Friday, January 30, 2004


Bit behind with various bits of work (should catch up all right over the weekend). No great panic but better not prattle on here just now so have another coloured in doodle.

Thursday, January 29, 2004


Nothing much to report at present, just putting a picture up. This, along with the previous one and more to come, is just a sketchbook drawing from a few years ago that I've messed around with a little in Photoshop. I've pulled about two dozen images from one page and I'll maybe colour up about half of these, just to break up the text a bit.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Coathangers: a dependable force for good in an uncertain world 

I know what else I meant to say:

The other day I dug out my old black and white portable telly to set up by the side of the bed for the purpose of late night viewing from beneath the duvet in the cold winter evenings. Anyway, found the telly (20 years old, still going strong) but couldn't find the aerial. Imagine my delight, then, to find that the old bunging a wire coathanger into the aerial socket trick really does work remarkably well. In fact reception on the portable is probably better than on the other telly with the proper set top aerial that cost money.

Coathangers are great, a really versatile tool (I used one a while ago to temporarily fix a faulty stopcock in our toilet's cistern - it's a glamorous life full of adventure that I lead I can tell you) and it's a real shame that you don't see them standing in for car aerials like you used to back when I was a lad. I like and admire practical improvisation and it always slightly startles me when I do anything practical with any degree of adequacy so for me to manage a successful bit of Heath Robinson improv was a real thrill. I hadn't been so excited since I discovered that our doorbell runs on clockwork.

While I'm here I'd like to point out that just because I've mentioned a certain amount of viewing-based recreation in the last couple of entries I wouldn't want you to think that all my evenings are spent slumped on the sofa mindlesly watching telly. It may be largely true but all the same I wouldn't want you to think it.

Okay, so the goggles are a big success, that's the most important thing. It was a bit weird realising, somewhat belatedly, that this was the first time I'd actually been able to see properly while swimming. I've worn glasses (or contacts) since I was about six years old so it had always been a blurry kind of pursuit before but now, suddenly, I'm like the bastard offspring of Jacques Cousteau and Fotherington-Thomas, marvelling at the wonderful new world beneath the surface of the public baths (and appalled to discover just how grubby the bottom is - do the staff throw in a selection of used plasters at the beginning of each day to keep in line with some European quota?) I'd drone on wetly about the beauty of it all (not the used plasters so much but the rest of it: light on water; light through water; bodies in water; the whole slow motion, distorted soundtrack arthouse movieness of it) but it's nothing new to you, probably, so I won't bother. But if anyone reads this who swims myopically - get prescription goggles, they're fabulous.

Otherwise last week was principally taken up with finishing one lot of spot illustrations and accepting a commission for another batch. The good folk at Horrible Histories seem to be limiting my use to odds and ends at present rather than giving me any of the more substantial jobs like the comic strips (which I've previously done a bunch of) or spreads (which I've only done rarely and not especially well). This is mainly okay in that the spot illos are less stressful and, for the time they take, usually more profitable than the bigger jobs but at the same time it does feel a little as if I've fallen out of favour with them for the other stuff. Still, I shouldn't need validation from my clients, I should just get on and create something of my own that I can be proud of.

In other news: our DVD player finally arrived from Amazon (shortly after writing the last entry I think) so we've been enjoying the delights of Alan Plater's Beiderbecke series amongst other things in patented Lovelyvision. A joy. Also, we're working our way through the first series of Andy Hamilton's excellent Bedtime which had passed us by when it was shown on the telly. Luckily some very direct hinting to younger brother Mike pre-Christmas led to my receiving it as a splendid yuletide gift (thanks, Mike). Nice to be reminded that British telly can still show some class from time to time.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Well I'm back within a week, that's not too bad.

Developments over the past few days are as follows:

My right foot hurts following a game of squash on Monday that caused an enormous blister to form and then burst during the match. In the latter part of the game I could feel a flap of skin hanging off. Mmm, nice. Good game though.

I've taken up swimming moderately regularly over the past few months and while I can currently still only do breaststroke I am at least much better at it now. I can get my head under the water and everything. Having decided that I'm now fairly committed to continuing swimming I decided to order some prescription goggles online on Wednesday. And they arrived in the post yesterday - very impressive service. So I'll be trying those out this morning. I'm enjoying the swimming much more now I feel I'm better at it. For quite a while it was mainly just some extra exercise to try to combat the effects of sitting on my arse all day for a living: I'd enjoy an increased sense of well-being afterwards but the actual swimming itself was rather boring. Now I feel pretty good while I'm actually in the pool too (possibly the fact that I'm overtaken by pensioners less often helps a bit) and with my groovy new goggles I'll actually be able to see too. Now won't that be something.

Work-wise I finished a cover for the Horrible Histories mag (a googly-eyed Spanish inquisition scene) and accepted a couple of commissions from them for spot illustrations ("Awful Ancients" - various Mesopotamian shenanigans). Good to have a bit on again after a very quiet spell over Christmas (though at least this year I was half expecting it). Also took on a small commission from Brian Holmes at Loaf, the design company that does work for/shares offices with my girlfriend's employers. I'll maybe talk more about that when I get the brief.

Saw Kill Bill last night. Odd film. Enjoyed bits of it a lot but the movie as a whole is a rather (deliberately?) ragged piece of work, as if Tarantino wants to destroy his audience's expectations of him: oddly poor dialogue, as if he's trying to emulate that of the dodgy martial arts action movies that inspired him; over the top gore effects - lots of severed limbs with Pythonesque gushes of blood; one or two jarringly edited cuts to the soundtrack. And the decision to put it out in two parts really does seem something of a liberty. Oh well, it just about gets by on verve and style but it's hardly the fulfilment of QT's early promise.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Well, you know, I've tried to keep diaries in the past and started up a blog once before too. Not sure what will happen with this. It might slightly improve my typing speed I suppose.

I suppose one thing I'm intending is to record what I mean to achieve in my work so that there's something down in writing that I can beat myself up with at a later date if I've failed. So on that score, where do things stand at the moment? I've been full-time freelance as an illustrator/cartoonist/whatever (I've not settled on a particular label) since July 2001 and since a little under 2 years ago the bulk of my work has come from working for Eaglemoss Publications on their Horrible Histories Collection magazine (licensed from the books by Terry Deary and Martin Brown). This has been a good thing in that I was lucky to gain a regular client pretty early on but the nature of the work is somewhat restricting in that I have to make my drawings look at least a little like Martin Brown's style. Ideally I want to find some new outlets for my work and soon (not least because HH has a limited life: there's about a year of it left to run).

I've contacted a friend of a friend, Liz Johnson at Orchard Books, to tentatively suggest that I might send a children's book proposal her way at some point and she's said she'd be happy to take a look at what I come up with which is as much encouragement as I could reasonably expect at this stage. I've a couple of ideas for stories but they need fleshing out a lot before it'll be clear whether they'd work or not.

I'm also committed to producing a new 4 page comic strip for Listen, an anthology book being put together by (mostly) the same crowd of people who put out Sentence a year or so ago. There's no money in this, of course, but I do love comics. I'll talk more about the idea I'm working on for this just as soon as I've worked it out myself. At the moment my intention is to largely forgo any real story content and just work on evoking and sustaining a particular mood but this may well change before its done.

I was hoping to put something together for Anthology '05 too but I'm not sure if I'll have time now, even though it'd only be a couple of pages. I'm a bit skint at present so I'm rather wary of taking too many non-paying commitments on for fear of eventually having to choose between welching on those and taking on whatever paying jobs may come up.

Something I'm trying to seriously get to grips with is learning some basic HTML and getting my sorry website into some kind of respectable order. Should have some time to spend on this in the coming week but I'm aware that what the site will need most of all is content. Which is largely how I've found myself here: as I write this is a private blog but I may make it public and link to it later. If it stops being boring. Enough for now, work to do.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 1, 2...

Is this thing on?

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