Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini published by Bloomsbury 30th August 2018

 An elegiac response to the tragic images of Alan Kurdi - a young Syrian boy washed up on a beach in Turkey in 2015 - Sea Prayer takes the form of a prose poem written from the perspective of a father about to embark on a perilous journey across the Mediterranean with his son, in search of a new life. 

I was approached by Bloomsbury earlier this year to contribute illustrations to this painfully relevant project.


The illustrations in this book are perfection. They start with beautiful, rich colours that detail a breathtaking landscape. As the book progresses they become more grey, dark and ominous. This book is a perfect partnership between author and illustrator.

There are pictures throughout the book, these gorgeous sketches, and they absolutely broke my heart. It's almost excruciating to read the few lines of text and look at the pictures. And there's no resolution, because it's the night before they leave.

….and the illustrations both evocative and reflective. So much is conveyed within the words and pictures.

What a beautiful little book. I sobbed through it. The watercolors are remarkable.

The water colour illustration really help drive the words through from the serene feel of the peaceful times to the bold and black shades of the dark times.

Beautiful writing paired with hauntingly beautiful illustrations. I was moved to tears. 

In Williams's  loosely stroked ink and wash spreads, the corals and greens of the Syrian countryside give way to war's grey shadows and the sea's blue hues. Expansive views of sky and water both temper the text's emotional build and render the figures in them small and fragile. Together, the evocative illustrations and graceful, compelling prose make it clear that Marwan and his parents have no choice but to trust the sea.

A deeply moving, gorgeously illustrated short work of fiction for people of all ages from the international best-selling author of the Kite Runner, brought to life by Dan Williams's beautiful illustrations.

Train girls.jpg

An article published in 'Illustration', Summer Issue 2016, as part of their Illustrator's Notebook series

I used to keep a sketchbook with me all the time, but in recent years I’ve been doing more landscape painting and have neglected everyday figurative observations – I’ve been going to life-drawing classes instead. 

However, that changed when I went to Japan in May this year. I was expecting to continue with more land/cityscapes, but ended up sketching people. This was partly because of time and practicality. Whilst in Kyoto we visited some amazing gardens: beautifully manicured trees and shrubs, islands of rocks surrounded by flowing rivers of raked gravel. Strict etiquettes must be adhered to though, which slightly inhibited my instinct to set up with my painting materials around me. In one particular garden I was astonished to see a “No Drawing” sign, as it seems to me the most benign, contemplative thing you can do. In addition, when you’re travelling with a partner you can’t always spend hours on your own doing a painting.

But it’s easy to keep a small A6 sketchbook and basic drawing materials in your top pocket and whisk them out whenever you have a moment: in a marketplace, a sushi bar, at a bus stop or on a train. Rather than just drawing people who looked typically “Japanese”, I became interested in individuals going about their normal day-to-day routines: their styles, character and mannerisms. The Japanese  are mindful of each other’s space even in the most crowded places. People may have been curious about what I was doing, but I never felt watched. They were amazingly respectful of the six foot gaijin drawing in their midst. 

This sketchbook is my diary of the trip. When sketching, all your senses are heightened so the drawings are loaded with memories. We  interact with the world so much through our iPhones nowadays; for me it’s more interesting to “make” a drawing rather than “take” a photo. You engage more with people and events in a way that you don’t with a camera. Drawing allows you precious time to spend just looking.

Many of the drawings aren’t great, but that’s not the point. I never feel I’ve achieved what I set out to do, but if a sketch is based on an actual observation, it always has an honesty about it. I’m usually reluctant to display sketchbooks - warts and all - but this series of drawings shows a progression in confidence and a growing empathy with my environment.

The Allotment

I have finally decided to publish 'The Allotment' on YouTube. You can see it here:

An animation I wrote and directed back in 2002, it tells the story of a friendship that develops between an old gardener and a girl. It touches on urban sprawl and the value of green space in the city, death and renewal.

I collaborated on this project with a fantastic team  put together at Blue Sunflower