Murals with PJ Lynch

Photo PJ took just as Niamh and myself began to work on our walls.

As part of his Laureate na n√ďg Big Picture project, my good pal and birthday bud, PJ Lynch took on the task of organising SIX permanent murals (or muriels, as we say in Dublin) for a school in Cork, the very lovely Gaelscoil Mhainistir na Corann in Midleton. He invited Niamh Sharkey, Chris Judge, Lauren O’Neill, Michael and myself to join him and each take on a wall. Here are some photos of each mural as it happened, from blank to finished – click on the first photo to get larger images and some notes on what’s happening. Then keep clicking right.

PJ’s wall; The Children of Lir

Niamh’s wall; the King of Ireland

Lauren’s wall; Gulliver in Lilliput

Chris’s wall; Irish Creatures, Past & Present

My wall; image from The Long March

The school requested an image from my book The Long March (see two previous blogposts) as Midleton is home to the Feathers sculpture which commemorates the Choctaw gift to Ireland in 1847.

The whole team -Niamh Sharkey, Chris Judge, Jenny Murray (CBI), Lauren O’Neill, me, Aingeala (L na n√ďg project manager), PJ Lynch – Laureate na n√ďg.

Aingeala and Jenny looked after us so well (of course) and the school laid on a constant supply of sandwiches and scones and smiles and encouragement plus a laughter-filled night with the teachers at Muinteoir Gr√°inne’s on Saturday night. Unfortunately Michael was sick – whooping cough – and missed the trip, but he will tackle a wall for the school in May or June. We’ll add photos then.

Top photo of Niamh and myself beginning our murals is one PJ quietly snapped from the return of the stairs.

@ the Castle

Two weeks ago we took part in a brand new children’s book festival – Towers and Tales at Lismore Castle, Waterford. Only getting around to blogging about it now so I’ll keep it short and mostly visual! We arrived on Friday and basically ran around taking photos…

Got up next morning and all the illustrators went out and drew on the Waterford library bus… (click for close ups- promise it’s worth it!)

Kids attended story-telling in English and as Gaeilge, did monster doodles with Niamh (Sharkey), made books, and pictures with folks from IGI, made hats and sharks with Sarah McIntyre, attended talks by Philip Ardagh, Chris Riddell, Darren Shan and Shane Hegarty. I ran a writing workshop with a group of talented teens in the local library and did a panel talk about getting published for adults in the Red Hall. There was a mini food market in one of the courtyards and the sun split the stones all day.

These photos don’t really show it,¬†but¬†at least 1200 folk came through the castle gates. ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED!!!

Afterwards we had afternoon tea…

All the speakers and the dozens of volunteers who made the day happen sit down to tea

All the speakers and the dozens of volunteers who made the day happen sit down to tea, hosted by William and Laura

…took more photos of the castle and each other… (mouse over for names of authors and illustrators)

It was a weekend in the Castle of Adventure, complete with cream scones and loads and loads of BOOK STUFF!¬†All dreamed up by Niamh Sharkey, William Burlington, Elaina Ryan (CBI) and Maura O’ Keefe a year ago when Lismore Castle hosted the Pictiur exhibition for a month. And, maybe, next year it will happen all over again. If you are invited, I recommend you say yes!

Towers and Tales



Monstrous poster for Towers and Tales © Niamh Sharkey

Fancy spending¬†Saturday in a castle? Lismore Castle, Co. Waterford, Ireland, to be exact. This Saturday (18/4/15) at the Towers and Tales Festival there is literally something literary for everyone. Loads of stuff for the little ones, the bigger ones, and and the teens, plus two sessions aimed at adults. Niamh Sharkey, Shane Hegarty, Darren Shan, Philip Ardagh, Chris Riddell, Sarah McIntyre, Sarah Webb, Brown Bag, all in this amazing venue for one day. I’m joining a panel discussion on ‘How to Get Published’ for adults and running an afternoon writing workshop for teens.

There’s a cafe, the CBI book doctors, animation, comic-making, monster doodling, mad hat-making, story-telling, an illustration exhibition….all in this fantastic setting, a castle not usually open to the public. Get booking and spend the whole day. You just need to do a wee bit of clicking to download the programme for full details…

A glimpse of the authors and illustrators taking part:
Top image Niamh Sharkey’s fab festival poster monster! Image¬†of Lismore castle is grabbed from the festival site. These and photos of authors/illustrators (also grabbed from festival site) all ¬© individual authors and illustrators and Lismore Castle.

A Guided Tour of Picti√ļr


Picti√ļr, the exhibition of Irish/Irish-based children’s illustrators curated by Niamh Sharkey when she was Laureate na nOg, ¬†is still traveling around the country after two years. It’s been to IMMA, Galway, Waterford, Leuven, Brussels, Bologna, Belfast, and right now it’s in Mayo. Michael and myself went over to Castlebar to do a few gigs at the Linenhall for the Roola Boola Children’s Arts Festival.

We both guided groups of children around the images, keeping things fairly simple for the 4-8 year olds and taking it up a notch for the 8-12 groups. As you can see from the photos the images have been placed low on the walls to keep them at children’s eye line height. If you’d like a taster of what we talked about, start the tour by clicking on the first image and scrolling through. You’ll get a larger image and accompanying text.

Teeny Tiny Ting



I spotted¬†this tiny handmade book necklace online;¬†I thought it would be nice to wear to book events. When it arrived and I held it in my hand, it¬†occurred to me I could actually draw tiny pictures in it…I drew one and got¬†Michael to draw a couple. When¬†the Emberleys were visiting¬†I asked Ed and Rebecca to add something.¬†Since then I’ve¬†asked several ¬†illustrator friends to draw in it, so now its pages are almost filled with teeny illustrations.

Everyone I ask has the same reaction. They stop – blink – think! It takes a bit of refocusing and mental rescaling to draw something on this tiny canvas.

I was cheeky enough to ask Jim Kay and Mo Willems to draw in it when I attended talks they gave and have every intention of being cheeky a few more times until every page is illustrated –¬†there are a few Irish illustrators I’ve yet to nab. My little necklace has become a¬†favourite treasure – here are some of the¬†images.¬†Look¬†how HUGE my fingers are;¬†these¬†are TINY images!

You can click on any illustration¬†for a larger image, then scroll/click on side to look at the¬†next one, and illustrator’s name¬†should appear too.

All these little illustrations are reproduced with permission and are © of named illustrator.

Brown Bag Tour



Michael and Dave goofing around in lobby of Brown Bag Studios

We’ve had a long-standing invitation from our pal, David Maybury, to pop into his workplace someday for a tour, and as David works in Brown Bag, the amazing Dublin animation studios, you’d imagine we’d have been in there like a¬†shot.¬†But no. We waited until David was not only about to leave the building, but also the entire country. David has landed himself a fantastic new job with Scholastic in London. We figured we’d better get into Smithfield pretty quick for our personalised tour before the offer expired.

We met loads of lovely talented people and saw lots of great stuff, but we had to be careful not to take photos where anything top-secret was on display Рlike images from as yet unseen episodes of Henry Hugglemonster, Doc McStuffins, Octonauts, Peter Rabbit, or the brand new, first-aired-the-day-before, utterly adorable Bing.

Here are some things we could photograph!


The Brown Bag wall of… brown bags!


Derek Horan, one of the three people in Brown Bag who spend all day drawing by hand (meaning he’s a 2D artist in a building where most folk are working¬†3D). He chatted to us about how much fun he had doing conceptual work on the Hugglemonsters with Niamh (Sharkey) and how it is still quicker to sketch those first ideas out by pencil. As you can see, his work station is a¬†highly personalized and visual space!


In the kitchen we met John Huikku, who worked on Frozen. Yep. Frozen. He chatted about working on the movie and told us he used his small son as a basis for the child Kristoff in the opening scenes, something we figure his son will be boasting about forever!


We said hi to Norton (Rugrats) Virgien who we have only ever met at parties. It seems he does actually work after all! He shares an office¬†with Niamh¬†as they work on the Hugglemonsters together, but, as Tuesday¬†is¬†Niamh’s day off, we had to substitute Henry for her in this pic. (Hi Niamh!)


We passed through a couple of large spaces with folk busily working on various shows. All those computers and screens make the spaces a little hot, hence the fans.¬†We¬†hung out for a while in one of the editing suites learning about the newest show, Bing. S√©amus¬†and Damien¬†talked us through the different stages of development it went through and chatted about getting the details right – the blink of an eye, the light on Bing’s black fur, the squirt¬†of a soap¬†dispenser. We got lots¬†more details about how it developed from children’s picturebook to screen when we met¬†Nicky Phelan, the show’s director.


Nicky is also behind¬†the wonderfully anarchical Granny Grim¬†and he directs Octonauts. That chart of descending colours behind Nicky is the time chart for all¬†70 Bing shows as they travel¬†through production. We got the impression that if the deep red bit had a sound effect, it would go something like ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHH!”


And this is Arthur, the very chilled hound who hangs out with the IT crowd!


O! Ah! Aw!

Some random things which¬†caught our eye while walking the streets of London…


O! Making friends with street furniture…


Ahhhh! Fierce gutters!


¬†Aw! Hugglemonsters on Oxford Street…

We checked the Disney store for our friend Niamh Sharkey’s character, Henry Hugglemonster¬†(raaring away on the Disney Channel near you)

HC tree2A lovely bOOk tree at Harper Collins publishers, where we went to deliver illustrations for Beyond the Stars, a short story collection in aid of Fighting Words, coming out in the autumn


LOOkah, it’s crOOkah! Not the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but…



Paul Howard, Peter Salisbury, Oisin McGann, me & Michael, Aoife Murray, Elaina Ryan, Nessa O’ Mahony

Picti√ļr (exhibition of 21 leading Irish/Irish-based illustrators, curated by our Laureate na nOg Niamh Sharkey) went to Belfast March 3rd and we headed up for the opening. Michael’s first intro to the city was stepping into the parliament buildings – not something you get to do every day. Quite a few illustrators and children’s lit folk made the trip and we were all very excited – as you may deduce from photo above!