Dolphin Book in progress 1: cat plays with unicorn’s tail

I’m making a fully illustrated picture book of my poem ‘Dolphins Keep Me Safe in Dreams’. I intend it to be a  richly romantic book of travel, freedom, faraway places and the mysteries of sleep.  I’m going to blog about it as it develops. I want the blog to be a way of thinking about drawing and a way of capturing the out – takes and tangents that appear in my sketchbook. So, this is work in progress part 1.

I began by inventing the heroine and getting to know her a bit:Dolphin 1

I got distracted and drew my kids, who were sitting watching telly and having breakfast a few days after Christmas:

Dolphin 2

Drawing is a way of helping me to notice, look closely and remember. I etch their wonderfully familiar mannerisms onto  my mind by drawing.


Dolphin 3Dolphin 4

Back on the book…the poem began with me remembering the horrible whispery pillow noises that gave me nightmares when I was about 10. The pillow noises have become ‘pillow ghosts’ in the poem. When I drew and visualised them they became ‘nosey ghosts’: I want their snuffly noses to be truelly vile. I think the child catcher from Chitti Chitti Ban Bang is an inspiration.

Dolphin 6

Dolphins rescue our heroine (as yet nameless) from the nosey ghosts:

Dolphin 5

Doplphin 7

Cat comes too. I’m going to love designing a coat of arms for their boat.

They travel to various islands…the first I’ve started drawing is the one where ‘Unicorns play in a crumbling fort’. I want to draw myself into faraway island worlds that have something of the wild otherness of ‘The Wanderings of Oisin’ by WB Yeats but with something more homely going on.

Dolphin 8

Spreading the poem over a whole book allows our travelers to get on the island and play with the unicorns. Cat plays with a unicorns tail…

Dolphin 9

…while a unicorn tells our heroine a secret that makes sleep happy and safe.

So, by drawing and struggling and messing about in my sketchbook I find a remote island faraway in the depths of sleep where a kind unicorn will always speak words of comfort. Words that are forgotten in the morning. For some reason I don’t want to publish the rest of the drawing yet- I don’t want people to see the unicorn talking to the girl until the book’s done.

If drawing techniques are overly planned and formulaic I don’t discover ideas like this as I go along.  I have to find ways of making things resistant and difficult so the drawings surprise me.

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4 Comments on “Dolphin Book in progress 1: cat plays with unicorn’s tail”


  1. Oh this is going to be beautiful – I already love the drawings (and the idea, of course!) I laughed (out loud, really I did. The dog thinks I’m nuts) at the drawing of the penguin onesie and the bear hat. What a wild concoction! 😀

    I really enjoy your style of drawing, its very loose and it has energy. I agree with the *too planned* style. It has its place, but personally I think it limits the imagination. Well it does mine anyway – I have to make the most of what little I have, haha!

    • edboxall Says:

      Thank you Pixie! i’m really glad you enjoyed the drawings. I’ve been enjoying your blog and love your spontaneous drawings. These little tangents often capture the moment much better than things we sweat over. x

  2. Tammie Says:

    this sounds like a wonderful story, both for children and people who have lived much longer…. charming sketches too~

  3. artsofmay Says:

    Delightful and beautifully done. I agree that overly formulaic work can stifle new ideas.


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