This is my entry for the Cheltenham Illustration Awards 2016, for the theme of Nonsense literature with a modern twist. I was thinking about lies we tell to explain things it’s hard to understand, with explaining where babies come from to children being a classic example. In my image I’ve included some of the things adults tell children, but also some of the stories children tell to themselves to explain where they come from. I think my favourite one was that they parachute out of an aeroplane and their dad’s catch them on the hospital roof!

I’ve been playing with illustrating book quotes, this is one from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, but I wanted to relate it to the wider adventure of beginning reading any kind of new story.

I made this for a brief a few years ago to illustrate a David Bowie lyric. I chose Jean Jeanie (sits like a man but he smiles like a reptile). I played nothing but his music for a year as a teenager and I still believe Labrynth is one of the best films ever. So glad he existed, gutted he’s gone RIP xx

These are some simple line drawings I created to apply for a commission. They asked for a friendly vole and a cave painting among other things. When researching images of cave paintings the mammoth drawings were my favourites.

I created eight illustrations from Alice in Wonderland, to be displayed in libraries across Essex for their ‘Down the rabbit hole’ event, funded by the Arts Council England. They are to form a ‘wonderland trail’ as part of their celebrations to mark the 150yr anniversary of the book.

As part of this project I ran a workshop to consult with a group of young people at Chelmsford library in Essex about what parts of the story they would like me to illustrate and to think about character design. Here are some of the brilliant drawings produced by Katie, Rebecca, Eloise, Sarah, Jessica, Gabriella and Ella.
A big thank you to you all for joining in, it was great to work with you all.

I thought I’d post a photo of my work space. Whilst I was working on the illustrations I had copies of the drawings from the workshop stuck on the wall next to me, along with the written descriptions for the characters that the group gave me, and layout ideas for each scene.

This is a close up of the quick thumbnail sketches I drew for each scene, under direction from the group, during the workshop. Although the exact composition was tweaked and added to when I worked on the final illustrations, I kept these in mind whilst drawing, with a few extra details added here and there.

This is the first image, with the first time Alice sees the white rabbit. I have included the instructions the group gave me for the scene and a rabbit drawn in the workshop too.
The group voted that the rabbit should have a red jacket, the Cheshire cat should be pale grey with pink, blue and purple patches, and that Alice should be a strawberry blonde. All great ideas in my opinion, but I especially like the idea of Alice’s hair colour, I’m all in favour of redheads!
I added the Cheshire cat to this scene too to give the impression wonderland is already appearing (that Alice is already asleep).
There is a scene in the story where Alice’s neck grows too long and her head goes through the tree tops and scares a pigeon in its nest. This scene wasn’t chosen for the final few so I thought it might be nice to add a pigeon here being scared by the rabbit instead.

The pool of tears, after Alice has grown too big to get through the door to the beautiful garden. The group wanted the ‘French mouse’ in this scene to be wearing a red beret.

For the caucus race (where the animals that were swimming in the pool of tears run in circles to dry off), the group wanted me to show the hall in the distance behind, and to include the mouse, a dodo and a lizard

This is the finished caucus race, I thought it would be nice to have Alice joining in. Until I read the original story again before I started this project I had forgotten about the group of little animals and birds that crop up quite often, I love drawing little creatures so this was one of my favourite to do.

The scene where Alice grows too big for the house is illustrated in different ways, either from inside or outside the house. The group wanted a view from the outside and to include the little animals throwing rocks that turn into cakes when they hit her (she eats a cake to shrink again).

Here are some drawings from the workshop for the scene where Alice meets the Cheshire cat. In the story the cat is up the tree with Alice stood below looking up, but I loved the groups idea of having Alice and the cat in the tree together instead, it just seemed more fun that way. I love Alice’s expression in this drawing and the way she is leaning towards the cat, they look deep in conversation!

This is my final illustration for this scene, which I think is pretty close to the original idea. I couldn’t resist adding the blue caterpillar to the branch below though (as Alice meeting the caterpillar wasn’t a scene chosen by the group I thought it would be nice if he still made a guest appearance somewhere!)

The next scene is the croquet game featuring the queen of hearts. One of the group created a brilliant costume design for the queen. I’ve included my own character development too. My first queen looked a bit too scary. Although she is always angry I see her as more comical than really scary, so I made her more cartoon like.

The croquet game is one of my favourite scenes, it has a real sense of chaos and silliness to it.

Some more of my character designs, for the king of hearts and a card soldier. The group wanted the king to be tall and thin, with grey hair and a long beard. You can’t see this very clearly on the courtroom image due to his position in the scene, so I thought I would show him here too.

This is another of my favourite scenes. I have made this one a little more chaotic, I thought it would be fun to have the accused thief the knave of hearts sneaking away and one of the animals stealing a tart, both taking advantage of the queen being distracted by Alice.

This is a design created by one of the group at the workshop, showing how the cards running to capture Alice could start turning into leaves as she wakes up on the river bank.