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 Here you'll find many samples of my finished art, conceptual work, unpublished material, and other miscellaneous jobs.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


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Happity Christmas!

Monday, November 21, 2011

THE SPOTTED CHOOK

I recently finished some promotional cartoons/illustrations for The Spotted Chook B&B at Montville, Queensland. The main one was this postcard...
I married my wife at The Spotted Chook in 2009, and we couldn't have picked a better venue. Everything about this place is charming and idyllic. Leeroy and Jane, the owners, are exceedingly hospitable, and the rooms and food do not disappoint! Go there, now!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

DUCK THE WONDER DUCK aka NOT THIS LITTLE BLACK DUCK

Not This Little Black Duck is written by Circus Carnivore and Whacko The Chook author, Mark Svendsen.
When he first sent me this story, back in about 2006, it's original title was 'Duck The Wonder Duck'. It was far wordier then with a few extra plot points. Originally, Mark intended it to be a short paperback, accompanied by a series of black and white sketches, much like Pet Palace, a book I illustrated for Lothian's Start Up series. So I did up a quick character sketch, and that's as far as it got for a year or so.
Mark was unsuccessful selling it in this format, so it was shelved. A year or so later, when I was in my annual lull, I was looking for another project to keep me occupied. I found this text again, and proposed to Mark that it be shortened dramatically and turned into a picture book. We set about editing it heavily and I worked out the basic structure and layout, which pretty much remained intact throughout the edits to come. I fine-tuned the character designs...

At one point I thought about having a frog narrating the story...
... He would have been in every picture, but I felt he drew attention away from the main character and we'd lost some of the simplicity we were striving for with this book. He still remains in a handful of pictures though.

I then did up storyboards...

 Then from those I did tighter roughs...
We then sent it out to various publishers, but as is the way, rejection letters came back from every direction, and when we ran out of options it was shelved for another few years.

In the meantime I'd developed a fruitful working relationship with Koala Books and decided to submit it to them in 2010. They accepted it almost immediately. Once I'd finished See You Later Alligator I jumped straight into Duck The Wonder Duck. The title was later changed to Not This Little Black Duck, which works, and the text was tweaked a fair bit, but nothing much changed from my original roughs.

I decided to do a series of coloured storyboards...


My approach to the colour was different to that of most of my previous books, which were dominated by a lot of white space. I wanted to fill every inch of space with colour, because I felt that the duck characters, which are mostly white, would be lost on a predominantly white background...
 ... It was my thinking they'd stand out better on full colour. Most of the backgrounds have since been changed digitally in favour of white, at the request of the distributor. A decision I begged to differ on, but admittedly, I think the pictures look okay either way. Here's how the finished art originally appeared:

Here's one of my early concepts for the cover:
And this one was a collaboration with the designer:

Not This Little Black Duck will be out soonish...

Click here to read an interview with Mark Svendsen.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"WHO FLUNG DUNG?" Review, The Paul O'Grady Show

Back around 2007 (maybe 2006?) I was contacted by someone from The Paul O'Grady Show asking for a few image jpegs from my book Who Flung Dung?, as it was going to be reviewed by a group of kids on air. They said they'd send me a dvd of this episode, but nothing's arrived so far... I'd never heard of this show, as I don't live in the UK, by my sister-in-law was living in Colchester at the time, so I got her to tape it for me and post it over. So here's my copy...
video

The kids, Matthew, Kimberley and Isaac, make me laugh every time I watch this, I thought they were great. Children give such raw and honest appraisals, and it's so wonderful to hear how much kids enjoy this book. I get feedback about this one more than any other. I'll do a post about it one day...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

OCTAVIUS O'MALLEY Part I

OCTAVIUS O'MALLEY AND THE MYSTERY OF THE EXPLODING CHEESEwas written by Alan Sunderland.

In 2005 I was contracted by HarperCollins to illustrate three books in this series. They turned out to be some of the more enjoyable books I've worked on. HarperCollins were great to work with, and the stories were a lot of fun to illustrate. The author, designer, editor, and myself seemed to be all moving in the same direction, and were very much in sync with ideas. The basic brief I was given at the start was: "We see the illustrations for this book as being very '40s film noir, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Becall in trench coats...". The only stipulation was there was to be no smoking! The film noir and 1940s aspect greatly appealed to me.


I did a lot of research and hunting for reference material for this book. At the time I hadn't quite embraced the internet, so most of my research was done at libraries. I found a fantastic book on film noir at the State Library called The Noir Style which was full of great pictures. I loved it so much I photocopied the whole book. I also purchased Dark City, which was also handy. When I finally accessed the internet I trawled hundreds of images...








Next up, character designs...
And then there's the villains. Villains are always the most fun...


 'Kurt Remarque' was my favourite character. He was vividly described as a fat albino rat. I decided to make his tail morbidly obese also. There's something really repulsive about a rat's tail as it is, but an obese tail is even more disgusting. I'm surprised I wasn't ask to tone down his tail.
Once the characters were sorted, I did the roughs. Initially I was going to do one full page and one half page illustration for each chapter...


In the end I did a mix of illustrations of all shapes and sizes, and ended up with about 60 pictures per book. By the end of the third book I'd done close to 200 pictures! At the start I wasn't sure what medium to use for each picture. My original grand plan was to do them all like this, as finely shaded pencil drawings...
I loved how it turned out, but I knew if I went down this avenue I'd probably still be working on these! In the end I went with a looser approach, using nib and ink, and water soluble pens for the washes...
Many of these pictures were directly inspired by pictures I found when researching Film Noir...

I also went and took lots of photos of plumbing...



















 Here's my favourite picture...

 And my second favourite...

I based this image on an experience I had at a pet shop. I remember crouching down to look at a really fat albino rat in a cage, nursing half a dozen young. I stuck my finger in to give the mother rat a stroke behind it's ear, and to my horror she arced and puffed up violently with an audible hiss. I even felt it's warm breath and beads of spittle hit my hand. I almost fell back into the cages behind me. It was truly terrifying!

Here's my very early concept for the cover design:
I'm a huge fan of old movie posters, and pulp covers. I was really excited to get a chance to do something in that style. Here's the layout I came up with:
I then submitted a coloured rough for approval...

I then did the finished art, which was done with acrylic inks and coloured pencils...
I didn't do anything with the text, I wanted to leave it to the designer, Darren, to come up with something cool, which of course he did...
Darren also did a fantastic job of designing the rest of the book too. Over all, I was extremely happy with the finished book — the reproduction was spot on, and it all looked very classy. I'm proud of this book.


NEXT: OCTAVIUS O'MALLEY AND THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING MOUSE