23 October 2012

For the love of endpapers

Opening up a picture book, before you even get to the title page, you catch a glimpse of artwork that gives you a tantalising snapshot, detail or mood of the story you're about to read. Silently (and often not so silently) I make a little 'Wooo' noise. Don't you love endpapers? I just adore them.

As an illustrator, endpapers can just be a dream. If there's time in the deadline the trusting designer and editor can often give you free rein to run slightly amok. Not to disrespect any talented authors, but there's no text to work around for just these two moments. The illustration equivalent of an indulgent rock guitar solo perhaps? 

I've indulged myself today with including some endpapers of my own that I've really enjoyed doing, followed by (badly) scanned copies of some beautiful examples by other artists that are my particular favourites. 

FIRST! Sneaky peek - I'm including the endpapers from my new book 'Mabel and Me - Best of Friends' with Mark Sperring and Harper Collins (out end of March 2013). I had so much fun with these. I hope you enjoy.

Mabel and Me - Best of Friends - front endpapers

Mabel and Me - Best of Friends - back endpapers

Endpapers for 'The Rumblewick Letters - My Unwilling Witch' by myself and Hiawyn Oram, Orchard books 2006. Great fun to work on these. My lovely designer literally let me go a bit mad with a half hearted idea about a 'map' on the understanding that I would just redo it if it turned out to be awful! I worked on a stretched piece of tea-stained paper, planned virtually nothing and just used black ink. The only thing I half planned was trying to fit 13 chimneys on the house (as in the name of the address in the text). The adrenaline really flowed. It literally was like taking a line for a walk.
Front endpapers from 'My Adventure Island' by Timothy Knapman and myself, Scholastic 2012. The book was about a boy imaging himself on his own island. I loved the challenge of bringing in subtle hints of 'home' that appear throughout the book.

Back endpapers 'My Adventure Island'.

And here's some real favourites that make me go 'Woooo'.....

'Olivia' by Ian Falconer, Simon and Schuster 2000. I just LOVE the Olivia books. The minimal use of red as the only colour against the beautifully simple black and white line drawings of Olivia and her surroundings are just a treat to the eyes. These endpapers sum up the feel of the book perfectly.
'Mr Peek and the misunderstanding at the Zoo' by Kevin Waldron, Templar 2008. There's so much I like about this book. Each page is superbly illustrated, the animals hugely full of character. The colours are are muted with a 'vintage' feel without being dull. These endpapers just sum it all up. It makes me feel like the story is timeless...just makes you want to dive in.

'Mr Pusskins and little whiskers' by Sam lloyd, Orchard books 2007. This is a great book which my children loved (please note the green felt tip just off the edge!). This is a lovely example of an endpaper setting up a story just making you want to carry on to read what on earth is going on. Great energy in the illustrations. Just look at that little kitten...he couldn't possible be horrible in any way, could he?

So there you are. You've got to love a good endpaper. Please don't flip past them, as they are often a perfectly visual 'Once upon a time....' and a little 'Full stop' to the whole reading experience.

12 September 2012

Twitter distractions....

I had a great day on Twitter today indulging in a game of 'quickdraw' with illustrator James Brown. It's a game he and another illustrator devised where we are challenged to draw something. The first person to finish and post to Twitter wins. It was thoroughly enjoyable AND a good way to break out of the illustrators 'block' I've been having a bit of this week (too much staring at a blank page and then thinking of a hundred different ideas at once, loosing patience and not exploring any of them)

Anyway, I challenged James to draw a pirate, and in return I had to draw a mermaid.

I got in with my Mermaid first (taking a break from reading her '50 shades of blue'!). However, I didn't add any colour. 

James on the other hand seemed to produce a whole mini story here complete with colour, so he had to win.

We next had a go at doing the same thing - 'Raining Cats and Dogs'. It's always interesting drawing the same thing as someone else as the ideas are so different.

James's fantastic cats and dogs. Some of them look really alarmed.

My cats and dogs. I really enjoyed this. I think it has echoes of my daughter who has been nagging constantly this week about us getting a dog. It isn't going to happen. Maybe it's her dream on one just landing on her?

Really enjoyable exercise. Please have a look at James's work here on his blog http://jamesbrownillustration.blogspot.co.uk.

6 September 2012

Foiled! HapPEA Publication Day.

At last here it is! I'm so proud to show off the lovely, sparkly, pink and funny new book The Princess and the Peas from  Caryl Hart and myself, published by the gorgeous people at Nosy Crow.

I love this book and especially the cover as it was really easy    to think of the idea and it was even better that everyone liked it too! Then, the icing on the cake was the decision to use a gorgeous shiny green foil on the leafy details. Fellow Nosy Crow illustrator Steve Lenton recently mentioned that it reminds him of Mint Aero.....Yum!

6 June 2012

Photoshop, paint and the 'build'

Back in 2001, I never used a computer. I was totally married to my paint, pens and inks. I refused to believe that I (personally) could achieve anything visually pleasing with the warmth and richness I often wanted in my work on a......(intake of breath)....computer.

However, a friend badgered me and introduced me to Photoshop. I never learnt how to use it properly. I barely know half of what can be achieved with it even now. I just blindly went in, almost trying to convince myself it was a lost cause. I surprised myself. I think the endless years of building up paintings using layers of thin inks and watercolours to achieve some depth really helped me. I started using my pencil line as my pen line, which made me feel a bit free, as I magically found I could 'float' the line above my colour keeping it sharp.

These days I often get asked by people just how I achieved a certain look from photoshop. The answer is I'm pretty rubbish at explaining it and I don't think too much about it. I set out knowing what I'd like to achieve but never how to manage it.  I approach it like a normal painting. I steer clear as much as I can from the 'magic wand' tool and use the brushes, pastels and pens pretty much as I would as if I had them actually physically here. I like just scribbling. Photoshop doesn't have to be smooth or joinless. Who wants smooth? I have a lot to learn still, I even sometimes come full circle and bring in paper that I've splashed onto to actual real life paper....just to shake it up. In fact that's very exciting.

I thought I'd show the screen shots of how I've actually built up a page. You'll see how simple it is, and actually just how similar it is to (shhhhhhh)....'real' painting.

This is a spread from 'My Adventure Island' by Timothy Knapman and Me (Sarah Warburton) published by Scholastic 2012.

So, just a pencil sketch and a sense of woodland and Autumn.
I have separated my line out in Photoshop using a clever 'Ready to Paint' function I downloaded. This allows the line to 'float' above any layer. Using a separate layer underneath all the line, I've concentrated on the characters so that whatever colour I do from now on I can make sure they aren't lost.
Colour! on a new layer underneath the line and the characters the colour experiments starts. I decided fairly early on that long shadows would add a nice woodland feel.
On top of the background colours but beneath the characters and the line - the trees now give a more dramatic look to the spread.
Quite a subtle change here, but I've added a 'carpet' texture to the woodland floor. This adventure-but-at-home idea subtly appears in book in various places. This is a square of carpet scanned, then adjustments made for contrast and then turned into a separate 'line'. This is then dragged into the picture and worked upon with erasing parts and painting parts on top, again building up a colour.
Let there be light! Adding these touches are always my favourite. This time I use a layer on top of all the layers, including the line as then as the light is built up slowly using a very subtle pastel tool on a very low opacity. Keeping it on top of the line gives it the real sunshine feel.

30 April 2012

First attempt at animation EVER.

No laughing please. With my new bamboo drawing tablet I noticed one day that you could do animation with it. You'd think having an animator husband I'd have absorbed some kind of ability by osmosis - but no, I don't think so! It's really mind boggling. I have no idea what I was doing, what I was drawing or where it was going. Maybe some planning might be a good idea? All those zillions of storyboards they do for films - maybe they know something? ( stroke beard).

4 April 2012

Panto Panda

I've just started work again on the annual Christmas Pantomime for the Theatre Royal Winchester. This year its Aladdin. Can't wait to get stuck in. It's always a lovely job to do, just really different and lots of fun. Today, I've begun and created Panto Panda for initial summer advertising. It's already making me smile.

I hope those Pandas in Edinburgh are having an equally fun day ;)

21 March 2012


Not quite sure what to make of this post. I've been so busy on various book projects recently I've been really quiet on the doodle/blog front ( have a dreadful cold too)......Until this monster jumped out of the brush!

 For a while now I've wanted to explore the character of a monster who eats children before mending his ways and finding something slightly more delicious.  After a few years of this being in the dusty bottom drawer of my mind, I think this idea maybe a bit too harsh! However, I like the idea of him eating fluffy bunnies instead. Of course, somehow in the end the bunnies will have to have the last laugh. Slightly scared of my possible frame of mind whilst doing this! Will have to look again and bring down the violent tone a notch or two! Be very afraid.

9 February 2012

What the Dickens?

Happy Birthday to you Mr Dickens. 200 years old. You've aged well.

I've never been so lucky as to illustrate a Dickens story. Funnily enough this week I had the urge! Dickens has been everywhere these past few months. I was really impressed with the BBC version of Great Expectations over Christmas (2011) and this week, the internet had a distinctly Dickensian feel with his 'trending' on Twitter and Google having a special Dickens design. I felt the urge to have a go. I set out to look for recent incarnations of Dickens characters by other illustrators, but found myself fairly low on images. I suppose this may be a product of the fact that unlike back in Dickens day when his books were highly illustrated - they aren't now (unless shortened versions for children). I can't help thinking this is a huge shame.

Anyway, here's my effort from Great Expectations. I haven't worked in black and white for a while and it was a real treat. I love a bit of history (even if the history is all made up).

Below are Dickens images that I really like. I'll always hold a torch for 'A Christmas Carol', as it was the first Dickens I read as my Dad loves the story and collects versions of the story on film. He consistently says that The Muppets Christmas Carol is one of the best!

A Christmas Carol

Fagin in his cell - Oliver Twist

Muppets Christmas Carol

23 January 2012

Finding a character - The Princess and the Peas.

This week I finished tweeking a new book for the wonderful Nosy Crow and the cover image went on the website (below). Hurray! Have a look for more info on the book here http://nosycrow.com/books/the-princess-and-the-peas
This book has been a great joy to do. I thought I might share with you some initial sketch ideas I had for the book. Mainly the slightly manic process of 'finding' the character. This starts with a chat with everyone involved, what age the character should be? What kind of personality? Clothes?

Below you'll find sketches for different character ideas before settling on a girl who I believe was mainly inspired by the amazing Karen from the BBC sitcom 'Outnumbered'!

I've also included initial colour palette ideas and first scribblings - some of which have ended up directly in the final book. So make sure you get a copy in September to cross reference them!

Karen from Outnumbered
too 'cross' and slightly violent I think!

The idea for the cover came fairly quickly. It's always really exciting to try and bring many elements of the story together in the boldest image you can think of. This is by far the most enjoyable cover I've ever done.