Quails in space

All sorts of creatures have been sent into space by NASA and the Russian space agency to see how they would react in zero gravity. In the 1970s quail eggs were launched into the unknown …

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My workshop event at Swedenborg House

“It was the poster that drew us in,” I was rather happy to hear one of the mothers say at my draw and explore event yesterday at Swedenborg House.

What had started out as my idea for a leporello (folding book) of information to engage children and get them drawing, turned into an afternoon of all sorts of other delights as well.  Eighteenth century Swedish polymath Emanuel Swedenborg, who lived in London for part of his life, was curious about everything, and would have been pleased to see children being curious too.

They enjoyed themselves by not only drawing, but listening to a whispering cupboard (Swedenborg invented a type of hearing trumpet), taking apart and reassembling a giant ear, dressing up in eighteenth century style clothes and wigs, and drawing with goose feather quills next to a replica of Swedenborg’s famous and vast Book of Dreams, which he wrote by hand, with a few inkblots along the way.

Very interesting to meet and chat with the Swedenborg Society‘s vice-president who exhibited his skills at writing with a quill pen.

As well as a huge Swedenborgian archive, there are all sorts of extraordinary and intriguing objects in the house, including a lock of Swedenborg’s hair, tiny pieces of his ear and a copy of the wrong skull.

Swedenborg was originally buried in the east end of London.  Afterwards his skull was stolen at least twice, when presumably bits of his ear fell off (see above).  The authentic skull turned up at an auction at Sotheby’s in 1978, and eventually Swedenborg’s skull and skeleton were reunited in Uppsala Cathedral in Sweden.

At the end of the afternoon, after everyone’s leporellos had been stamped with special angel stamps (Swedenborg was angel-friendly apparently), and I’d signed some of my children’s books on sale in the shop, we feasted on enormous Sweden buns, and each child went home with a copy of my leporello, and a tiny skull (as you do).


With thanks to all the children, and brilliant people at Swedenborg House who helped to make this happen.

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First Woman in Space. Notes, drawings etc – and a coincidence

Visited the Science Museum in London yesterday to see an excellent mini-exhibition about Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to go into space.

Enjoyed looking at all the exhibits, including a 1965 chocolate bar named in honour of Valentina’s baby girl Alyonka, whose father was another cosmonaut, Andriyan Nikolaev.Valentina featured in The Comic Strip History of Space, (see frame above), and a couple of weeks ago I drew and talked about her at a space-themed  Half Moon’s Pop-Up Fun Palace event. Some notes I made beforehand …

Coincidently soon afterwards there was an interesting feature about her on BBC Radio Four.  Valentina is 80 years old now, and still going strong.  Apparently she really enjoys visiting London’s Science Museum.  I’d love to meet her on one of her visits …

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My workshop at the Big Draw 2017 Living Lines event in the Millennium Gallery, Sheffield

Yesterday I took part in the fantastic Big Draw Living Lines event at Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery.  Jim Le Fevre was there with his Phonotrope, there was a buzzing Ready Steady Colour Restaurant, Henk Littlewood built a da Vinci style giant bridge out of bamboo poles and rope, while Marf the cartoonist walked round drawing portraits … just some of the amazing people there to inspire everyone to have ideas, and get drawing!

It was lovely to meet Anne Murphy, Lord Mayor of Sheffield, who came to see what was going on.  I’d visited Sheffield some time ago to find out about feisty bearded ladies for my Hair book (published by Walker Books) in the university’s fairground archive, so it was great to come back to the city and encourage children to make Whose Legs! foldy books, maybe incorporating images of these ladies …

 This little girl’s friend (Alfie the cow) featured in her book …

 Children drew heads, bodies and legs on simple cut and folded flaps so they could swap body parts around – great fun, and some wonderfully inventive drawings from participants of all ages. Continue reading

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Notebooks/notes/drawings before Half Moon Theatre event

Made these drawings/notes before Half Moon Theatre events last week. Didn’t actually need them on the day, but always handy!

A few of these items touched on in The Comic Strip History of Space, but I was very inspired by other stories as well, of first woman in space Valentina Tereshkova (and her toothbrush), first spacewalker Ed White’s lost glove and finding out about menus in space.

These small details always bring the bigger story to life for me, and hopefully for others.  Children at Half Moon Theatre made some lovely drawings. More of Valentina’s story to follow soon I think …

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Live drawing/space stories at Half Moon Theatre Fun Palace

Last saturday I drew pictures and told stories about space – some from The Comic Strip History of Space. – at the impressive Half Moon Theatre in Limehouse, London. One of the space book’s pages is on display in the theatre’s current exhibition.  My images were projected onto a giant screen as I drew them – despite one or two initial technical hitches.

      Thanks to Stephen Beeny of Half Moon Theatre for taking photos of me

During intervals between six busy sessions I encouraged the fantastic audience of children and families to draw their own space pictures – some of the very youngest preferred colouring in existing images.

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My sketchbooks/notebooks for 2017 (so far)


Here are pages from my note/sketchbooks so far this year.  They often act as nurseries for book and workshop projects/features/ideas, small aide memoires of places visited, things seen and heard.  There are records of meetings and conversations too.



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SCBWI Pictures at Play exhibition at Half Moon Theatre, Limehouse, London

Last week to the most enjoyable launch of the fabulous SCBWI Pictures at Play exhibition at the Half Moon Theatre in London’s Limehouse district. I was asked to add a spread from The Comic Strip History of Space which I’d illustrated, collaborating with writer Tracey Turner, published by Bloomsbury Childrens Books.  Photos below of SCBWI members Bridget Marzo, Candy Gourley, John Shelley, Pam Smy and Shana Nieberg-Suschitzky.  The spread here is all about animals in space, including the famous Russian dog Laika.

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Visits to Chillingham Castle and Bamburgh Village Show

My last visit to stay with OH in her Bamburgh Castle apartment.  I’ve been there several times before,  to take part in a Sandcastle Competition, and to walk the Pilgrims Way to Lindisfarne amongst other things.  This time my visit coincided with the annual Village Show.  What excitement! Giant carrots etc, then some children’s sports events.

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Sally Kindberg – British Science Festival event and workshop

Last week I joined broadcast journalist Alex Fitch, ecologist Chris Sandom, writer Alex Frith, artist Daniel Locke and astrophysicist Kathy Romer at a panel discussion called Drawing On Science at the Onca Gallery in Brighton, part of the British Science Festival 2017.  We discussed how comic strips could be used to present scientific ideas, as for example, in The Comic Strip History of Space.

Afterwards Daniel, Kathy and I ran a space themed comic strip workshop inspired by quotes from Kathy’s Dark Energy site, which participants could pick at random. Some brilliant interpretations while Daniel and I did a bit of live drawing.  Afterwards there was cake at a nearby cafe – an after workshop essential.

Comment from H, one of the participants, visiting the Festival from Germany: Thank you and all other artists for the awesome workshop in Brighton. It was a blast. Also I like your website and your work shown there! Absolutely stunning.

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