Monday, 30 September 2013


And so here we have the answer to yesterday's rather exciting quiz. That's right! Jarvis launches into a freestylin' street jam as his breakdancing alter ego, Octronix! He know he got to get loose.


Thank you to all those who entered, especially everyone who taped money to their postcards. There was no outright winner, but a special mention for Len Filth from Scunthorpe, UK, who was nearly right with his suggestion that Jarvis might respond by dressing up as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (I'll bear that crazy outfit in mind for the next book!)

Particular commiserations must go to Poultice Ungawa of Croydon, Brazil, who took it upon herself to leave her entry in a Tesco bag for life on my doorstep at dawn. This really demonstrates the efficacy of the blog in inspiring such fervour in its followers, and don't worry Poultice, I've alerted the authorities who now have your description. Your entry has been safely defused, and we've been allowed back indoors after the evacuation. Better luck next time.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

It's Quiz Time! What Happened Next?

Here's one of the many little Jarvis ideas that didn't make it into the book, and remains as a rough sketch only.

Can you predict in what unpredictable way Jarvis is going to react to hearing His Master's Voice? Answers on a postcard featuring a montage of the promenade and seafront flower beds of the seaside resort of your choice. You'll find out tomorrow if you've guessed right, when I'll exclusively reveal a second sketch that provides the punchline to this startling visual gag.

What will Jarvis do next?

No prizes for guessing what he does. That doesn't mean it's not difficult, it just means there are no prizes. Apart from the glow of profound self-satisfaction you'll feel. Don't miss out! Get your seaside postcards in quick, kids!

Still doing OK!

More mentions and mini-reviews.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Glamorous Cover Shoot #1

"That's it Jarvis love, nice and close. Yes, yes! No! We don't want your face, love. Grab your dog tag. Good. Try it with both tentacles, yes. Like you're adjusting a bow tie. Very groovy. That's it! Hold it there!! Bewdiful!!"

"And... again, but this time I'll just pull down this red backdrop. That's it, nice. Right I've had enough, I'm off to buy a big propeller and take photos down the park."

These are a couple of unused designs I did for the book's cover. They're only rough, these, but I'd been experimenting with giving the cover just a hint of Saul Bass flavour, using bold lines and colours and jazzy lettering. I was thinking of only showing parts of Jarvis, so that he remained mysterious and, combined with the title, this might make for an intriguing lead image. In the end though, voting for the cute puppies was unanimous!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Hello sailor!

So here's a decent butcher's at the two of them, Edgar and Jarvis in their final form. This is from the title page of the book. By the time I did this pic I'd drawn each of them a few dozen times, so I knew them pretty well and was enjoying myself.

Edgar's deeply embarrassed by this strange organism on the lead, this slippery boggle-eyed thing he's still trying to convince himself and the world is his dog. Meanwhile Jarvis is behaving like some eccentric uncle, doffing his hat to the ladies.

Doing this pic reminded me of Going For A Walk With Grandad, one of the brilliant little stories by Leo Baxendale which appeared in his Willy the Kid Book 2, bought by my mum off a door-to-door salesman in 1977. I loved it. I'd have been about Willy's age, and I still have the book with me now, full of my grubby little fingerprints and bogies. From then, not recent ones. Anyway, Willy reluctantly goes for what turns out to be a really embarrassing walk with his Grandad, and in one illustration Grandad has his false teeth out and they're saying "Hello sailor!" of their own accord to Willy's headteacher Mr. Gass. So yeah, that came to mind.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Colour tests

Here are a couple of test drawings in colour. These came after I'd done the first storyboards (more on those in future fun posts, folks), and I was starting to get a feel for how the characters should interact. I was keen that the figures were the same height and would look comfortable together, even with Edgar's initial resistance to Jarvis. I'd been pretty sure from the outset that Jarvis should be a livid pink. Or that maybe his colour could change from scene to scene (more on that later, too). Anyway the pink wasn't to be. Edgar here looks disturbingly like British TV entity Jimmy Carr, so I had to sort that out.

After some swift Edgar tweaks, I inserted this new version into Jarvis's embrace. His proportions are much better now, and I introduced the smart blazer to help convey his stiff and uptight personality, while hoping that having his weird little knees poking out of those shorts would keep him funny and endearing. At this stage I was giving him spectacles. I soon lost those as they'd been a bit of an afterthought and were hiding his expressions - plus they were hard to draw repeatedly! Next time if I'm designing a bespectacled character, I'd make them much more of a feature in themselves and an expressive part of the face. Jarvis is now in his regulation livery.

Blimey, is any of this interesting?? It'll hot up, honestly. There's some explosions and car chases in a bit.*

*(not really)

Couple of early reactions. Not too shabby!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Gotta start somewhere

This was the very first rough doodle I did of Edgar & Jarvis, for the scene where Jarvis pops up out of the gift box on Edgar's birthday. At this early stage I was imagining Edgar as an Edward Gorey style Edwardian child, so there's a suggestion of a frock coat and starched collar. Jarvis is very bulbous and has eyebrows!

This slight revision later on has Jarvis looking a bit more like how he was to become.

And this is how the scene turned out. Edgar's now in his school uniform, and Jarvis has found his proper shape. In coming posts I'll show more of how the look of the characters developed.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Octopus's wardrobe

In the exceedingly nice article that publisher Dyan Blacklock posted on the Omnibus Books site yesterday (ah, she made my day), she featured a couple of the editorial team's favourite Jarvis outfits. I thought I'd present them here, and add what might be my own favourite get-up of his, Cap'n JarHA-HARRvis the pirate.  Here he be.

Here's Docjarv Who. Jarvis's googly eyes meant the natural choice was of course a certain jelly baby wielding incarnation. Besides, this fellow was *my* Docjarv, the definite article you might say. Note the authentic mid-'70s model sonic screwdriver.

And finally for today, Jarothy. "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little slug, too!"

Monday, 23 September 2013

On Ya Bus: Why we love Martin McKenna

On Ya Bus: Why we love Martin McKenna
A few years ago I was t
rawling the net looking for a suitable image for a fantasy book I was about to publish.  ...

Cuddly toy!

Here's Jarvis in his Count Jarvula guise, one of the many silly characters he gets dressed up as in the book. And below are photos of a soft toy version. It's been made by Chicago-based artist Karen Hollingsworth, and she's done an amazing job - the photos don't do her creation justice. The clothing is beautifully sewn in great detail, and the figure with all its tentacles is fully poseable. Those are plastic fork tines for his Draclia teeth.

Kids' Book Review: Review: The Octopuppy

Kids' Book Review: Review: The Octopuppy: It’s Edgar’s birthday but he’s not happy. You see, he wanted a puppy but instead he got Jarvis. Jarvis the Octopus. Jarvis is a drag. He...

Sunday, 22 September 2013

A glimpse within

Let's open the book and take a look. The title page shows one of Edgar's embarrassing walks in the park, with Jarvis in full evening constitutional vigour. Also one of the endpapers showing Jarvis in some of his madcap guises - stare and you will see Count Jarvula; Jarlock Holmes; Docjarv Who; Jamlet; Jarvo; and Jarvison Airplane, among other hilarity. A couple more spreads provide a hint of what other high jinks go on in the story.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Introducing The Octopuppy

The Octopuppy is about a boy called Edgar who wants a dog. But he doesn't get a dog, he gets an octopus. These things happen. And not just any old octopus, mind you, but a very peculiar octopus by the name of Jarvis. Undaunted, and unimpressed by Jarvis's extraordinary abilities, Edgar is determined to continue with puppy training in preparation for the big dog show. With hilarious consequences, naturally.

At least I hope so. I had a lot of fun drawing all the silly stuff Edgar & Jarvis get up to and found myself chortling as I drew things, which I thought must be a good sign. If I've entertained myself doing this, there's at least a chance I'll have entertained you as well, dear reader.

When I say "you", on their site the publisher (Scholastic) states that the book is suited to readers aged 3-5. So if you're two years old and reading this, forget about it, kid, it's far too sophisticated you're gonna have to wait. And if you're six or older, you're over the hill; your weak, decrepit eyes probably can't even make out the dense text. Everybody else, come on in and join the party.

Friday, 20 September 2013

The Octopuppy

Okay, so The Octopuppy! A quick introduction. It's a picture book written & illustrated by me. Hello. It's been published in hardback by Scholastic/Omnibus books, and it's available in Australia and New Zealand. With luck and a following wind it'll make it out in other parts of the world before too long. Here are photos of the book itself.

The image above shows Jarvis the (ever so slightly camp) octopus in one of his many stupid outfits. Lacking the natural camouflage abilities of normal octopoda, Jarvis dresses up in ridiculous wigs and things - with hilarious results, of course.

Huge thanks to Dyan, Patricia, and Celia, the team at Omnibus books, for making the book a reality. And my eternal admiration, gratitude and thanks to my partner, the wonderful Aimee. Working on the book was lots of fun, but inventing the characters and perfecting a storyline was a challenge, and without all her generous input and support there would be nothing. In future posts I hope to show more of how the ideas and characters came about.

Sit! Good. Now...Stay!

The first post in/on what I hope will be a receptacle, a repository, a facility, a showcase, a home, a place, for anything to do with the book The Octopuppy what I done. Join me now and together we'll see if any of this amounts to anything at all. Right, what do I do now?