this northern boy

Illustrations for an imaginary age

Of Pies and Men


My friend Jon Elliman and I have recently started a podcast – North v South. Episode 2 was recorded and released last night (thank’s to Jon’s amazingly quick edit), and it’ll be a weekly schedule from now on.

Jon and I met while working at the same design agency in St Margarets and got on very well right from the start, particularly the chat that designers enjoy (sometimes endure) across the top of an iMac. As Jon and I both freelance from home now, we realised how much we missed that aspect of working in a studio, so the podcast is an attempt to replicate that feeling. The title of the podcast, North v South is an allusion to the fact that Jon comes from the southern shires of England, and I hail from the north.

The first episode finds me chatting to Jon about how I got my start in design, after a couple of false starts, and about my move in to illustration. We discuss the merits of the iPad Pro and Pencil for drawing, which sketchbooks I use for what purposes. We also talk about pies.

In episode two I turn the tables and quiz Jon about how he went from being a scholar of medieval literature, to running his own design studio. Jon also explains the story behind his epic WWI historical project – Frank Crawshaw. We touch upon Russian prison tattoos, office pets, and we, once again, talk about pies.

Future topics of conversation in the podcast are:

Fighting Fantasy Books

Tools of the designer’s trade

Einstein’s Cross

A history of pies

Pen Talk

The U.S. Ghost Army

Blitz-stricken, London-dockland, epileptic, bipolar depressive



You can find the North v South podcast on SoundCloud and on iTunes.




I’ve been to both York (my home town) and Windsor in the last couple of weeks, both boasting more crenellations than you can shake a sword at. I always try to take plenty of photos when I’m visiting historic places, just to add to my reference folder. You never know when you might need to draw a castle.

To Boldly Go…

I like drawing spaceships, you know that by now right? I’ve been working on a few new pages of spaceship concepts recently, in pen and marker, and I thought I’d share them – and a few other older ones – with you.


His Art Materials

I get asked a lot about what art materials I use for my drawings and illustrations. So here’s a blog post showing exactly what I have laying around on my desk right now. If you aren’t familiar with the kind of stuff I draw, have a browse though the blog, or have a look at my work on Instagram or Facebook.

But first…

A good pencil won’t make you any better at drawing than that rubbish one you have in your pocket from a recent trip to Ikea. An expensive brush won’t instantly turn you in to the worlds best watercolourist. That watercolour pad you splashed out on, you know the one – hand made, 100% cotton, acid-free, cold pressed – isn’t going to make your drawings and paintings any better than if you were drawing on a Post-It note – unless you practice, unless you draw and draw and draw. New art materials are great, but they aren’t a short cut to being great at art, because there isn’t a short cut to being great at art. You just have to draw. Draw the stuff you love, draw the things you find difficult, set yourself some challenges, but most importantly just bloody well draw.

Now to the inky, graphitey stuff…


Pencils (from top to bottom)

Staedtler Tradition, from 3H to 3B

Staedtler Mars Lumograph, 3H and 3B

Palomino Blackwing 602, not sure of the hardness – maybe a B?

Faber-Castell 9000, HB and 2B


Technical Pens

Copic Multiliner SP, 0.03 to 0.7 thickness nibs (my favourite technical pens)

Rotring Tikky Graphic, 0.3 to 0.7

Staedtler Pigment Liner, 0.05 to 0.8


Brush Pens

Faber-Castell Pitt artist pen

Sakura Pigma Brush

Pentel Pocket Brush (my favourite brush pen)


Calligraphy / Nib Pens

Rotring Art Pen

Kuretake Nib Holder and Kuretake G Pen nib


Coloured Pens

Copic Ciao Markers (lots of them, particularly orange ones)


Miscellaneous Pens

Edding Gold Paint Marker

Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner

Sharpie Twin Tip Marker

Sakura Gelly Roll Glaze Pen (opaque white)

Lamy Scribble Mechanical Pencil


Bits and Pieces

Swann Morton Scalpel Blades, 10A

Swann Morton Scalpel

Steel Rule, 300mm and 500mm

Faber-Castell Eraser

Faber-Castell Sharpener

Cheap brush for clearing loose graphite or eraser bits

Toothbrush (an old one) for splattering paint or masking fluid


Bottled Things

Higgins Black Magic Waterproof Ink

Kuretake Sumi Ink

Winsor & Newton Masking Fluid



Goldline A3 Layout Pad (the big yellow one)

Daler Rowney A4 Tracing Pad (the grey one)

Daler Rowney A4 Smooth Heavy Weight Cartridge Pad (the pink one)

Daler Rowney A4 Bristol Board (the green one)

Daler Rowney A4 Fine Grain Heavy Weight Cartridge Pad (the brown one)



I buy almost all of my pens and pencils from Tiger Pens. They have a great range of products, and they deliver super quick.

If Tiger don’t have the pens I want, I’ll try Cult Pens, or a local art supply shop.

My pads and sketchbooks I usually get from Amazon.



As I said before, nothing on this blog post will make you draw any better, that’s up to you. Now, stop reading, and draw!



I’ve just come back from a few days in The Black Forest in southwest Germany. It was my fourth trip, always around New Year, as my wife’s mum is German and the family still have lots of friends over there. We stay at Gästehaus Waidelich in Enzklösterle, a lovely little B&B run by my mother-in-law’s oldest friend.

The Black Forest is a wonderful place, even in winter it’s full of beauty and character. Walking in the woods, or looking out at the forest from the car window, it’s so easy to imagine the stories of the brothers Grimm springing to life. The forest is very dense pine and spruce, dotted with birch, oak and beech. The trees are so close together that the woods get very dark, very quickly. Walking there at night would be a deeply unnerving experience. It’s a place where your imagination can run wild, and I’ve come back brimming with thoughts of ogres, trolls, giant bears and wolves, elves and fairies. I’m looking forward to getting some of these ideas down on paper, either as drawings or as stories.

Here are a few photos I took while I was there…




2015: By the numbers.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for your continued support on this blog, and across Twitter and Instagram, over the last twelve months. Every like and comment is very much appreciated.

2015 was a pretty big year for me. After drawing more and more often for the last few years, I finally made the decision to try and start earning some money from illustration. I didn’t expect to get a book published full of my illustrations – and to be featured in another, or to have produced so many private commissions. While illustration only managed to contribute a fraction of my income for the year, it was a much better start than I could have hoped for.

My challenge for 2016 is to build on that success and hopefully get another book published – this time one that only has my name on the cover.


2015 by the numbers

On the blog…

39 blog posts written

40,533 page views

10,126 visitors


154 comments (99% of them nice!)

Most popular blog post – Imagined Places – 568 views, 13 likes, 7 comments.


On Instagram…

361 posts


Almost 7,000 followers

My most liked image – Tentacled Island – 1,132 likes


My favourite images on the blog for the year…


Beneath the Sea

I recently completed a commission for Max in Canada. He’d seen an illustration I did a while ago – The Island  – and asked me for a new version.

The picture below show some of the process, from initial inky thumbnail sketch, to the final coloured illustration.

If you’d like to commission an illustration from me, message me here or on social media.


This, and most of my illustrations are drawn on heavy, but smooth cartridge paper. I use Copic Multiliners, a Pentel Pocket Brush and Copic Ciao Markers.

My Facebook.

My Instagram.

My Twitter.

My Tumblr.

Build! A Knight’s Castle.

Earlier this year I worked on the illustrations for a children’s activity book, published by Ivy Press, all about castles. It was a huge amount of fun, and allowed me to work on a real variety of subjects – skulls, castles, knights, medieval soldiers, siege engines…

A huge thank you to all the staff at Ivy Press that worked on this with me, and of course to the author – Annalie Seaman, and to Charlie Simpson who created an amazing paper craft castle. I’m really pleased with how the book turned out!

The official description…

Think like an archaeologist with this fun paper-craft title! Readers are given information about how archaeologists uncover remains, and use secondary sources. They are then given visual and textual clues about the site of a medieval castle, which was the location of a sieged battle. The final part of the book contains the press-out pieces to recreate a paper model of the castle and the historic battle, complete with siege engines and defending and attacking forces. The reader must use their new-found knowledge of how the castle was laid out, and what siege engines looked like to figure out how to piece the paper scene together.

Build! A Knight’s Castle is available in bookshops and Amazon now.

Here are a few of my illustrations from the book, all drawn by hand.









Siege Tower.

Siege Tower.





The End of Inktober Sale

Inktober is now done and dusted, 31 days of brush pen drawings completed. I’d like to say it was fun, but actually it was pretty tough, and got tougher towards the end. I do think I progressed a bit in terms of technique, which was the main reason for doing it. I certainly feel like I have a better grasp of how to use a brush pen than I did a month ago. Huge thanks to everyone who liked and commented on my work across Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram, your support and encouragement was very much appreciated.

Now that Inktober is over I’ll be working on a couple of other projects, completing some commissions, and planning ideas for books and a comic – but all at a slightly less forced pace.

Quite a few people have expressed an interest in purchasing some of the Inktober drawings, so the images below are now available to buy. If there’s a drawing you’d like that isn’t included here, drop me an email – it may still be available.

The prices vary depending on how detailed the illustrations are, the size, and the quality of paper they are drawn on. Feel free to ask for more details.

To buy any of these, drop me an email letting me know which you’d like to buy and the postal address it’s to be sent to. I’ll then work out postage, and payment can be made via PayPal.

All enquiries should be emailed to me at

Illustrations are available on a strictly first come, first served basis.

If you miss out on an illustration, drop me an email and I’ll be happy to work on something brand new for you.

The Ossuary. £30.

The Ossuary. £30.

The Sword and the Stone. £30.

The Sword and the Stone. SOLD.

The Android. £30.

The Android. £30.

The Deep Dweller. £30.

The Deep Dweller. £30.

The Berg. £20.

The Berg. £20.

The Creature. £15.

The Creature. £15.

The Peaks. SOLD.

The Peaks. SOLD.

The Clown. SOLD.

The Clown. SOLD.

The Explorer. £40.

The Explorer. SOLD.

The Lonely Robot. SOLD.

The Lonely Robot. SOLD.

The Forest. SOLD.

The Forest. SOLD.

The Lone Tree. SOLD

The Lone Tree. SOLD.

The Island. SOLD.

The Island. SOLD.

The Old Town. SOLD.

The Old Town. SOLD.

The Stone. SOLD.

The Stone. SOLD.

The Moon House. SOLD.

The Moon House. SOLD.

The Astronaut. SOLD.

The Astronaut. SOLD.

The Day of the Dead. SOLD.

The Day of the Dead. SOLD.

Inktober update

If you’ve been following my blog, or my Instagram or Twitter feeds, you’ll know I’m participating in this year’s Inktober. For an explanation of what Inktober is, have a quick read of this blog post.

18 days in to the project and I’m part frustrated – that I haven’t made more progress using the brush pen, it still feels damn tricky to get the line quality right – and partly delighted to be producing illustrations every day that I’m (more or less) happy with.

Time, as always, is a big factor. I’m back working in London Monday to Friday now, and getting home at eight in the evening doesn’t leave lots of time to think or draw. I try to get out of the office at lunch time and do some sketching, getting some ideas together for things I might draw that evening or the coming days. This can really help, if I don’t get to my desk until after nine pm once I’ve eaten, having an idea ready to go is a weight off my shoulders.

I am still drawing each illustration with my Pentel Pocket Brush, although I am sneaking in a little detailed line work here and there with Staedtler or Copic pigment liners.

Today’s drawing is still yet to be done. I’ve one idea half finished, that I’m really not too sure about, and a bunch of doodles and notes scribbled over my desk that might become something.

Here are the first 18 drawings for this year. I’ll post another update for Inktober in a couple of weeks when it’s finished.


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