Ian Whybrow

…coming soon…

September 28th 2013. On dinner party explosions

September 28, 2013 - Filed under: Blog - Leave a comment

Had friends to dinner last night – Don Walters and Barbara Miller; and a fine dinner it was, too, involving parma ham and celeriac and a sublime fish pie con rosti spuddatoes.  Most of us don’t drink white wine, so we had a go at a bottle of red I’ve been nursing for quite long enough – an Awatea Te Mata 2004. Sublime.

At one point, Barbara’s chair semi-exploded.  That’s to say that the bar over which she’d hooked a heel snapped off with an almighty bang. It took me back to great chair explosions of the past – the finest, which was at a very stiff supper with some Australian chums,  was spectacular.  A very boring painter who had rather put the mockers on general conversation was sitting opposite me, so I was concentrating on my plate. Quite suddenly he disappeared from view.  His chair – an antique of considerable worth until that moment, presumably – simply disintegrated in what I recall as a puff of dusty smoke, so riddled was it with worm.  The tension broke; everybody simply roared with hysterical laughter and the evening cheered up nicely after that, not the least because Ronnie felt it necessary to ply everyone with a medicinal shot of pepper vodka from his freezer.

Ronnie’s was the best funeral I have attended,  in that crowds of people stood up and attested to  his many acts of astonishing generosity. His son Julian recalled how he and his sister Marlowe had been standing on the Queen Anne table one afternoon to get a better view of something out of the window, when they heard a crack and jumped off.  That night Ronnie and Arda gave a dinner party. At around ten o’clock, the table groaned and gave way at the knees, rather like a camel sitting down.  Everything, cloth, plates, cutlery, bottles, glasses … flowed slowly and inexorably towards the centre, and plunged into a gaping hole.

“But Dad was fine,” Julian assured us, tears flowing down his cheeks. “We thought he’d go crazy but He could see the funny side of it. He never even told us off.”

September 26th 2013 Spot the Dinosaurs

September 27, 2013 - Filed under: Blog - Leave a comment

My wife’s visit to the dentist today reminded me that I must have missed my last check-up, so I gave Mr Drake a ding and he kindly agreed to see me at short notice. I was delighted to see in his drive a car with a number plate succinctly articulating his most frequently asked opening question, viz or to wit: “Any problems?” The car, it turned out belongs to his daughter Melissa but is still a good joke and a fine boost to the morale of the dental-phobic.


Mr Drake was the onlie begetter of one of my most successful books in the Harry series (the one with RAAHH! in the title, a sound which is familiar to many a dentist with a drill in his hand) He features as the dentist terrorised by a tyrannosaurus rex whose teeth he is asked to examine.


With Melissa on-hand I was able to get a snap of the two of us looking better fed than in the days when Adrian Reynolds first imagined the scene in his illustrations, and somewhat deficient in the hair department. At least the dinosaurs arranged in the far corner have changed little.

25th September 2013 The Seagull Has Landed

September 27, 2013 - Filed under: Blog - Leave a comment

I received via my contact box today a drawing from, and a letter dictated by, a small fan of The Shrinky Kid called Henry. It was a fine letter, immaculate in spelling and punctuation – which is rare these days, and it was accompanied by a fine photograph. In the drawing, the Stand Up Seagull is drawn in pink to celebrate the fact that he has made his maiden flight.




My day was also brightened by a request from Kateryna Mikalitsinya on behalf of the Old Lion publishing house in Lviv for the Ukrainian language rights to the entire Little Wolf oeuvre. Arrrroooo! (French)

September 24th, 2013. Update on the LW Tattoo & Tim’s Ted

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I’m delighted to be able to report that Eilidh’s tattoo of Little Wolf (and Stubbs) is to be joined in due course by a portrait of Smellybreff. Eilidh has confided to me (on Twitter) the whereabouts of the said small brutes. Let us simply say here that they are for public view only in a recreational situation.

I have had several more requests for signed books to support libraries. The latest was from New Jersey. I pointed out that the postage alone would send me to the poorhouse and the librarian in question is so keen that she has offered to send her mum – who lives in Southend – to bring me a book to sign. Beyond the call of duty for a mum, I would say.

The librarian’s son (Saxon) is particularly fond of Tim,Ted and the Pirates. The same is true for the son of a lady from Brisbane who has requested a transcript of the text of the last three double-page spreads that are missing from her volume.

Just to remind you – here’s the cover of this grate werk, illustrated by the boy-genius, Russell Ayto.


Oh, and this was the first in the series. Lovely chiaroscuro, by the way …



September 23rd 2013. Little Wolf makes an unexpected mark

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I’m thrilled to know that a discerning art student called Eilidh Mitchell is so keen on Little Wolf as to have had him tattooed on herself. Not quite sure exactly where yet. I’m hoping that she might have room, where ever it is, for the odd dinosaur, a meerkat or two –  and perhaps a badly behaved dog called Sniff.



September 21st 2013. Aldeburgh and Snape

September 23, 2013 - Filed under: Blog - Leave a comment

An excursion to Aldeburgh on Saturday took, as it happened, an unexpectedly musical turn. Ann and I set off with her mother, Joan, with a view to celebrating a welcome mild turn in the late September weather by taking a breath of sea air and braving the queue outside the fish and chip shop to sample a paper bagful of what claims to be the best fry-up in the country.

I took a chance, while Ann and Joan took a preprandial trawl of the shops, and called Peter Dickinson on the off-chance of a quick reunion after 50 years. A warm – and thankfully unhesitant – invitation to coffee followed and I nipped over to see him. I found a man of almost 80 bursting with ideas and enthusiasm and living in a house whose grounds accommodate not only meadow larks but a bittern. Our inevitably brief conversation included a rapid catch-up, his 18 month labour to track down everyone involved in the very successful Washington Cathedral production of his piece, written with the poet Thomas Blackburn, The Judas Tree, his recent meeting with the poet’s daughter, the novelist, Julia and their plans for a CD of the work.  I came away, cheered by my welcome and buoyed by the thought that if it’s tough for writers to get published, it’s far tougher for modern composers to be heard by virtue of the expense of productions involving choir orchestra and actors. And I’m delighted to say that I’m the proud possessor of a recording of the first performance of the afore-mentioned Washington Cathedral production.

The fish and chips were – if not perhaps superior to those of every other seaside shop in the nation including those of Anstruther in Fife– terrific, and the sea wall was crowded with happy munchers under clouds of hopeful herring gulls.   A gentle segue in the direction of Snape for tea at The Maltings was fun, too – and the drive back to Long Melford along the road that takes in Monks Eleigh, Bildestone and Barking , Needham and Clopton – was a treat in itself.

September 19th 2013. Preoccupations

September 19, 2013 - Filed under: Blog - Leave a comment


Preoccupied lately with a couple of ideas, neither of which is likely to make me any money; good fun, nonetheless. Yesterday a Russian edition of a picture book I wrote ages ago with Axel Scheffler, BG (Before the Gruffalo) turned up without warning from Macmillan. Always nice to co-edition something in these tricky times for publishing.

Roughs for the covers and inside-illustrations for a couple more Books for Boys turned up online, too, for my tweaks and comments. That’s always tricky because it demands a diplomacy that doesn’t impugn artistic integrity. I hate to have anyone look over my shoulder while I’m still working something out, which is just how that must feel for the illustrator.

Occasional bursts on the ukele provide delightful displacement activity. Since it was handed over to me during my last meeting with Les, my chum of fifty years, it feels a responsibility to get to grips with it.


Ann has had to shoot off to Cambridge to look after Amelie while Lucy nips off to start work. My instructions are to spend a bit of time tidying up …


September 16th 2013

September 18, 2013 - Filed under: Blog - Leave a comment

Red Dot.


A nude, a pint and cigarettes.

What fun.

No, no need to wrap her up.

We’ll take her as she is, thanks.


September 14th. Of Dick and Jane

September 18, 2013 - Filed under: Blog - Leave a comment



HOW many followers?

And HOW long on Twitter?

Right. That’s two hundred mill to go;

Try not to be bitter.

An absurd and obsessive lark, Twittering.  Waving meets drowning.  The imminent flotation on the stock market reminds you of its ultimate goal, which is not to promote you but to sucker you into purchases of one kind and another. Still, I’m advised by Holly, my IT guru, that I need to keep swimming or drown– so I paddle along, for better or verse – and wait for Godot.

Bought a painting yesterday, an irresistible study by our friend Dick Billingsley of a nude, a pint and a packet of fags. It’s not only the charm of the thing that attracts but its provenance. Dick is the second of ten children, whose father was a convert to Catholicism and whose mother began to realise her artistic creative ambitions only in her seventh decade when she gave up a full-time children business, took a degree and began seriously to paint and to make etchings.  Dick and his wife Jane have restored their ruin of a sixteenth century timber-framed farmhouse in Powys and abandoned London, theatrical design and teaching for a career in modelling. That’s to say, they make models of vintage Agas, bathroom furniture, fireplaces, and so on for people who take dolls’ houses seriously enough to pay handsomely for miniatures of the real thing.  Their workshop is a barn rigged with canvas sheets to accommodate the swallows that can now fly in and out and ease themselves without splattering their hosts and their work.  At this time of the year, Dick and Jane  sell family paintings including mama’s etchings) for charity. They are so content and calm and welcoming and generous and self-sufficient as to give one necessary pause about … well … twittering.

September 13th, 2013

September 18, 2013 - Filed under: Blog - Leave a comment

A Welcome Surprise.


A visitor appeared today

By way of our downstairs bog:

Clung bravely to the porcelain

And ducked away.

A frog!

Poor chap. I hope he won’t feel crushed

To be so summarily flushed.


Busy day ahead. Re-ordering the house and generally clearing up after Bob Bowen the Builder. Thank God the ceiling in the blue bedroom didn’t all have to come down and the fallout from the patch of lath and plaster that had to be replaced seems to have been kept to a minimum.

It’s H-Art week, so we must do a whistle-stop tour of some local villages to look at artworks. Tea in a pop-up café at a crafts exhibition in a tiny hamlet near Trumpet yesterday provided a very welcome break on our journey up from London yesterday. As a bonus, we had a quick tour of a delightful mishmash of a 15th century house and barn overlooking an elegantly restored  and converted hop kiln. I thought it was an oast house, being a Man of Kent, but was soon put right by our Herefordshire hostess.