Where it's at.

Well it’s been a good old while since I last posted here. Commercial work has been taking precedent recently. But my efforts in getting this book ready to completion have been steadily ticking away. I finally finished all the necessary drawings for pencil stage, leaving some design work still to do for the backgrounds. The elements for the backdrops can now be fully considered as I have formatted and reformatted the book several times ready for final edits to the structure. A second dummy book has been created at full-scale, I was quite nervous , having not seen all the book at actual size.

 Full scale dummy. 4 signatures of 4/5 spreads which helped to avoid the dreaded creep! 

Full scale dummy. 4 signatures of 4/5 spreads which helped to avoid the dreaded creep! 

I’ve also created a digital version which I plan to upload to issuu. This really helps with any final tweaks with the added ease of a digital page turner. The digital format has also been useful in seeing how I can present the book to prospective publishers, issuu provide an option to print, which is ideal for a good quality dummy version, if I need to send one out. It does surprise me that whilst going through my research, many publishers opt or prefer to receive digital submissions only. The fact that it’s going to be a physical printed product seems not to have much bearing anymore. Whilst I understand it’s probably down to volume of submissions, the effect of a book can be lost on the screen. The dummy books I’ve created have certainly thrown up many issues, of which I did not see on the screen. And have been instrumental to the design process.

So back to the book. The final page count was 64pp plus cover and end pages which are going to be hand-painted along with other many other parts of the book . During this last part of drawing, I had a rethink and added a section of 4 spreads that take Toulouse into a series of posters, all based upon a bizarre circus theme. I’d love this to be a pull out section or perhaps different quality paper in the book. The lettering is inspired by Henri’s own posters and each letter was hand drawn. Eventually these need to be created in vector format for the final pages. Glutton for punishment!

 One of the posters that feature in the centre of the book. More design development will be needed on these during final colour. The pose of Henri is taken from that famous photograph of him taking a dump! Perhaps I’ll illustrate a sparkly circus poo! 

One of the posters that feature in the centre of the book. More design development will be needed on these during final colour. The pose of Henri is taken from that famous photograph of him taking a dump! Perhaps I’ll illustrate a sparkly circus poo! 

As one.

I’ll soon be ready to ink. There is approx 200 drawings to do, plus backgrounds for many of the spreads!

I’ve been thinking about how to approach the work load. It can feel overwhelming thinking of each page and it’s components, both in a physical and mental context. I do work better when I approach a project as a whole. This is where processes play their part. But only in as far as I need to. My aim is to get the book  to an inked skeleton stage, so it’s ready for a more spontaneous approach for colour and texture. This is where hopefully the book will stand out. And be a signature to the project, a catalyst to many other books that I want to achieve!

 One of the spreads – check out link below for a quick shot instagram video of the book. 

One of the spreads – check out link below for a quick shot instagram video of the book. 

Until the there’s more to report – I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read and sharing in this creative process.

Instagram video of book here


Phew that was another full on drawing session with 225 scans now reading in Bridge!

So all the shots with our little hero have been almost roughed out – just the back cover to do and I’m done with the first unit of directing and every other job from wardrobe to cinematography  undertaken. The thing I love about narrative illustration and particular in book format, is I get to play the whole crew.

A live film will begin visual life as a storyboard, and I suppose this is the place I like to play in. It’s got all I need with the added benefit of being both imaginative and a tangible product, so readily available on a surface of your choosing. Well enough of waxing lyrical about the virtues of illustration and back to the process of the book!


As you can see, I’ve printed out another dummy book, this time in its swanky new portrait, classy comic format. I’m so glad I made the change.  This second dummy is not meant to be a constructed page turner, rather a way for me to come off the screen and see the layouts physically. I’ve still got a lot to do!  It’s time to put the second unit into gear and shoot the many co-stars who have to take part in Henris shenanigans (it’s a lovely word that isn’t it?  ‘Shenanigans’)  I’ll be scouring the pages to see what needs developing next, including the many handpainted backgrounds that will feature throughout. As mentioned before – those will be another loose narrative running behind the main event which will be more about the aspects of Toulouse’s possible unconscious feelings, whatever that’s supposed to mean?!


I’m having short break from the project, whilst I work on commission work and pieces for my agents new portfolio, but I’ll be back hopefully with a full size dummy book of the finished book – well in roughs that is!


With a project as big as this, the results can seem almost out of sight.  Having completed all the thumbs, the task of designing all the components for the book, has been challenging, daunting and tiring in parts. Wave upon wave of drawings have been done and at times it seems how can I finish all this work. But I’ve found a way to bring on a sense of a renewed energy

Making the switch.

With one hundred and fifty scans so far, and counting. There are new characters and objects being designed all the time. These, one by one,  are scanned, cut out and placed into spreads and single page design. By alternating between  sketching and page design,  I vary my focus, allowing for much needed reflection and fuel for the next set of ideas and drawings to come. I’ve found that, to just draw constantly, tends to lead to repetition in my actions and thinking, and this affects my whole approach and freshens the imagination. So switching tasks can have a good effect on variation, which is vital to a considered graphic novel.

  Screenshot of Spread design with panels and single page design.

Screenshot of Spread design with panels and single page design.

 Sequential drawings ready for scanning and placement

Sequential drawings ready for scanning and placement




Well this is the last post that’ll bring us up to date with where I am now with the project. It’s been pretty intermittent over the past year. What with picture-book commissions to complete, alongside setting up my contemporary painting studio (which is coming along nicely by the way) , I’ve managed to produce most of the drawings needed for the 25+ spreads. There are 135 pages of A4 drawings according to my Adobe Bridge file and counting! All of which have been scanned, cut out and placed into page designs. Using the original thumbnails as a guide in Photoshop, I’m able to scale and position each component and character separately.

  Dummy book at quarter size. (Title Page illustration with notes)

Dummy book at quarter size. (Title Page illustration with notes)

I aim to produce roughs that are as close to finals as possible. In fact a better term would to call them black and whites. Being wordless, the layouts need to be very carefully considered when putting together. Each design must portray the right amount of information as well as keep a dynamic in the composition. This is why I put an initial dummy book together, so that I can see the book in its entirety and make decisions on edits, along the way.



Colour sampling is key to my process. It defines the style and also the potential of further design development. Knowing the technical aspects of a project helps me to make decisions on how an image might be created. The road is indeed long on this book, on both legwork and art direction. So it was important that I could visualise a final outcome. These experimental coloured pieces focussed upon line quality and methods of colouration. I like to work with various line qualities, ranging from a pencil sketchy to a tighter inked look.  This book needed to retain a strong look. Reason being that there were going to be lots of details which required reduced scaling. So an inked line was adopted. The sketches are printed initially in blue or red then a brush pen is used to create the outlines. Once scanned at 600dpi (this increases the information needed for scaling down) then the balance of flat colour and textural elements can be played with.


The doctor has a hand painted texture behind him. I created this with ink and water. The effect got me thinking about the possibility of illustrating an underlying narrative as part of the background.  Lautrec’s life and lifestyle could be woven into the images in a hand painted style


This then progressed onto some more experimental pieces. Using an illustration of Henri himself, I took some of my old bird paintings and used these to fuse a look that I think has real potential in conveying the mood I’m looking for in this book. These samples proved to be instrumental and inspired a motive to carry the project through.


The Strongman was the first piece I tried. This was experimenting with using textures throughout.  Flat colour is what makes it stronger. A lesson that needs to fully sink in! 

In the Next Post , I’ll be showing the scale of work needed to pull the book into a first dummy.


Using the thumbnails as a guide. The task of designing characters and backgrounds began. A huge undertaking for sure, but once a routine could be established it would be a fairly smooth ride. That needed some initial insight. So one of the spreads was chosen to work on. In these pages,  the doctor has been sent for, to tend Henri, who’s gravely ill. He makes his way through the Toulouse family home and examines the situation.

 Original Thumbnail

Original Thumbnail

Apart from the initial character work. The doctor was the first design to be put into actual page. I like to work with individual components and be able to control as layers as I build up the roughs. I also add  tones of grey with scanned textures to define the layouts. Picking up a momentum was a must if the work was going to retain consistency.This process of seeing roughs finished like this is a kind of diagnosis for the full book. Visualising a complete page is an important phase and the means to carry on.

 Finished Rough Draft

Finished Rough Draft

In the Next post, I’ll be looking at drafting colour work taking the process of visualisation further. Plus a look into the scale of character design needed to complete the pages.


I did lock myself away, in part. Yet of course the book is nowhere near completion. But I highly recommended it! With no definite insight I decided to head on over to my local library and find the quiet study room. To flesh out a narrative. I had a title, a page of notes, with key dates and some characters that Henri would have conversed with, (some in his imagination!) including a turbulent father son relationship. And lots of blank paper!


For roughs I tend to work in 2 stages. The first being small-scale thumbnails. It’s a good way to visualise quickly.


So I set out everyday for about 6 days and sketched out The Last Dream of Toulouse. It was a process where nothing was planned, each image inspired the next. The sequence was happening spontaneously. The word dream, was all I had to go on and that’s what it seemed like. Before I knew it, 25 spreads had been drawn and I was ready to begin work on finished roughs. Although it still needed a lot of work. I was almost halfway there!

In the Next post – Working on Roughs .


Other character ideas quickly came into play. I’d thought a lot about the circus’s of the 1800’s with their weird and wonderful performers. A story had begun to unfold with a possible Cirque du Ghoul twist. I wanted to include these strange creatures and thought Toulouse could’ve had an adventure casting a crew of outcasts. Finding solace, belonging with the creatures of the underworld. But during the development I couldn’t see them sustaining a full length book. So I started to look more in depth into Toulouse’s life and death. Making notes along the way.


Character work always helps me to sustain ideas. Sketches lie around my studio. It can be weeks or months before they are picked up again. That resting time is great, however I’m prone to procrastination brought on by the dreaded doubt, which creeps into the mind and puts the whole affair into dispute. It happens alot with my ideas. I get so far down the line and lose faith in my ability to carry on. I had to find some way to flesh it out undisturbed.

Working in solace was needed, if I was to fulfil this project, without those nagging doubts! It was an all or nothing!

In the Next Post – Thumbnails and working in solitude until the job is done.


Well let’s get the ball rolling. I’m about to go full steam ahead on a graphic novel, called The Last Dream of Toulouse. Work on this project began a couple of years ago, inspired by all things Parisian in particular within the latter part of the 1800s. The provocative images of the Moulin Rouge, the beautiful gas lit colour palettes and a gay abandonment of the creative mind is indeed beguiling. Of course the figure that first came to mind was the enigmatic pioneer Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. A man whose art and illustration became a resounding voice in his field and beyond. Although this was not simply going to be a book about a well-known artist, there are dreams to be had!


Many of my ideas come from designing characters and this particular one was pinned on my wall for months. It’s usually in-between commission work that I take a few sheets out from the printer tray and begin doodling. If I was to set out on doing this alone, the prospect of it having to mean something, would soon see my pencils put down followed by a brain freeze. But this one sketch seemed to shine out more than the dozen or so pins on my wall, and after some more character development (I’ll pop these into the second post) a spark for a possible narrative was lit!

So, over the next few weeks I’ll be looking back at work already produced and reigniting it with a fresh sense of purpose. As the posts progress there will be parts that I already know up to now, but it will soon catch up to unknown territory, and that’s where I love being the most. Those moments when confusion meets clarity and the images in one’s mind become clearer and always surprise you. And I really welcome your thoughts and opinions as I trundle along with this venture. Just click the follow buttons or use one of the social media formats of your choice, to stay on track.

In the Next Post – I’ll be sharing some more character development plus the beginnings of processing the book as a whole.