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Paultons Park's Lost Kingdom: Dino Chase Rollercoaster

Today we were lucky enough to go along to Paultons Park's brand new Lost Kingdom Preview Day to experience their utterly brilliant dinosaur land. Paultons have invested heavily in this new attraction and the result is an outstanding addition to their already popular park. I was given the opportunity to help with art and design on some of the aspects of the Lost Kingdom, and one of the things I got to do was to design the carriages of the Dino Chase rollercoaster.

The Lost Kingdom already boasts two fantastic new full-sized rollercoasters but Paultons are well aware of their core audience and that means catering for the smaller children too. Thos who've been to Paultons before will remember the Flying Frog coaster – well, Dino Chase is a complete refurbishment of this ride. So not only has it been lavishly landscaped with some stunning animatronic triceratops and a stegosaurus, lots of creative planting and rocky outcrops, but it's also been re-imagined to fit its new home in the Lost Kingdom.

I was given free rein to come up with some friendly dinosaur designs, so played around with everything from feathered theropods to a head-bashing pachycephalosaur, but the one that tickled Paultons' fancy was the little galloping triceratops. I then had to proceed conceptual drawings of it from different angles, including the middle car and rear car, which sports the tail, plus an artist's impression, overlaying the then existing ride. Then it was over to the factory for construction. I love the result, and I'm sure you will too. Of course, I couldn't resist having a go...

Posted in News by Simon on 07/05/2016

OneFamily Foundation Community Awards - Abbotswood School

I've been lucky enough to be involved with Abbotswood School's bid for the OneFamily Foundation Community Awards, something they successfully won to the tune of £25,000 for their library. The OneFamily Foundation have just put a nice little video together about this year's winners, and if you look very carefully you'll see I crop up several times, including sharing my books with some of the children.

Posted in News by Simon on 14/08/2015

Selling Children's Books At The Ellingham Show 2015

Had a great day yesterday at the Ellingham Show selling my children's books and doing a bit of live drawing. I always try to complete a drawing within the course of an event, with no pencilling, so it's straight in with inking pens. I often opt to draw dragons as it's not so obvious if it all goes a bit wobbly, plus it seems to appeal to just about everyone that passes by the stand. 

Posted in News by Simon on 09/08/2015

New Forest Show 2015

Well, we we only went and won...

The Longdown Activity Farm tent at the New Forest Show won the 2015 President's Cup for the best stand at the show. It had been a tough show, simply because we'd been so busy for the three days. We had egg hunts, chick handling, lots of animals to meet and stroke, a weighing machine to see how you compared to the animals, and me in the centre of the tent encouraging children to enter our short story competition whilst I did a cartoon drawing of their favourite animal. And we were also selling a particular book, more on which in the next post.

There were lots of helpful Longdown staff on site, plus two representatives from Countrywide and three from the Joe Glover Trust Charity (and me) so all in all we were able to answer people's questions, encourage them to meet the animals, and send them away with some fun memories, and possibly a cartoon donkey or chicken too.

Posted in News by Simon on 31/07/2015

In The Craft Tent At The Ellingham Show 2014

The Ellingham Show takes place a few weeks after the much larger New Forest Show, but is in itself a great show with plenty to see and experience, set in the grounds of Somerley Park just beyond the New Forest boundary. It's a popular show so I thought I'd give the craft tent a whirl with my children's books, but up until last week I was stuck on the waiting list until a phone call confirmed we'd nabbed a place. Ably assisted by Alice, my daughter, we set up a rather spiffingly colourful stand in our allocated space, complete with some live drawing (I decided to do another dragon - I'm learning they're very popular with both adults and children) and set about meeting the punters. I'd been in to a couple of schools in the area, so there were three or four shouts throughout the day of "Mummy, that man came into our school!", not to mention the increasingly common comment of "Oh look, I used to love this book when I was little," from an adult. Like the New Forest Show, because of where we were meant my New Forest Friends books and On The Banks Of Hatchet Pond, written by Val Anne Lee, proved very popular throughout the day. 

The biggest surprise of the day - winning the best stand in the craft tent! It's a huge tent so there was a lot of competition, but, we were told, our colourful backdrops, live drawing, friendly approach and excellent children's books won the judges over. We spent the rest of the afternoon displaying our silver cup (that we get to keep), certificate and rosette. All in all, a tiring but brilliant day, in which we'll be sure to take in part again.  

Posted in News by Simon on 10/08/2014

New Forest Show 2014 - Day 3

Much busier day at the show on the final day, with cooler temperatures and a lot more children. Consequently I was kept busy drawing dozens upon dozens of cartoon animals (including: dolphin, unicorn, meerkat, mouse, goat, elephant, hedgehog, eagle and flamingo, but mostly rabbits, ponies, dogs and cats). There was less spare time to draw a big illustration, so although I started a farmyard scene I didn't complete it, but I had a good excuse.

Book sales were very good too. Best seller at the show was still New Forest Friends & The Litterbugs, with three young mums stopping to say how much they'd enjoyed it when they were little (eek!), and then buying it, and other books, for their children. Second biggest seller was On The Banks Of Hatchet Pond, written by Val Anne Lee, and there were lots of kind comments from people who already owned it and those that were discovering it for the first time. Farmer Bryan's book Charley's Day On The Farm did well too, and I even managed to sell some of Martin Bradley's Top Gun Of The Sky and Dusk Until Dawn books, despite me just being the publisher on those and Martin not being present. His Dusk Until Dawn book, about barn owls, was particularly well received. It was nice also that so many people called by who'd bought books in previous years to see if anything else was new. All the books, by the way, are available on my online shop, at New Forest shops, and on Amazon.

On Saturday 9th August 2014 I'll be at the Ellingham Show, near Ringwood, in the Craft Tent, so if you didn't make the New Forest Show do come and say hello there.

Posted in News by Simon on 01/08/2014

New Forest Show 2014 - Day 2

Every day at the show I do between 50 and 75 on-the-spot cartoons of a child's favourite animal. I try to make each one different (there's only so many times you can draw a horse or a cat the same way), and today's menagerie included a lizard, two giraffes, a hippo, several cows, a pig, a chicken, a guinea pig, a vulture, a T.rex, a hedgehog and many, many more. I did turn down a thirteen-year-old's sincere request for a picture of Justin Bieber.

In-between I was working on a larger live-drawing to keep with the show's theme of scarecrows. This one became a Biggles-style scarecrow. No idea why - sometimes they come out of the end of the pen that way.

Posted in News by Simon on 30/07/2014

New Forest Show 2014 - Day 1

Another year, and another New Forest Show, and I've been lucky enough to again be asked to be part of the Longdown Show Farm tent. We're a firm favourite at the show, with lots of families seeking us out to see what's different this year, or just to do the bits they enjoyed last time (which often means holding a fluffy chick). One pair of twins, along with their Grandma, have been coming to see me there for four years, and make me their first visit.

The theme at this year's show is Scarecrows, so Longdown commissioned me to design a photo opportunity board where you can poke your head through and have a picture taken, and thanks to Splash Display the finished article has proved a big hit all day.

I've been doing a bit of live drawing at some of the events I've been to this year, so thought I'd have a stab at the show to produce a picture in-between drawing children their favourite animals when they stopped off at my table. I wasn't sure if I'd have enough time to complete anything, so I kept the background simple and produced this scarecrow throughout the day - all drawn freehand, and crashing straight in with Sharpies - no pencilling or guides. It seemed to go down very well, so will have a stab at another tomorrow.

Memorable moments today included a very, very excited little girl, who couldn't have been much older than two, racing back and forth between the animals and squealing with delight every time she saw or touched one (even if it was the same animal), a mum who was watching me draw a cartoon for her child only to get a hole nibbled in the seat of her dress by an inquisitive goat (fortunately she saw the funny side, and in a way, so did we), and the little lad who gave me his family's life story, advice on my artwork and even the exact address of where they're staying in the New Forest, causing much hilarity all round. Also, got home to find I'd sold many more books than I thought I had.

Roll on tomorrow - it'll be cooler (apparently) and so we reckon a lot more people, and apparently I'm getting a cooked breakfast!

Posted in News by Simon on 29/07/2014

2014 Alresford Watercress Festival

Yesterday I was at the Alresford Watercress Festival selling my children's books alongside the talented poet Val Anne Lee (hiding behind the easel above), writer of the fabulous On The Banks Of Hatchet Pond.

I'd decided to do some live drawing at the front of the stand, so starting with nothing more than a completely blank sheet and a couple of Sharpies I began doodling. We had a constant stream of people through the tent with many stopping to watch the drawing or return later to see how it was progressing.

It was, however, a scorcher, and apparently the best weather the festival's had for years, so the volume of people was tremendous.

By 3pm, around five and a half hours after starting, this was the end result. One little girl offered me £5 for it, and then upped it to £7 (all of her pocket money). In the end she walked away with a free cartoon kitten drawn especially for her on an equally large sheet of paper (although I confess it didn't take as long). A brilliant, but tiring, day with lots of books sold. Special thanks to Val, Jilly and Alice.

Posted in News by Admin on 19/05/2014

A Bear That Cares

I was recently invited to attend the Myositis Support Group's 25th Anniversary Conference and Gala Dinner in Oxford because of my involvement in creating their mascot, Teddy-Bo. 

When we arrived we were greeted by an enormous curved display panel covered with photographs of the charity's 25 year history, and many of them also featured Teddy-Bo. Not only were many children clutching him in the pictures, but so were celebrities who have offered their support, such as Carol Vorderman and Joe Pasquale.

Teddy-Bo was created to be featured in a children's book that details the children's version of Myositis, known as Juvenile Dermatomyositis (JDM). The aim was to follow Teddy-Bo's diagnosis and treatment so children with the condition, and their families and friends, could understand better what was happening and where it was taking them. The writing of the story involved meetings with the parents of JDM children, the charity, and consultants at Great Ormond Street Hospital to ensure I got my facts straight and the details of the pictures correct. A soft toy of Teddy-Bo was also created and every child diagnosed with the condition is given a book and a bear.

What was particularly nice about the conference was seeing JDM children holding, hugging and loving their Teddy-Bo bears. They all knew who he was, and what we was going through, directly relating their own problems through Teddy-Bo. One particular boy never let his toy out of his sight and told me that Teddy-Bo had an an illness and needed lots of hugs, which he then demonstrated.

Below is a photo taken during the conference in one of the break-out rooms where some of the children and parents were listening to a presentation on the developments in treating their particular type of myositis. You can just about make out some cuddly Teddy-Bo's with their loving owners.

Posted in News by Simon on 05/08/2013

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