stories and illustration

The Travelling Musical Bears

This is a finished illustration, the first one, for Page 5 of “Musical Bears”. The first version was much darker, as it is an evening scene, but up north the summer is light for longer; and besides the first version was far too dreary. I made the mistake of trying to change things in watercolour, which just does not work, as more than a couple of layers and everything goes a murky grey; or at least that is what happened in the first version. The colours of this book should be up-beat; so this is keyed nearer to how I want it. Any extra layer or correction was done with crayon. I have generally gone back to my usual way of illustration, which is sepia ink and watercolour. The image is A4 plus bleed, so my scanner doesn’t quite manage this. I had to scan several times and then cut and paste, which was quite a process; but if I get a publisher and need to produce my own scans then an A3 scanner will be in the offing. The story is about travelling musicians, a kind of person I have a fondness for, though in this case they are bears (bit of trouble with the fiddle bowing arm if you are a bear). A couple of other commissions have cropped up at the beginning of the year, so I will be working on them as well; but it is fun to have got started on finished work; it is such a different process from the original sketching out. Like writing, there are two distinct phases; for me, at any rate.

January 29, 2020 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Painting, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Children and Bears

October 26, 2019 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Midnight Hare page 27


Instead of putting the text on to pictures in illustrations which are quite specific as to their edges, I have decided to put the text against the background colour, so that it is quite separate.  To make the images fit thus on to the size of paper I have chosen, I widened the illustrations and then reduced them, so they are a slightly different shape than before, and there is enough space left to put in the text. It is much easier to do such alterations when using gouache, neocolor crayons and ordinary coloured pencils rather than watercolour with pen and ink, which is such an unforgiving medium.  I started to repaint the illustrations, but I like the feeling of these two, so decided to alter them.  Milo has been given a few more possessions – I liked the bareness of his room aesthetically, but thought he looked a tad deprived.

September 23, 2016 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Painting, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment



“JUMP!” said the Midnight Hare.

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Illustration, Painting, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 9 Comments

Centre for the Children’s Book,, Newcastle: The Little Boat

Newcastle 3

Renovations of a magical place, the Centre for the Children’s Book, opening again in July. The Centre is set in Ouseburn, a very individual  part of Newcastle upon Tyne – spent a wonderful day there with a friend of long-standing. Every time I go there is something new to see – an inexhaustible area of the city.

June 22, 2015 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Centre for the Children’s Book Newcastle: Renovations 2

Newcastle 2

June 22, 2015 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Centre for the Children’s Book, Newcastle: Renovations 1

Newcastle 1


June 22, 2015 Posted by | Art, Illustration, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Boat on the Other Bank

Fishing BoatI am in England, that boat over there is in Scotland.  These days I am fascinated by the shapes of trees, I think I am gearing myself up to paint a boy in a wood, a boy who is following the cry of a captured hare. Trouble is, the story is set in June, and the trees I am enamoured of are in their February colours. What will change, the colours or the season? I saw some historical Japanese armour and horse armour last Sunday, and I fell for those colours too – dark red, metal grey, buff. sienna, dark brown, gold, silver, black. Charismatic, strange, beautiful. Coming back home today I came across a tree full of bullfinches – well, four or five of them, and some of their colours are in the same range.  My favourite birds, I haven’t seen any for more than ten years.  “Fairy birds” I believe is one of their folk names.  I couldn’t take proper pictures of them, as I only had my small camera today, as I wasn’t intending to take many photographs; and I certainly wasn’t expecting to see bullfinches. I’ll go on the qui vive over the weekend with the camera that magnifies more, and see if they are still haunting the place,tearing the buds off the tree with little jerks of their heads.

February 27, 2015 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trees Across the River 2

Trees Across the River 2This is the feeling that I want for the woods in my picture book.  The part that is set in woodland talkes place at nightime, but maybe I will just put some stars in a lilac sky to signify the dark, and keep these delicate colours.

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Painting, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wintering Swans on The Lees


The bridge in the background of this photograph is a remnat of the Borders Railway, a ghost railway that is now rising Lazarus-like between Tweedbank and Edinburgh, rendering parts of Galashiels temporarily chaotic.

We are being threatened with snow, which may ravage the flowers already shooting up in the garden and in the woods.  However, the frost on the ground this morning has disappeared, so I shall take a brisk walk up to the farm on the top of the hill, with its union jack flying from the top of the silo, and then walk down the lane between the russet beech hedges. It is dark this morning, which feeds melancholy, but I shall soon feel happy ensconced in the Tardis, with new songs to listen to, the blower heating up the place, the birds feeding outside the window to provide endless distraction, and the mounting pile of roughs to work on.  It is a good feeling to find new ideas moving into a story that I wrote in a couple of hours more than a year ago. If an idea still interests after a year, that is a good sign. Soon I shall sharpen some crayons on my miraculous Mitsubishi hand-cranked pencil sharpener (which came all the way from Japan with instructions in Japanese, so I have only just worked out how to use it properly) and get out my array of new gouache paints, and really get to work.


January 28, 2015 Posted by | Art, Photography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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