The Friday Book Review: The Wildwood Chronicles.

The Friday Book Review. In this section, posted on a Friday (and I know I’m early, I’m just keen!) I want to bring to your attention some of the brilliant books I have come across. They might be old, new, a great story or fantastic illustrations- but in my opinion they are all great and they are all  for children.

Todays book is ‘The Wildwood Chronicles’ by Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis. Published by Canongate Books. It is a couple of inches thick and is one of those chapter books that crosses easily between childrens and adult fiction.

This book is epic. The book tells of how Prue, a girl, witnesses her baby brother being snatched and carried away by a murder of crows. She gives chase and sees them disappear into the Impassable Wilderness, where no one ever goes. The following day she sets off to get him back. An unwelcome school friend  joins her and this is the story of their adventures. But it is so much more.. the world they encounter is beautifully imagined, and described and so well thought out. The writer and illustrator are a couple, and  they had imagined this world between them, long before Meloy wrote it. The illustrations are beautiful. A mix of full colour pages, small black and whites and some silouette illustrations, they just add so much to the text. The illustrations are painted in watercolour with some dip pen. Ellis uses quite a muted, limited palette with brighter colours here and there which really draw the eye in. I love how she uses loose washes combined with detail, she gets a great feeling of depth in her illustrations. As you can tell I really like this book. Best of all it gave you that  feeling that all great books give you, where you have been utterly lost amongst its pages, and can’t stop reading it or thinking about it, but suddenly the end is in sight and you have to try to eek out those last pages. I felt quite bereft when I’d finished it. Thank heavens there is a sequel, not out yet here, called ‘Under Wildwood: The Wildwood Chronicles, Book 2’. Check out the beautiful animated video on their website.

The Picnic Mission.

Here’s some images I’ve just finished, trying out some new things and illustrating some words I’ve written. The first was a test piece..

‘Week after week, families visited the woods with their picnics, they laid out their blankets and took out their wonderful food..and week after week those sneaky animals sneaked and skulked, crawled and creeped and tried to steal some. They never ever succeeded.’

“We need to get nearer the food ” said Squirrel,

“But how, without being spotted?” asked Badger.

“A disguise ,” said Fox, “if we could have a disguise, that might help us to blend in..”

“Oh that’d be wonderful,” said Squirrel, “but what?”

‘Rabbit served them. “We’d like some human outfits please,” said Foxy. Rabbit scurried out to the back of the shop,

“just these three left,” he said. Bear, Squirrel and Fox grabbed outfits.

“What about me?” said Badger.’


Paper Geeky

As promised here is a post about paper. I had happily been using the same type of watercolour paper since college (Saunders and Waterford, Not, 140LB) but since experimenting with other pens and watercolours, I decided to test out some other papers. Here’s the results of my tests. I started by buying a pack of sample papers, (from Lawrences Art shop) I discarded some straight away for being too textured-not what I wanted and useless with a dip pen. In case you don’t know, paper is graded into three types, HP or Hot press -very smooth, Rough is the opposite and very textured, and Not which is inbetween the two. Paper also comes in weights, which here I’ve shown in LB.

On the test sheets, I tested how it was to draw on with a dip pen and how the paint went on and dried. The sheets with fewer experiments on were discarded earlier, where as those with more needed further experiments.

Sheet 1. Arches, RWS, and Fabriano all were very nice and I came back to these later.  The Bockingford papers I didn’t like painting on and RWS 425 LB was just too absorbant.Sheet 2. The two most successful were the Saunders and Waterford papers, (though bizarrely my usual paper didn’t fare so well in the test, but I ignored it a bit on experience!)  The heavier S.W paper was too absorbant.  Archers rough took the paint nicely, but rubbish with the pen. Fabriano and RWS HP papers, I found the paint sort of slipped off.. it didn’t really soak in and wasn’t nice to paint on.Sheet 3. I didn’t like any of these. All hotpress and didn’t take the paint well, it left marks and wasn’t smooth.Sheet 4. More indepth trials on the favourites. RWS white, Not, 300LB. Nice to draw on and the paint went on nicely, but didn’t seem to dry very flat. Arches, 300LB Not, very nice. Paint went on well and good to draw on.Sheet 5. Fabriano 300LB Not. Nice with pen though scratchy. The paint sort of floats on the surface but dries very flat, I didn’t really like how the paint went on.Sheet 6. After trying them all none seemed as good overall as the Saunders and Waterford paper. I then discovered that they do white paper , so two more tests – both 140LB, both white S and W, and there wasn’t much in it! The HP paper was lovely to draw on and took the paint better than any of the other HP papers I tried. The Not worked ok with the dip pen, lovely to paint on .The deciding fact  was that the paint colour seemed denser on the Not and that swung it for me. Very happy with it.

Some new things..

Its been a couple of weeks since I’ve last posted, and I’ve been trying some new things. I’ve been experimenting with lots of different papers-more on that in a separate post-it could get very paper geeky-if  there is such a thing! I’ve been trying a new pen -Rotring art pen-very nice (but why oh why, does the lid not fit on the end of the pen when you’re using it?? huge error!)

I’ve also been trying to write my own story. Its always been a dream of mine to write and illustrate a book, so I’m having a go. Its a big learning curve, but I’ve lots of ideas and you have to start somewhere! I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime heres some images that I’ve been meaning to add..


Pirate Day at The Book Nook

It was Pirate Day at The Book Nook in Hove. Its an amazing independent shop with a fantastic selection of childrens books, lovely staff, tasty cafe and a very friendly atmosphere. They have loads of events and this saturday’s was a pirate theme. I was there doing some pirate drawing and there were lots of kids all in costume. Thank you to everyone, I had a great time and it was lovely to meet you all.

I drew a black & white Pirate colouring in sheet for the day. If you would like to download it for your kids, click below:

Its pirate day!

Happy New Year!

It’s been a while, the run up to Christmas was busy.. but here’s a couple of new images.

Bird iceskating, never as easy as it looks (as I discovered this holiday!)

To all of you who have been blown about in the gales (and those who haven’t), Happy New Year ! May 2012 be a good one.

‘My Dads a Birdman’

I’ve recently read ‘My Dad’s a Birdman‘ by David Almond. What an amazing book! So beautifully written and visual and touching and sensitive. I loved it. I’m now working my way through his other books, which are just as rich in imagery and extraordinary stories. The book is beautifully illustrated by the wonderful Polly Dunbar,but  I wanted to have a go myself. So heres the first of a series I’m planning..

“They were made of feathers and string and bits of old shirt and bits of bamboo and wire and thread and cardboard and feathers and feathers and feathers…He stood on tiptoes. He dreamed of flying like a swallow, like a swift, like a hawk, high above the house..”

David Almond you are a superstar!

The Animal Olympics.

I’ve just been playing with the idea of animals in the Olympics. So this could be the first of a few…I quite like the idea of some of the winter sports, but maybe thats just because its getting colder- actually a lot of my characters seem to be wearing more layers as the cold season approaches!

Its back to the ‘not’ watercolour paper- I didn’t get on with the other paper at all.

Happy Halloween!

I’ve been doing some cards for birthdays. Happy belated birthday Hels!And Happy birthday Mum!I’ve been busy making rice krispie spiders and gory gingerbread skeletons for Halloween, but managed to fit in this little fella. I’m trying out HP paper too- not convinced so far,I think a few more experiments are in order.

Happy Halloween!