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Wessex Literary Festival 2016


It’s the beginning of another Wessex Literary Festival, so yesterday I was at Testwood School in Totton and today I was at Thornden School In Chandlers Ford. The festival involves various authors sharing their books and how they work with students through workshops and talks, and in my case that means discussing my children’s picture books, sharing some cartooning tips, doing a bit of character design, and, if time, creating a sample children’s book page.


Often the challenge is to encourage the children out of their comfort zones, something students at both schools seemed surprisingly comfortable with, particularly with the character design.


I had more time with Thornden’s children so we were able to fit in some children’s book illustration too, looking at effective layout using some supplied text. Even though we were tight for time they managed some great results and a quick understanding of what was required. An impressive bunch.


Posted in Schools by Simon on 28/06/2016

Author Visit To Ashley Infant School


Here are a few photos from my recent visit to Ashley Infant School, where I got to share my children's books and do a drawing workshop with each of the year 2 classes. We take one of the animals from my New Forest Friends books and, step-by-step, recreate that animal using just lines, shapes, numbers and letters on the page. The children copy each step and slowly build up a picture that looks very similar to mine, meaning even the most under-confident of artists can achieve something recognisable to be proud of.

We polished off the day with a book signing, which I'm pleased to say was well attended. Thank you, Ashley Infants!

Posted in Schools by Simon on 20/06/2016

Quincey Quokka’s Evidence.

Great news! A research report has just been accepted for publication, reporting on the first 3 studies on the effectiveness of Quincey Quokka’s Quest for improving children’s working memory and attention. The studies, published online now in Educational Psychology Review and soon to follow in print, showed benefits in as little as 3 weeks, which were maintained two months after having stopped reading the book with children. These benefits were over and above the benefits seen just by reading the book, suggesting that cognitive ‘brain training’ does not require expensive and time-consuming computerised programs, but instead can be done in everyday and low-cost contexts.

Discover Quincey Quokka's Quest for yourself in Ceratopia's shop.

Posted in Books by Admin on 01/06/2016

Marwell's Zany Zebras: Day 35


It's done! Second coat of varnish applied. My Trojan Zebra took 35 days, and took (we estimate, including hours when I had some help) 300 hours. Huge thanks to Oxygen Freejumping for having the courage to sponsor my design; to the Marwell team for being so supportive and patient; to the brilliant Marlands security team for helping with access to the creative space; to the other artists that made it such a pleasurable experience, particularly Will Rosie (if you need to borrow it, he's got it) and Tory Allen for the many lifts (before she finished and cleared off); to the hundreds of members of the public that called in to find out more, share their experiences of the Go Rhinos! trail and their excitement for Zany Zebras; to the various people who have spared a few hours to help, including my family but in particular the fine brush control of Alice, plus Anne Chadwick, Ruth Leu and Emily Boyce-Pendleton; and finally a massive thank you to Josephine who I've barely seen but hasn't failed to support me all the way, and hold the fort with Ceratopia's clients when I was under the zebra.

The next step is the trail itself, starting in mid-July in Southampton. There'll be 47 life-sized zebras so it's going to be an enormous event. The plan is for me to create an activity sheet that will be downloadable from the Zany Zebras website so children (and adults) can go hunting around Trojan for specific characters and scenes. Then, in October, all the zebras will be auctioned for charity, so if you're after a humungous three-dimensional, zebra-shaped, cartoon-fest, then this is the zebra you're looking for!

Posted in Cartoons by Simon on 21/05/2016

Marwell's Zany Zebras: Day 33 & 34


Yesterday I had until 6pm to complete the inking, but with just 22 lions to go I ran out of time, so departed with it almost complete. That was rectified this morning with the final few inked, but now I had another problem. Although I'm using a permanent marker (actually, two boxes of markers) the varnish we all have to use contains anti-graffiti properties, and as some of my fellow artists have discovered that means a great smudgeroo as it streaks the pen's ink. I needed to seal the artwork first with some spray sealant, which was tricky, messy and extremely smelly. It went on well, so I bit the bullet and applied the varnish, terrified it was going to streak and run. By and large it went on like a dream, though, with a few very minor pulls of the ink in places, and just two more worrying ones which I hope to be able to touch up tomorrow before applying a second coat. So, all being well, I should finish tomorrow!

Posted in Cartoons by Simon on 20/05/2016

Marwell's Zany Zebras: Day 31


I've just spent seven hours inking this side of the zebra, and I confidently thought at the beginning that that would be enough, yet at 8pm I still had a few sections to do, a pile of discarded pens and a very sore finger where the pen rests against it. Despite all that, I'm dead chuffed with how it's coming together, but I guess I'll be back in for another session tomorrow...and Thursday...and possibly Friday...

And especially for Emily, here's what's going on directly beneath the Trojan Zebra's tail:

Posted in Cartoons by Simon on 17/05/2016

Paultons Park Guidebook


Today not only sees the official launch of Paultons Park's Lost Kingdom (go there, it's amazing) but it's also the release date of their brand new guidebook, designed by Ceratopia. 

Paultons are brilliant at understanding their target audience, so rather than going for a dry guide full of text aimed at adults, they decided they wanted one aimed at children. I was given a loose outline of what they wanted to achieve per page, and left with a fantastic amount of creative freedom to deliver something fun and informative on every spread. Not only is it packed with games and activities, oodles of colour and plenty of colouring, but there are things to look out for as you move around the park and a chance to record your experiences of the rides as you go.

The guidebook is A4, and at 44 pages (plus a fold-out map) it was a great opportunity to showcase my cartooning, illustration and graphic design work. There's even a comic strip. So don't forget to pick up your copy when you go to check out the Lost Kingdom!

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