Welcome to my blog! Here you'll find many samples of my finished art, conceptual work, unpublished material, and other miscellaneous jobs. You can find a complete list of my published books at this link.

I currently have signed copies of THE GREAT MONTEFIACO, WHACKO THE CHOOK, THE PUMPKIN EATER FROM PONDICHERRY, and THE SHIKKER COLA COWS available for purchase. For more info, please contact me at whackothechook@internode.on.net

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


My first step in illustrating a text is to design characters. Firstly I sift through the text to see if there are any specific descriptions or subtle clues given about what the main character/s looks like. Picture books as a rule aren't big on lengthy physical descriptions, so often I have the freedom to make up anything, so long as it doesn't contradict whatever is written...

My approach to designing characters is pretty much the same as it would be designing them for animation. I construct them in a way that they are not too complex and they have to remain functional, ie. I need to be able to draw them in any position required without too much hard work. I adopt this principle for characters that appear frequently throughout the book, whereas, one-off characters - those who might only appear once or twice - I can afford to elaborate on them far more. A prime example of this is the noticeable contrast between the simplicity of Furley in Who Flung Dung? and the detail of the other animals who appear just once.

My next step is to draw quick storyboards showing loosely what will be happening on each page. Again, the process is not much different to an animated short...

Each step is run past the publisher, or in this case the Art Director/Designer at Meadowside — She and I worked on this closely via email, throwing ideas back and forth, and making compromises. I much prefer a designer to be attached to a project from scratch, as was the case here, but more often than not I design my own books, working out layouts, placement of text, etc (only to forgo a designers credit in the finished book).

The next step, once storyboards and character designs are approved, I move onto roughs. Like the storyboards, suggestions are made, and it's just a matter of fine-tuning everything. Photoshop plays a big part in this stage. I draw everything via hand first, then scan it all in and shift everything around and resize stuff until I'm happy with the over all feel of the layout...

... an initial idea I had for Hare's racing outfit was one like the one Cathy Freeman wore at the 2000 olympics. I used to find her outfit oddly amusing, so I thought this would be a funny reference, and I thought Australian's would get it. Though, the joke was probably lost on the poms, so I changed it to my second idea, which was a reference to comic book hero The Flash. Actually, no, that was my third idea, the second one was flames on his suit, like a hotrod.

The final step to preliminary work is doing up a few colour tests, working out a palette.

This is actually one of the hardest stages I find. I tend to agonise over colour. I really dislike the whole 'trees are brown, leaves are green and skies are blue' approach to colouring, and I avoid the obvious where possible. I don't think I succeed in this area as much as I wish though. I still look back on heaps of my work and wish I'd been more adventurous with colour. I envy artists who have such a natural gift in choosing appealing colours and combinations. I feel I'm getting better at it, but I've still got a long way to go. I find the best source of inspiration in this department is the background art for many Looney Tunes shorts, by artists like Maurice Noble or Hawley Pratt. They are masters of colour. I watched a lot of cartoons when working on this book!



  1. I remember the Tortoise vs. Hare match up in a race story. The lesson of the story I think is the classic one. You just have to be patient in whatever you do and just continue the race whatever it takes. The story boards that you did base on the character is creative enough, you really are a cartoonist.

  2. Brilliant! It's nice to be able to see your process, especially with your comparisons to animation. Thanks for this post! I'm looking forward to the continuation.

  3. Hey Ben

    Great to read about your processes, thanks for sharing them!

    In a future post would you mind sharing more about how you 'agonise' over colour? It'd be great to hear more about your process of choosing a colour palette for an illustration and how you change the palette throughout the book.

  4. Hey, will do. I touched on the choosing of colour in a recent post 'T-Rex's Terrible Tooth'...