Saturday, 31 December 2016

Christmas 2016

To be honest Christmas went by in an absolute blur this year and it didn't really feel like Christmas. I had a baby on the 20th so I was a bit preoccupied with that and a bit out of it! However, I felt like I indulged in a lot of Christmassy things before the baby came which made me feel very festive and I took lots of photos. 

Here's Vinetta venturing out into the garden one frosty morning. Sparkle twinkle!

I decided to decorate my castle for Christmas this year and went all out! A big Christmas tree in the entrance hall, a smaller one in the sitting room and an even smaller one in the attic which is Vinetta's temporary room. I even put up some tiny paper chains, a crib and a Christmas quilt on the bed. I used the sleigh from my Night Before Christmas book to decorate the roof.

Here's a close up of the sitting room. I still have a long way to go with it. It's nowhere near finished. Everything in there is a bit makeshift right now but I thought I still managed to make it look quite festive.

Here's Vinetta putting presents under the Christmas tree! I used the star filter on my camera to make the lights spiky.

And here she is on the miniature carousel.

Henry and I decided to get a real tree for our house this year. We ended getting one that was too big for our house! But we still loved it. We are both fans of multicoloured lights and mismatched ornaments. 

Here's Vinetta having some hot chocolate in her snowman mug.

I started knitting miniature hats during a hospital appointment the week before our baby arrived. I had to have a growth scan to check the baby's size and that led to other various tests (which were all fine!) but it meant a lot of waiting around in the hospital. I discovered that knitting is an excellent way to pass the time in hospital. I find it easier than trying to read a book in a waiting room.

Below top left: I went to Oxford for an illustrator and author day at the OUP offices which was really useful and also nice to meet some of the other illustrators and more of the OUP team. They gave us goodies including chocolates and a book wrapped up in sparkly christmas tree wrapping paper. Below top right: Henry and I playing Splendour on our last weekend as a couple before our baby arrived. We had a kind of 'date' day and went to town, had some nice food, played a game and watched a film. I remember by this point I felt so heavy I couldn't stand up for long at all! Below bottom left: Our Christmas tree. below bottom right: A snippet from The Biggest Smallest Christmas Present.

Another snippet from The Biggest Smallest Christmas Present.

My grandparents gave us a little Christmas tree to put in our alcove and I put star fairylights on it. There's Vinetta admiring it!

And lastly. Below top left: Vinetta at the carol concert at my grandmothers church. below top right: I drew the illustration for the carol concert booklet thingy because my grandmother likes me to do it every year. Bottom left: Tiny slippers that appeared under the Christmas tree in the castle for Vinetta. Bottom right. Henry showing our baby the Christmas tree lights. 

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

Friday, 11 November 2016

Isadora Moon dress up doll and other things

One of the things I really enjoyed doing in the lead up to the release of the Isadora Moon books was creating this dress up doll sheet below. I have always, always had a thing for paper cut out dolls - I think they are so charming - so I was very eager to create one for Isadora Moon. Besides, she has a fabulous wardrobe of clothes and I wanted to show them off!

All of the outfits on the sheet can be found somewhere in the books.

I couldn't resist trying out the cut out doll for myself once it was finished!

These sheets were available at some of my events but if you want to download one yourself then I'll leave a full res one here (below.) You SHOULD be able to open it in a new tab and it will be full size so you can download it!
I also created two colouring sheets for Isadora Moon.

Over half term I was very busy because I did seven Isadora Moon events in various Waterstone's and libraries. I had not done a lot of events before so it was interesting to see what worked and what didn't work and I think I learned a lot doing them. Here are some photos from the Hitchin event which I think was my favourite. Because I am from Hitchin, lots of people who I knew came so it felt more like a launch party which was really nice. There were spiderwebs and pink and black balloons and the whole thing went really well.

Here I am reading an extract from my book to the children:

And signing books! We did a wand making craft activity at this event which went down well with the children.

My mum made some vampire and fairy shaped star biscuits:

There were a few Pink Rabbits (the children came dressed up) but I was especially impressed with this one because the little girl's mum had even sewn black and white stripes into the ears!

I also really enjoyed the Harpenden event. It was a much smaller shop and in the afternoon (I had done a St Albans event that morning) and Henry was there to help me. We had quite a few children come in and make wands and buy books (this picture was taken right at the beginning) but it all just felt very nice and relaxed. 

I was so grateful to Henry for coming to nearly all of the events and helping me out. At seven months pregnant I hadn't realised how tiring I was going to find it all. In a couple of the events I actually had to go outside for a breather as I got too hot and dizzy so it was really good he was there. He even came with me to my three library events in Sheffield at the end of the week. These ones were different from the Watersones ones in the way that there was no craft activity. I had to create a whole hour long event with only a flipchart to entertain the children. I think I managed it though and I was really pleased with how these events went. I did a reading, played a game, asked the children questions and taught them to draw characters from the books. I loved seeing their own Isadora Moon drawings. Here are just a few of them:

I must admit I was exhausted at the end of the week and came down with a horrendous cold which I am still not completely rid of! I think it's down to getting over tired coupled with being pregnant and probably also from being surrounded by so many different children all week long. Still, I am glad I did the events because it was wonderful to see children really engage with Isadora Moon and now I have a much better idea of how to run an event. 

Now, after the excitement of all the events, I need to get my head down and get Isadora Moon 5 finished before the baby arrives at Christmas. I was excited to see the other week that the cover is already up online!

Also, today the Isadora Moon audiobook is out! It's so cool to hear someone else read my writing.

So that is exciting too!

I'll leave you now with a little picture of baby Honeyblossom
Bye for now! X

Collecting Berries

Another picture of Vinetta, collecting berries. It was a beautiful November morning today.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016


Celestine's cousin has come to stay. Meet Vinetta!

You can tell she's related to Celestine because of the black and white hair! There she is (above) exploring the front garden.

Her birthday is September 23rd. She likes: heavy eyeliner, black and white stripes, autumn and winter, diamonds, fairy lights, fashion, fireworks, dark hot chocolate, glitter and icy sparkles, hot buttered toast, stars, adventures, curling up in pockets. Her favourite colour is silver.

She's been keeping me company this autumn so far.

Do you like her tiny autumn outfit? I was very pleased with the back pack. I had been meaning to make one for a long time. I know the stitching is not the neatest but hopefully it adds some rustic charm haha. Also, who else is obsessed with tiny buttons? I love them so much. 

Here she is having her morning cup of tea on the garden wall a few mornings ago. Well, quite a few mornings ago now! This was before Halloween. I just haven't had any time to update lately.

So this year has been very busy so far. I have been working on Isadora Moon, planning Isadora Moon events, working on a side project for the future and also growing a baby!! I can't believe I am now 33 weeks pregnant! This photo was actually taken quite a few weeks ago (I am so behind on my blogging) but it's the only decent photo of pregnant me. I am definitely not one of those photogenic pregnant people haha.

This was taken while I was still able to walk up the hills! Now I am so pregnant I get dizzy walking up them. I am limited to just going round the block. I can't wait until I can go on proper walks again.

The other weekend Henry and I went to Wrest Park which is a big stately home in beautiful grounds really near to where we live. We have never been inside the house but the gardens are so nice and peaceful to walk through. Vinetta came too. Here she is walking across the sun dial.

She is modelling her second Autumn outfit of the season! She does like to stay fashionable and coordinate with the time of year! You can see I've made use of some of the buttons on her dress and hat. This was a really nice weekend actually. I can't remember exactly what we did, we probably didn't do much, but I just remember it was relaxing. I am all for relaxing weekends at the moment. I get tired easily now. 

There's Wrest Park house (below.) Maybe one time we will look inside it. My mum bought us a season ticket so we can go there whenever we like now because it is a good place for a heavily pregnant person to walk and it will also be good for pushing a pram around when the baby arrives! I do feel that being pregnant basically turns you into an OAP.

Not sure what Henry is doing in that ^ photo but I still like it.

These photos are from a different weekend. I think this was probably the last time I ventured up the hills actually. It was late afternoon and the sun was setting. There were red berries everywhere. Then we came home and had stuffed pumpkins/squashes for dinner which didn't turn out to be as nice as we thought they would be!

Vinetta on Halloween. She borrowed Celestine's pumkin outfit and Celestine wore her gold tutu dress. They went trick or treating together with their little paper bags. 

We got about four trick or treaters because Henry put a pumpkin in the window. He bought a ghost bucket and put loads of sweets in it. I insisted that he gave out Isadora Moon book marks with the sweets to any children who knocked on the door. It was quite funny because the children seemed more interested in the bookmarks than the sweets. Probably because it was a novelty for them!

So that seems to have been a lot of our Autumn so far. It's mainly been full of Isadora Moon events and trying to get the sketches for Isadora Moon book 5 completed but also some other small things. We have started to buy some important things for the baby - like a pram and a car seat etc. We went to a James Acaster gig except I had to miss half of it because I got too hot and had to go outside (pregnancy!) which was a bit disappointing. I think he is just the funniest comedian ever! I discovered that the Hotel Chocolat Halloween chocolates are really excellent. I finally got a new coat after about three years so I can be warm this winter - even though it does not do up over my stomach now. It is faux fur and I am very pleased with it. I love fur coats because they are so warm. Aaaand I can't think of any other thrilling updates.

I will finish with another photo of Vinetta all ready to go out before the weather got to cold to not wear a coat, and also of her asleep. I have been having the room so cold at night lately that she needs to wear her hat in bed!

 Bye for now!


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Biggest Smallest Christmas Present

Out today is my new picture book The Biggest Smallest Christmas present. Published by Penguin US.

It's a Christmas story about a miniature girl called Clementine, who is so small that she has to bathe in a teacup and sleep in a matchbox! Every year Santa leaves her presents but the presents are always too big. The story is about Clementine trying different ways to tell Santa that she is a miniature sized girl. 

You can probably guess where my inspiration for this book came from - my love of all things tiny of course! 

This book was actually quite a few years in the making. It is also my first full colour picture book in 2d not 3d so it was a learning curve. 

I started by drawing out the dummy book and designing the character. At first she was actually called Arabella but I decided to change her name to Clementine later. She went though quite a few character designs. 

I was very into the idea of making her look Cindy-Lou esque for a while (below) but the publisher suggested that she should look less 'made up' and I agree with that now.

I eventually came up with this version and everyone was happy.
Because the story in the book actually spans a few years, I had to be able to draw Clementine at different stages of her life. Starting with her as a baby.

Here I added some colour and I was also trying to work out which presents Clementine should be given at each stage of her life. I decided that she should always wear red or green to give a festive look. 

The dummy book also went through quite a few changes and so did the story. Here are a couple of un used sketches from the book:

My favourite scenes in the book are the bathroom ones. I just love the idea of a tiny little person using the sink as a swimming pool. Originally Clementine was going to be older in these scenes but later she changed to being a baby in them.

This is the original sketch:

And for the facing page:

I must admit it was a bit of a challenge drawing the sink so close up! I think because there are so few definitive edges on a sink, just curves and shading. I ended up taking a photo of my actual sink and using it as reference to draw from. 

The final version has baby Clementine in it. I think this double page spread is my favourite of the whole book. I was very pleased with how I managed to paint the sink in the end.

There were also some changes in the way I drew the illustrations during the process of creating this book. I ended up using pen and ink in the final illustrations but I did not start out like that. At the beginning I didn't use any black line at all except for pencil line round the character. You can see what I mean in the double page spread with the paintbox. That was my tester illustration!

I do actually quite like this one but I didn't go with this way of working in the end.

At one point I even experimented with painting Clementine with no black line either. I didn't really like it though.

Here's another example where I experimented. No black line at all on this one except for round Clementine and that was a bit too much of a juxtaposition.

Take two. I used acrylics rather than watercolors for this one but I didn't like the pastelly brightness of the colours.

Take three!

This was the turning point, when I decided to use a dip pen and ink. I think it helped that I was working on Isadora Moon at the same time and using dip pen and ink for her. I felt very comfortable using that medium.

This is a rough painting when I was just experimenting with it. 

And the final:

Again, that one actually started out with Clementine being not a baby!
But then changed...
As for the cover, that went through a couple of changes too. The idea was to have Clementine swinging on a Christmas bauble on the Christmas tree. So I did this sketch:

Can you guess why that one didn't get used? It looked too much like Miley Cyrus swinging on her wrecking ball! It made me laugh when the publishers came back with that comment. But it's true! I had to find a different way to draw Clementine. I actually felt quite annoyed with Miley Cyrus for scuppering my picture book cover plans, though I was happy with the end result anyway. 

I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of my process for creating this book. Clementine does eventually manage to contact Santa and he realises that she is a miniature girl. After that, she gets the toy of her dreams - the biggest, smallest Christmas present! Can you guess what it is?