Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Street Bob

Just been sent this hilarious image by all round top bloke and groovy artist JAKe Steel. You can clearly see Bob brought to technicolour life by the magic of graffiti on a London street. You can even see Wendy round the corner holding her can like a lethal weapon. If I had any comments it'd be that Bob's ears are a little too jug-like but besides that, top of the class. I know I'm down with the kids when I see things like this..... ;-)

Bada Bling!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Crombies = Zombies

Naturally, so I thought at the time, any good kids book should feature zombies, regardless of what age group we're aiming at. Yes, I am a sucker for the walking dead. Well, the Crombies in my story were always going to be zombies. Remember I'd not long been off MARS ATTACKS when I did this work so there's probably a very heavy evident influence of Mr Burton on my paintings. Certainly in so far as the stripes, anyhoo. The red and green contrasting palette is something that I'm still drawn to in paintings to this day.

Looking back I feel these pieces are naive but I'm still really proud of them- they went a long way to dictating my work ethic and obviously helped me get commissions.

I did pitch THE CROMBIES to a publishing house or two, and was told in no uncertain terms to "lighten" my work- as much as the art directors loved my stuff they couldn't use it as it was simply too dark. I stubbornly stuck at the dark stuff and it was only when I tried lightning my work a good while later that I started to pick up commissions.

TIP= Always take the advice of editors and publishers. They're in those positions for a reason, 9 times out of 10!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Pre-Bob portfolio

Did some signings at Birstall Borders in Leeds yesterday, and fielded a query from one book-buyer as to whether I based my book characters on BOB THE BUILDER - I guess this is reflects on the character of the boy Bobby in DINOSAURS AFTER DARK, and maybe even the girls in MY DADDY. In answer, if he does check out this site, here's a character I designed and painted for a story called THE CROMBIES from way back when. It was during my "lean period" between having finished on MARS ATTACKS and searching for the next gig. Obviously, wanting to do character design and also break into publishing, illustrating a text of my own seemed like the most sensible thing. As you can see in the picture the character of Simon looks VERY like Bob (well, he does to me anyway, with the beady eyes for starters).

So yeah, I have a folio style that's recognisably "me" which certainly helps my work get noticed I suppose. The same question usually pops up re: similarities between Pilchard and FRANKENSTEIN'S CAT, but in truth my style of drawing animals like cats and dogs has been consistent for many years previous to Bob. I think I've posted FISHBONE the cat on here before now, do let me know if I haven't and I'll whack him up here as he's a good example of a pre-Bob cat that should put any queries to bed once and for all!

More pictures from THE CROMBIES to follow. For the purpose of explanation THE CROMBIES revolves around a boy who stays with the Crombies for a week in summer and all the terrible things that happen to him there...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Jo Bling the Dog Faced Boy

OK, so, thanks to a slightly unrelated prompt from Mr Culbard I feel it's my duty to relay this story to you.

The school that I was at on Thursday, Spennithorne in Wensleydale, was a very sweet little school in a very sweet little village full of very sweet little children. In the most part. There's always one, isn't there?

I'd done my storytelling and sketching for all the school, and it was getting towards the end of the day. All the kids were buzzing after the workshops - as one teacher has said before now it'd save a lot of time if I just injected pure sugar into the kids' brains instead of spending the full forty minutes with each class - it'd create an identical effect! Anyway, there's just the one wee class to see last of all and that's about 8 or 9 reception kids, little ones with the archetypal streams of candlewax snot and wandering fingers, you've seen them I'm sure.

I introduce myself and before I can say anything more one kid shouts out a line that'll probably make it to my gravestone, one that I never expected to hear (like a fool) but shall henceforth expect when working with kids:

"You're really hairy!!!"

Arthur was his name, 3ft of cockiness and honesty rolled into a bundle of mischief. Admittedly I had a shortsleeved shirt on and the old chestwig was rather erupting from it's housing. Well, young Arthur only said it as he saw it without the shackles of decorum and decency that stop you or I shouting things out at strangers in the street. Suffice to say I buckled up in kinks along with the teacher who didn't know WHAT to say or WHERE to look - she was crimson! I don't usually get stumped but on this occasion young Arthur had me for a duck!

Certainly beats "Where do you get your ideas from?" or "How much money do you make?"

PS: Thanks to Mr Culbard for generously lending me this snapshot from his passport...... ;-)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Monkey Business in Birmingham

Just returned from trip to Birmingham for the Book Week, putting in a couple of appearances at some of the city's libraries, and very well looked after I was indeed. OUP had organised my involvement in order to promote CHEEKY MONKEY, and I must have shifted about 40 copies to the school children who came from Coppice Green School and St Dunstan's School. What a bunch of kids- very engaging, polite, and great fun. Completely dispelled the idea for me that inner city kids lack respect. Just some of them, it'd appear.

Thanks to Angela King from Birmingham City Council library services for looking after me and making me feel at home, and all the support staff who helped make it such a great event. I hope to return next year, maybe with all my books in tow.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

La bella Igora!

This is the remaining "Frankenpet" to accompany Nine, Fifi and Heidi. Igora (started out life as Igor) is the vainest bird in the world, though admittedly she's clearly damaged in many ways. Again, lots of fun to design and has turned out to be a terrific character in the show who makes a great nemesis for Nine. I'd love to see all the gang as plushies with detachable limbs and body parts- kids could make their own Frankenpets from the collected bunch of parts. My producer's mother made a hand-stiched Nine which I'd post on here to show you if I had the darn image.

Off to Birmingham for the Book Day on Friday, promoting reading to kids and doing some storytelling spots in the city. Then I'm doing signings in Borders Leeds Birstall this Sunday. Both should be a hoot, though I'm slightly wary of how I get from venue to venue at present in Brom. Birmingham is a city that I know about as well as Nantucket. That isn't a lot. At all.

Luckily I know a girl from Nantucket...

Monday, May 22, 2006

Hyde the Hamster

Not a game Richard Gere plays, contrary to popular belief...

This was the character I originally designed for the sequel to Frankenstein's Cat, as mentioned in a previous post. As it happened we incorporated Hyde into the animated series proposal, and he's changed a bit along the way. As one of the other "Frankenpets", Hyde's special ability (as if ANY of them are remotely special) is that he's a lycanthropic werehamster, able to turn into a hairy rampaging monster at the drop of a hat. This, by the way, was created long ago, before the Wererabbit hit the screens by a long shot.

As it happened, we decided to make the other Frankenpets all girls, so giving Nine a real outsider's point of view- he didn't fit in remotely. This combined with his friend Lottie's unfotunate predicament of being the only girl in the village left the two of them as a real buddy-buddy act that is the at the core of the show. So Hyde became Heidi. Not too difficult a jump methinks.

Plus I love the design of Heidi, she's a real toerag bruiser who looks like she'd bite your ankles in a fight as a first resort!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

"What you get isn't always what you ask for...

... just bear that in mind when you ask for a puppy next Christmas"

And that's the last piece of original artwork from FRANKENSTEIN'S CAT that I'm going to whack up onto the blog. Like the previous three it's one of my favourite images and was a lot of fun to do (hope that shows in the painting). Yet again the green and red stripe obsession appears. I know. I'm sorry. Whoever said "red and green should never be seen" was clearly talking out of their patootie! Shame I never got to do the sequel book I had planned for FC: HAMSTER & HYDE - it culminated in a giant 60ft hamster riding a fairground bigwheel!

Been hard to find time to work up posts on the blog, you might have noticed, due to having been making lots of appearances at schools holding various workshops. As much as I love working with kids (and I sincerely do, believe me) I'm hankering to get my teeth stuck into some writing. Time for more time juggling!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Blogtastic disaster!

Anybody who called by the blog over the weekend will have noticed that things were pretty blitzed- we don't know how but after much bug searching and rifling through problem pages on blogger groups we (or should I say Emma) finally sussed that we needed to republish a fresh template. So that's what we did and normal service has now, sort of, resumed. Apologies to anyone whose link is missing from the navigation bar- I tried to remember everyone but no doubt I've forgotten someone- just gimme a mail and remind me. I'll put it up if it's appropriate although, with kids reading this, anything that involved activity more risque than baked bean wrestling had best not bother!

Busy weekend decorating the house, as Mrs Bling stated in the previous post. All hunky dorey now and proper show home like!

Attached is another piece of original art from FC, another of the double page spreads that I was so fond of. The image of Nine exploding like that is a real springboard for where we want to go with the animated show- lots of Tex Avery-esque splits and the like. We could have done it in stop motion, which is my first love, but it would have been a nightmare in post with all the wires and the like that we'd have needed to suspend those flying limbs and eyeballs. The finished thing in flash does look a bit awesome mind you!

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Along with the picture of Nine charging through the castle towards the kitchens, this particular piece is another of my favourites from the "Frankenstein's Cat" picture book. I was mighty pleased with the paint job in general on the book, but for some reason this particular "shot" was the most fun. Don't know whether it was the playing around with the stormcloud effects or just the fact that the drybrushing built up so easily. Composition as much as anything worked well- within the picture book the Monster is reaching over the spine and into the text on the opposite page, a brain in a jar just out of reach!

As I find the other images of my fave pics from the book I'll put them up.

In Other News...

Just spoken with the delightful Harry Saylor, owner of Orbit Gallery in NJ, who has sold another BITENECK BEATNIKS painting, "Bad Madam" I believe. Plus apparently someone has snaffled a set of MONSTER MOB lithographs. Good on you, Harry! Hope we can get more paintings through Orbit, as we're looking to try and arrange a solo show there sometime Spring/Summer next year. It's in a terrific location, overlooking Manhattan from the Jersey docks.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Here's the flipside of the Bob Yard sheet as promised, the first and only design I did for Pilchard. It was based upon a cat I'd already designed by way of a series of prospective greetings cards, "FISHBONE", but i tweaked the colour and shape of the head and "bingo", there was Pilchard. Again, if I hadn't bothered to do the Fishbone character I possibly may never have been asked to design Bob. As it happened, the producer on Bob, Jackie Cockle, loved my cats and once she saw what I could do she wanted me on board, God bless her.

I had my first "tinker" on Flash today and actually produced a piece of animation. Well, a hopping pig anyway. Was much much fun and although it was as basic as a very basic thing with no bells and ribbons on it, I still had a feeling of achievement! Just need to be able to play with it enough to oversee the kids who I'm currently mentoring on a Youth Film Project in Middlesbrough, funded by First Light. We've done two films already, one claymation, one cut out paper characters, so to move onto computer is a departure for all involved.

Bada Bling!

PS: You might also notice the sellotape/slash mark at the bottom of the picture, too. Yep, that's where I went and chopped clean through like a cowboy electrician through cabling...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Dusting down Bob

Further to yesterday's posting of the original Bob sketch, I've had a rummage through what images I have from earliest development of the show. This is still one of my favourites and is, as you see it here, on a sheet of A1 from a whopping old sketchbook I had. Again, as with the Bob sketch, this is my first submission for Bob's Building Yard and, as anyone who is aware of the show through having young kids, is pretty much the one that we ended up running with. Designing Bob was, on the whole, a bit of a dream whereby very little needed changing. Sure, Bob had to be tweaked, but that was no big. The yard was accepted as is, as was Pilchard the Cat (which I'll post later).

I was stoney broke at the time I did this artwork and couldn't afford a second sketchbook. I kid you not. As such, I used the back of this page to sketch another Bob design, that of Pilchard. Then, unaware of future value of said artwork, I set about cutting the Pilcard picture out of this page! I had to fax the image to my producer and couldn't be chewed with getting a copy of it- it was urgent. Bottom right you'll probably see where I started to cut through before stopping, thinking twice and fortunately seeing sense.

You'll also see here my first design submission of Scoop here. I went for a more bulldoggish, trapjawed character, with that whole underbite going on. As we played with the designs, this changed into a more faithful adaptation of a JCB. Bottom picture is of Bob's house in a little greater detail. Again, all pictures copyright HIT Entertainment PLC/Keith Chapman.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Mrs Bling expects...

It is with a huge dollop of pleasure that I proudly announce that Mrs Bling and I are expecting another addition to the Family Bling. Should be arriving on earth sometime towards the end of September, beginning of October, and is a welcome addition to the dynamic duo of Andrew and Evie. We went for our first scan this morning, what would ordinarily be the 12 week one, only to find out we're actually 18 weeks along! Baby had a nice strong heartbeat and was very mellow, unlike it's sister, Evie, who danced and jigged like a proper nutter when she had her first scan. I'm quite surprised at how mellow the bump was, to be fair, as mother did a good job of demolishing oodles of fizzy sweet goodness over the weekend which were a gift from our mate Daisy...
All very happy!
To celebrate our news I'm posting this image on here which has never been on the net before- it's my earliest sketch submission for BOB THE BUILDER, and as you can see, he's changed a little along the way.
There were a number of tweaks I was forced to make:
1. Bigger feet. He'd have wobbled and fallen over like an old lady on those spindly pins. After all, this is a puppet show, we can't defy gravity with melon-headed lead characters...
2. Bigger hands. No way was he holding tools with those little flippers!
3. I thought it would be tremendously funny to give him no hair, bar the sideburns. Ergo, he takes his helmet off to reveal a baldy bonce to hilarious comic effect. The producers said no, give him hair. I insisted it was funny. They asked if I wanted to work on the show. I decided to give him hair...
4. I had to lose the 'tache! Apparently preschool kids don't like their characters to have facial hair. How they discovered this, I don't know. I like to think a team of producers wearing fake beards and moustaches hid in some bushes outside a primary school before waiting until hometime and leaping out of the bushes and yelling BOO at the poor wee ones... that's what I like to think, anyway...
So there you have it. Bob Mk One. A rare sneak peek from my folio. Image copyright of HIT Entertainment PLC/Keith Chapman.
Bada Bling!
PS: I still think he should have been a slaphead...

Friday, May 05, 2006

Appearing at a school near YOU!

Break in transmission has been down to a busy week appearing at schools in North Yorkshire. Had a turn at Boroughbridge school on Wednesday where I was special guest for their new library opening day- I know it doesn't sound initially spectacular but a library to kids is a pretty cool place, as I recall from my own childhood, so it was lovely to get to speak to all the children in the school. As one teacher commented after I'd wound up her class and left them bouncing off the walls for her to pick up the pieces- "It'd be easier if you just injected sugar straight into their bloodstream!"

Then yesterday, thursday, I was at the smallest school I've ever seen, West Burton in Wensleydale. There must have been about 40/50 children and just two teachers, with the receptionist taking classes for science and French. One teacher had "The Infants" and one had "The Juniors"- as such, each group of kids was made up of widely carying age ranges. Cracking bunch they were too- the Year 5/6 were all working on their own animated films which I got to advise them on. They had this great software called Digital Blue which came with a digital camera that allowed all kinds of groovy programmes. Very impressive.

The infants I took in the afternoon, playing episodes of Bob to them, drawing characters like Curious Cow and Frankenstein's Cat, then encouraging them to draw their own "Frankenpets". One group of Y1 boys got stuck in drawing what first appeared fantastic beasts- lots of heads, tentacles, etc. I noticed one boy had drawn udders under his monster, to which I said they looked cool. I was corrected:

"They're not udders. I've stitched three willies on underneath."

Then his mate popped up by his side:

"Look at mine- it's doing multicoloured wee-wee!"

... and it was...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

UN-seasonal greetings!

Have posted these images following a "request" from the nice fella I met at the Red Stick Festival (yes, he does seem a little bit too "into" mooses, I noticed that as well). Santa's Hapless Helpers was a greeting card/animation project I developed which revolved around the concept of Santa being poorly one Xmas so he gets these hapless helpers to run the show for him in his absence. Naturally, they mess things up in many ways, shapes and forms. I would send the card to friends, family and business contacts- workwise, it helped to remind folks that I existed, be they animation companies, broadcasters or publishing houses. As such, I'd reccommend to anyone the idea of having a series of character led pieces they can send out each year to let people see their work. It's a great way of networking in a familiar fashion as a freelancer (that's enough alliteration for one day!)

These are the only images I could really show as this site is open to kids as well and to be honest, some of the other images are unsuitable for minors (yeah, like severed fingers aren't, I hear you say!) But take my word, these are the cleanest images I have! We have "Slice to Meet You", "Greetings" (done back when the XFiles was still a popular show) and "The Proof is in The Pudding". Again, a bit like other work I did at the time, these pieces also served to help me get my first design job in animation on Bob The Builder, and again helped with getting me my first book deals, I don't doubt it for a moment. Although the subject matter isn't appropriate for either fields, it let people know my style and ability.

Bada Bling!