These were the first two illustrations I completed for ‘The Squeeping Catterwhip’ – a commission from poet Michael H Lester.

The sunrise painting was my initial reaction to the opening line of Michael’s poem – “In a land of Slivenish Creatures’.

Being a ‘nonsense’ poem, in the style of Jabberwocky, I had free reign over the look, chiefly because little or nothing in poem exists in our world, and I initially took ‘slivenish’ to be a catch-all term, and so my first exercise was to sketch out a land of slivenish creatures, from which I’d later choose some of the main characters and locations in the book.

As I’d drawn the opening spread as a sunrise, I realised that the poem could be bracketed by two such spreads, with the final at night time and the poem taking place over the course of a day.

An early Zuider Zee can be seen on the first spread, and the giant lizard on the second spread became the template for the Sliveners. Although the opening spread is the latest draft, it still hints at my original idea, that the sky would be another ocean, with waterspouts stretching between them. I eventually abandoned this, but kept the floating islands and sky whales.