Are you #TeamThor or #TeamLoki? Vote today on Discover Kelpies!

by Discover Kelpies - October 24th, 2014

We do like a Norse god here at DiscoverKelpies Towers, which is why we LOVE Robert J. Harris’ hilarious adventures The Day The World Went Loki and Thor is Locked in my Garage! Set in St Andrews, the Master of Mischief, the Prince of Pranks Loki tries to take over the world not once, but twice! Luckily for us, troublesome twosome Greg and Lewis are there to save the day, with a little help from Thor himself.

Exciting stuff, eh? So imagine our delight when we found Loki’s Top Secret Very Important Personal Diary just lying on our desks. It would have been rude NOT to read it… Right?

Lokiday 32nd October 2014

Dear Diary,

Worst. Day. Ever.

I had such grand plans for today. Such grand plans. I even had my special green suit – My Taking Over The Universe Suit – dry-cleaned for the occasion. Today was the day Larry O’Keefe took his rightful place on the throne of Asgard.

Or it would have been. If only it hadn’t been for those pesky kids.

Greg and Lewis McBride. Pah! Those chumps would never have been able to defeat me this time. They’re just loki (ho, ho, ho, I do still like a wee joke) that Susie ‘Toots’ Spinetti and that meathead Thor were around. It’s like they’ve nothing better to do with their time than get under my feet.

It was a great plan, Diary. I’d spent months tracking down the Fimbulwinter box, convincing hotshot Hollywood halfwit Garth Makepeace to take me with him to St Andrews, even learning how to play golf! Alright, I didn’t spend as long on that one as I should have, but what’s an outcast Norse god to do when there’s not enough hours in the day?

And for what? For nothing, that’s what. My ice monsters, my precious toys, smashed to pieces. And I’m pretty sure there’s no Yggdrasil seed in the Herbs and Condiments aisle in the local supermarket.

They’ll see. They’ll ALL see. There’s two things you should never do. Never steal a banana from a gorilla and never try to trick the god of mischief.

Oh yes, I’ve got another big plan. I’m going to take over the world, but this time it’s DIGITAL! And the first place I’m going to take over is DiscoverKelpies…




Watch out, readers! Looks like Loki will be taking to Twitter (@DiscoverKelpies) and Facebook today… Good job Thor is here to help us keep him in check! Join in the fun online and let us know if you’re #TeamLoki or #TeamThor.

And if you want to read more about Loki and Thor’s adventures in St Andrews, The Day The World Went Loki and Thor is Locked in my Garage! are available online and in bookshops now. It’s also our Book of the Month, if you fancy pitting your skills against our quiz to win a free copy!

#FlorisDesign Illustrator Interview: Si Clark

by Discover Kelpies - October 1st, 2014

Header PDFIllustrator of…


A few weeks ago, the team here at Discover Kelpies were thrilled to announce that three (yes, THREE!) of our lovely titles had been shortlisted for the 2015 Scottish Children’s Book Awards! The following week #FlorisDesign introduced you to the first of the three illustrators involved, the fantastic Luke Newell – illustrator of Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens. This week we’re continuing our SCBA showcase with Pyrate’s Boy illustrator, Si Clark, whose swashbuckling cover would make anybody’s timbers shiver!


Ahoy Si! Thanks for taking the time to chat to us today! We’re beyond excited to hear all about your inspiration for Pyrate’s Boy, did you find it easy to get started?

Yes, I really enjoy working on Pirate themed illustrations. I grew up playing the Monkey Island games on the PC in the 90s which have inspired my work a lot.

Quite a few of our illustrators have referenced video games amongst their inspiration so it seems we have a lot to thank them for! So what’s your favourite part of the Pyrate’s Boy cover?

I like the golden colour scheme, I think it fits well with the theme. And the illustrated parts of the book title.

We love the golden colours too, although our favourite bit might be the crossed swords! Now our readers may well be interested to know that you’re not only an illustrator but an animator as well. What made you want to illustrate and animate?

I’ve wanted to do both since I was about 8. The Monkey Island computer games I mentioned before (and others like Day of the Tentacle and Sam & Max) inspired me a lot (along with lots of other things along the way) so always knew what I wanted to do with my life.

It’s great to hear that it’s been a lifelong passion! So working in both illustration and animation must require quite different approaches, do you prefer to work digitally or traditionally?

My work is a mixture of both. All of the elements of my illustrations are either drawn or painted by hand or are textures that I have found and scanned in. I use Photoshop in my work as I like to have every element on a separate layer so I can make any changes very easily. With animation I either draw every frame or draw directly on the computer.

It’s interesting to know that both your illustration and animation work requires a bit of both. So do you have a favourite thing to draw or animate?

Yes, I like creating my own little worlds and making odd little creatures to inhabit them.

That sounds fun! We do hope you’ve created a pirate world! Now, this is something we ask all of our illustrators – what do you do if you get stuck or illustrators’ block on a brief?

I get ideas for things pretty quickly most of the time. But sometimes there is a project where it’s much harder to get the idea. If this happens I will just do as much research as I can on the subject and then go and do something else like house work or going to the shops, something to take my mind off the problem and then just wait for my unconscious to work it out and then the idea pops up in my conscious mind.

That sounds like a good solution! So do you have a favourite illustrator or animator?

I really love the work of animator/director Marc Craste, especially his short film JoJo in the Stars which is truly beautiful.

Thanks for pointing us in his direction – what lovely work! And finally, because you are both an animator and an illustrator, do you ever think about how your 2D characters would move and act if they were animated? Do the two disciplines compliment one another?

Yes, I think they work well together. Whenever I have ideas for characters then they are always moving about in my imagination. They are pretty similar professions. And yes, even when I’m doing an illustration they are normally of a scene in the middle of some action so the whole scene will be playing out in my head so I can stop the camera at the right point to get the rid composition. If that makes sense.

It does indeed, thanks again Si!

Si achieved a First in his Illustration degree at The Arts Institute at Bournemouth. To see more of his brilliant work you can visit his website, his Bright Agency profile page or follow him on Twitter.

ColinPyrate'sBoy-SHORTLISTClick on the cover for more info on Pyrate’s Boy and to use our exciting See Inside feature!

Clip clop CRASH! Yann and the Fabled Beasts gang are taking over DiscoverKelpies for a day!

by Discover Kelpies - September 26th, 2014

Good morning Kelpies fans! We found this very mysterious blog waiting for us when we arrived at DiscoverKelpies Towers so of course we had to share it with you…

FBC covers

Clip clop tip tap…

Helen : What are you doing, Yann?

Yann: *tapping furiously at the keyboard* I’m writing a blog post for Discover Kelpies about those new covers for the Fabled Beast Chronicles, and the takeover day where we get to write lots of tweets…

Rona : *pokes her head round the door* Why are you writing it? I thought we agreed we were all going to draft it together.

Yann: But I’m the best at telling stories, so I’ll be the best at writing blogs too.

Helen: But you can’t even type! You usually write on scrolls and parchment and stuff.

Yann: Yes, but I’m fidnign teh lerttes quite easily. Anyway, the Fabled Beasts Chronicles are about ME. I’m clearly the hero in all four books: I kick down doors to get you lot out of trouble, I gallop all over the countryside with you on my back, and I have at least one epic fight in each book…

Rona: Don’t be daft, Yann. These books are about Helen. She uses her first aid kit to heal every one of us at various times, she solves most of the puzzles in First Aid for Fairies, she’s nearly kidnapped by the Faery Queen in Wolf Notes, she helps me compete in the sea singer contest in Storm Singing, and she saves your life at least once in Maze Running!

Catesby: *butts in* Hold on, I thought the books were about me! I get 3 chapters of my own in Maze Running. Anyway, if this is about Twitter, a bird is the obviously best character to be tweeting…

Yann: Yes, but they’re doing it on Facebook too, and we can’t really see your face past all those feathers. So I think I should be in charge of the WHOLE takeover day…

Rona: Shhh! Who’s that at the door?

*Three booming voices outside*  Mwahaha. Obviously the villains are the most important characters in any adventure books! So we will have to stage a takeover of their takeover…

Helen: Oh no! It’s the Master of the Maze, the Faery Queen, and the sea-through sea monster. We’d better get out of here, now! Is there a tunnel out of Discover Kelpies Towers, do you think? We’ll have to sneak back in to write a few tweets later today…

Keep your eyes peeled, because it looks like Helen, Yann the centaur, Rona the selkie, Catesby the phoenix and the rest of the Fabled Beasts gang will be taking over our Twitter feed, Facebook page and Pinterest boards today! If they ever manage to escape the Master… (Nice of them to tell us beforehand!)

Posted by: Yann, Helen, Rona and Catesby (and Nuria) at DiscoverKelpies

#FlorisDesign Illustrator Interview: Philip Longson

by Discover Kelpies - September 24th, 2014

HeaderIllustrator of…DonTale of Tam LinnFor the last three weeks we’ve dedicated our #FlorisDesign take-overs to showcasing our wonderfully talented Traditional Scottish Tales illustrators! We kicked off our interview series with The Dragon Stoorworm illustrator, Matthew Land, followed by The Selkie Girl illustrator, Ruchi Mhasane, and for our final instalment we have the brilliant illustrator of Lari Don’s The Tale of Tam Linn, Philip Longson. Read on to learn about where he found his inspiration, his favourite page in the book, and advice to his younger self…

Hi Philip! Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your beautiful illustrations for The Tale of Tam Linn! So where did you look for inspiration when preparing to illustrate this tale?

I always try to take inspiration from as many diverse sources as I can. For this book I looked at some of the classic illustrators of fairy tales (Arthur Rackham, Ivan Bilibin, Edmund Dulac) as well as paintings, landscape photography, books on Scottish history, concept artwork for films and lots of other things.

What a great variety of sources! You can really see the influence of classic fairy tales in the Tam Linn illustrations. Now, The Tale of Tam Linn is a very dramatic tale with dramatic illustrations to match – do you have a favourite?

Probably the page where Tam is turned into a swan and Janet is holding on. That piece came together pretty smoothly and I think it came out well.

tam as swan

It’s one of our favourites too! We love the movement in this one, and the brightness of the swan against the ominous dark background is beautiful. The colours in The Tale of Tam Linn are very striking, how did you decide on the colour palette for this tale?

Besides looking at the Scottish countryside I also looked at concept artwork for films like The Lord of the Rings and Pixar’s Brave.

The Dragon Stoorworm illustrator, Matthew Land, looked at Brave for inspiration too – it seems we owe Pixar a thank you! Now, we’ve been asking all of our Traditional Tales illustrators if they have a favourite fairy or folk tale, what’s yours?

I always struggle to choose favourites. I have previously made some illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, I find them particularly interesting. Especially The Wild Swans and The Tinderbox.

It’s difficult when there’s so many to choose from! So is this what you expected working as an illustrator would be like?

In  many ways yes and in many ways no, But there’s always something to learn from each project.

And do you find it different working under contract than for personal projects?

It definitely is different, but that’s good, I think it offers a good balance. Personal work is open to infinite possibilities which can be paralysing sometimes, so having a project with definite objectives and limitations helps to counterbalance that. I often find that I have lots of ideas for other pieces while I’m working on projects.

Page 25 2nd roughSo is there any advice you wish you could give to your younger illustrator-self?

Far too much to write here! Probably two main things though.

1. When planning your time, everything will take twice as long as you think.

2. “Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.” – John Cleese.

That’s some great advice, I’m sure all of our younger selves would appreciate wisdom from John Cleese! Now, do you have a favourite spot you like to work in?

I’ve had to move around a bit over the past few years, so I don’t have a permanent set-up just yet. But usually somewhere light, spacious and quiet. I also like to share studio space with other artists, it’s really helpful to have others around to bounce ideas off and get some second opinions.

It’s always good to get feedback on your work and it must be inspiring to work in a space full of artists. So what made you want to become an illustrator?

Well, I love art and I love stories, and illustration has both of those things. I was never particularly interested in making images of still life or landscapes, I always wanted to tell stories.

Well we’re very glad you illustrated this fantastic tale! Now, your work is a mixture of traditional and digital methods, which do you prefer? Are there benefits of combining the two methods?

Working digitally gives you a huge amount of freedom and an ability to try things out quickly in a non-permanent way. However, drawing is the basis of everything I make and I couldn’t do that digitally. So, it’s just a case of using the tools that work well for me.

Do you have a favourite thing to draw?

Like I said, I’m not good at picking favourites. But, I always love drawing trees, especially old, twisted ones.

Page 4 and 5 Final Flat

We love these wonderfully twisted and gnarly trees in the opening pages of The Tale of Tam Linn. Now, what do you do if you get stuck or illustrators’ block on a brief?

Well, the worst thing to do is stare at a blank page waiting for an idea. I usually dive into the research and pretty soon I’ll find something that sparks my interest.  Getting the ball rolling is that hardest part, but the good thing about working from a brief is that it usually gives you a few things to latch onto to get started.

Blank pages can certainly be very intimidating! So when you’re looking for inspiration do you have any favourite illustrators you look to?

Probably James Jean. He’s had the biggest influence on my work and me. The first time I saw his work it just blew me away, it showed me the sort of things that are possible.

Philip studied at Edinburgh College of Art. To see more of his wonderful work you can visit his website, check out his tumblr, or follow him on Twitter.

DonTale of Tam LinnClick on the cover for more info on The Tale of Tam Linn and to see more beautiful illustrations using our See Inside feature. You can also see all of our beautiful Traditional Scottish Tales on our big sister website!

#FlorisDesign Illustrator Interview: Ruchi Mhasane

by Discover Kelpies - September 17th, 2014


Illustrator of…MackaySelkie Girl

Last Wednesday we introduced you to the first of our Traditional Scottish Tales illustrators, Matthew Land – illustrator of Theresa Breslin’s The Dragon Stoorworm and this week we have the fabulous Ruchi Mhasane! Ruchi is the illustrator of Janis Mackay’s beautiful tale, The Selkie Girl, and here she is to tell you all about her work!


Hi Ruchi! We’re so excited to hear all about The Selkie Girl. So how did you get started?

I looked at a lot of Scottish landscape photographs, some kindly sent to me by Leah and some by friends who’d been there. I had also seen some observation drawings by a good friend who had visited Scotland for a birding trip, and had heard and read about it. There is nothing like visiting the actual place to be truly inspired, but unfortunately, I only managed to visit Scotland many months after I’d finished the illustrations for The Selkie Girl.

We think you captured Scotland beautifully, and we’re glad you finally had a chance to visit! The Selkie Girl is a very emotional story, but what aspect gave you the strongest visual image?

I think the entire story is very evocative. The scenes at the beginning on the beach where Fergus finds the fur, were really very clear in my mind. Perhaps that is because the scene is built up over a couple of spreads, but I could really strongly see them.

page 8-9 colour v1

Fergus finding the selkie skin is one of #FlorisDesign‘s favourite spreads! The contrast between Shonagh’s panic and Fergus’ happiness is really clearly shown. Do you have a favourite?

Yes, the one where Shonagh looks out at the moonlit sea! I feel like that really touches the core of the strong sense of belonging that she has towards the sea.

page 14-15 colour v1

We agree, she looks heartbroken to be separated from it. One of our favourite elements of The Selkie Girl is the use of colour, how did you decide on the colour palette?

I knew that it had to be gentle and magical and include the natural colours of the Highlands, but it took a while to get the balance of gentle and vibrant right. I tend to enjoy subtle colour so it is sometimes a challenge for me to keep my images from being too dull.

Well we think you achieved that balance perfectly – The Selkie Girl is far from dull! Now, we’ve been asking our Traditional Scottish Tales illustrators if they have a favourite folk tale or if they were read any as a child, do you have any childhood favourites?

I listened to many Indian folk tales of talking animals and birds with humour, wit and much wisdom woven into them. I don’t quite have a favourite, but a funny one I remember being told (almost sung to) was about a poor little mouse who finds a piece of cloth and wants to make a hat out of it; he asks for help in the washing, dyeing, stitching of it; nobody takes him seriously at first but he perseveres and at the end makes a hat he thinks is finer than the king’s!

In terms of books, we had some Russian picturebooks which had Russian folk tales; one that I used to adore was about a clever little hump-backed horse who helps his young peasant owner in his troubles. We had the ballad, richly illustrated, in a thick large book, and I enjoyed the beautiful illustrations immensely!

Those stories sound very sweet and a lovely introduction to folk tales. We imagine those illustrations were very inspirational, but what made you want to become an illustrator?

I’ve been drawing all my life. Both my parents are artists and they gave my drawings full rein from my childhood. When I got into art school, illustration naturally seemed the way to go. Almost as if it was impossible not to choose it!

It sounds like fate! But is this what you expected working as an illustrator would be like?

To be honest, I didn’t quite expect anything. I never dreamed of being an illustrator as in India I didn’t see it as a major career choice, or even know of any illustrators while growing up. It just happened and I was doing drawings before I had time to think about how I’d like work to be. But in all, it has been very pleasant. I love getting new projects, building it all up in my head and I love doing the artwork. The job can be a bit unsteady at times, but that doesn’t bother me much when the work is so absorbing.

That’s great to hear, and we’re certainly very happy you chose it as a career! Do you find it different working under contract than for personal projects?

Not very. I think there are some differences with timelines, or with inputs from others, but those are easy to handle if you are working with nice, understanding people. I’m glad that the Floris team was really nice throughout the process and I didn’t feel the work restrictive in any way.

We’re so glad to hear you enjoyed working with our team, you were an absolute joy for us! So where do you like to work on your illustrations?

I am quite flexible when it comes to workspaces, especially as I’ve moved many times in the last few years. But I do like lots of natural light, and a bit of space around my artwork which I can clutter up (in the order I choose). Some peace and quiet is a must!

Ruchi’s current desk in India

Thanks, this is is a great picture! It’s always interesting to see our illustrators’ workspaces. Now, we can see both a paint palette and a laptop on your desk, do you prefer traditional or digital methods when creating your illustrations?

Oh, I’d prefer traditional over digital anytime. It allows for much better mark-making which you can never quite achieve digitally. I’ve found it is stricter as you cannot erase your mistakes easily, and it teaches you colour as you have to mix and create the right colour as opposed to choosing it on a screen. Traditional media is the more difficult choice, but it trains the artist more thoroughly. Having said that, using digital techniques for small corrections and enhancements saves loads of time and is definitely a practical option.

It’s always great to be able to use both, it seems that most of our illustrators use a combination of the two. So what do you do if you get illustrators’ block on a brief?

It is hard, but I give it time. Some free experimenting and playing with work helps a lot. It is important for me to keep trying something, perhaps other than the brief, instead of completely giving up all drawing. But complete breaks can also help, a day out with friends, or a walk or even a good book can all help ease the stress and I can then come back and look at it afresh.

And finally, who is your favourite illustrator or designer and why?

Oh, so many to list, but I love Lisbeth Zwerger! Her use of watercolour is amazing, I cannot stop looking at her images. Her tones and composition and weirdly strange characters just all come together very beautifully.


Ruchi studied Children’s Book Illustration at the Cambridge School of Art. To see more of her beautiful work you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

MackaySelkie GirlClick on the cover for more info on The Selkie Girl and to see more beautiful illustrations using our See Inside feature. You can also see all of our beautiful Traditional Scottish Tales on our big sister website!