Developments with Matti

Matti – you can make out other scribbles from the pages underneath her



Matti is slowly becoming a book I am really proud of. It’s a much, much stronger book than it was when I first conceived of it in the Summer of 2015.

I’m now working hard on getting a dummy ready for after Xmas, but especially for Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2018.

Here are just a few experiments with drawing her, over & over again – sometimes whilst half-watching the telly. I think I am actually discovering ‘my voice’ for drawing imaginatively (I feel I have a different ‘voice’ when I am doing my event illustration, and one that I feel quite confident and comfortable with). ‘Voice’ by the way, in more layman’s terms – is a bit like ‘style’. Sort of. And that’s a whole other story…

Matti with watercolour hair
A sketchbook page



Here are a few sketches that I have recently got very excited about… the sketchy, uncertain nature of the drawing. The earth-coloured pencil.


I’m very excited about my book once again, and one day I hope a publisher will be too.

You know…. I’m just wondering if I’ve ever talked about Matti before on here. Perhaps I really should have entitled this post ‘Introducing Matti’…

The Fading Light of Summer

I’m blogging about these because I have been enjoying doing sketchbook-diary pages as a way back into working on my stories and picture books; after having recently moved house and my aunty dying in early June.

It’s been a hectic summer and my children and I have been left a little with the feeling that it just passed us by (August being so damn wet didn’t really help). So I guess this is a way for me to take some time out, to breathe and to record the small things, the beauty of nature all around me.

We’ve moved to a beautiful place on an estuary – and I love it. The small things are right here. The sounds of the estuary birds, the loud ‘parping’ of the train as it passes, the rise and fall of the hills (it’s unusually hilly for this area). I feel happy here, so I think I notice the small things more. Drawing them is a way to appreciate just being here, a way to feel alive (some people ski down black runs or throw themselves from aeroplanes. I draw rocks and leaves – I’m no endorphin junkie!).

My sketchbook-diary entries are like Julia Cameron’s morning pages. And – just as the morning pages are intended to do – they help expand the feeling I have of being a creative person – somehow helping me to be more productive, despite having only tiny amounts of time to do my own work. The picture book I am currently working on, although progress is not fast, it feels overwhelmingly as if it is going in the right direction. And that feels good.

Its all very ‘Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady’ but the botanist, scientist & explorer lurking within me is enjoying the light of day (or the fading light of summer?). And most importantly perhaps, it’s fun.

Honduras in 1997

In 1997 when I was just 26 and living in Bristol, I travelled to Honduras to stay with a friend who I’d shared a house with. We’re still friends now.

I have rediscovered this sketchbook because I’ve just moved house and found all my sketchbooks in the loft. And when I say all my sketchbooks, I mean ALL of them – every one since the age of 16.

I actually had to throw some away. I simply don’t have the space to keep them all. In this move I decided to ‘accept’ the fact that I am in my middle age by ‘letting go’ of some of my past (this meant dumping many sketchbooks and past letters) – However, this is one of the sketchbooks I saved.

And why? Because its a travel sketchbook (I think it might of interest to my children one day when they start thinking about venturing into the wide world). But also because I particularly like these three sketches. They are perhaps some of the most unselfconsciously ‘illustrative’ sketches I can recall doing. Linear, and playfully so. There’s a deliberate lack of precision and a conscious editing of detail in order to create a sense of the ‘otherness’ of the scene – the unEnglishness of it (I don’t know if that’s a word, but I like it!). I don’t think I often see that in my old sketches. Anyhow, I figured they deserve to be on here, so here they are.

Buildings with Personality


Buildings have always been an anathema to me, well – unless I can draw them in a very scribbly, lazy sort of way (maybe looking back at the Rome sketchbook will show that perhaps I wasn’t ALWAYS afraid of tackling buildings). But to give them personality, play with the reality of them, treat them as if they are a living, breathing organic kind of thing – that is what I am trying to do here. I will do more, it was fun but I am not yet totally happy with the result.

This image is based on a building in Southend, towards the Thorpe Bay end. Seafronts always have lots of buildings with personality, don’t they?

Owning a ‘Pet’

I really enjoyed this ‘homework’ brief. It was set by Jo Byatt, a member of our local illustration group – we set ourselves small illustration briefs each month, the members take turns to set them. As Jo indicated when she set the brief, anything can be a ‘pet’. Hence the plants.

I found this to be such fertile ground for my imagination – I haven’t even begun to explore many other ideas… bugs in matchboxes, strange bogy-formations perhaps, or ridiculous pets like a rhinoceros or a crocodile.

You could say, this brief has legs.

Massive Immoveable Object


So this is an experiment.

It was inspired by a stress-inducing experience when trying to discuss a mortgage. I don’t want to go into the details, suffice to say that the mortgage advisor had his facts wrong and that he later called to apologise and correct the misinformation. Which is good – but it had left me feeling enraged and strung-out most of the morning.

Before the bank called, I was so angry I thought I’d draw this massive, corporate & suited mountain of a bank staff member talking to a puny, small and not very wealthy woman (me). Then the bank called and I didn’t feel so angry…

…but in the end I figured I still wanted to draw it. I tried to almost ‘sculpt’ the figure of the bank man, which means that I worked directly onto the page with the paint and I didn’t fanny around with a pencil trying to perfect the position of the man before I started throwing ink and paint about.

Working in this way helps me to be bolder, I think. More free with the expression, size and proportions of the human figures.

I do think it says ‘fat’ more than it says ‘massive immoveable object’ – which is what I was aiming for – but it’s quite fun and a very suitable working method for me. I reckon I will try to do more like this, and work on trying to control it less.

(Also, I just realised there really ought to be a computer (“says no”) on the desk).

The Decline of White Plastic Chairs


During my MA Conceived of a project I called the ‘White Plastic Chair Project‘. It was about drawing in the kind of places and spaces that you might find white plastic chairs.

Interestingly they are rather more difficult to find these days. Most seem to have been replaced by aluminium chairs: much stronger, less mucky-looking (with time outside) and much less likely to fold over when sat on by unbalanced heavy people. I put this down to Harry Hill’s ‘Have You Been Framed?’ So many clips of white plastic chair vs human.  Fallings, skyward legs and spillages that you can comfortably blame on the entertaining combination of cheap plastic, uneven ground and large people.

Most of my observations of them have been at car boot sales. I wanted to seek a greater variety of locations, but even markets seem to gone ‘up-market’ and have improved the kind of seating they offer.

This isn’t direct observation – I’ve used home-made stamps to create the white plastic chairs and drawn the figures based on people I did observe. Its a good way to do the chairs because they are very tedious to draw. My next step should be to make many, many stamps of white plastic chairs – of all different angles and sizes (this is quite a lot of chair-stamps) and then go outside and use them when drawing from life.

It’s not really the chairs I’m interested in of course – its the people that sit in them.

I was planning for the project to be a Grayson Perry-style investigation of people and concepts of class. One of those docu-drawing (do they exist?) kind of projects that evolve as you explore… and draw (lots).

Maybe one day I will get to continue this project as part of a PhD at Cambridge.

This is a sketch drawn from life… I’ve used carbon paper.

Sweet Potato Princess


Is this a Potato Princess who is sweet? Or a Sweet-Potato Princess?


It’s the latter.




Because she’s wearing a kick-ass military jacket, and mega-boots. In bed. With a book. She probably swears on occasion too.

Oh, and she was developed for #Colour_Collective. (This week’s colour was – you’ve guessed it – Sweet Potato).



Want to know what my inspiration was?

A bit of remaining paint on the back of my toilet door.


I love that someone tweeted that she wanted to have the bedspread. I’d love that bedspread too. And, to be honest, probably also to wear big boots and a military jacket under it.


What would you have seen in that peeling piece of paint?


Opal Grey Lady

So here she is – my favourite Left Hand Large Lady… updated for #colour_collective – a Twitter event (is that the expression?) – You post work at 19.30 each Friday, made using a colour that is specified on the previous Saturday. I had so much fun, I’ll probably do it again… so watch out for more colour-related stuff.

I think this curious looking lady works well with a splash of pattern and some shading. Now I could think of adding just a touch of colour. What do you think? Lilac?

If you are interested check it out on Twitter at #colour_collective – my handle is @artheart71 and also, the lesser used, @EventDrawer