Writing a book for children

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized

I’m currently writing a picture book. It’s an idea I’ve had buzzing around in my head for over 20 years. I bet some people reading this page haven’t been alive as long as I have had this in my noggin.

I’m going to make a little project of writing about my progress now and then.

I’m a self taught artist really and I think there’s something really wonderful self taught artists. Of course, there are many areas of knowledge and experience that I lack but I make up for that in enthusiasm. Sometimes I wish I had known how much I loved illustration before I embarked on a university education. But then I wouldn’t have had the characterisation skills I got from my Theatre Arts degree, nor the breadth of knowledge of the human experience without studying Archaeology and Anthrolopology.

In fact, it was in a formal Archaeology degree that I ignited my passion for visual art and representation.  I trained in archaeological illustration which is basically drawing lots of very old things, like Roman pendants in the shape of (to use Baldrick’s parlance) a ‘thingy’.  I drew lots of Roman penises basically. Penises and pottery. And bits of glass. It was fun. No, really it was. (Points finger accusatorily).

I always loved making up stories as a child. I can remember making a book when I was about 11. It was called ‘Willy-Nilly the baby dragon’. It was unsuprisingly about a little dragon called Willy Nilly, who ate flamed grilled beefburgers.  It wrote it and illustrated it. It was a bit shit, I guess. But what do you expect? I was 11.

So this here idea I’ve got, I thought I’d have a go at getting it out there. I’ll send it out to publishers and if they don’t ‘see a market for it’ then I’ll blummin’ find a market myself.

Now, in the film of my life  this is where they would cut to me clawing at the doors of a London publishing house shouting, ‘I’ve found a maarKKEEETTTTT’ you bastards!’.

So I have been taking the time to storyboard my little tale and I’m going to share the journey with anyone who is interested enough to pop by.

I’ll start by sharing with you a little sketch I have started of one of the illustrations. You can learn more about it as the weeks go on.


Stan in pot rgb this



Inspiration No 2


I’ve talked in an earlier post about my love of Arthur Rackham and how his illustrations were one of my first experiences of storytelling. I’d love to share another one with you. In fact, I might just do a little blummin’ running post about amazing illustrators I love.  Yep, I reckon I will. So here’s my next one: Karel Franta. When I was a child I had a HUGE book (I may have just had small hands) called The Book of Goodnight Stories. It was illustrated by Karel Franta and it started off a life long love of the Central / Eastern European visual tradition. 

It was packed with very quirky, often very dark little tales and I loved it. The illustrations and the text worked beautifully together. 

Exploring it now, his work reminds me of Chagall, often magic realist, sometimes dreamlike. He worked with Czech animator Jiri Trnka who is another firm favourite of mine. It’s a lineage all the way to animator Jan Svankmajer, who I am supporting in his latest project which is crowdsourced. There’s something very special about the Czech tradition. Czech it out. Yes, that is a gag.  

My name is Ali and I am a picture book-holic.


I have a problem. It’s picture book based. I tried to stop at one but I couldn’t. Send help.

When drawing is like (shush)…sex

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized

Yep. I said it. S-E-X. It’s a bit of a rubbish analogy but it illustrates (get it?) my point. Everyone does it differently. I love to see the methods other people use for getting their drawings out. I thought I would briefly share some little pics of me at my desk. I’ve been working on a little something that I will share properly later on. This time, I sketched out a rough and then transferred it on my Wacom into Illustrator so I could mess about a bit and get my colours just right. The finished thing was hand painted in watercolours. Phew! And people think you just do a little doodle right?! 

Using Adobe Illustrator

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized

Dear Diary, (or infact, WordPress blog).

Yay-hey! Wooooo- hoo!!!! Ok, so I thought I’d give it a go trying to get some of my sketches into digital format. Here’s my first attempt at transferring a handcoloured sketch into Illustrator and working over the top of it digitally. I have still got so bloody far to go and there is SO MUCH to learn. It’s blimmin’ overwhelming!



Untitled-1111-1 jpg

Yep. This tiny sketch has taken me about 12 hours over 3 days and you won’t believe the intricacies of some of this stuff. BUT! I have finally grasped a rudimentary (i.e. for simpletons) understanding of LAYERS! They aren’t the capricious and malevolent force I suspected them to be. They are things of genius!

Do watch in the next few weeks, as I blunder through a catalogue of embarrassments as I try to self teach myself what I need to know…



Work in progress

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized

There’s nothing better to me than watching the process any illustrator or animator takes in creating their pieces. I enjoy seeing the variety of processes or techniques in action. I’m always amazed at how often the finished piece is a world away from the stages I’ve seen along the way.

I’m currently working on a large illustration – close to 14″ x 21″. That’s a fair bit larger than the size I usually work at which is closer to 12″ x 10″.

I don’t always use the same process. I tend to work a lot on instinct as I don’t want to take too much of the original sprit of the idea away. Here,I am starting with the background first and will move on to the little girl next….

I’ve left a section behind the girl clear as I am going to put something extra special in there which will hopefully pull the whole illustration together… If you can guess what it is I will give you the gift I often promise to my dismayed children… my ultimate respect. Here’s a clue… buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!!!!!

bee wip 2 (3).JPG

Sketches for a character

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized


Messing about today, tying to develop a female character. I find the process of creating a character is different dependent on what works for me at the time. Sometimes I draw them first, sometimes I write them first.  Either way, the one will compliment the other and I can start to ‘layer’ this little person. More often than not, there’s something of me in these little people. I suspect it’s the part of me that as an 8 year old, took the corpse of a vole in to school to pretend it was my pet. The girl that asked if my friends wanted to come and see my ‘sleeping’ mouse that I kept in a glass jar in my coat pocket. The girl whose Mum had to knit a robin to sew on to the shoulder of my school jumper, just so I had a little friend who ‘got’ my imaginary world.


Faces are aces

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized


I love drawing faces. Fat, thin, old, young. Faces are aces.

I used to write comedy and the thing I loved most about it was creating a character from nothing. Just the little seedlings of people you’ve met along the way, all fused into new little people you create in your head. It’s the same with illustrating. I get to make new people. People with little imaginary back stories. People with secrets. Lots of little faces with secrets and stories. I love drawing faces. Faces is aces.

Jadie and Sparky in flight

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized

Jadie and Sparky in flight


Close up of Jadie

Here is a recent commission of the beautiful Jadie and her horse Sparky. When I was talking to Jadie’s Mum about the relationship between Jadie and Sparky, it took me back to being a little girl when I was lucky enough to have my own horse. People talk about their connection with dogs but the connection with a horse is really special too. They also symbolise freedom and escapism for me. That’s what I hoped I had captured in this illustration. At times I wished I could have jumped over the moon…