Thursday, 25 June 2009

MY ROCHESTER TUTORS- Jackie Clark and Peter Gowers

These are two of my most favourite people I've ever known and I first met them when the world was 18 years younger than it is now. I was a fresh faced pup with a pocket full of rainbows and a head full of dreams in '91, just out of school and embarking on an art education. Jackie Clark (the smiley one without the beard on the right) and Pete Gowers (the grizzled one on the left. I'm joking, he's a sweet kid) were the very first tutors I had and I only had them for a year.

Now, I'm not the sort of person who makes an awful lot of friends- I tend to hang about on the periphery, I hide in the shadows and hope the world leaves me alone but in 1991 Jackie opened the door and coaxed me out and was warm and lovely and made me laugh. A lot.

And I'm not the sort of person who's awash with confidence either- I tend to muddle along, hope for the best and fumble my way through the dark but in 1991 Pete turned on the lights and illuminated the path and he was warm and sagely and swore. A lot.

Today, for the first time in months and months I had a day off and for the first time in years and years I went to visit them. Every bit as fantastic as they always were, I completely enjoyed several happy hours whiling away the time in the warmth of the sunshine and their company.

I can't begin to tell you how dear they are to me but I'm absolutely certain had it not been for that one glorious and golden year I had with Jackie and Pete, I wouldn't be an illustrator at all.

Saturday, 20 June 2009


Some years ago when I was struggling to find any sort of work as an illustrator I was considering packing up and moving to the bleak town of Giveupsville. Until one afternoon a small chink of light broke the gloom and I received a life changing 'phone call from Mike of the illustration agency Graham-Cameron Illustration. He had responded to a letter I'd sent some time before asking for representation and he, Duncan and Helen lifted me up, put me back on my feet and jump started my career.

And I'll never, ever be able to thank them enough for all their hard work, support and advice through the years.

The little guy above who's splashing through a puddle of paint is a promotional drawing to be placed on a beermat for GCI, probably the best illustration agency in the world.

Friday, 12 June 2009


I've only managed 14 hours sleep since Sunday morning and today's Friday. I think.

My poor little eyes are littler, blearier and redder than they've ever been before. And they sting a bit. The reason for the lack of sleep is having to meet my deadlines (or 'dead lions' as my little girl calls them). I've been bustin' guts to complete the final drawings of Gargoylz Put on a Show in which a ridiculous version of Little Red Riding Hood is performed.

But all the subterfuge that comes with that story and the red eyes that comes from illustrating that story reminds me of a time when I got up to some pretty good subterfuge myself...

I was a wee, freshed faced lad of 17 in 1990 with high ambitions and the world at my feet, which I suppose is why I had a part time job working at Tescos. They always made me do Saturday which is the worst day of the week to be sitting on a till from 8 in the morning 'til half 7 at night. I hated every minute of it and invariably left work with a headache. But the worst Saturday for a lad of 17 to be working on was FA Cup Final day and the 1990 Final was between Man United and Crystal Palace. I forgot to ring in sick.

So I arrived at work and was sent to my till by a sour faced supervisor and whilst ringing in the frozen peas (groceries, 59p) I devised my escape plan. Kick off was at 3pm but I had to be sitting in front of my telly by lunchtime as the FA Cup commanded a considerable build up back in the day, so I was going to have to work fast.

Break time came in which I had just twenty minutes to execute the most brilliant plan any boy ever devised to get out of work to watch football. Before going for a rest upstairs I bought a pack of colouring pencils (home and wear, £1.49), a pencil sharpener (also home and wear, 49p) and a small pair of tweezers (again, also home and wear, 99p). Upstairs in the changing rooms I sharpened a red colouring pencil down until I had a fine red dust which I applied around my eyes. I was starting to look a bit ill.

Next, I used the tweezers to pluck nose hairs from my nostrils which had two desirable effects: it made my eyes water uncontrollably and made me sneeze violently time after time so before getting back to the shop floor I plucked several more times. It was now do or die.

Slowly I shuffled back to my till, holding my head in one hand as I went. Immediately it was noticeable I was very sick. I started squinting, believing the lights ought to be hurting my eyes and the sour faced supervisors (not you Sandra, you were always very nice- I hope you're well) were now showing some concern as to my welfare especially as, believing noise ought to be hurting my ears, I couldn't hear a word they were saying.

Within 10 minutes I was skipping work and skipping all the way home. Back of the net!

United and Palace drew 3-3 with United winning the replay 1-0. Result!