Friday, 27 March 2009

sketchbook fantasies

Some more pen on paper meandering from the pocket sketchbook. Where is it leading? Who knows, like most quests of discovery the journey is often more important than the destination.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Nichiban artwork

Last year I was commissioned to create the illustrations for a web-only pop-up book "Mori no Yosei Monogatari" to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Japanese Sellotape manufacturer Nichiban (you can still see the book by clicking on the book icon here).

It was an advertising campaign more than a children's book commission. To emphasise the eco-friendly policy of the company I was asked to create the images in a deliberately traditional style. It's difficult to see some of the detail in the web book, so here are a few scans of the artwork.

Monday, 23 March 2009


Here's a sad story of our times. A couple of years ago I was commissioned to work on a brand new logo to revamp the dated image of Skylark, a well known but financially troubled family restaurant chain, with branches all across Japan. Hard did I work, well did the designer pitch the designs, but unfortunately the presentation was cancelled, as so often happens in advertising today.

I presumed we'd just been defeated by a rival design, but I see that Skylark is still today using the original old 1970's logo. Facing a financial crisis perhaps the company felt they simply couldn't afford to change it's public image now. I'd have thought changing the image should be a priority! Last August the company sacked it's boss.

Oh well, my images may not be plastered all over Japan's highways, but at least I can show them here.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Children's books in the Recession

No I'm not panicking, but all the bleak news of recession, failing industries, belly-up banks and job losses make it well to shore up the defences against whatever may loom on the horizon. So Spring cleaning this year for me is all about polishing up my business as an illustrator, updating my website, focusing on work, hopefully getting some new children's stories on paper. Publishing is getting tougher by the week we hear, if the public has less money to spend then book sales will suffer.

And yet I'm not quite so convinced by all this. Sure, people will be less willing to buy unnecessary items, but to what degree does it affect book sales? My daughter's after-school teacher tells me that in her house at least she's buying fewer toys but more books, as they seem better value for money (she's talking about discounted titles), they last longer and are more educational. She seems to be worried that her kids are not developing the skills to equip them to face harder times. Strange how it takes fears of a recession to see these things.

My great bone of contention with publishing in the UK is the practice of discounting. In Japan there is no discounting at all. Books have a price printed on the cover and that's what they are sold for, never a yen less, where ever you go, whatever shop. If they're not sold the books are returned to the publisher and pulped, but they usually have quite a long shelf life before that happens. Authors and illustrators are paid a fee based on a royalty percentage of the entire print-run, whether books sell or not, it's straightforward and I think pretty fair.

In the UK however many books are offered at 3 for the price of 2 in the big chain stores, they're discounted through supermarkets, they're sold for a fraction of their original price in discount bookshops, and, worst case of all, last years children's books can be bought on my local market for £1 each, a mere 10% of the cover price. Naturally when times are hard the general public will go for the cheapest option, so sales of full price books will evitably suffer. Sadly, little if any of the funds from sales of heavily discounted books find their way to the author and artist. As one well known illustrator in the UK admits to me, even if your books sell, it's becoming almost impossible to earn enough from children's books alone to survive.

However in comparison to many jobs under threat there is still some hope for artists and writers, at least we have our talents, we have options to pursue, even though it may take us in different creative directions. I for one am not putting all my eggs into the basket of publishing, though I'm working hard in the field, I also have my commercial illustration career in Japan, for that I'm very grateful. In times like these nothing is to be neglected.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009


Passing the time on a train journey.

All I need is my trusty pocket sketchbook and I'm a happy man.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Japanese language blog

I've decided to try running a Japanese language blog for my clients and friends in Japan. I expect some of the material may repeat themes in this blog, and I'm not sure how often I'll be able to update it, but if you read Japanese please have a look.

In the vain hope not too many people will laugh in derision at my kanji construction, all comments are welcome!