contracted WHO FLUNG DUNG?, which has been my biggest success so far. I shall discuss this book in a later post...

'Noah's Ocean Commotion' wasn't a complete waste, I managed to recycle my initial Gnu design into Who Flung Dung?...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

FOO WAS HERE

Here's a portrait of our beautiful dog "Foo":
This was a Christmas present to my wife. This is Foo with all his favourite things — food, Kong, lead for walkies, his squeaky rubber chicken and chicken leg, 'Wilson' (the ball he stole from children at the park), and his blanket, otherwise known as the 'Boochu Shroud'. Not forgetting his awesome tag, made by our good friend. Lastly, his flea shampoo is tucked away in the background — that's his least favourite thing!

Foo is a 50kg Irish Wolfhound x Bull Arab. He's certainly got a different life to his pig-hunting relatives in the country. We spoil him rotten!

The name 'Foo' might be familiar to cartoon buffs. It originated in the cartoon strip 'Smokey Stover'. Cartoonist Bill Holman frequently used this word throughout his strips, but never revealed it's significance or true meaning to it's readers. Thus, because it was unexplained, it was often used to label something that couldn't be identified — eg. the 'Foo Fighters' of WWII. Smokey Stover was a popular strip with other cartoonists and animation directors, so the word 'Foo' was often referenced in Warner cartoons. It was also brought to my attention that in Australia during WWII, and for some time after, "FOO WAS HERE" was common bit of chalk graffiti:

It's origin here is unclear. So, all round, the word 'Foo' denotes mystery. And it felt like a good name for a dog.

Here's Foo in action during last years dust storm...
video

Monday, August 2, 2010

CANCELLED, Part I

In 2005 I was given a paperback manuscript with the working title 'Nathan, Marvy & Pogue', written by children's author Odo Hirsch. It was later renamed and published as 'The Book Of Changing Things'.

Often I get asked to submit samples for a project, and for one reason or another the publisher may decide not to use me as an illustrator. This can be a little frustrating, particularly if you've exhausted a lot of time and effort reading the text, taking notes, and creating concepts. More often than not you won't get paid, and without a contract a publisher is not obligated to pay you, it's just a gamble you take as an artist. Allen and Unwin on the other hand were very kind enough to compensate me for my time, without any prompting from me. This is rare.

The follow concept sketches are for the above mentioned book, and have never seen the light of day...

I had a lot of trouble with this squirrel character. I just couldn't get him right. The publisher wasn't really happy with him either I think. They thought he lacked personality, and they were right. I attempted to give him more versatility, but my frustration comes through here I think...

An earlier version, which was deemed too cartoony:
More characters...
This one's my favourite. I love drawing teeth and gums, and sinewy gullets...
 Unbeknownst to me at the time, I think I was just one of several illustrators they were 'interviewing', so to speak, for the job. I was sad I didn't get it, but at the same time I breathed a sigh of relief — it was a daunting text to illustrate. There was an awful lot happening in the story, and everything was so detailed and vividly described, and while it was my kind of story, it would have been a long-winded headache. The job in the end went to Inari Kiuru, who I think did a brilliant job. Her style brought a real dreaminess, almost hallucinogenic quality to it, which is very much in sync with the story. It's a really nice looking book, beautifully designed and presented. See her samples here!

It's always interesting to see how another artist interprets the same text; I've thought it would be a fascinating experiment to take a picture book text, preferably something obscure or nonsensical, and get a dozen illustrators, all uniquely different from each other, and have them go away and illustrate it how they see it. Has it already been done? Probably, I don't know...