Category Archives: Animation

Things for which I am grateful #365/365.


Some folks might think this is a bit of a cheat. I started with my kids and I’m going to finish with them. In my defence, I have two of the little rascals so I’m counting it as one post apiece.

There is nothing more precious to me on this Earth than my two daughters. Anyone who has children will know that something changes inside of you – chemically, biologically – and nothing else seems to matter.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to every parent, and true, the pesky varmints do get on your nerves a lot of the time. And yes, they bicker constantly. And they manage to talk in a stream of consciousness James Joyce would be proud of. But, when all’s said and done, they don’t outweigh all the adorable moments. I simply couldn’t live without them.

It’s been an epic year of blogging. Thank you for sticking by me and I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

Right, I’m going for a lie down.

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Here are my 365 things that I am grateful for:

1 My daughters

2 Water

3 Poetry

4 Baths

5-7 Notebooks, pens, pencils

8,9 Butterflies and moths

10, 11 Softball and baseball

12 Fresh coffee

13 Sound / masts

14 Indoor toilets

15 Stepping Hill Hospital

16 Birds of Paradise

17 Roget’s thesaurus

18 Mother Earth

19 Clingfilm dispenser

20, 21 Yorkshire pudding and onion gravy

22 Jorge Luis Borges

23 Classic cars

24 Curry

25 Tim Berners Lee

26 Charles Bukowski

27 Yorkshire

28 Shiraz

29 Food

30 Katell Keineg

31 Tao Te Ching

32 A roof over my head

33 Peat fires

34 Street art

35 Friends (as in – mates, not the T.V. show)

36 Wilfred Owen

37 The Penguin Café Orchestra

38 The fry-up

39 Wolves

40 W.B. Yeats

41, 42 Cherry blossom trees and haiku poetry

43 Bread

44 Boules

45 Maps

46 Refuse collectors

47 Candy Chang

48 Sparrows

49 The tomato

50 Studio Ghibli

51 Oliver Jeffers

52 Johannes Gutenberg

53 Tom Waites

54 The cello

55 Mothers’ day

56 The Phoenicians

57, 58 Bacon and brown sauce

59 Tulips

60 Fish and chips

61 Giselle

62 Airfix

63 Firefighters

64 Rain

65 Libraries

66 Raymond Carver

67 Toulouse-Lautrec

68 The Goldfinch

69 Wings of Desire

70 Silence

71 Elizabeth Barrett Browning

72-99 Ireland

100 Talking Heads

101 Sylvia Plath

102 Yorkshire Sculpture Park

103 My mum

104 Modigliani

105 Kurt Vonnegut

106-128 Electricity

129 The pop man

130-147 Comedians/comedy

148 Commando magazine

149 Pastry

150-156 Social media

157 David Bowie

158 Football

159 D-Day

160-194 France

195-230 Novels

231 Graphic Design

232 Viva! Roxy Music

233 – 274 Art

275 Betty Blue

276 Writing

277 Joy Division

278 – 287 Scotland

288 – 324 Italy

325 – 352 Photography

353 Leeds Utd

354 Love

355 Universe

356 Advertising

357 Pan’s Labyrinth

358 – 363 Democracy

364 Miscellaneous

365 My daughters II

If anyone wants to read any of the previous posts simply type the title into the search box on the right. (It’s underneath the ‘topic’ cloud.)

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Studio Ghibli – things for which I am grateful #50/365


Well, for my 50th post, it has to be something special. And, what better than the inimitable, Studio Ghibli.

If you’re unfamiliar with them, they are a Japanese animation house who produce some of the most original and sumptuously animated movies you will ever see.

Of course, I only really got into them because I have children, (both of whom love their films). But I would argue that any adult could watch their movies and enjoy them – they are that unique.

What I don’t want to do is get into a critique of all their films that I like. So, suffice it to say, just trust me, and try and watch as many of their films as possible – even if you don’t have kids.

How I think they differ from western animation houses is that they draw upon Japanese folklore, which is new to us and makes for very unusual storylines. Not only that, but the colours seem so much richer and vivid than what we are used to.

Another thing I love about them is that their leading protagonists tend to be girls. Which is good for my children.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away

A young girl has to enter a spirit world in order to save her parents from being permanently turned into pigs.

Spirited Away.

Spirited Away.

My neighbour, Totoro.

My neighbour, Totoro.

Totoro is a giant forest spirit who comes to the aid of two young girls who have moved to the countryside with their father while their sick mother recuperates in hospital.

My neighbour, Totoro.

My neighbour, Totoro.

Howl's Moving Castle.

Howl’s Moving Castle.

Sophie starts out as an 18-year-old hat maker, but then a witch’s curse transforms her into a 90-year-old grey-haired woman. Sophie is horrified by the change at first. Nevertheless, she learns to embrace it as a liberation from anxiety, fear and self-consciousness. She begins cleaning for the powerful wizard, Howl. And soon finds she is more and more attracted to him. But can she break the curse, not just on her, but Howl too?

Howl's Moving Castle.

Howl’s Moving Castle.

Ponyo.

Ponyo.

Ponyo is a fish who befriends a boy and desperately wants to become human.

Laputa - Castle in the Sky.

Laputa – Castle in the Sky.

Sheeta is wanted by a ruthless government agent who wants her magic amulet which will help him control the once mighty kingdom of Laputa. Aided by her faithful friend, Pazu and a gang of flying pirates, they have to thwart the dastardly, Muska.

Laputa - Castle in the Sky.

Laputa – Castle in the Sky.

Kiki's Delivery Service.

Kiki’s Delivery Service.

A young witch goes out into the world to make it for herself and sets up a delivery service.

Grave of the Fireflies.

Grave of the Fireflies.

Absolutely heartbreaking story of two brothers trying to survive the aftermath of the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan.

Grave of the Fireflies.

Grave of the Fireflies.

Some other titles that are worth mentioning: The Cat Returns, Whisper of the Heart, Princess Mononoke, Arrietty and Tales from Earth Sea.

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Waltz with Bashir.


I watched this rather haunting movie today, called Waltz with Bashir. It was written and directed by Ari Folman about his own experiences as an Israeli soldier in the 1982 war with Lebanon.

The basic premise is that Folman has no memory of the events surrounding the massacre of Palestinians at the hands of the Christian Phalange in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

Years later, Folman is plagued by hallucinations and nightmares, but can’t decipher what these might mean. So he embarks on a journey of self-discovery by contacting members of his old army unit to try and piece back his memory of the horrific event, and the role he, and his unit, played in it.

It’s spine tingling stuff. Exquisite animation makes it all the more surreal and poignant.

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Waltz With Bashir rabid dogs

Waltz with Bashir

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And while we’re on the subject, head over to Amazon and buy my book please. It’s called Love is Blood. Thank you.

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The Bible, II – Some questions answered.


I had a bit of exciting news yesterday.

The Guardian ran a competition to pitch ideas for a new TV series to a panel of judges from the industry and get their feedback.

Ten ideas were shortlisted and sent to the judges who critiqued them. My idea, The Bible, II made it into the top ten. You can see all the shortlisted entries here.

The competition was judged by four preeminent industry professionals: Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of Gilmore Girls and Bunheads; Stuart Heritage, Guardian television, film and music writer; Larry Andries, producer and writer for Supernatural, Alias and Six Feet Under; and Dee Johnson, executive producer and writer for Nashville, formerly of The Good Wife, ER and Melrose Place.

The Bible, II, comedy, David Milligan-Croft,

God?

SYNOPSIS

The Bible, II.

Logline: God comes back to Earth for a bit of weed – only to discover what a mess humans have made of the place. It’s time to put things straight. But sorting out the human race isn’t as easy as it looks.

It’s like: The gritty, down-to-earth comedy of Shameless, meets the surreal world of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Pitch: God is a disheveled, hedonistic, naive, wanderer who returns to Earth, with his sidekick, Archangel Gabriel, for a bit of ganja. Unbeknownst to him, the cheese sandwich he left behind a few millennia previously has evolved into the human race who’ve transformed his garden of paradise into a veritable shithole. And he’s not happy about it one little bit. God decides to take whoever is in charge to task – in this case – the Prime Minister of Britain. But, for every problem he solves, he seems to create another one. On the run from the government, God is ably assisted by the former secretary to the PM, the sophisticated and savvy, Sophie Chalmers. They embark on a whirlwind tour of the world’s problems, discovering just what it means to be human.

Quote: On being told drugs are illegal and highly addictive by a bartender… GOD: “Not half as fucking addictive as oxygen, mate. What if I make that illegal?”

SERIES OUTLINE FOR: THE BIBLE, II.

EPISODE 1.

GOD returns to earth and sees what a mess the place is. God realizes it’s his mistake and starts to sort the place out. GOD takes the PM hostage, sorts out the war in Afghanistan and the oil crisis at the same time.

SUB PLOT: SOPHIE helps GOD discover what it is to be human.

EPISODE 2.

Running earth isn’t as easy as it looks. Millions of people’s livelihoods have been taken away as a result of the world’s oil supply running out. GOD sets about
switching to renewable energy and ending global pollution.

SUB PLOT: SOPHIE teaches GOD to take responsibility.

EPISODE 3.

GOD can’t understand why millions of people are starving so he sorts out starvation and hunger. But some people aren’t too happy about having to share with the less fortunate. He also can’t understand why we eat living creatures so he extols the virtues of vegetarianism, good weed and cheese sandwiches.

SUB PLOT: SOPHIE teaches GOD about mortality.

EPISODE 4.

GOD can’t quite get his head around the fact that some people live in luxury and some people in poverty, so he sorts out world poverty and divvies up the dosh. This causes riots in rich first-world countries.

SUB PLOT: SOPHIE teaches GOD selflessness.

EPISODE 5.

Killing is beyond GOD’S comprehension. GOD gets into a scrap with OBAMA and PUTIN. GOD puts an end to all the world’s conflicts. The knock-on effect is a population boom which the Earth can’t sustain.

SUB PLOT: GOD explains the devil to mankind.

EPISODE 6.

The next level: GOD teaches SOPHIE about life, the universe, immortality and that anything’s possible.

SUB PLOT: ANGEL GABRIEL explains GOD to SOPHIE.

EPISODE 7. GOD rested.

JUDGES COMMENTS

I think some of the criticisms that the judges raised are very valid. Others I have already addressed. (There was a very limited word count on the submission so I had to leave certain bits out.)

I’d like to address some of the other concerns here, (just in case any producers are looking in).

Palladino’s concerns: Why does God need to find out what it is to be human?” And why is God an idiot? Would an idiot really be able to be God? Why am I looking for any sort of reality in this? Because if there isn’t any, even with the weirdest shows, they don’t work.

I think the first mistake is to compare this god with the God of real The Bible. He isn’t a Christian god, he’s the creator of the universe. He created it for his own pleasure, not ours. He didn’t know we existed so, yes – he’s fallible.

I have already written a pilot episode and in that we see that God isn’t an idiot. Naive maybe, but not stupid. Part of his incomprehension about how violent humans can be is because he doesn’t understand it – ultimately, he’s a very nice guy!

In terms of the ‘reality’, I think that is covered in the various scenarios God has to try and sort out which are outlined in the other episodes. (The judges did not see these. There wasn’t room.)

Heritage’s concerns: I love this idea. It’s bold and inventive and a million miles away from the majority of humdrum workaday sitcoms. I really want to see it get made. But with a couple of tweaks …

A couple of lines in the pitch – “a whirlwind tour of the world’s problems” and the monologue about how to stop the war – make me think that the writer might suffer from a bad case of the Sorkins. Whoever came up with this, I’m worried that they want to treat the show as a manifesto for how they’d like to fix the world. They transparently see themselves as the voice of God, which is sort of icky. But if God was written as more of a dick – more fallible and stupid and confused about the mess he’s made – it’d have so much more potential. Also, I can’t think of anything more depressing than a God who can quote comparethemarket.com adverts, but that’s beside the point.

I’m not sure where the reference to comparethemarket.com adverts is, so I’ll skip that one.

I think a ‘transparent manifesto’ is a very valid point. Rather than push my own agenda, (I’m not a vegetarian!!), I wanted to strip humankind down to its most basic level in order to be fair and just. God’s dilemma here is that for each problem he resolves, he creates another one. (If you stop oil production – millions are out of work and where do we get our energy etc.)

I wanted the viewer to see this ‘fair and just world’ and ask – Actually, do I really want to share my wealth, my luxury so that others in poorer countries can have a better life?

Johnson’s concerns: Love the irreverence of this pitch and the world. Needless to say, it’s a political can of worms, as a lot of believers would truly bristle at this depiction. And it would take a mighty brave studio/network president to get behind this sort of polarizing concept. That said, the pitch itself is quite entertaining. I’d watch this but I’m probably not representative of the largest markets. A Netflix-type situation might be for this as a series. What’s missing, however, is what God wants. Is it something that he ultimately can’t have? A girlfriend? For me the largest problem here as a writer is working through the logic problems in terms of God’s powers versus the government’s.

Ironically, what god wants is to be loved. But we don’t know that from the start because of his selfish hedonistic ways. It is only when he discovers humankind that he realises he is missing out on something much more fulfilling – love.

In terms of his superpowers, again, this isn’t the God of The Bible, this god is fallible in lots of ways.

Andries’ concerns: This pitch is a challenge. There’s no middle ground here. The premise is so out there that’s it’s either a really good idea or a highly problematic one. I lean toward “good idea” with one big proviso: the pitch desperately needs to be on solid footing with its tone. God as a hedonistic ganja-seeking wanderer is a premise with little margin for error. It would help to give a reference point for the type of creative eye the writer envisions. For example: “Imagine if Quentin Tarantino, Monty Python or fill-in-the-blank created a half hour comedy.” If I were a network executive, my strong recommendation would be to re-pitch the idea as an animated comedy. That format allows for more outrageous, over-the-top storytelling than the literalness of filmed comedy.

Can’t really argue with any of that!

I’d just also like to include a couple more quotes that The Guardian sent me that they couldn’t fit on the website:

Amanda Holpuch: Your pitch was Dee Johnson’s favorite and Larry Andries favorite in the Comedy category and they each included special notes about your pitch we couldn’t fit in the interactive. Stuart Heritage said: “Lights Out is my favourite (very closely followed by Bible II)”.

Larry Andries: COMEDY WINNER: THE BIBLE II
It would make me nervous to say yes, but that’s the exciting thing. Sometimes a network has to take a big swing. If it’s developed carefully, it will be a buzzed about, Twitterworthy comedy with cutting social commentary. The next South Park. Or it will be cancelled after the third episode. But these are the risks programmers make every season.

Dee Johnson: In terms of my favorite, I would have to say I found Bible II the most entertaining. But that said, it’s probably one of the most challenging to mount because of its subject matter. In terms of taking it to the next step, I would suggest the writer give serious thought to what episodes look like – does God just handle a different world problem every week?  Is there a series long arc that takes him from just showing up to leaving the world again?

So, if there are any producers / directors out there who’d like to discuss it further, just holler.

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Top 10 bestest kids’ films of all time – ever!


So, just to recap: We’ve had love films, sci-fi and war movies.

Next up – kids’ films. This could be the hardest one of all as there are so many brilliant movies out there aimed at Tranquilityslayers. Particularly from the studios of Pixar, Dreamworks, Aardman and Ghibli.

It’s a toughy as I could pick ten Studio Ghibli movies in a heartbeat. But where would that leave that dastardly Gru of Despicable Me fame?

If you’re a grown up and you don’t have Walletsuckers then you might not have seen most/any of these flicks. But, I can assure you, there’s nothing childish about them. If you love a good movie, then you’ll love these.

I’m not sure my kids will agree with me. But what do they know.

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A classic tale originally penned by Rudyard Kipling. Mowgli – a man-cub, is brought up by wolves and then ordered to return to the man-village for his own protection because Shere Khan, aka “Stripes”, is the tiger who wants a piece of him. Or, more accurately, several pieces. But Mowgli wants to stay in the jungle much to his escort’s dismay – Bagheera the panther. Cue – Baloo the sloth-bear, who has got to be the coolest bear that there ever was. Some banging tunes that I can still sing all the words to today. Much to my kids’ embarrassment.

shrek_01You could pick any one of the five Shrek movies in the franchise, as they are all cracking yarns. I think my favourite would have to be the second when Latin Lothario, Puss in Boots, makes an appearance, voiced by Antonnio Banderas. Eddie Murphy is brilliant as Shrek’s unwanted sidekick. While Cameron Diaz plays the ass-kicking Princess Fiona. Great characters and great to see that ugly is the new beauty.

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Another character voiced by Mike Meyers. I love the Dr Seuss books. Fantastically surreal tales with exquisite rhymes. Myers does justice to the mischievous feline with just enough adult humour thrown in for good measure. Thing 1 and Thing 2 are on hand to add mayhem and contradiction into the mix. Which is precisely why I now refer to my two children by those monikers.

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What happens to superheroes when their services are no longer required by the govt.? They’re put on the scrapheap like the rest of us. But the govt. didn’t manage to put the villains on the scrapheap. Cue – Mr Incredible making an unsuccessful middle-aged comeback. Cue2: Mom and the kids have to save the day. And the world.

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What happens to dysfunctional experiments that have gone wrong? They’re locked away by the govt., of course. (Again.) Until the earth is about to be destroyed by an evil alien overlord who wants his quantonium back that has turned the would-be-bride, Susan into Ginormica. Then, said ‘mutants’ are released to do battle with the alien invaders. Reluctant heroine, Susan, has to galavanise the hapless crew together to defeat the despotic Gallaxhar.

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Again, you could pick any one of the wonderful Aardman-created Wallace and Gromit movies. I’m going to plum for “A close shave”.  W&G have to foil a dastardly plot by the evil robodog to turn sheep normally bred for wool, into dog meat. Dum, dum – duuuurrrrhh.

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At the heart of most of these movies is a great idea. And here’s another – a parallel world inhabited by monsters who access our world via kids’ bedroom closets in order to steal their screams. Which they need in order to convert into energy to power their world. Monstropolis is turned to chaos when a human-child gets into their world thanks to the evil ‘Randal’ who wants to kidnap kids to extract more energy from them. Fortunately, Sully and Mike, (John Goodman and Billy Chrystal), are on hand to bring normality back to Monstropolis. And who could forget the company motto: We scare because we care.

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Wall-E could conceivably make it into 3 out of the 4 categories: kids, romance and sci-fi. I love this movie. Probably because I can empathise with the low-tech, no-hope, love-struck, fool of a robot who will do anything for the love of his life – the high-tec probe sent to earth – Eve.

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I could fill all ten slots with the movies from Studio Ghibli. But alas, I shall have to pick one for representative purposes. Spirited Away is a surreal tale about a girl who gets transported into a spirit world and must battle said spirits in order to escape and save her parents from being permanently turned into pigs. Exquisite animation. It was this or Ponyo.

despicable_me_final_posterYou guessed it, my number one – Despicable Me. Supervillain – Gru will do anything to steal the moon. Including adopting three orphaned girls. But his heart is melted when he actually begins to care for them. Lovely co-performance from Dr Nefario voiced by Russell Brand. Not forgetting high praise too for Gru’s adorably mischievous Minions.

There we are now, not a nauseatingly disproportionate princess in sight. Well, Princess Fiona is a little bit disproportionate – but in a good way.

Notable worthy exceptions: Toy Story; Up; Chitty, Chitty, Bang-Bang; Willy Wonka; Nanny McPhee; Brave; Tangled; Megamind; Ponyo… I could go on.

What’ve I missed? Let me know your favourites.

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Perfection


To achieve perfection takes trial and error.

If others are involved in your task, they may see your experimentation as indecision.

Ignore that gnawing urge to placate them for an easier life, and press on with your goal.

Only then, will you hope to attain something that you can be 85 – 90% satisfied with.

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The Boating Party – with Eoin Coveney


Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881. By Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Well, it’s been a while…

Welcome to the first Boating Party interview of 2013.

The Boating Party is a series of interviews with writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, sculptors, illustrators, designers and the like.

In times of economic hardship, the Arts are usually the first things to be axed. But, in my view, the Arts are the most important aspect of our civilisation. Without the arts, we wouldn’t have language or the written word. Without the arts, we have no culture. Without culture, we have no society. Without society, we have no civilisation. And without civilisation, we have anarchy. Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many artists view themselves as rebels to society.

To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers.

And perhaps, most importantly; without the Arts, where’s the creativity that will solve the world’s problems? Including economic and scientific ones?

First up, in this luckiest of lucky years, is Graphic Artist, Eoin Coveney

Eoin Coveney

Eoin Coveney

What’s your greatest personal or career achievement?

Working with, and being mentored by, the late Will Eisner.

What’s been your greatest sacrifice?

I really can’t think of one. Maybe I sacrificed some of my social life working in a solitary environment?

To whom do you owe a debt of gratitude?

I owe Steve McManus of 2000AD for giving me a meeting many years ago even though it was against their policy.

Who and what inspire you?

European masters of the graphic novel such as  Moebius and Cam Kennedy.
Music and cinema also.

What was the last thing that inspired you?

Drawing a 6- page comic strip written by Gordon Rennie. It was a politics / zombie satire which was a joy to work on.

What makes you unhappy?

Lack of enthusiasm.

What makes you happy?

Trust.

What are you reading?

Nothing right now. My last was “A short history of nearly everything” by Bill Bryson.

Who, or what, are you listening to?

Lots of dark ambient right now.

What’s your favourite film?

Impossible to narrow it down. “The Host” is pretty close to perfect.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

I’d probably be too worried about getting stuck there so I would stay here given the choice.

What frightens you?

Laziness.

What do you do to relax?

Noodling around on my microKorg.

What do you do when you’re angry?

Scream into a pillow.

What can’t you live without?

I would say music.

What’s your motto?

Keep on learning and improving.

What’s your Utopia?

Probably West Cork in August.

If you only had one year to live what would you do?

Six months frenzied work, three months of traveling and another three months of relaxing with friends and loved ones.

Up who’s arse would you like to stick a rocket, and why?

Probably Damien Hirst because he doesn’t feel the need to manufacture and craft his own art.

Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?

Howard Marks.

 What are you working on at the moment?

“American Caesar”, a graphic novel written by Neil Kleid.

What is your ambition?

To work hard on cool projects with brilliant people.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

I’d like to turn down the dial on human greed a good few notches.

Which six people would you invite to your boating party?

Fiancée, parents, 3 close friends… no celebrities!

What would be on the menu?

Greek food.

What question would you liked me to have asked?

“What’s it all about?”

Thank you, Eoin.

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Artist’s statement:

I have been illustrating professionally for 14 years. 
For the first ten of those years, I worked mostly on
 the pre-production phase for many of Dublin’s top
 advertising agencies. Producing
storyboards & visuals for hundreds of campaigns.


In 2005  I joined the Illustrators Guild of Ireland,
 and since then have broadened my range of styles 
and disciplines. These days, my work is split pretty
 evenly between illustration for ad campaigns,
 book covers and interiors, press and magazine
 work as well as pre-production work.
 Private commissions also undertaken.

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