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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

Month

September 2018

Quick book review: Illustration Workshop

This month I’ll be reviewing a book I got in the summer; ‘Illustration Workshop’ by Mary Kate McDeritt.

 

Full title: Illustration Workshop: Find your style, practice drawing skills, and build a stellar portfolio.

Price: £9.85-£16.99

Where to buy (UK): Amazon, Book Depository

About: Written/compiled by American illustrator Mary Kate McDevitt, this appealing book guides you into the world of illustration. From the very first page you’re encouraged to get creative (literally – your first activity is to write your name and draw yourself) offering practical information on the industry, materials illustrators use, small warm-up activities and whole guided projects.

The Good

  • The layout – it’s fair to say this book is very aesthetically pleasing; with bright colours, illustrations throughout and interesting typography. The book itself is a piece of illustration work! It also breaks things down into sections making it easy to follow.
  • The writing style – The language and tone of the book appeals to ‘everyday’ people which makes it accessible to even beginners in the field of illustration. Everything is explained well without any hint of pretentiousness.
  • The activities range from small to large projects meaning if you have just 5 minutes to fill there’s something for you, if you have 5 hours to fill, there’s also something for you.
  • Projects are guided and go through a process. You follow each section of the project so you’re never left wondering where to go next. If your imagination seems to be having a day off, there are activities within each project to get your creative juices flowing, such as questions (‘who is your target audience?’) and a section for a spider diagram.
  • In addition to the mini activities within each project there’s also some visual inspiration, which is great for those of us who think more visually.
  • The book can be picked up very reasonably online
  • It’s a fun way of developing your illustration skills

The maybe not so good

  • If you’re from UK you’ll be aware that the book is American. There’ll be minor spelling/terminology differences
  • The information provided about working as an illustrator is limited. It’s a good introduction but this book isn’t for in-depth explanation

So is it worth it?

In my opinion I love this book! It was affordable, pleasing to look at (I’m a very visual person) and gave my need to practice my illustration skills/develop my style a direction. It can be hard to pull a project idea out of the air, which is why this book is so useful. I like the honesty with which McDermitt writes and the personal edge she gives it. The projects are engaging and the small warm-ups very unique! I’d recommend this book to anyone looking to develop their illustration skills, especially if they feel they need more direction.

Rating: 4.5/5

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Tis the season…almost

Ok, so it’s only September but anyone who’s involved in any craft/art work will know that Christmas preparation starts way in advance. You’ve probably already seen the Christmas craft magazines creeping on to the shelves and with good reason! If you’re planning on including handmade gifts or handmade elements this year you’ll need time to actually make them! I’ve already started some rough designs for Christmas cards, which I’m doing alongside a competition entry. I was keen to see what other creatives were offering this year, so I’ve got together a list of some of my favourite card designs so far. Head on over to their online shops to see more!

Heidi Meier Textiles

It’s not just Heidi’s Christmas cards I love, she also has some gorgeous birthday/everyday cards. One of my favourites is her Blue tit card (link) Heidi’s work is that little bit ‘different’ which gives her cards a real edge. Below are two of her cards that would be perfect for Christmas, especially for a dog lover! Click the image for a direct link to the item in her Folksy shop.

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‘Toby’ by Heidi Meier

 

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‘The Last Post’ – Toby the Dog by Heidi Meier

 

Brittany Molineux

Brittany’s Etsy shop is full of gorgeous illustrations available as prints or cards and I’m really admiring her Christmas offerings. Below are two of my favourites. Click the images to be taken directly to the listing.

 

 

 

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‘Danish Houses’ by Brittany Molineux

 

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‘Partridge in a Pear Tree’ by Brittany Molineux

 

Simons Nest (Kerry Williams)

I think what I love most about Kerry’s illustrations is their quirkiness, there’s something a bit different about Kerry’s illustrations and I love that a lot of her work is nature-themed. Take a look at her Autumn/pumpkin items (perfect for Halloween!) I’m in love with the Pumpkin Spice Badge Set. The selection of mini cards below are great for celebrating the winter season.

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‘Winter Favourites’ mini greetings cards by Kerry Williams

 

Choosing the right sketchbook

You’d think it would be the easiest thing in the world: finding some paper to start your art project. But when you’re just starting out in the world of art (such as GCSE students etc) it can be perplexing to navigate your way around the vast options available. Don’t be tempted to reach for the cheapest option just to save some money! I’m sure plenty of you have been in a situation where you begin full of enthusiasm only to find that your paper is wrinkling or your ink bleeding. This is because it really is important to be using the right kind of paper for your piece, it really can make or break a piece. I’m going to take you through the basics of choosing a sketchbook when you’re just starting out, or are just getting serious about pursuing your artistic interest. I’ll be putting key points/tips in bold/colour.

All sketch books will generally be suitable for what it says in the title: sketching. Just getting some ideas down in pencil. Where problems usually arise is when you begin using other mediums, especially ‘wet’ mediums such as paints and ink. The very basic sketchbooks you can find almost anywhere (such as budget shops) are usually not suitable for anything more than just getting down some ideas in pencil.

Over the years I’ve learnt to feel my paper before choosing in addition to looking at the description/symbols on the front of the book/pad (more on this later). Generally, cheap papers are quite rough to the touch and will feel thin. Slightly higher quality paper will feel thicker, but may also have a rough texture. But BEWARE! If you do choose a cheap sketchbook for just doodling it’s good to know that cheaper kinds of paper won’t usually stand very much erasing. Ever seen higher quality paper advertised as being ‘acid free’? This is beneficial because it means your work is less likely to fade and the paper less likely to break down.

Let’s talk about cartridge paper…this type of paper is widely available and a lot of illustrators and artists are happy to use it.  If you do decide to go for basic cartridge paper for paints such as watercolour bear in mind it must first be prepared. Painting directly on to lower GSM* cartridge paper will cause buckling and you’ll end up with a wibbly painting! The process of preparing paper for watercolours/gouache is known as ‘stretching’. It’ll take a little effort to do, so if you’re desperate to get stuck in to some work straight away using wet mediums it’s best to avoid low GSM cartridge, or make sure you have a stash of pre-prepared sheets. I learnt how to stretch paper on an ‘introduction to art’ summer school at a local college when I was 15 and found the course a real stepping stone into GCSE art, which then progressed to A level, which then progressed to a degree. By the time you reach university it’ll just be assumed that you know these basics. It’s good to look out for taster courses or holiday schools at local colleges/uni’s as you could pick up some skills that prove useful for the rest of your artistic journey. You can find so many videos on Youtube showing you how to stretch paper: link

Now we’ve covered the cheaper ‘everyday’ papers let’s look into specifics. The good news is that a lot of the sketchbooks they stock in art and hobby stores usually have guides on the front, it’s just a matter of reading the symbols and understanding what certain things mean. Something I found confusing for a while was ‘hot pressed’ and ‘cold pressed’. It’s actually as simple as this: hot-pressed paper has a smoother, finer surface, whilst cold-pressed has a more textured surface. Some pads don’t even mention these terms though and keep it more straight-forward by saying ‘smooth’ or ‘grained’. It’s really a matter of personal reference, I use both depending on the finish I want.  As I usually work with a lot of detail I generally avoid heavily grained papers as lines can be less ‘crisp’. Thanks to the information on a lot of sketchbooks it’s actually now easier than ever to select your book. Some pads will say ‘mixed media’, meaning that generally any medium is ‘safe’ to use, others will say ‘watercolour’ or ‘drawing’ (Daler  Rowney label their sketchbooks really well making it easier to select one). As for symbols, they’re easy to work out; a paintbrush head means it’s suitable for paint, a fountain pen means fountain pens can be used, a fineliner/pen means drawing pens may be used and what looks like a conte stick means pastels can be used. But there’s one area that I know confuses a lot of people…GSM*. This stands for ‘grams per square metre’. Basically, the higher the GSM the heavier the paper, meaning it can handle more. GSM is sometimes written as ‘G/M2’. Papers with high GSM are usually labelled as ‘heavyweight’.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to understand what paper you’re using before you begin an important project, mainly to avoid frustration over things like buckling, bleeding, eroding etc. I think the most important thing you can do is read the specs of the paper (even individual sheets in art/craft stores will usually have a little label telling you hot/cold pressed and GSM) and if you’re not sure then ask!

Time for some recommendations! For general doodling and really rough work I carry around a small ‘Graduate‘ sketchbook. These are Daler Rowney’s reasonable, lower GSM books that come in various sizes. Hobbycraft also offer their own version of these, with a similar GSM and a very modest price tag. For work that I plan to use (for exhibitions, card designs etc) I rarely stray far from Daler Rowney finegrain heavyweight paper as I find it can hold all mediums really well. I’ve used pastels, oils, gouache, pens, pencil and I’m always happy with the results (though be careful if working on small areas in oils especially oils that have been thinned as sometimes you can get a ‘halo’). I also recommend Daler Rowney’s smooth heavyweight when I want less of a textured surface. If I’m solely using gouache or watercolour I may also opt for their Aquafine smooth pad.

So that’s it, your guide to choosing the perfect sketchbook. Happy creating!

Back in action…finally

It’s been around a month since I moved in to my new place and whilst things are almost sorted there’s still a bit to do. Yes, I have a half painted hallway and no bedroom door (it’s currently living in the bathroom waiting to be re-attached) but at least my all important home studio is in working order.

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I’d been hoping that I could start getting stuck in to some art work pretty much as soon as I moved in but my time has been taken up with all the little things you don’t think about when moving. Finally though I can get on with some work. Creativity feels like such a huge part of who I am that when I’m not dedicating a bit of time to it each day I feel a little lost and like something is missing.

Whilst it’s been difficult to get any artwork done I have put some time aside to do some craft. The end of August is the anniversary of the death of my best friend and each year I like to do something with a more personal touch. This year I decided to decorate a plant with handmade bead garlands and make some wire beaded flowers to put in the ground. What made them even more special was the fact that the wire used was left over from the display I made for a close family member’s funeral earlier this year.

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Creativity runs in my family, something which has become more apparent as we empty my relative’s house. Sorting through boxes of half-finished projects (quilting, cross-stitch, embroidery) made me appreciate just how talented she was and after coming across a beautiful coastal scene cross-stitch I’ve decided to put it on my bathroom wall. Not just because it’s beautiful but because the people I’ve lost are still so alive in my heart that they’re part of my ‘everyday’.

It’s been a crazy month of sorting things but hopefully now I can get back to what I love and begin sharing my work with my watchers/followers again. I’m already thinking about Christmas and planning some designs!

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