The Cartoon Academy

The Cartoon Academy is a series of workshops that I enjoy taking around schools and private functions. I also run workshops in my home town during the school holidays.

The workshops are design to build confidence in children aged 4 – 11 through creativity and expression. Above all we have fun drawing cartoons and generally spend the entire class time laughing, drawing and talking about our favourite characters.

For more information take a look at The Cartoon Academy website.


My Hairy, Scary Best Friend – reading a story on TV

I had a superb day yesterday at a TV studio in Liverpool.

A long standing ambition of mine has been to read stories to children. Stories of my own making.
When Bay TV reached out to me to record a slot reading one of my own adventures, I knew I had to jump at the opportunity.

Milo and Martha imageThe story I chose was My Hairy, Scary Best Friend (above). It’s the second book I wrote and illustrated and had a theme of prejudice running throughout. Rather, I wanted to address the fact that people are not always as they appear!
This wasn’t lost on the producer at the studio and we ad-libbed a suitable ending to the story that brought that message home.

I wrote the story primarily because I wanted to illustrate a monster. The idea of a 7 foot monster befriending a young girl came shortly afterwards. I was inspired by Sully from Monsters Inc and his relationship with Boo. A beautiful relationship where the child just doesn’t see him as the scary monster. Quite hilariously calling him Kitty.

I do wish that I’d made some videos of the design process for Milo, the monster in the story. But I didn’t. So I’ll be revisiting the character and trying to retread those early steps I took in defining his character.

The videos will be available on my YouTube channel at

Exploring the Manga style with Mischief

I first encountered Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira in my early 20s around 25 years ago. I was mesmerised by it.

The story was fascinating but it was the art that blew me away. I’d never really seen anything like it. Over the years I’d look for something that had a similar impact on me but I found nothing. Akira, its black and white line work, just stood out as an incredible piece of art.

I’m not a huge lover of Manga. It’s good when it’s good but when it’s bad I find it infuriating. Amateurish, even.

So I recently watched Attack on Titan and felt a similar sense of awe to that which I felt with Akira. I was impressed with how much intensity the artists had managed with so little. The animation was really rather minimal but the story, oh my, the story was powerful. It didn’t require Disney-esque fluidity. Everything that was shown was enough to tell the story with suitable impact. Very impressive.

So I thought I’d have a go at sketching in the Manga style. It’s all in the eyes. At least for me it is. Here are some of my sketches.

manga21 manga22 mangagirl1 mangagirl2

The beat generation and Allen Ginsberg’s Howl

I’m totally late to some of the best literature around. I recently read and enjoyed Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. There’s something romantic about the beat generation and this ragtag bunch of bohemian junkies feeding off the vibes of their day. The jazz I can live without but the immediacy of their writing and its relevance to the 1950s of McCarthy and paranoia are not lost on me.

I watched the film adaptation of Howl and thoroughly enjoyed it. It came over as serious but not. The animations played a huge part in conveying the author’s extreme irreverence and the court scenes were played beautifully. ‘One can not simply translate poetry to prose.’ I love that line.

The prosecution, the people, really did not stand up well. The insinuation that Ginsberg’s work was grotesque and not something for public consumption was laughable. Or rather it was simply a view of the time and only those with a truly liberal and open mind could see its relevance and value in future generations. Interesting that liberalism was under fire during this period and it was artists like Ginsberg, Kerouac, Pollock of the beat generation that were somehow managing to fly the American flag of creativity and expression.

I’ve read On the Road and thoroughly enjoyed it. Tonight I’m going to watch the film.

Saturday morning ramblings

It’s a rainy Saturday morning and I’m not long out of bed, showered and enjoying a coffee. In the background I have Scott Bradlee playing Space Oddity on piano. It’s a warm scene I have here. Later I’ll collect the children and fill my home with the love and laughter that you can only get from your children. When I’m in this kind of a mood I feel the need to write, draw and just express myself. But today, for some reason, I am unable to.

As Bradlee’s piano builds to the beautiful though I’m past one hundred thousand miles I’m touched by how much has come and gone this past few months. How much has changed. In just a few short weeks we’ve lost some high profile characters from the world of music and show biz. A cursory glance at social media reminds you of this in spades. People that (probably) know nothing of Alan Rickman’s work beyond Harry Potter or Die Hard, mourn his passing with eloquence.
In this reflective mood I’m struck by how shallow and banal the world appears when viewed through social media. Yes, Twitter, I am of course looking at you.

With a voice (and a keyboard) we are all in that maelstrom of a conversation. So much noise, very little signal. I could, if I wanted to, let it affect me. And it would. And not in a good way. I could suddenly be compelled to turn my back on the internet and society. Carefully cherry picking my public outings so as not to collide with the ‘types’ of people that may emphasise my angst toward these invisible people with their big, shouty mouths.

Bradlee’s piano has twinkled to a stop and the moment is behind me. For that beautiful few minutes it wrote a meaningful soundtrack to my coffee infused moaning. This is, after all, what blogging is all about, isn’t it? Just pouring out the here and now?

I have some free time before I’m due to leave the house so I’m going to fire up an art program (probably Corel Painter) and draw something grotesque.

Digital life drawing using Corel Painter

Buoyed by my life drawing class last night, I decided to have a stab at drawing a nude model digitally. For this I used a porn site for the reference material and Corel’s Painter on iMac. I use Wacom’s 22″ HD Touch Cintiq for the actual drawing.

Here’s a few screen grabs.


I have always used construction lines. I’m rarely interested in creating a ‘finished’ or polished piece. I’m no Caravaggio and don’t intend to be. I just want to understand form. My tutor last night was passionate about construction lines. It’s all good as I am too. But digitally I have the ability to work on layers and remove those establishing marks.


The above detail is the part of the drawing that, for me, works best. I like the concentration of marks and the angles that the wrist and breasts provide. As a cartoonist it’s quite hard to detach myself from drawing sweeping, arced lines. It’s especially hard when you consider that the female form is very much a collection of sweeping arcs and curves. But the whole experience is hugely rewarding.


There was nothing precise about applying the shaded areas here. I just tried to pick out the mid ranged tones.Screenshot-2016-02-04-18.26.15

I’m not sure that the finished sketch required any ‘watercolour’. I think in all honesty that the simple line work is sufficient. But, again, it’s fun to explore. I’ve clearly not  done the beautiful young model any justice, either.

First life drawing class in almost 30 years

My friend had brought some fantastic Copic pens with her so I borrowed the 0.03mm liner and had some fun picking out the shapes. The model was superb and had a fantastic and interesting body. I think it’s fair to say we had no idea what to expect from the session but it was really fantastic. We’re booked in for another 3 session which should takes us to Summer. By which point I think I’ll be sat observing people outside cafes and bars with some frequency.