As promised (see Brand New Photo Blog) on the right is what I am drawing in the photo below, at the boatyard. Actually, I'm not sure if this is the exact sketch, as there were various similar boats, but it's near enough.
This day of sketching filled half a sketchbook, so I'm only putting a sample on here. It was a pretty magical place: a secret oasis hidden at the canal side, tucked out of sight, below the level of the rest of the world. There were not just boats in various stages of restoration and repair, but piles of bits of this and that everywhere, most of which I couldn't identify, but which looked sort of useful, in a twisted, vaguely rusty sort of way.
When I first got the Lark in the Ark project, I knew I wanted the illustrations to feel like they were rooms within a boat, not just a house, which was tricky, as the bedroom scenes (which take up most of the story) had to be filled with very 'ordinary' furniture for the animals to hide amongst. I worried about it for a while, before I got the idea of the wooden canal boats, and couldn't believe my luck when I found a restoration yard, full of really old boats - perfect!
You can see above where I got the idea for the decorated, hinged hatches on the outside of the ark, as well as some of the cupboards that you'll find in Noah's bedroom inside the book. I also got the chimney idea and the potted plant on the roof from actual boats. I'm pretty sure I made up the weather vane and the knickers on the line though!
Of course I collected loads of reference that I never used, but the 'feel' of the wooden interior and the colour schemes I found were certainly inspirational, and you can see from the illustration of the ark interior I drew for Lark in the Ark below, how this found it's way through to the final book. Can you see on the sketch above where it says,
'fold down double bed!'? The hinged door of the cupboard flaps across the narrow, central aisle and joins up with a shelf on the other side. You sleep with your head in the cupboard and your feet on the shelf! Ingenious, but not desperately comfy I shouldn't think.
Notice the lamp on the wall in the illustration too - that was a lamp from the interior of Chris Dixon's boat Forget Me Not, which you can see in my sketchbook here. Like everything on the tiny boat, it was a very clever space-saving design, on a hinge so it could be swung back out of the way.
By the way, this is Chris who, as I mentioned previously, bears a remarkable resemblance to Noah... Sorry Chris, you were just too perfect for the role! I think it was the hat that clinched it.
Everyone at Ashton Packet Boatyard was really friendly and helpful, and I'd like to say a special THANK YOU to Chris, Robert and Tony - long may your boats be buoyant!