...until I step off the top of the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth for my charity abseil in aid of the Myositis Support Group.
You can find out a bit more about my links to the charity by clicking here.
If you've not done so already, I'd be dead chuffed if you could please sponsor me on my JustGiving page here.
The past week has been a flurry of cartooning in the decidely warmer surroundings of Malta. The Cartoonists' Club Of Great Britain was holding its second Mini-Convention on the island, and families were invited, so we backed up our bags and headed for the sun. Apart from the obligatory sightseeing (Valetta, Mdina, Playmobil factory) there was plenty of time to enjoy cartooning via the daily themed competitions, speed cartooning, animal doodling and a cartoon-based quiz with possibly the greatest round ever-devised in quizdom. We also managed some more serious moments with talks on cartooning with Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash, while I did a talk about my experiences with self publishing. It was a great opportunity to share ideas and techniques, but what any gathering of CCGB members seems to generate is an incredible buzz and excitement about the art of cartooning. Despite the calibre of the other cartoonist pros you just can't wait to get stuck in to the daily cartoon competitions, and the inspiration is something you cling to for days afterwards. During the week I managed a first, second and third place, so that's not to be sniffed at. An utterly brilliant experience.
The new issue of the Waterside Network Group's magazine, Waterside Focus, will be arriving on door mats along the eastern edge of the New Forest from next week.
The magazine aims to promote local businesses and initiatives to local people, and is increasingly important when the effect of national supermarket chains and the internet marginalise the high street and small businesses. Making people aware that your services exist is certainly half of the battle.
The magazine is designed and laid out by Ceratopia and edited by Windhover Publishing.
Independent financial advice isn't, perhaps, the most exciting of topics, so I was asked by Straight Talk Financial Planning to design them a brochure that was friendly, easy to read, used cartoons, and cut through the jargon. This involved not only graphic design and cartooning, but tackling the text to make it to the point and easily understood. The result went down really well at the time, but just recently David Stewart from Straight Talk Financial Planning got in touch to say:
"I have a meeting with a potential new client which has only come about because of the brochure you designed for me. The client said that it was the first Financial Services brochure he had seen that made him want to read it let alone agree a meeting. If this gentleman becomes a client I think that he will be one of the largest clients I have."
Really nice to get feedback like this. Here's hoping the meeting goes well...
The third and final day started busy and didn't let up until the show closed. I'd brought three A4 sketch pads, new pens and a huge pile of colouring sheets, but they didn't even make it until 3pm. I had to send out a plea for more paper to the exceptionally busy table operating with so many children coming and going.
I've since worked out that over the three days I drew over 250 on-the-spot animal cartoons requested by children, from obvious farm animals to dolphins, sharks, a multitude of giraffes and other African savannah animals, a velociraptor, several T rexs, a dragon and a duck-billed platypus. There were plenty more.
Managed to sell a healthy amount of my children's books too, which was really pleasing, if rather manic at times.
The Longdown Activity Farm marquee came within a cat's whisker of winning the President's Cup for best marquee in the show (they'd already come second in the trade marquee catagory on the first day) and we had continuous praise and positive comments from the families coming in and taking part.
I've really enjoyed being part of the Longdown marquee and the show as a whole. Longdown have already asked me back for next year, so might see you there.
Phew, what a scorcher, and what a day.
In the last two days I've drawn over 150 animal cartoons for children visiting the Longdown Activity Farm tent and the children have also coloured 200 of my pre-drawn Longdown animals. By 4 o'clock today I was out of colouring sheets, out of paper, and my Sharpies had pretty much dried up.
The day began hot and busy, with plenty of people making their way through the marquee. Lots and lots of positive comments about what we were doing, which was really heartening, and then late morning saw the arrival of the New Forest Show President, Mr Alan Titchmarsh. He was inspecting the tent as we're in the running for the President's Cup which is awarded to the marquee he sees as best in show. Having already been second in the trade show event yesterday you can't help but feel hopeful. I was drawing a pony for a child at the time, so all I could manage was a quick hello before plunging back down on to the paper, but he stayed and watched for a while (hey, no pressure).
Then this afternoon we were visited by the Queen and Prince Philip. I was on standby as I was told there was a good chance Prince Philip would come over and watch what I was doing while the Queen met Farmer Brian, but in the end the crowd was so dense there was no way he could have got through. Still, it was great for the farm as it recognised the hard work Brian and his team put into the event.
Final day tomorrow. Weather forecast is good (scorchio) so here's to another superb day.
A week ago I'd pretty much convinced myself that the New Forest Show would be cancelled due to the continuous deluge that was seeing outdoor events across the country topple like bankers' reputations. But then we had a slight nudge of the jetstream, the sun came out, and suddenly everything's alright with the world. The show could still have been in serious trouble just from the sodden ground, with it being churned up before the first visitor arrived, but all credit to the organisers who've done a magnificent job in keeping it all pristine.
I'm spending the three days of the show in the Longdown Activity Farm marquee where, like last year, I'm drawing animal-based cartoons. The layout is much better this year, with the animal handling moved to the centre of the tent - and a busy focal point it is too - giving us all more room around the edges. We've two noisy turkeys that make a fair bit of noise, but this is nothing compared to the chest-rattling braying of Samuel the donkey whose half-hourly alarm stops the nearby show-goers in their tracks.
It was a really busy day yesterday, with plenty of people coming in to the marquee out of the blazing sun. I'd taken four A4 sketch pads with me and by the end of the day had used up one and half of them, and my Sharpie pen was struggling. Also had lots of interest in my New Forest Friends books and the new On The Banks Of Hatchet Pond, certainly made easier this year with the slightly expanded space I've got.
Highlight of the day was the unexpected news that we'd come second with the best marquee at the show. All the hard work done by Brian and the Longdown team, mind you.
Just getting ready to leave for the another day of doodlin' and, of course, the Royal visit...
It's taken a while, but I've finally finished a new children's book. It's called On The Banks of Hatchet Pond and it'll be hitting shops shortly.
I've not written this one - just illustrated it - so the concept and words are those of the very talented Val Anne Lee. Val is a wonderful poet with a gift for fun children's verse; the sort of thing that's an absolute pleasure to cuddle up next to your child and read out loud.
The story is set, as the title suggests, on the banks of the New Forest's Hatchet Pond, and features a beautiful glittering dragonfly called Dizzy and a lumpy, grumpy frog called Podge. Podge doesn't think much of himself and even when he tries hard it doesn't go too well - but beating inside him is the heart of a hero.
It's been great fun to illustrate Val's words, and today I shared the book for the first time - hot of the printing presses - with the children from Beaulieu Primary School. It went down very well, but more on that soon!
Although it's going to take a little while for the book to find its way into the New Forest shops, you can buy a copy now direct from me if you like. They are £4.99 each plus p&p. Drop me a line at email@example.com and I'll let you know what you need to do.
More On The Banks Of Hatchet Pond news in the coming days!
I'm pleased to see that the latest edition of Waterside Focus, the magazine I put together for the Waterside Network Group, is dropping onto doormats and generating plenty of response. There are a steady stream of responses coming in and plenty of competition entries.
It's a genuine pleasure to be part of a process that supports local businesses and helps to introduce them to the surrounding community. By reminding the local population of their existence and the services they offer the members are positively promoting themselves and the readership are able to take advantage of the local talent, products and services available.
If you've a child with allergies - or suffered from them yourself as a child - you'll appreciate what a constant worry it can be.
Allergykids.co.uk are a British company dedicated to raising awareness of childhood allergies. They have a range of wristbands that specify what allergy your child has (there are even customisable multi-allergy bands) so anyone coming into contact with your child will know what allergy your child has, even if that allergy is preventing them from communicating it directly.
I was fortunate enough to be asked by Allergykids.co.uk to create a range of cartoon characters to be featured on the wristbands, from bee sting to wheat allergy, and even a pair aimed at boys or girls who require an inhaler for asthma. You can see the full range on their newly re-launched website, again featuring my cartoons.
As someone who even today gets the sniffles in the presenece of cats, I think it's a great idea. Pay 'em a visit.
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