The Last Viking Returns

Designing Josh’ Grandad. First name, Pop- last name, Gohsaweezel


That’s not true. I don’t know what Pop’s surname is. What I do know, is that he’s a major character in the book, and a major influence on Josh. He introduces the little bloke to Vikings, and encourages his efforts to be more brave and Viking-like.

Norm and I definitely didn’t want him to look staid and boring, like a nerdy historian or your standard beige oldie. He had to have presence and something different about him.

I’ve based most of the characters in the book on people I know. Pop is based on Norm, even though Norm has neither a moustache nor a beard. Without realising it, I guess he’s also based on my dad, who has a moustache. But no beard.

Here’s the first character sketch of Pop, with some notes. You can see he has similar hair to Josh, but his fringe curls up to make ‘horns’ like a Viking helmet.


At one point, Pop was going to have a motorbike in his shed. He even had a Celtic tattoo on his arm in the first storyboard.


He’s changed a little though, become softer in character- but his appearance has stayed mostly the same. Here’s some comparisons of Pop from the first storyboard (top row) to the latest storyboard (bottom row).


Not much change really. He was good to go from that first sketch. But I’ve needed to go back to my first sketches and check the character tags (defining features), making sure I’m drawing him consistently. He’s still a bit different in each of those sketches above.

Here’s some more recent sketches of him. I’ve been practicing drawing all the characters in a little jotter pad, trying to get them consistent and rough, to be able to draw them fairly accurately without trying too hard. It’s making the final artwork look more spontaneous and fluid, and it’s helping me to not care so much about whether the artwork is ‘perfect’ or not.  I’m finding that the less perfect it looks, the more perfect it feels- corny but true.


Here’s a panel from the colour storyboard (…I’ve used Photoshop and a Wacom Intuos3 (graphics tablet) to try out colour with the final storyboard.)

It’s a big symbolic moment, where Pop gives Josh his Viking sword, while heavenly light shines down from the window. You can almost hear the Valkyries singing angelically in the background.

And here’s a sneak peek at a final artwork sample, just completed! It’s another significant moment, where Pop gives Josh a book on Vikings. This is a scan of a pencil sketch, with digital watercolour applied in Corel Painter.



Author: James Foley

James makes books for courageous kids. His books include 'The Amity Kids Adventures', 'In The Lion', 'The Last Viking'. A couple of these books have won awards. People have also bought copies, and for that he is grateful. His new book 'The Last Viking Returns' is out now. Follow James at , @James_R_Foley on twitter and instagram or at

2 thoughts on “Designing Josh’ Grandad. First name, Pop- last name, Gohsaweezel

  1. Oh man, i only just got the terrible joke in the title of this post. Nice one James!

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