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 Here you'll find many samples of my finished art, conceptual work, unpublished material, and other miscellaneous jobs.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

Monday, August 2, 2010


In 2005 I was given a paperback manuscript with the working title 'Nathan, Marvy & Pogue', written by children's author Odo Hirsch. It was later renamed and published as 'The Book Of Changing Things'.

Often I get asked to submit samples for a project, and for one reason or another the publisher may decide not to use me as an illustrator. This can be a little frustrating, particularly if you've exhausted a lot of time and effort reading the text, taking notes, and creating concepts. More often than not you won't get paid, and without a contract a publisher is not obligated to pay you, it's just a gamble you take as an artist. Allen and Unwin on the other hand were very kind enough to compensate me for my time, without any prompting from me. This is rare.

The follow concept sketches are for the above mentioned book, and have never seen the light of day...

I had a lot of trouble with this squirrel character. I just couldn't get him right. The publisher wasn't really happy with him either I think. They thought he lacked personality, and they were right. I attempted to give him more versatility, but my frustration comes through here I think...

An earlier version, which was deemed too cartoony:
More characters...
This one's my favourite. I love drawing teeth and gums, and sinewy gullets...
 Unbeknownst to me at the time, I think I was just one of several illustrators they were 'interviewing', so to speak, for the job. I was sad I didn't get it, but at the same time I breathed a sigh of relief — it was a daunting text to illustrate. There was an awful lot happening in the story, and everything was so detailed and vividly described, and while it was my kind of story, it would have been a long-winded headache. The job in the end went to Inari Kiuru, who I think did a brilliant job. Her style brought a real dreaminess, almost hallucinogenic quality to it, which is very much in sync with the story. It's a really nice looking book, beautifully designed and presented. See her samples here!

It's always interesting to see how another artist interprets the same text; I've thought it would be a fascinating experiment to take a picture book text, preferably something obscure or nonsensical, and get a dozen illustrators, all uniquely different from each other, and have them go away and illustrate it how they see it. Has it already been done? Probably, I don't know...


  1. Hi Ben,
    Inari here!

    Nice to meet you. Hey I found this post through my recent blogstats. So interesting to see your sketches - we should really do a sketch swap session over the internet to compare the early character development: I'm amazed how similarly we've actually interpreted detail in our sketches, from facial features to specific clothing. It is really startling.

    I love your sketches for the book!

    Hope to chat with you some time, my email is ikiuru@iinet.net.au
    Would be also interesting to hear what you're working on at the moment etc.

    All the best,
    Inari : )

  2. Hi Inari!

    Thank you for getting in touch, it's nice to hear from you! A sketch swap sounds like a great idea, for sure. Yeah, we definitely saw very similar pictures in our heads when reading the text. It's funny, I only came across this book by chance in the bookshop, because the cover grabbed my eye. I didn't realise it was the book I started on because I was only familiar with the working title. I flipped through and saw your illo of the banquet scene, I think, and it took me a long moment to work out why it felt so strangely familiar! Again, you did a great job on it!

    I'll be in touch! Cheers :-)