Saturday, 15 March 2014

Letting Go

I am here today to pull apart my work. Something odd happened to me this morning, and I suppose it can be linked to a myriad of things that I worry about or indeed have yet to seriously think about. To start from the beginning, first I need to consider my current portfolio. The truth, if you want to know, is that for the most part I'm not yet happy with my style. That's a bold statement to come from an illustrator that's been working professionally for the past couple of years, I know. It's stupid, even, and I do hope that any potential clients or investors in my work don't read this and misunderstand.

My work is good. It's polished, it's nice, a tree looks like a tree, a face looks like a face, but that's what irritates me. I sometimes feel like I am merely the product of my artistic education and not my creativity. I've done work that people like, but not the kind of work that I particularly like. In college I excelled at things like life-drawing because I have an eye for detail and accuracy, but frankly, the most liberating thing I ever did when studying fine art was to stick some shoes to a canvas and smear oil paints and paper clippings all over it. I understand that my ability to draw anything, and quite realistically, is a great skill. I don't take it lightly. It's something that people want to invest in because they can't achieve it themselves, and it has done me well so far. I don't mind continuing to do those kind of jobs, because they pay the bills and there is a satisfaction in doing a good job for a client. I don't even mind doing the odd traditional pencil portrait commission, but I still have that lingering feeling that I haven't found my style yet.

Maybe I just have multiple styles. Maybe my doing graphic design and illustration at university has turned me into this odd hybrid that morphs her style depending on what the client wants. That's cool, very marketable. I do secretly long for my client work to sit next to my personal work and be the same, though. My travel drawings started to come close to what I like. Not drawing the lines straight felt wonderful, and more recently with my mushroom paintings, not sketching them out first and moving straight to paint and colour felt like I'd unlocked something important. Objects are one thing, though. The truth is I've been avoiding drawing people for a long time, because I hate the way I can't leave a hand alone if one of the fingers looks a bit too long, or a face if the eyes aren't quite symmetrical. That's what this whole post is really about. My absolute favourite illustrators don't give a damn for proportions, or getting the light and shade to look realistic, so why am I so hung up on it to the point that I avoid it altogether? I'm missing out on doing the kind of work I dream of because of it.

Back to this morning though; the whole reason for me sitting down to muse about this awkward business. I sat down at my desk, and I thought I might draw another hot air balloon/air ship for practice. I drew a rough balloon, and immediately got the urge to ensure that it was more or less a perfect circle. I resisted, though, and then it just became a balloon. And then I thought I would draw a child holding it, and try to do it with the same ease and freedom. Bollocks to proportions. In fact, I'm not even going to give the little blighter a neck, I thought. It's going to be chubby, and I'm going to draw the facial features as quickly as possible, and not alter them. In the end, I came up with the drawings below, and I'm so happy with them. I think the biggest achievement was making the man's feet smaller than his hands.

I'm not saying that I've all of a sudden changed my entire style, but it has made me think more about how I like to work. You don't have to demonstrate that you're good at drawing things exactly as they are to prove you're a skilled artist. There is a talent in that, but it's not necessarily creative. Ultimately though, it's okay for me to let go.

Thursday, 13 February 2014


I'm running a {GIVEAWAY} to coincide with me introducing new products to my shop. It will run from today, 'til midnight on the 28th February.

Up for grabs are 2 tote bags; one each for 2 winners. One is the mushroom print, one is the wolf. Just use the widget below to enter.

I will contact the winners when the giveaway ends, and the bags will be sent to whatever addresses you supply as soon as possible.


PS. I do phone cases now, too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 27 January 2014


It's been a while since I worked on something self-initiated that wasn't a row of buildings. Something you may not know about me, is that although I thoroughly abhorred mushrooms in my youth, (especially when they were defiling an otherwise delicious pizza or bolognese, along with peppers), I now LOVE them. My current favourite are shiitake, if you want to know, and I now gobble down peppers, too.I think the most enticing thing about them is how freaking weird they are. I mean, they are definitely fruity, in a fungal way. They come in so many shapes, sizes and classifications, each with a unique taste, and while you can eat a hell of a lot of them, some can also KILL YOU. Amazing.I would like you to observe that these here toadstools were created purely with watercolour. As you know I rarely paint, and certainly not before I've made some comfortable pencil lines to guide me. I toyed with the idea of going over these with black ink to create outlines, but in the end I was so pleased with them that I left them be. I hope you like them. I might add that you should definitely NOT eat ANY of these mushrooms, despite the title. They're all poisonous, and ingesting some of them will result in you snuffing it. I'm just terribly witty.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Slow and Steady

Sometimes I get so worked up over the fact that I have to maintain my day job whilst other creatives are doing what they love on a daily basis, full time, making enough money so that they don't need a day job. It's not really to do with other illustrators and designers of course, it's to do with my impatience, and admittedly a bit of self doubt. This month I've noticed a lot of positivity and good advice going around, particularly on twitter, and it has recharged my batteries somewhat.

I didn't make any New Year's resolutions, because I'm not quite sentimental enough to hold stock with the idea of regeneration in a new year. Another reason is because I didn't want to put any dents in my self esteem if any of them fell through. I say this mainly in regards to my career, which luckily is the only thing I ever feel needs a change or a boost. I have a roundabout plan to push harder this year though, and that has come from seeing other people working hard and succeeding.

Enough of me rambling on. The point is, I've started a few things already that I hope will bring me a bit of motivation and more importantly, work. You are not going to believe this, and I am deeply ashamed to admit it, but this morning I posted out my very first promotional postcards. Alright, so I graduated in 2010, but it's done now, and it's going to be done every 3 months from now on. The other things I did, were to refresh my website, and create a new, *official* shop to compliment it.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Bruges Markt

If you follow my blog you will have seen that I went to Bruges at the end of November, and if you follow me as an illustrator, you will know that I like to illustrate the buildings I see on my travels. This particular illustration is of some of the buildings in Bruges Market Square. The Christmas festivities had begun when we arrived, so you'll notice I've subtly drawn in the wreathes and Christmas lights that were decorating the shops and restaurants. That doesn't mean you can't have it on your walls all year round, though.

If you like this one, it's available as a print in both my Etsy shop and my *NEW* Bigcartel shop, which also deserves a little blog post of its own. More on that during the week.

Psssst: I currently have a 25% off sale running until the 31/01 in my new shop. Just enter the code: 'HAPPYNEWYEAH' at the checkout.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Craft Fair - Broadgate, Coventry

On Friday the 13th of December I was frantically drawing, cutting, baking, printing, and packaging away until late, preparing for my very first craft stall with my artist friend, Hayley Diehl. I always take deadlines right up to the end. I realise this post is quite overdue, but Christmas came around so quickly after that, and it was nice to take a few weeks off and not stress about my career.I'll start with the negatives, in that the weather could only have been made worse by precipitation. I believe this very day was the beginning of the horrendous weather conditions that the UK is still battling now, and it began with the strongest, most unanticipated gales that I've ever had the misfortune to spend eight hours exposed to. The other negative, was that the fair itself turned out to not really be our "thing". Indeed, maybe it was us that weren't really their thing.
My prints, Christmas cards and other bits
We were set up in Broadgate in Coventry, which is pretty much as central as you can get in the city. Unfortunately, we were one of only a handful of the total stalls actually selling crafty, arty-type things. Our particular table was positioned between a lovely lady selling haribo and other sweets to raise money for her daughter to travel, and a regular seller from the Coventry Market, selling incense, scented oils, stones, and other bought in goods. We felt a little bit lost, and with all due respect to the people of Coventry: those types that were in town shopping on a Saturday (Primark stage left, "fun fair" in the stalls, Wilkos in the back), were not in the market for illustrated artwork.

I'm beginning to sound very negative now, I realise, so on to the positive. In actual fact I feel like I had a very good day, considering the winds and the audience. A lot of our friends battled the elements and the Christmas rush to come and see us, most of them spending their hard earned pounds at our little stall. Even a few strangers, which clearly possessed impeccable taste and an empathy for local designers, made purchases. Every single sale warmed my heart, and made the late nights and money spent on supplies all worth it. If you were there and you bought anything, or even just stopped to chat or say "ooh, that's nice", then THANK YOU.

Next time I think we'll buck up the courage to try a fair where we'll be surrounded by other artists and crafty types. If you know of any in the Midlands area, even if they're not until next winter, do leave your two pence in the comments below. I'm really excited to try this again.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

A Weekend in Bruges

On the penultimate Friday of November we took an impulsive trip to Bruges. I say impulsive because generally, once we’re back from one holiday we have to plan another, and our last was in June. This trip however, was booked in October, and executed in such a casual fashion that I’m surprised my usual, methodical self could bear it. We even agreed to get the agonisingly slow London Midland train down to the capital on our way there. That’s precisely how laid back it was. 

Since my boyfriend and I became an item, I can safely say I’ve already seen more of the world than I ever did in my previous twenty one years. Mark is fairly well travelled and has seen a lot of the continent, so when it comes to these mini-trips to places he’s already been, it’s very handy. It means he can edit the itinerary according to the must-sees, scratching out the could-sees, and leaving plenty of time for dinner.

We arrived on the Friday afternoon after an early start, alighting finally at Station Brugge. Mark had the unfortunate task of lugging our case into the centre on the city, which is practically entirely cobbled, as you would hope a medieval town would be. Historic city centres with bell towers, squares, coloured buildings and cobbled streets seem to have become our thing. You can keep your sandy beaches, sun tans and trance music, thanks.

City Hall on the Burg square
The incredible gothic chamber inside City Hall

View from the belfy over-looking the Markt

Over our short two and a half day stay we pretty much walked every street in the historic centre. It's important to me to feel like I've really seen a place, because you never know if you'll get to visit again. We ensured that we climbed the bell tower, visited the town hall, and took plenty of pictures of buildings and bridges along the way.

The Chocolate Line - where the magic happens

Mark and I don't go a day without some sort of sweet treat or another. Whenever we go somewhere - even if it's a trip into town or to a neighbouring city - we've got to get treats. Thems the rules. It's never cheap, and it's never attractive when you've got chocolate and crumbs all round your chops, but it's always worth it. If this was a more frequent, perhaps lifestyle-y blog, I would definitely create an index for all the excellent chocolate and patisserie we're enjoyed over time.

The Chocolate Line is on the Markt square in the centre of bruges. There are so many weird and wonderful flavours to choose from, including the likes of bacon, fried onion, and curry chocolates (which of course we tried - really good, not even kidding). If you love good chocolate and you're ever in Bruges, you must stop here.

Another place that you definitely must visit if you're ever in Bruges, is 2be. It encompasses both a bar, with a romantic terrace that sits on the water's edge, and a shop full of the best belgian beers, foods and Tin Tin merchandise. What's not to like?

Our favourite moustachioed Belgian, on a mug

I'll leave you with a few random snaps and captions because I'm awful at structuring these photo-heavy posts. I've already done my next travel illustration, which you may or may not have already seen. Expect a post on that very soon.

Godshuizen (Almshouses)

De Halve Maan (Half Moon) Brewery is the only active family brewery left in the centre of Bruges
't Poatersgat (Monks Hole) - a cool cellar bar with great trapist beers and a kooky 80s playlist