Serendipity?

So yesterday was a cool day.

I’d woken early and full of gusto for the day ahead. As it goes I had no plans for the day. A very rare ‘clear’ day where I could focus on my own projects.

As I showered and sipped those wonderful first sips of early morning coffee, I thought to myself, ‘hm, I wonder if I could make any money today..’

I fired up the Mac and started to organise my morning in terms of my own writing projects. Moments later an email dropped into my inbox requesting some bespoke cartoon clip art.

A couple of emails later and I’m enjoying crafting some fun cartoons. We agreed the price for each and by the end of a day’s work I was several £££ better off.

One of the clip art pieces created yesterday (without the colour)

Happenstance? Happy accident? Fate? Cosmic alignment?

I don’t know. But I was certainly happy to shelve my own projects for paid work for the day.

Satirical Cartoons

I’ve long held a fascination with satire. We British folk are fairly adept at highlighting and ridiculing the ridiculousness of authority.

I had a look around at what other cartoonists were doing in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s inauguration and found some interesting results. It’s not so much the content of the cartoons that I’m interested in as the style in which they are drawn.

Some are full of detail and some are simply ‘dashed off’ style doodles. In every case though the point is made with stark brutality. The man is right there for taking pot shots at. It’s often the case that the arts are the greatest form of opposition to government.

I created a few of my own under my pseudonym, Wilf.

A self-published children’s picture book about a frog

Wow, it’s two years since I self-published my first picture book for children about a frog named Bob. The book was indeed titled A Frog Named Bob.

A Frog Named Bob

A Frog Named Bob

I remember vividly sitting in my local cafe (and second home) and coming up with the idea of drawing a series of pictures about a frog who had no idea what sound he should make. His name was Bob and he’d be the most miserable frog that ever lived.

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Sat sketching in the cafe

All that Bob wanted was to be able to make his own sound. The birds chirped, the owl twit-wooed, the bear growled, the mice squeaked, the cows mooed, so on and so forth. But Bob, well he had no clue what sound he should make. So he set forth to discover.

 

When I came up with the idea I knew that the words in the story would need to present me with an opportunity to create some fun and colourful cartoons.

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I looked around at popular children’s picture books and found that rhyming was a key feature.
Julia Donaldson’s Gruffalo was obviously riding high in the charts for children’s picture books so I pored over it and took some notes.
Sure enough the rhyming was cool and great to read aloud.

I made the decision right there to create a rhyming picture book that would be colourful and fun. I’d also aim it at very young readers who enjoy a fun story before bed.

At the time I was using an iPad with the wonderful Procreate app installed. I also had a Wacom Intuos Stylus so creating cool concept sketches whilst enjoying a coffee in town was pretty straight forward.

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With a bit of research into writing for children I found that 32 pages and around 600 – 700 words was the ideal for a picture book. So I set to work.

At home I have a Wacom Cintiq 22HD Touch running with an iMac. A dream combo and coupled with Corel’s Painter X3 I was able to transfer sketches produced in Procreate to the iMac to create something a little more polished.

Before long I had a manuscript and a bunch of rough sketches.
A week or so later (and several nights of little sleep) I had a complete portfolio of artwork for the book.

I self-published using Amazon’s Createspace service. Within a week or two of placing the order I had a box of brand new picture books that I could distribute around the local book stores.

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Proudly holding my first two picture books

I’ve had several reviews about A Frog Named Bob that have all thus far been very positive. From reluctant young talkers finding their voice to hyperactive children settling down for a good giggle right before bed.

The success of A Frog Named Bob encouraged me to continue writing, drawing and self-publishing. Something that I’ve been doing ever since.

You can see my list of books on my dedicated page – my picture books for children.

The Grumblegrump

I sketched this chap earlier this morning using Corel Painter. The ink was applied with the Velocity Sketcher and the colour with a Pastel with varying grain.
With the Pastel’s grain set to 10 I could block in the colour regions nicely and still retain some of the paper’s texture. I could then drop the grain to 8 and get some wonderful texture, especially around the eyes.

I needed a name for him so just plucked the Grumblegrump out of thin air :)

thegrumplegrump

The real Carl Drogo

Just a little bit of Sunday morning nonsense :)

I’m a massive fan of Game of Thrones and always loved the Khal and Khaleesi storyline. Jason Momoa, who plays Drogo, has an incredibly strong face and I just thought it lent itself to a creepy little cartoon.

khal

Creating a school storybook at Weston Primary School

I really do have to pinch myself sometimes.

Next week I am thrilled to be attending Weston Primary School where I will be working with the children to illustrate a story that they’ve written.

This is a story that the entire school has contributed to and it’s a real privilege to be invited to spend time with them.

The way that the day will pan out is that, following a quick introduction during assembly, I generally meet with various children from key stage 1 in the morning and key stage 2 in the afternoon.
We work together in sketching out some visual ideas for their story and defining the characters.
Of course the children have their own thoughts and ideas as to how their story should look and this is perfect.

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Wacom Cintiq Companion 2

I always take my full technical kit with me.
This is a Mac Mini with a Wacom Companion plugged into it. I project from there through an Epson projector onto a large screen in the school hall. My drawing app of choice is always Mischief.

The children sit with pencil and paper and we all have a huge amount of fun bashing out ideas. It’s essentially a storyboarding session and I enjoy getting the children excited about sketching.

What’s essential to this process is that the children cannot make a mistake. It’s just ideas. There’s no such thing as a bad idea. All ideas are welcomed and all contributions explored.

I have a range of coffee table books that focus on story development and conceptual art and I will always take those with me.
Books such as PIXAR’s FUNNY! which I heartily recommend to anybody with an interest in storyboarding.

What falls out of the bottom of the process is a series of sketches that the children can then go away and work with during class time.

I’ll sit with children individually to help them where they need it. I love listening to the children’s ideas and I love to see them expressing themselves visually.

Following what will probably be an extremely productive few days or weeks in class I will take all of their artwork and assemble the book using InDesign. The PDF book is handed back to the school for review and then it’s uploaded to an online publisher (usually Amazon’s CreateSpace) and a book is produced.

If you are involved with schools and this sounds interesting to you there is much more information available over at my Cartoon Academy website.