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.

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…

Art and the Unspeakable Demon of Money (not Monet)

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting, Uncategorized

The Unspeakable Demon of Money


If you ever needed a crude sketch of a demon happy to be holding money, you got it….

I secured my first commission last week which was just brilliant. In excitement, I worked day and night on the piece and it was an absolute joy and privilege. It also brought with it the excruciating (well, for me) discussions of money and value.

Perhaps it is because I am English and that the awkwardness of money is part of my identity, or perhaps it is because it is so hard for me to believe in myself.

When I was approached by the individual and had to come up with a price, I suddenly seemed to develop some incredible, fast-acting virus. My pulse quickened, my palms were clammy, I lost the power of speech… What was I worth? Shouldn’t I just be thankful people were asking me to do something for them and give them my valuable time for free? Yeah, because civil engineers are constantly popping up a free building here and there… Those charitable surgeons are just waiting to for someone to have a myocardial infarction so they can negotiate a good price on the cut.

So I asked my Husband. He seems to be the wisest person I know. He also makes music, so he ‘gets’ how difficult it is valuing your time and creativity. He is tattooed (not in that ridiculous hipster way, but more of your old fashioned salty sea dog way). He said to me ‘When I go for a tattoo, they charge £50 an hour. Value what you do. If you don’t, no-one will’. What he said really resonated with me. There are some awesome tattoo artists out there, by the way, so no sleight on them at all. But why are people so unwilling to pay for art they love? I know that at the moment, it’s hard to put food on the table so I’m not talking about art being seen as a ‘necessity’. It remains a luxury for a lot of people and I completely get that. I am talking more about it’s value in relation to ‘other’ luxuries. People will pay obscene amounts for shoes and handbags, even tattoos, but art? Hmmm…

The commission also raised another interesting point. I asked the lady how she felt approaching me about prices and we talked about how awkward that conversation is and she said something that made me smile and totally hit the nail on the head. She said ‘Well, it’s ‘Art’ isn’t it?’ We both laughed. I get it! I have totally felt this way too. I would be so reluctant to approach someone myself as you don’t know what the ballpark is, you’re afraid of looking a fool, of not ‘getting it’. So from now on I am going to ask and if I can’t afford it, I am going to say so.

To anyone thinking of requesting an artist undertake a commission, please just ASK!

A lesson in flourescence, dead artists and car boot sales

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration, painting

I keep squeezing that comfort zone, bending it, warping it… it’s so much fun to go back to the essence of all this and explore and have fun.

A little story about dead people:

My Husband and I love to spend our Sunday mornings getting up and going hunting at car boot sales for vintage art and records. We have got some absolute beauties in the past. But one day this summer, I came across a haul of artist materials: brushes, oils, pastels, technical pens… the list goes on, literally boxes of stuff. The guy wanted £10 for it all. I have bought a couple of coffees for not much less than that before. I duly handed over my money and picked up the stuff. He explained that an artist had died and they had come from a house clearance. I thought this was really moving. I spoke to the guy, the dead artist. Told him I would do his materials justice and how much I appreciated what he had left for me. It felt like a connection. And in the spirit of continuing to push my comfort zone, I had a go with his Conte Crayons last night. They flouresce! No, they don’t really. But they look like they do! I love them. Here’s the results. Thank you, dear anonymous dead artist friend. We’re keeping the circle of self expression going.

Think I also picked up a nice early Procol Harum record that day too… 


Messing about with Indian Inks…

art, childrens book illustration, Illustration

I bought some Indian Ink a few months back and hadn’t had a chance to use it properly, so when I started on a little drawing of my beautiful friend for her hen do party, I decided it was time to get out the inks. 

Apart from the fact that they are like gorgeous little jewels in their own right, I was too sure what to expect from them.

As soon as I started to lay them down on the paper I fell in love! They are amazing. They are so vibrant. I really love the clarity of them. They are perfect for the more cartoon-y (making up words here) elements. 

Here’s my lovely friend Helen, reimagined as a Helen / Lucille Ball entity.