Sunday 24 September 2017


A little while back I went to see the Raphael exhibition in the Ashmolean in Oxford. Next to it being a wonderful exhibition, it also reminded me of the ancient renaissance technique of silverpoint, that I used to enjoy experimenting with. It seems to be a bit of a forgotten technique nowadays, but for those of you who like experimenting with different materials, here a little tutorial on how to make your own silverpoint illustration / artwork.

I used a sketch for the picture book I'm currently working on, where Momo and Noush are sliding over an icy river, as the base for this step by step guide to silverpoint.

The materials you need are:

- a piece of silver (I use 0.5 mm jewellery making silver) 
- an empty mechanical pencil that holds 0.5 mm leads
- zinc white gouache and/or chinese white watercolour paint
- strong but smooth paper (I use Fabriano Classico 5) streched up on a board
- your sketch

You stretch up your paper, as you would normally stretch watercolour paper. Then you cover the whole paper with a thin layer of zinc white gouache or Chinese white watercolour paint diluted with water. Or a combination of the 2 paints with water. Let it dry and apply another layer, making sure that the whole surface is well covered with the gouache and/or watercolour.

This is important as the silver will create a chemical reaction with the zinc white and the Chinese white.

Guided by your sketch, you now paint in your background. You can use different types of paints, watercolour, gouaches, acrylics, as long as you blend in a bit of zinc white or Chinese white as you go along. Or, if you don’t want a coloured background, you can just work on the white.

Make sure your background is dry.

Once it is dry you can start drawing with your silver on the background. I tend to cut the paper off the board at this stage, as I find that works easier. 

One note though, once the silver has made a mark, you can’t erase it. It’s there as the chemical reaction between the silver and the zinc has taken place.

After you have drawn your characters or scene, you can paint in your artwork and hey presto! You have a silverpoint illustration.

A note for the painting. If you have used gouache in your background, it will start blending somewhat with any watercolour or other wet paints, as that is what gouache does. I like that effect. But it does mean you do have to plan your drawing well when you put the base together.

So why would you go through all this hassle, when you could just use a pencil?

I like how you can work really finely and delicately with the silver, apart from printing techniques like etching, I don’t know many materials that you can work so finely with.

The other advantage is that you can work on top of a background. With a pencil you cannot always draw easily on a painted background. However, the silver will just draw on the background, whether it is textured or not.

Interestingly the silver will continue to work with the zinc in the paint and grow darker over the years. The work is still "living". For me that makes it a meaningful medium, if that idea fits with a story.

And last, but not least, there is something nice about keeping an old technique alive.

Wednesday 14 September 2016


For me the best way to start a new character and discover his or her story is to sketch them and see what they end up doing, what environment sits comfortably with the character and what friends appear? What adventures will the pencil take them on? 

And then there are those naughty characters, like little piglet Kay, that impatiently just pop up whenever they want. Even when it isn't her turn yet!

It looks like little Momo has a big bear friend. And I think it is cold where they are, but somehow I think that they would much prefer a warm place with soft grass and flowers. But it isn't anywhere near them. Hmmm. Maybe a little journey might be in order? We'll see. 

I love sketch books and sketching, doodling,  playing, thinking, drawing. And there is of course enormous joy in viewing others' sketch books. I recently bought "The Bird King" by Shaun Tan, and what a joy to view page after page of delicious sketches. And then there is the wonderful Sara Midda's sketchbook "The South of France, a sketchbook". And if you really want to get me drooling there is Oliver Jeffer's Sketchbook. These are some of my favourite sketchbooks. I would love to find out what yours are. It will be such a delight to find more artists' sketchbooks to enjoy and get inspired by!

Wednesday 22 June 2016

New picture book?

A few months ago I put a little doodle I made on Facebook and for some reason he made a lot of people comment, despite being just a little doodle. Here he is, the little fellow.

You see, there isn't much of him, but somehow people liked him and he also kept haunting my mind. So it's probably best that he gets a story. His name is Momo. That much is clear. But rather than just making up a story for him, I would like to discover first who he is and from there see what is happening in his life.

If you'd like to follow an adventure in picture book making, I thought I'd use this blog to record the progress of discovering Momo.

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Horace and Nim

It's been a while since you've heard from me, but our first Horace and Nim story, "The Rainbow's End" is currently out in "Fun to learn Friends" magazine (issue 294, 26 June 2014), published by Redan. If you would like to read it, you can find the magazine in most major supermarkets and news agents and any other shops that sell children's magazines here in the UK. "Friends" magazine is one of the UK's largest pre-school age children's magazines with almost 70,000 copies sold of each issue.

Our next 2 adventures, "The Yo-Yo bug and "The Lucky, Lucky Leaf" will be published in issues 296 and 298, out respectively the 24th of July and the 21st of August. If you'd like a little preview of the stories (all written by David Hoskins) and the illustrations, have a look at the "stories" page of our brand new Horace and Nim website.

Licensing Biz Daily wrote a little article about us, you can read it here.

Hope you enjoy Horace and Nim's adventures and am curious to find out what you make of them!

Saturday 28 December 2013

Hurrah for the Mud Monster! And some thoughts on picture book apps

In my last blog post I wrote about my latest children's picture book app, "The Mud Monster". To my great delight it was recently listed in Kirkus' best book apps of 2013 ('A story that is as happy as a clam at high tide'). I am tickled pink and still blushing with pride!

what will our 3 friends find in this giant sea shell?

Looking back at The Mud Monster, it makes me think about picture book apps in general. I was recently interviewed for BBC Wiltshire regarding picture book apps and one question that keeps on following me, is whether book apps are good for children and would it give them the same experience as a printed book?

I think there will always be a place for printed picture books. They are beautiful, a real joy and I am an avid collector. They make lovely gifts and are a treasure to have. But I also think there is a valid place for picture book apps. Most of all because it is about the story. Whether this story is on an iPad or other tablet or on paper, does not matter so much. What matters that it is a good story. 

Then there are the illustrations, how do they enhance the story, what delights do they bring? I think the same thing applies there, it does not matter whether they are on a printed page, or whether they are on a tablet, what matters is that they are good, enjoyable illustrations that can be explored by the children and parents together. What is important about a picture book or app is that it engages children and that parents and children can interact with it and enjoy it.

In all my picture book apps (and I think in most book apps) there is the option to switch of the reading voice so that parent can read the story to their children, or so the children can read the stories themselves. The same way they can from a printed book.
Any music and sounds can be switched off (or on) through a touch on the screen. You can go backward and forward or jump around in the story as much as you wish. All the same as in a printed book.

But the nice thing about a picture book app is that you can do more! You can touch the illustrations and things will happen! How exciting is that! You can blow in your tablet to create storms (as in Finn's Paper Hat), you can shake your iPad and a mouse will swing from a tree (as in Fierce Grey Mouse), and you can make plenty of bubbles when 3 animal friends are having a bath in "The Mud Monster". And to help early readers learn reading, there is word highlighting, where the words enlarge and highlight along with the reading voice. Again a function that can be switched off and on as you please.
will you make some more bubbles for our 3 friends?

Last, but not least, there is also the matter of price. Often a picture book app is less than a quarter (or even a tenth) of the price of a printed book. An opportunity to get many, many stories and hours of fun reading or being read to!

our 3 friends from The Mud Monster on their way to buy a book? Or will they find a boat and roam the sea and go fishing instead?

Now of course I am biased in my views, as 3 of my children's picture books have been published by Tizio BV as interactive picture book apps. What do you think about this topic? I'm really curious what your thoughts are around picture books and picture book apps.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Picture Book Apps and Mud Monsters

I am delighted to tell you that this week my new picture book app, "The Mud Monster", published by Tizio Publishing BV, has come out in iTunes

I'm really proud of this new app and the first reviews that have come in have made me very happy:

 "I just love your books, they really touch my heart." and 
"Wow - what a beautiful app. - Chantal's artwork and stories are so lovely." and 
"I just don’t know what to say, other than, they have done it again.  The Mud Monsters is beautiful.  I love this complete package, including the narration, illustrations and the music."

For the first full review you can click here.

As always it was great fun working with the wizards at Tizio. They take my picture books and with their magic make them come alive. It is such a pleasure to see every page become more fun every time I receive test versions. And now with the full app ready, I am as pleased as punch.

The Mud Monster is a circular story, about 3 animal friends who go on a little fishing expedition after their daily bath. They fish up a giant shell and are curious what is inside, so they rap, tap and knock on the shell. They pull it open and then....! Well, for that you need to read the story yourself. 
And to make that easier, I have a few promo-codes to give away. If you would like a chance to win a promo code for a free Mud Monster Picture Book App, just leave a comment on this blog before Tuesday the 27th of August 2013. I will then put all the names in a hat and draw 3 winners that I will notify through this blog on the same day.

For more information about "The Mud Monster" click here.

Looking forward to seeing your comments and in the mean time... Keep clean!