Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Lost Stone of SkyCity

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of illustrating the cover for HM Waugh's debut middle grade adventure, The Lost Stone of SkyCity with Fremantle Press. To celebrate the release of the book today, here's a little look at the process I went through.

See more after the break!

Friday, September 20, 2019


I'd been reading Nevermoor, by Jessica Townsend, which is rather like Harry Potter, only without Harry - and as I always found Harry pretty irritating, this suits me down to the ground. It's the sort of fantasy kidlit book that makes me want to draw all of it, so I've been doing a few sketches:

"Suddenly that's what she was - a living tidal wave of rage and fear. She was not like him, she would never be like him."

"Morrigan stumbled backwards and instinctively threw up her arms, surrendering herself to the wave inside."

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Building Practice #3

More sketches of buildings from my holiday photos!

First, we have Knaresborough, in Yorkshire - there are the most amazing chequerboard buildings there. This one is Mother Shipton's Cave (although as I understand it the cave is some walk away, I think this is where you bought tickets. We were just stopping off on our way through, so we didn't investigate the cave)

Next up, and slightly off-script, is a sketch purely from my imagination. It was going to have some figures in, but I worked for longer than planned, and my bedtime sketch was accordingly cut short. 

Thirdly, Micklegate Bar, York. This was just down the road from our hotel, and I walked this small section of the York Wall several times. I also did the whole Wall walk with my mother. 

Next, Chawton, in Hampshire. This is the village where Jane Austen spent the last years of her life. This little set of cottages is on the short walk between Chawton Cottage, where she lived with her sister and mother, and Chawton House, where her brother lived. 

This quick piece is based on a photo I took in Clifford's Tower, York. My photo did not feature a cat, of course, but I thought it needed one.

And finally, (in this set) we have Kynance Mews in Kensington, London, which I for some reason forgot to label. This is what happens when you throw things together when you really should be going to bed...

These were all done in Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro.

Building Practice #2

After sketching buildings from holiday snaps in black and white for a while, I began to be sad that I was missing all the colours, so I upped my game and turned to colour:

I started with the Hartley Mauditt church in Hampshire. Such a cute church, it's all that's left of the village of Hartley Mauditt (and fortunately it had a sign, so I knew where it was!)

I hadn't planned on doing two churches in a row, but my father asked me to sketch our friends' church, St Mary Magdalene at West Tisted. This is a flint church, so very different from the one at Hartley Mauditt. 

Next, I chose an amazing building somewhere in Hampshire. So many levels!

After that, I thought it was time for a thatched cottage. We saw a lot of them in Hampshire, but this one is in Godshill, Isle of Wight.

And finally (for this post) a 15th century farmhouse. At the time of sketching, I didn't know where this was, hence the label reading only 'Hampshire', but when I posted it on Instagram someone very kindly told me it was Goleigh Manor in Prior's Dean. The wonders of social media!

I've actually been having a lot more fun with these than I thought I would! And as I have a lot of material in our holiday photos, I plan to continue. The aim is to be able to draw interesting and realistic houses from my imagination, eventually... but it's fun to make use of the holiday photos!

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro

Practicing Buildings

I like to draw people and animals, and find perspective and buildings more difficult, so naturally I draw less of them. It's normal to have some things you like to draw better than others... but I really should practice the other things more! In that spirit, I thought I would do a series of sketches from some of our holiday photos.

Starting off easy, with wonky old buildings where the lines don't have to be straight anyway:

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Pink-Headed Fruit Dover

When Colour Collective rolls around and I have no time (and also a massive headache), birds are always a good subject matter. For the 'Opera Rose' prompt I chose a pink-headed fruit dove, endemic to Indonesia. Birds have such amazing colouring!

This took about an hour and a half, although that was longer than necessary as my tablet froze and ate my last save (I'm positive I had saved more recently, my my Wacom does like to eat saves. You think you're safe and saved up until five minutes ago, but no, turns out Photoshop is going to recover the file as it was 40 minutes ago...)

Adobe Photoshop 2019 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 13" 


This year Colour Collective is recycling favourite old colours from previous years. A lot of the time I have no idea what I drew for any specific colour, but I did remember my illustration for 'Serenity'. It was two Indian girls bathing a baby elephant at dusk, done almost exactly three years ago. It makes me cringe now, as old art has a habit of doing, and I briefly considered reworking it... until I realised that people with as many projects and deadlines on the go as me do not have that kind of luxury. So I kept the baby elephant and ditched everything else. Gosh, my work has got simpler!

I threw this together very quickly, it probably took less than an hour, and it needs more work, really, but for the time I had, it is enough. I do like my little elephant, and it was a lovely peaceful scene to work on while I myself was not feeling at all peaceful with everything I had to do! I try to carve out time to do both Colour Collective and Animal Alphabets each week, with a time limit of an hour, because it's important to do some drawing that isn't work-related, just for mental health (if nothing else, it doesn't have to be perfect!), and it keeps my social media from completely atrophying while I work on things I can't share. 

Adobe Photoshop CC2019 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 13"

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo...

... listening to the goss.

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro


More bird practice. I had a horrible cold, and I'd been working all day and just wanted something cute to draw before bed.

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro

Budgies and Brahma Hens

Bird practice. I needed something fun to wind down before bed during a week of deadlines and colds and blah. 

A budgie:

And a very grumpy Brahma hen, referenced from my book 'Extra Extraordinary Chickens' (Green-Armytage) 

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Aqua Dog Book Launch

I recently worked on a lovely picture book, Aqua Dog, by Lisa Van Der Wielen. Lisa contacted me to do the illustrations last year, and I loved bringing cheeky, determined Aqua to life, and surrounding him with the stark beauty of the Western Australian Wheatbelt. 

Here is the book trailer:

The book is available in paperback, and also a very lovely hardback, through Amazon. Click here to purchase.

Lisa launched Aqua Dog on the 28th March, and invited me to come along. It was lovely to meet her - we had not previously met in person, as with many of my clients all our correspondence was through email - and she did a lovely job putting the launch together.

See more photos below the cut:

Monday, March 18, 2019


I've been practicing birds, and so here is a toucan!

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Baby Cards!

I always like to do special hand painted cards for babies - such a special occasion, it warrants a bit more effort on my part! - and in February we had TWO babies arrive, just over 24 hours apart, so I got out my paints and made these two cards:

The first card was for my friend Tilly, and baby number 2, a daughter - she now has a son and a daughter, plus a husband and two dogs, so they're a perfect little family!

I'd bought the baby presents well ahead of time, just before Christmas - our local toyshop was closing down (nooo!) so we went in and grabbed some bargains - and I'd unintentionally gone all owl-themed. So I thought I'd go for broke and put an owl on the card as well:

The second card was for my eldest cousin Claire, and her third daughter, who arrived the next day. I stuck with flowers for this card. Roses are quick to draw, and I had such a lot of work on I didn't want to be spending ages working on this:

Both cards took about 45 minutes and were done in Winsor and Newton watercolours, Pentel Brush Pens, Copic Multiliners, Kuretake Touch of Stellar pens and some metallic watercolours with no visible brand, that I bought at a lovely art shop in Singapore.

Head below the cut for time-lapse video of me painting both cards, along with some sketches and a closer look at the shimmery metallic paints that aren't really visible in the above photos!

Robin Hood

Last year I did a few Robin Hood themed illustrations for Colour Collective, while the colours miraculously worked with the theme. I don't know how that happened! Where was the hot pink to throw a spanner in my works?

While we were in the UK, I (briefly) saw a weasel. I was amazed by how small it was, I'd always thought they were bigger. So naturally I had to draw one, and I thought Robin Hood would make an ideal weasel. He's always getting out of sticky situations. And the Colour Collective colour was 'Lincoln Green'. Meant to be!

Then 'Scheveningen Yellow Light' was the next colour, and I thought Maid Marian, with her original association with May Day, should be frolicking amongst the daffodils. We saw a lot of daffodils on holiday.

And then the next colour was 'Seashell', which turned out to be the perfect colour for mushrooms. Friar Tuck seemed to me to be perfect as a mole. We didn't see any moles on holiday (I don't think it's usual to see any!) but we did see some molehills.

Chattering Lories

For Colour Collective's 'Cardinal Red' prompt, I was going to go very uninspired and draw some cardinal birds. But then my mother reminded me of lories. I can't think why I had forgotten about them, I was only in the Lory House at Jurong Bird Park two months ago! So I changed my plan and chose chattering lories, endemic to North Maluku, Indonesia. They are considered vulnerable in the wild due to illegal trapping.

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro. A little over two hours.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Australian Animals

Here are some sketches of various Australian animals, which I've been doing as bedtime wind-downs. I like to have a little time before bed just to draw something pointless. 

This is a forty-spotted pardalote, endangered and endemic to a small area of Tasmania. I hadn't heard of them, but I saw them on Gardening Australia and they were so cute. They also matched perfectly with Colour Collective's 'Turmeric' prompt, so I included it as a bonus CC as well. 

Here is a numbat. They are also endangered, and native to Western Australia. Obviously I had heard of numbats. A lot. I love them.

A Tasmanian echidna. I saw one on David Attenborough's Tasmania and absolutely fell in love with it, so cute. I was filled with a desire to needle felt one, but I totally don't have felting time right now, so a quick sketch was the best I was going to get:

More below the cut:

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Picture Book Process

I thought it was about time I updated my post on the creation of a picture book, so here's a shiny new version for 2019. I'm going to be talking about the creation of Alexander's Day and Other Fun Stuff, by Beverley Knezevic, which was a private publication. It only had a small run, not intended for stores, but I approach all my picture book projects the same way, and give the same attention to private publications as I do to all my other work. 

1. Thumbnails

After reading the manuscript, I started by planning out the whole book in thumbnail form, so I could see how it flowed from page to page. I mucked about with various ideas (I am not fond of thumbnailing) until I had this version, which I sent along to Beverley (in the original copy, there was text under each page, which I have removed for the purposes of this blog post.) I don't always colour my thumbnails, but in this instance I wanted to highlight the bright colours and plain backgrounds. 

Head below the cut to see more!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Strange Noises in the Night

For Colour Collective's 'Midnight Blue' prompt, I decided to work in more of my middle-grade style. I've been working hard on picture books, and wanted a bit of a change so I revisited this little medieval girl from an earlier illustration, simplified her a bit, and went to town with a two-colour palette and ink-like outlines. It's nice to have a bit of a change now and then, especially when I'm working hard, and I enjoy middle-grade illustration just as much as picture book illustration! 

As you can see, I kept it simple, because I am working hard. Just enough background to suggest a medieval setting, and I was done in less than 2 hours. 

She's simple, but I quite like her. Here's a little peek at the quick sketch I did for her, snaffled from my Instagram Story. Remember to follow me on IG for lots of behind the scenes snaps!

Adobe Photoshop CC2019 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro

Going Fishing

I wasn't sure what to do with Colour Collective's 'Hooker Green' prompt, so I decided to rather boringly use it as foliage, and combined my CC with another building practice. 

This is based on a photo I took in Robin Hood's Bay, Yorkshire. We had been there before, but wanted to go back - a train ride from York to Scarborough, and then a bus to Robin Hood's Bay, but we made it! It was a fairly grey day, with some drizzle, but it made for some very spectacular photos. I was playing around with one of the art filters on my camera, and took two shots of most things - one on normal camera mode, and a second with a filter, which really took advantage of the overcast sky.

Here's the photo I based this on. I loved the way the filter on the camera really highlighted all the textures. 

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro. I think I spent about three hours on it in total. 

Sunday, January 27, 2019


'Living Coral' is the Pantone Colour of the Year for 2019, and it was naturally also an early entry in the Colour Collective. It's such a vibrant colour, a favourite of mine anyway, and it was really tempting to do a detailed tropical underwater scene with lots of coral and fish and bubbles. But I had to be sensible; I'm busy, with two books on the go, and I'm running a bit behind because I was hideously sick with a sinus infection for a week. So detailed scenes were out of the question, I could only schedule in 1 hour for my Colour Collective - so I defaulted to birds. They're such nice, simple shapes. 

I chose lovebirds because a) they're cute and b) there was lots of opportunity to tone down the coral with green. It's summer here, I quite like to work with cool colours! And people seemed to like them, which was nice! 

And they were a big improvement on my previous week's effort (while sick with the aforementioned sinus infection). I'd dragged myself out of bed and thought I'd tentatively try doing a Colour Collective (tea green) to see if I was well enough to get back to work. I wasn't - a define lack of energy and purpose in my linework and colouring! I'll have to return to these ringneck parrots some other time and do them more justice. At the time, however, I just went back to bed. There was no point trying to do work if I was only going to have to redo it later! It's amazing how much being unwell can affect your drawing!

Adobe Photoshop CC2019 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro. Each illustration took about one hour.

Building Practice #1

I thought I really should practice drawing buildings, which have never been my strongest subject. So, I thought, a good way to do this would be to take some interesting buildings that I photographed on holiday, and sketch them, starting with really old buildings, where wonky lines are practically required.

I started out doing black and white sketches, and then moved to colour. But for this post, I'm going to compile just the black and white ones:

Somewhere in Hampshire. We spent a lot of time driving around with our friends, and Hampshire has a lot of winding roads (with no names!) so sometimes I have photographs but absolutely no idea of where they are. Other times, of course, I know exactly where things are, such as this 16th century hearth passage house, which is opposite the square in Petersfield:

This rambling cottage is opposite St Andrews Church in Farnham, Surrey. We were there on our last day in Hampshire, to hear our friend sing in a choir concert in the church. 

And this little place is on North Street in York. York is fabulous for wandering down roads and finding ancient buildings.

All of these were done on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro, using Adobe Photoshop CC2018, and Kyle Webster's 'sketch pencil rough' brush. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

SCBWI Draw This: Light

I had a bit of downtime, and thought I would take part in the monthly 'SCBWI Draw This' prompt. The theme was 'light', and I used it as an opportunity to practice perspective with no direct reference. To make my life harder, I chose to do 3-point perspective, which is the type I am the worst at - but hey, I'm not going to get better unless I practice, am I?

I thought it would be fun to have several references to 'light' in my illustration - moonlight, candle light, light as a feather, light as air...

Head below the cut to see the truly horrible sketch I did to try out the general idea, before I got my act together and made it pretty:


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