19 November 2013

Max and Brian put on a show!

Mark Sperring and myself have a new book out! Max and the Won't Go to Bed Show with Harper Collins. Its about a very un-sleepy boy called Max who tries every trick in the book to put bedtime off as long as possible, with a little help from his very unenthusiastic dog Brian.

 In true creative style, with a bit of card, a lot of sticky tape, sequins and some VERY pink feathers, we have have created a show stopper window for Christmas at Blackwells Park Street!

The page from the book that inspired the look of the window, and the cutout Brian with all his sequins on awaiting his feathers.

Brian in all his pink Ostrich feather glory and Max jumping for joy in their striking red window, complete with glitter ball. It has a look of a good bedtime book, Christmas and Strictly Come Dancing.

Have fun Max and Brian!



                                                                       THE END

23 June 2013

"We interrupt this blog for a special MABEL and ME Newsyflash!"

One evening Mabel and Me are watching  our favourite cartoon 'Mimi and Moi' when our viewing pleasure is cut HIDEOUSLY and HORRIBLY short...

For somebody says...

"Good evening TELE-VIEWERS, Pippity-squeaks and Lady-gents. From today you can buy Mabel and Me Best of Friends' in FABULOUS -PAGE TURNING 'PAPERBACK!  So why not toodle, poodle or quite simply POOTLE down to your local book store and pick up a copy ....MUCHO PRONTO!"

Well...for a moment I am TOTALLY lost for words and I feel my whiskers start to bristle and boil.
'Mabel,' I say,"has Mr Newsyflash, seriously interrupted our favourite cartoon just to tell us that!!!

I say...
"Doesn't he know we already own a perfectly lovely HARDBACK copy of 'Mabel and Me Best of Friends' which we keep in PRIDE OF PLACE somewhere under the bed..."
I say...Wouldn't it be nice, 'just once'  if Mr Newsy Flash kept his news flashes to himself and let us watch 'Mimi and Moi ' in UTTER peace and GLORIOUS quiet!'

But just then ...
There is another TOTALLY unexpected interruption  and Mabel says...


For, while my whiskers were bristling and boiling, Mimi and Moi have landed SLAP! BANG!  back on our TV screen.


But (CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?) a moment later,there is YET another interruption!
For, SURPRISE!  SURPRISE!  (who would have guessed it)  I have a MOUSEY NEWS FLASH all of my VERY own...

"Mabel" I say," Even though we already own a perfectly lovely hardback copy of "Mabel and Me' why don"t we POTTLE down to our local book store and buy a HUGE stack of paperbacks to hand out to  all our friends and JELLY- tives!"

Then without a second thought, we turn off the tv, grab our piggy banks and CHA-CHA , JIVE and QUICK STEP out the front door.
After all...
We do of course TOTALLY love 'Mimi and Moi' but REALLY and TRULY how could they  POSSIBLY compare to ...

' Mabel and Me!"

7 May 2013

An illustrationish interview with 'Susie and the Pencils'.

I was honoured to be asked to do an interview with the lovely Susie Tyler from the book loving blog 'Susie and the Pencils'. She asked some great questions and I had to think hard but I love talking about illustration and books so it was a huge joy. Have a read here....


2 May 2013

Mabel and Me - NEWSYFLASH!

One evening Mabel and Me are sat on the sofa watching our favourite cartoon when SUDDENLY there is the most MOUSETASTIC news FLASH!

And somebody says.....

"Good Evening Ladies, Gentlemen and Pippity squeaks, from TODAY you can download a 'read out loud' AUDIO VERSION of Mabel and Me - Best of Friends from the I-Tunes store! So NOW (for a small and VERY reasonable cost) your not-so-little mousey ears can luxuriate to the sound of 'ALLO - ALLO's' spoken in a FAMOUS FAKE FRENCH ACCENT...."

For a moment, I am TOTALLY lost for words, then Mabel and Me do something that we only ever do when we have a TERRIBLE and UTTERLY GHASTLY no-ice cream crisis....
We dash up the stairs, in a TANGO, WALTZ and FOX TROT kind of way and raid our piggish banks MUCHO PRONTO!

(whilst Mr Newsy-Flash WHOOPS and CHEERS and tears up the rest of the news in utter delight!).

4 March 2013

Mabel and Me. Mark and Me.

This month Mabel and Me - Best of Friends by Mark Sperring and myself will be published by Harper Collins, and I will be emotional. This book has a special place in my heart. In fact, the themes in the book itself seems to sum up it's own back story.

To start this story we have to go back to circa 1997. I was a struggling illustrator and having given up on London due to lack of funds, I returned to the familiarity of Bristol. I got a part time job at a local bookshop where I met Mark. Mark was hardworking, fun to be with and said hilarious and often surreal things. When he said one day that he wrote stories, I remember mentality rolling my eyes. Sometimes this statement can be as awkward as the "My Aunt Enid does watercolours you know"type that anyone who has ever dared paint or sketch in public has endured. However one evening over a glass of wine, Mark showed me two texts - 'The Pudding Monster' and 'The Hat that found God' ( the later being how I remember the title but it may well have been named after another glass of wine!). The long and the short of it was, Mark could write. I thought he could write very well.

I found that Marks ideas were so visual, they were just begging to be drawn up. Plenty of them were rather inspiring. Before long, we were naively sending off stories together to publishers plucked cold from the Writers and Artists Yearbook. We sent fully drawn up black and white dummy books. Brain storming, drawing, sellotaping pages together, choosing a publisher, then patiently waiting for the rejection letter - it all became a bit of a hobby for us. 

I still have copies of many of them on my shelf - The Rabbit that should have been pulled from the Hat, Pirate Jim, Bunny Hugs and Hen's Holiday among my favourite rejects. 

The rejection letters ranged from "we don't do rhyming text" "There's no market for Pirates" "No thanks, but please try another story" to "Please don't send us anything again" ( we laughed hard at that one in particular as we tore it up and threw it into the river Avon!).

Of course eventually the inevitable happened. A publisher became interested in one of our dummy books - but they weren't too keen on my artwork. Mark and I decided together that I should step aside to allow Mark to work with a different illustrator. I was genuinely happy for Mark, but lost a lot of confidence in my abilities. It was a turning point. I tried harder with my style of drawing and started experimenting more. We learnt a lot about the way things are done in the picture book world and we never submitted anything together again. We gradually carved out our own paths - professionally at least.

Then in circa 2009, sat in my car together in a gym car park Mark showed me a dummy book of an idea that had (according to him) driven him almost mad in the speed to get it on paper. It was called "Mabel, I'm Me". I opened the first page and there was a simple drawing of a mouse stood outside his mouse hole saying "I am me, and that's all I can be". I was immediately hooked in. If there ever was a dummy book equivalent of love at first sight - this was it. It was different, funny, even shouty in places. A simple story about a mouse with a pure inner confidence in who he is. Brilliant. 

Mark's original dummy.

I HAD to illustrate this story. This mouse was a wonderful character and I loved him immediately.

It was at this point that the idea almost seemed to take on a life of its own. While Mark was on holiday, I sent the text to a publisher I was working with - saying how much I liked it and would love the chance to try and visualise the character. They really liked it too and I could hardly contain my excitement when they said they would be happy for me to draw up some ideas. Which I did with relish.

 However the story didn't get the go ahead. Eventually, it found it's own way to another publisher who suggested that the character could perhaps be re-written into a longer story with more depth to it. Mark put it in a drawer where it stayed for over a year - until one day the 'Me madness' came upon him again and a different story rushed from his pen almost overnight. He'd taken the one time appearance of the girl Mabel from the original story and had created an unlikely friendship pairing of 'Mabel and Me' where Mabel is a confident girl of few words, where Me does most of talking. They existed in a nowhere and everywhere place, full of fun, friendship and opportunities for unusual meetings and adventures. The text made me laugh out loud.

Mark found himself at a meeting with Harper Collins Uk where the Mabel and Me text was very favourably received . When asked if he had any illustrators he'd like to work with he mentioned me! I had an anxious wait. I imagined how I'd feel if I saw this book on the shelves eventually with another illustrator having worked on it. After picturing this story and character in my head for such a long time, I tried not to get too overly emotionally invested in the outcome, but it was really hard not to. However, one day the sun shined and I got a call from my agent. They would like me to illustrate the book! From that day on the sun never stopped shining with this project. It's been an absolute dream. We often pinched ourselves that we were actually, finally doing a book together. If I got stuck on a page, I simply went for a coffee with Mark who made suggestions. As Mark's original dummy was so visual, some pages were directly taken from them (as I felt they were so right).

Mark's dummy
The spread as it appears in the book.

As I sit here with the book in front of me, and glance over at the ragged dummy books we once sent off to publishers on the other side of me - I really feel like it has been a very worthwhile journey. Much of my artwork in the rejected stories is actually pretty bad. They have a certain energy and humour but there's something missing. I think the publishers were right in turning them down in hindsight and without the rejection I don't feel I would have questioned myself so much and may not even be doing the kind of illustration I am today. The editor that originally suggested Mark re-work his story is to be thanked too, because even Mark himself probably didn't realise a better story could be around the corner.

So we got there in the end. From concentrating on our own paths, but never quite giving up on the little dream that one day someone may give us the opportunity to create a book together. Rejection, re-working, re-looking and re-thinking. That is what makes the work better in the long run - and also remembering to laugh long and hard, the way best friends always do.

Mark and Me