Thursday, 13 December 2012

Chillin' St Nick

Found this whilst clearing up my desktop... jiggered if I can remember what I did it for, but I kinda like it.  If you squint it could be Santa getting toys ready (big complaints from my kids if a model ship's heading their way!), but works equally well as a representation of my psyche!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The wizard....

And another one.  I would like to look like this when I grow up.

Fairy Trouble...

Another dedication, this time for the younger, girlier demographic...I'm afraid I tried drawing cute and princessy but it wasn't quite me....

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Movember field report

A quick field sketch of a guy who walked past me in the bar earlier - rocking a quality mo, but he didn't seem to have quite settled into it yet and was looking slightly defensive.  Not that I am one to talk - I alas am prevented from growing a full on mo by a rare genetic condition that causes my moustache to grow ginger whilst the rest of my hair is dull brown...makes me look like an 80 a day roll-up smoker, and stops my other half from talking to me.

Friday, 16 November 2012

This week oi av been drawing mostly....

...little monochrome pictures for dedication pages for library books at my kids' school.  I'll post more through next week..

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Gallery of Mo

Just for a giggle, and to raise money for cheridee, I have signed up to be an artist on the Gallery of Mo website.  It's very simple - you donate some money and I (or one of the many other talented peeps involved...including the ever glamorous Dave Smith and Lauren Tobia) draw you with a rather charming tash.  Ah ye will...

Monday, 17 September 2012

Brillustration do Waterstones in Bristol

If they ever remake 'The Usual Suspects' for CBeebies.....

This Saturday was a mad one, but in a very good way..near as dammit six hours of non stop scribbling in Waterstones window.  Only the six Brillustrators this time, and I think it would be fair to say there was a healthy degree of bricking it going on beforehand as the windows were bigger than usual (and there were more of them!).  
But my Brillustration chums stepped up to the plate in resounding fashion and I think it was one of our best efforts yet.  I've put some pictures of my contribution here...

..In the meantime I thoroughly recommend popping over to see more detailed pics of the whole thing on the Brillustration blog

Grade A Scoundrel Sean Julian steals my thunder with his amazing Beary Dieters pic.

Big thanks to all at Waterstones Bristol for bravely giving us free reign, and to the Brillustrators for being ace..especially the ones who (hem hem) whose photos of the day I've perloined..... MWOOHAHAAAH!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Face time

Helloo again - here comes a bit of filler!  Went to the Tobacco factory Life Drawing thingy on Monday (having got back from a weekend roasting myself in Cornwall just minutes before...keeping it real people..), which this week was a straight portraiture session. 
I quite like this one, although if anything it's a bit wishy washy - loyal readers'll know I kinda like the spontaneousdrawquicklywithapenandforgodssakedontthinkaboutit approach, but on this occasion well...I didn't have the minerals.
By the way, for a killer example of quick pen drawings of people, can I thoroughly recommend Tom Plant's latest blog post - it's proper!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Zooage and Sewage!

Variety is the spice of life.  This week I have done a fun but slightly odd poster for a Bristol Zoo sponsored walk...
... and been informed that I will shortly be receiving copies of a book about (hem hem) plop that I did the cover for some time back for the nice folks at A&C Black....

To round it off I have just completed a surreal Department Store scene (aren't all Dept Store scenes surreal..just slightly?) for an American kids' magazine - more when it's published, but rest assured there will be bears...

And finally apologies to all those waiting for their latest slice of pen nerdery.  I have all the ingredients in place for my ink making jaunt, except perhaps all the oak galls.  They are in my local oak tree in abundance, but I was having pangs of guilt about boiling them up before the tenants had left..wasps that is, I don't have lodgers... There will be an update soon!

Saturday, 30 June 2012


Yesterday I decided to take a day off.
Now cos I can't totally leave work alone, I went first thing and put the finishing touches to a 'Pin the Tail on The Discosaur' ready for use in the zoo's Dino Party Room this's proper daft (more on this when I have some snaps), and it didn't really feel like work.

The rest of my day revolved around buying and trying out watercolour pencils (finished work good/ location sketching bad) whilst drinking coffee, then falling asleep under a tree, then doing some walking and sketching

Due to recent storms there are still a lot of branches lying about.  By far the most interesting at a glance  is a huge branch from a willow tree, which twists and curls like smoke - I've been meaning to draw it for ages.  Not sure this is a spectator sport, but what the hey - I thoroughly enjoyed myself doing these!
My local park has some lovely trees in it, so I plan to do some more sketching there, although the next chance I get I may have to do some work overcoming my greatest artistic bete noire - the horse.

Monday, 18 June 2012

A Little Bit Bunny

A while back now I joined an ace blog called "A Little Bit Bunny": it's pretty simple ... each month a different animal is picked and the illustrators involved submit a picture to do with that animal. I have been meaning to add something to the site forever.... I think I got round to it before the road to hell was fully paved!  Here's one of 'em - for the other you'll need to Bunny it up!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

More dinosaurs!

These (and the recent maracca shaking Steg) are from a raft of pics I did for Bristol Zoo's kids party extra fun zoo job as it allowed the pictures to be as bold and silly as I liked (no-one could complain that the partying dinosaurs aren't 'accurate'!!).  Suggested names to the usual place.  Please note that i have already dibbsed 'Discostuosaurus'.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Talking of the middle ages..

Sorry folks, if you'd read the last post that was almost a link...

I am dead excited.
I have feathers ( is handy working in a zoo).
I have oak apples (procured from the one oak tree i could find in my local park...much undignified jumping to reach high wasn't pretty).

Now what in blue blazes do I want with those?
Well dear reader, inspired by trips to Durham, talk of the Lindisfarne Gospels, and my trip to see Leo (Da Vinci, not Sayer), I have decided to go old school; making my own 'iron gall' ink, and then making my own quill pens (properly this time!!) to draw with.
I now need a few extra ingredients for the ink, such as iron sulphate (I'll let you know if I get arrested asking for this at the chemist), gum arabic (which I must be able to distill from a packet of Wrigleys), and tincture of myrrh.  I will be calling for a lot of assistance I think on my mum and dad, who are medical herbalists, but also know a thing or two about making plant dyes etc, and found me the recipe for the ink...check the Herbarium - it is a mine of information for anyone with even a passing interest in herbal medicine and the use of plants.

Not only do I get to nerd out over pens and ruin at least one of the kitchen pans, but it's made me come over all botanical too.  The only time I'd really seen oak apples was in autumn...hard brown dusty things with an exit hole or two in the side.  These ones I are kinda squashy.  And then I found some that had no case and were all fuzzy...were they the same thing?

Now I know that oak apples are formed as the result if an insect making its home on the tree and then the 'apple' is formed around it, but I don't know if the apple is formed by the insect or the tree.  And what kind of insect  lives inside?  Hard to say at the mo, but there were lots of eggs...although when I cut this one open I did have one little grubby thing waving back at me.  And it's fairly clear that the apple and the fuzz are one and the same....

I will let you know how my research goes, whether I win any prizes for it, and what the bill for clearing any subsequent infestations of my house comes to...

That it should come to this...

Here's me at my kids' school fete, sticking my head through one of my own creations (..and how many people can say that?).
I am dazed from standing in the sun for 3 hours manning a badge making stall, and am slightly worried I am going to be on the receiving end of another volley of wet sponges.  Welcome to middle age Mr Church!

All joking aside, a very good day was had! Oh and keep looking over your shoulders sponge throwers...

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Redressing the balance

It occurs to me that being as I work as a children's illustrator, this blog is often maybe a tad:
a) monochrome
b) not of children's illustration
c) too wordy

Here is a picture of a dinosaur playing maraccas.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Life drawing at The Tobacco Factory

As any fool knows, if you are to draw cartoon lions with any degree of competence, it is essential that you first develop a decent understanding of the human form..namely by going to lifedrawing sessions.

Now for the record I had got a bit bored of lifedrawing.  Poses seemed to be the same wherever I went (Hand on hip...check.  Hands on head...check.  Sat on floor with head on knee....and so on) and they didn't seem to relate to things people actually do (eg interact with the world around them).  So I was a tad sceptical when I first went to the Tobacco Factory to do their class...but hats off - it's ace!!
Michelle Cioccoloni who organises it actually seems to think about what she gets the models to do and why - she brings in ref pictures to give people inspiration;  the models often lean on things, pull ropes etc to show muscle tension and balance, and wear clothes or are draped in fabric so you can see how material hangs/folds.

I've included a couple of pictures from Monday's session...I have chosen the ones least likely to make your granny blush!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

In a devil of a pickle (or maybe a jam..)

This weekend was ace on a number of fronts. Friday night me, my lovely other half Mel and our good friend Lou Archell put up a bunch of our stuff for exhibition at The Bed Workshop in Bedminster as part of the SouthBank Arts Trail  (it's a bit of a link frenzy this isn't it...sorry, it's going to get worse).
I'd like to particularly thank Mel, as she got me to do this when there was a large cloud of 'not sure I can be bothered' looming on the horizon.  In the end I put up pretty much every passable King Lear sketch I had and was well chuffed with the results.

Now I don't have many pictures of the exhibition without these guys in front, but that's okay as they were the main reason the weekend was ace.

At 3 oclock on Sunday, slightly befuddled from attending a wedding the previous day (another good weekend factor!) I and about a hundred other people crammed into the shop to see 'The Blatant Creation of Art' featuring The Bristol Ukulele Club doing 'Four Posters and a Pickle'.

Now this was a rock opera about the devil's efforts to scupper the burgeoning romance between a jam maker and a pickle maker (and also nipping the pickle makers nascent carpentry career in the bud by means of hellfire).

Why?  Well it's loosely linked to the fact that the Bed Workshop used to be a pickle factory..and who knows there may be some other historical basis for it...but for now I don't care!

Hands down the best thing I've seen in ages... funny, well acted, funny, well sung/played, completely unexpected and funny....I'm pretty sure it was all done for the love too.  And for one who's trying to get a handle on rhyming and storytelling, it was properly inspirational.... kids have been giving it 'P to the I to the C to the K to the L-E-S to the J-A-M' ever since.

There was someone videoing the whole thing so I'm hoping they'll put it up on their blog or somewhere.  Here's the link just in case..

I bloody love Bristol sometimes.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Sam goes medieval!

Three things have happened recently which lead me to today's slice of pen nerdery!

Thing the 1st - I went to see the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition at Bristol Museum, and it rocked my tiny world.  How did he get those amazingly subtle marks with a dip pen?  Got me wondering about old drawing techniques....

2nd - I went up to Durham, and spoke to Dr Keith Bartlett, who is very knowledgable about such things, not least because he is an expert on the Lindisfarne Gospels.  I subsequently read up a bit on the Lindisfarne Gospels...awesome is an overused word but if it applies...

3rd - I found what I think is a buzzard feather on my way to work.  I also own a penknife, so with a little help from my son's Horrible Histories book I had a go at making a quill pen.  
Me and the kids quickly set to a bit of scribbling.  Please note the sunlit photo and the brightly coloured vase of flowers...I am getting better at this blog lark.

Now let's get a few things straight..this was something of a bodge...if I remember my chat with Dr Bartlett right,  I should have left the feather to mature for about a year, rather than 2 days.  I also should really be using the 1st or second wingtip feather from the right hand...or maybe left hand.. wing of a goose (being as I'm right handed).  You will see that as it was the pen was more than a tad awkward to hold.

Then I had a go at the Leonardo did he achieve those amazingly subtle lines?  The answer is that, well...he was quite good.  But also drawing with a quill is a massively different proposition to using a metal dip pen.  See the scribbles below, which were all done with the same quill - you get a much softer line, and can go from very thin to very thick in one stroke without gouging a hole in the paper.

It's a joy to draw with...and all adds to my nagging and well documented feeling of having been born in the wrong century.  Now where's my calligraphy book?

Monday, 30 April 2012


Last year I was lucky enough to be asked to do a kid's guide book for the World Heritage Site of the lovely city of Durham.  I kinda fell in love with the place...hopefully the pics below give an idea why...

 Even luckier, they keep asking me back!  The most recent trip was a couple of weekends back, when I was asked to muck in with the WHS Visitor Centre team for a weekend of family workshops.   I worked with the kids (and parents and staff!) making illuminated letters, mythical beasts and most popular of all ....BADGES!

I bought a badgemaking machine, which turned out to be a very shrewd investment ... people could do their own designs, get me to draw something for them or do their initials in swanky medieval calligraphy (all with optional gold detailing as I had gold leaf too...).  As you can imagine that was me pretty much taken care of for the weekend!  Look at the photo above...not even P Diddy can boast of gold dandruff.

As you can see, in addition to drawing I also got to indulge my twin passions for looking gormless and wearing tudor hats..below you will see me just about managing to make said hat levitate..

Also, much to my amazement people starting asking me to sign their guidebooks....finally my moment in the sun!!  I would like to say a massive thankyou to all at Durham World Heritage Site Visitor Centre (staff and visitors) for a cracking weekend, and for making me feel so welcome...again!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

A slight return..

Nearly forgot..on Tuesday last week I got asked back to Ashton Gate by my son's teacher to do a picture of Zeus for a display in the classroom (Greek Myths and Legends being their term project).   All in all a fun way to spend a lunchbreak!  Thanks son for filling me in on what Zeus looks like, could have been messy otherwise...

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Sam's first writing effort gets mixed response from its characters..

Yep, after much hinting that it was coming out soon, the story wot I wrote (and illustrated)  for Driver Dan's Story Train did indeed air today (it's about 6 mins in).  Haven't got the kids' verdict yet as they were in bed by the time it I-playered, but I think I got away with it.  It's a daft story about a lion that rocks up uninvited for lunch and then won't eat anything he's given.

There is of course also some dancing...

And cos it's StoryTrain, more dancing at the end of story party!

Yay for the Driver, and thanks to all at StoryTrain for giving my story a whirl!  

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Brillustration and Ashton Gate do book week

Dammit I've been itching to tell you about this for ages, but time has been against me (so many cartoon lemurs to draw!) and photos have been like hens teeth (massive thankyou to everyone that had the presence of mind to take a camera and let me use your photos!) .  A couple of weeks back I organised for a bunch of my Brillustration chums and me to descend on Ashton Gate Primary School in Bristol to help them celebrate book week.  
I've posted about it at length on the Brillustration site (and will do again as more pics come in) so I won't  go on about it too much here, but suffice to say there was a bit of this...

 ...a bit of this (I'm nothing if not a paper nerd...I also have thumbs to be proud of)..

a fair bit of this..

And a lot of this!

 It was mad week, but an incredibly enjoyable one.  The good folks at Ashton Gate are probably getting bored of me telling them how great they are, but I'll say it're ace!  Of course I should also gently remind the kids not to get too good with the drawing...some of us have a living to make you know.....