Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer


September 2016

Quentin Blake exhibition review


What: The Quentin Blake: Inside Stories exhibition

Where: National Museum Cardiff

When: Tues-Sun 10-4:45 until 20th November 

Admission: Free

About: A temporary exhibition showing the work of illustrator Quentin Blake, including optional activities, coinciding with Cardiff’s ‘Roald Dahl 100 Wales’ celebrations.

Why visit?

Although Quentin Blake is best known for his work illustrating Roald Dahl’s children’s books, what’s so wonderful about this exhibition is the fact that, whilst there’s certainly enough to keep children occupied (including a drawing/reading table, as well as questions around the walls to encourage engagement with the stories and drawings) there’s also a more ‘in-depth’ side, possibly more appealing to older children and adults, with written explanations accompanying each section, and best of all (in my opinion at least) the chance to see Blake’s artistic process.

There are two audio/video stations situated in the room showing the illustrator at work in his studio, with descriptions of how he goes about creating his images. As an illustrator I found this to be the most interesting part of the exhibition, as it allowed you to take a step into a successful illustrators studio and identify with what he was saying. You got to see not just refined, polished images in a book, but to delve into the nitty-gritty – the ‘before’, the reality with which so many art students will identify with. Perhaps the most refreshing thing to be said by Blake himself was that, despite his almost slap-dash style (bold, untidy lines, watercolour spilling out of said lines) he admits he actually has doubts in his ability at times just like all of us. I recommend all art students, from GCSE to degree level, to visit the exhibition and view this peek behind the scenes.

Another pleasant surprise was the inclusion of work illustrating areas of literature that you definitely wouldn’t associate with Quentin Blake’s quirky style. After being charmed by Blake’s Roald Dahl work, the exhibition progresses to contents of a more unexpected nature, for example Voltaire’s philosophical tale: Candide. The fact that Blake stays true to his distinct style, whilst presenting us with illustrations of a somewhat gruesome nature actually, in a peculiar and perverse way adds to the morbidity of the tale. The exhibition presents a holistic view of Blake’s work and life as an illustrator, and challenges initial thoughts and assumptions by  showing us this less talked about serious side. The part of the exhibition which I found to be most affecting was Blake’s illustrations accompanying Michael Rosen’s ‘Sad Book’ – telling the true tale of Rosen’s grief at the loss of his son. Blake captures the feelings of desolation and hopelessness perfectly, perhaps surprising to those who associate his work with tales of magic and fantasy.

The exhibition offers the opportunity to be as much or as little as you choose. From flitting around the relatively small gallery space browsing the illustrations, to spending hours discovering the stories behind the work and learning more about the illustrator, this exhibition will suit any time frame. In terms of souvenirs however, whilst the free entry may be kind on your wallet the merchandise is more than pocket money may cover. It would have been nice to have seen more illustrated postcards too, something which you can almost always rely on to accompany the exhibitions.


♦See if you can spot the rogue BFG drawing that seems to have slipped into the ‘Danny the Champion of the World’ display case!

♦Check out the impressive and atmospheric copper engravings in the main gallery, by David Jones.


Spring/summer 2017 collection sneak peek

For the past few months, in between my illustration work, I’ve been working on my  spring/summer 2017 collection of bespoke, hand-sewn children’s clothing, made using upcycled and recycled materials.

A great place to start with any creative work is to get ideas out by creating a mood board. I envisioned bright colours, loose floaty fabrics, and took inspiration from nature, including feathers, leaves and flowers.


I wanted a pattern that was versatile – pretty, yet practical – which is why I opted for shoulder ties. Each top/dress is breathable, light, and can be adjusted by changing the length of the ties.

Girl’s shoulder-tie dress. Age 6-7


Girl’s shoulder-tie top, age 7
Girl’s shoulder-tie top, age 8

The full collection will appear in my shop next spring, but are available now on request. Commissions/suggestions are also always welcome.

Accurate drawing for beginners – tutorial


For some, it can be a bit of a slog learning how to draw. This month’s tutorial is ideal for those who have always wanted to be able to draw but can’t get the accuracy, or as a practice in recognising shape and training the eye to depict what is actually there for those with a little more experience. I was taught this method whilst at college 11 years ago and have used it regularly ever since.

You will need:


  • A reference image (your own printed photograph is ideal, alternatively you can use free image sites – be aware of copyright)
  • A pencil (I use HB/2B for drawing)
  • A fine-liner drawing pen (optional)
  • ruler
  • paper


Take your reference image and draw a box around it, with a little space around the image. It’s easier to use whole numbers; mine was 12 x 14 cm.



Measure 1cm marks along the top and bottom of the box, then draw a line using your ruler to join them.




Repeat step above along the remaining sides of your box, so you are left with a ‘grid’, which you should then number per square (e.g mine is 1-12 and 1-14 – see picture below)




You now need to draw your grid on your plain paper. Make it the same size, with the same amount of boxes. So mine would be 12 x 14 cm, with each box labelled 1-12 and 1-14. Now it’s a matter of ‘transferring’ what you see in your reference image to your piece of paper.


Work square-by-square, concentrating on how much of each square the image takes up.


Below you can see how the piece progresses, stage-by-stage. (Darkened to show pencil better)








Once you’ve finished transferring your image, you now need to rub out the numbers and lines surrounding it. I recommend Derwent eraser pen as it’s easier to get into nooks and crannies. Eraser pencils are available, as well as battery-operated eraser pens, however i feel the most purse-friendly and best working to be this eraser pen.


step6 This step is optional, but if you like a defined outline, then now is the time to carefully draw around your image with a fine liner. Normal fine liners can ‘bleed’ so it’s best to use pens intended for drawing. I use Pilot DR drawing pen in either 01 or 02. They’re widely available, including from Amazon and The Range as well as WHSmiths and Hobbycraft.



The above method can also be used as an exercise in gaining practice with colour mixing. Below is an example which I have held on to since my college days when I realised the grid system has huge potential to allow novices to develop not only an eye for seeing accurate shape and space, but also allow you to home-in on each individual square, rather than the whole picture, meaning more attention is paid to the components of a painting/image, rather than the image as a ‘whole’, which can be daunting. Painting and drawing is all about adding bit-by-bit.

Left: A section of Leonardo DaVinci’s ‘The Annunciation’ Right: Colour study 2008 Hanna-Mae Williams


See what I created using our little robin friend! Perfect for kids and colouring fans, get a unique wipe-clean Christmas card here: Folksy shop


Communicating with colour

‘Colour in a picture is like enthusiasm in life’

– Vincent Van Gogh


As artists and illustrators will agree, we tend to have our ‘favourites’ – our favourite mediums, our favourite subjects, and in my case a favourite colour palette. Well it’s time for a challenge!

The topic of my current canvas painting is ‘sound through the eyes of autism’, which explores the impact a variety of ‘everyday’ sounds we have become accustomed to whilst living in a busy environment can have on someone on the autistic spectrum. I will be using colour as a mode of communication, to express the intensity of the sounds, as well as positioning clashing colours strategically to covey the sense of discomfort. Whilst being an exercise in the perception of, and relationships between colours, this piece also allows me to practice using colours outside of my comfort zone, to learn the nature of the colours better, which I feel I have with my ‘go-to palette’.



‘I want to know more, where do i start?’

Of course there’s so much to discover when it comes to colour. Whilst at university I took a module titled ‘Understanding Colour’ which only scratched the surface on this vast topic. If you’re interested in getting serious about colour theory, I recommend reading ‘The Elements of Colour‘ by Itten, the famous expressionist painter linked to the Bauhaus. First published in 1963, it’s an oldie but a goodie! An unusual and interesting read also comes from Sara Fanelli’s ‘Sometimes I Think, Sometimes I am‘, which offers ample visual examples of how colour and a limited pallet can be used to convey a message. The book also includes a colour booklet, and you’ll discover a mass of quotes from famous artists regarding colour. Find it on Amazon here.


Colour can mean different things to different people and can be used in inventive ways. I found some treasures on Folksy by artists who are embracing the effects colour can have. I recently discovered talented print maker James Green, whose work uses limited colours in each piece to produce a real impact. Here is some of his work, which can be bought in his shop here: James Green Printworks. You can also show your support by liking him on facebook.


Another shop I recommend checking out is ‘Hush‘, whose owner Sarah Walters has produced a wonderful series of prints based on the seasons. Her notelet pack offers the whole series of designs, meaning there’s no need to choose!



Coming next week: Monthly tutorial – Accurate drawing for beginners

16/09/2016 – Tutorial now available here: Accurate drawing for beginners

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