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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

Monthly Review; An oldie but a goodie

When I was a teenager I was obsessed with the work of Brian Froud and remember going into Waterstones (though back then it was an ‘Ottakar’s’) with my best friend and spending hours flicking through the pages with excitement. I had my first taste of Froud’s work as a 14 year old (with a growing interest and attachment to art) in the small art room at the education unit I attended for a year and was sucked into the magic of this other world that I wanted to enter for myself. Looking at the ethereal illustrations in ‘Good Faeries Bad Faeries‘ I knew I wanted to see more of this artists work. There was something about it that just sucked you in to this other realm and for that time it was like real life was on hold and we had entered this universe.

When I could, I bought some of Froud’s books, the first being the book I will be reviewing today: ‘A Field Guide to Goblins; The Goblin Companion’, followed by ‘Brian Froud’s Goblins!‘ and eventually the one I found most pleasurable to spend time exploring: ‘Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Letters‘ (which I’ll be talking about next month – keep an eye out for November’s review).

Being the first book in my Froud collection and still bringing me joy all these years on, today I’ll be guiding you through this little wonder and maybe even introducing you to a world you didn’t even know existed; the creative (but often slightly eccentric!) world of Brian Froud.

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Title:  A Field Guide to Goblins; The Goblin Companion

Price: Pennies (used) – £35 (new)

Where to buy: Amazon, ebay, World of Books, AbeBooks

About: A pocket-sized collection of some of Froud’s Goblin artwork ‘captured and catalogued’ (so the book states) by Terry Jones. Information and images of various Goblins, giving you a ‘who’s who’ of the Goblin world.

The Good

If you love looking at other people’s sketchbooks this book is for you! Often in books we see only very polished versions of illustrations, which is why Froud’s book is so refreshing. Yes, you’ll see his complete work but you’ll also see works in progress and rough sketches. It’s interesting to see how his ideas develop and you get a real good glimpse into the imagination of this quirky artist’s work.

Another area that this book excels in is aesthetics. It’s evident that everything about this book has been carefully thought about. From the fonts used, to the annotations, to the tinted pages. All this contributes to the feel of the book and assists in drawing you in to Froud’s imagined world.

Whilst the best aspects of the book are of course the content, I have to mention the price. If you’re just getting interested in collecting Froud’s books or are looking for a gift for an art/illustration fan, this is an affordable place to start. Officially priced at an inexpensive £5.99 this book can be picked up online for even less.

The not so good

Whilst Froud’s books are always guaranteed to be a little…unique, shall we say, I have come across people who found the text (particularly in the introduction) to be a little confusing. I admit that it’s what some would consider a little bizarre but Froud fans would expect nothing less! In regards to intended audience Froud’s books can be deceiving. This isn’t an average children’s book…in fact, the majority would argue this isn’t a book intended for children at all! Though from the subject matter and the high volume of illustrations those unfamiliar with Froud would be forgiven for thinking so at first glance. This makes it difficult to judge what age range this book is suitable for, though I personally feel this is suited to teenagers all the way through to centenarians! The language used is too complex for children, though I’m sure they’d appreciate the host of unusual characters they’d meet if they were shown them.

So is it worth it?

Yes! In my opinion it’s worth every penny. As an illustrator this is definitely my cup of tea, as someone who still reads fairy tales and myths, this certainly satisfies that interest and as someone who likes to collect beautiful books to look at time and again, this is one of them. If you’re creative, interested in illustration or have a liking for fantasy, this is your book.

Rating: 4.5/5

Tip: If you like what you’ve read Waterstones has a huge collection of Brian Froud books. Take a look here: Link

If you’re a Froud fan (or become one!) check out the work of artist Amy Brown. You can find her website and see some of her work here: Link

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What’s so special about 11th October?

What a week since my last post! Having been eager to really get stuck in to my artwork I found myself on pause as a fibro flare-up engulfed me! Thankfully I’m feeling much better and after a few days of giving in and resting (in addition to practically bathing in ibuprofen gel and having a heat pack permanently attached to my shoulders) I’m ready to get to work again.

I managed to get some sketching done early last week for my second project (which terrifyingly has a deadline of 3 weeks!) whilst my Christmas card design took a bit of a back seat. After several months of experimenting with other mediums I use less often (gouache, watercolour, pastel) I’m back to my old favourite: water-mixable oil paints, though I use them as though they’re ‘real’ oil paints, thinning them out with Liquin Original. I’ll be revealing the complete card design at a later date but for now have some sketches for my other project to share with you.

It feels good to work more freely and just experiment rather than go in straight away wanting my work to be perfect. My process has altered slightly over the past year as I’m allowing myself to play around more with designs and have a rough draft that I then improve on rather than jumping straight from rough thumbnails to final piece. This ‘middle’ step feels the most enjoyable as you can play around with so many possibilities.

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I’m also eager to get back to sewing,particularly as I’ve recently been given a stash of beautiful material that would otherwise have been dumped. My followers will know how important keeping my sewn items as eco-friendly as possible is to me. I recently received an email that gives me the perfect excuse to get my needle and cottons out again. October 11th is ‘International Day of the Girl Child‘ and to celebrate this the charity ‘Days for Girls‘ have set up the ‘Global Girls Festival‘ running until the 1st November. There are several ways you can volunteer with Days for Girls, but the most creative way is by becoming a solo sewist, setting up a sewing team, or joining/founding a chapter. ‘Sewists’ create what’s known as the ‘D4G Kit‘ which is then sent on to young women in deprived areas of the world. You get access to all their patterns, can get support in the D4G ‘Kit chat’ group on facebook and of course get to scratch your creative itch whilst doing good. I have a feeling that stash of colourful fabric I’ve been given will be put to good use this month…

Autistic and artistic!

It’s hard to believe that it’s October already, this has been a difficult year of significant loss for me but I finally feel like I’ve got my passion for art back. Lately I’ve been working on two projects, though one has taken a bit of a backseat as I’m focusing more on developing my more relaxed illustration style (which I’m doing through designing Christmas cards) whilst the other I have a feeling is going to go down a more detailed fine art route.

I’ve been enjoying just sketching out some ideas and building on them and it feels good to be creative but not worry so much about detail and the piece being ‘good’. I’m focusing more on the feeling rather than the technique. Whilst it feels so satisfying to finish a detailed piece I feel more inclined to think ‘i’ll spend this spare time working on that piece’ when it’s more relaxed. It’s not the most serious of subject matter but I’ve been working on creating a cute card design that’ll give a ‘cosy’ festive vibe.

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These are obviously just the very first steps, just my first rough sketches. Now that I have some ideas though I’ve started transferring these ideas onto mixed media paper (i wanted a bit of texture so I chose fine grain heavyweight paper (you can read all about selecting the right papers here: Choosing the right sketchbook )

As well as cracking on with my art projects last Friday I went to the Welsh Autism Show in Cardiff which was packed with information and resources. What I was especially pleased to come across was some fellow ASD artists and their brilliant work. Find out more about their work by clicking the names below. (Please bear in mind images are copyright).

Michelle Chick

Michelle is based in South Wales and has qualifications from the University of Wales in Cardiff. Her art is so detailed and she uses a variety of mediums, from watercolour to gouache and acrylics.

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‘Goldhill’ Michelle Chick
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‘Castle Combe’ Michelle Chick

 

Patrick Samuel

I loved how colourful and expressive Patrick’s work was and how he’s embracing neurodiversity rather than seeing it as a barrier.

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‘New World’ Patrick Samuel. Acrylic
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‘Time for Reflection’ Patrick Samuel. Oil pastel

 

Chris Baker

When I saw the work Chris had on display I was amazed by how realistic his drawings were. In fact, my companion thought they were photographs! It’s evident how much care and attention goes in to each piece. Chris is a self-taught artist and is available for commission.

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Chris Baker. Pencil

Have a creative week!

 

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

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!

A fresh start

Moving day has finally arrived and whilst I thought I’d still have the evening to do some artwork after spending the past week moving boxes it turns out I’ve been too knackered to do anything! I’m excited to have a freshly painted home studio to go to though and the lighting is a million times better than my old one, in which I had to have the light on constantly even on sunny days! I’m keen to get my desk and materials set up asap to begin work again as I’ve been missing being engrossed in my work. Unfortunately I won’t have internet for a few weeks so my blog will be a little quiet until September but I’ll still be updating on my facebook and twitter when I get a chance when I’m in the library. If you aren’t already following me, click the icons below to be directed to my accounts (opens in new tab).

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In the chaos of sorting through all my belongings I also realised that last month I posted two reviews. Whilst I’m away, here’s a list of past reviews to take a look at. Click the link to open a new page:

Affordable Gouache

Body-Kun Models For Artists

Grayson Perry Book

Derwent Pastel Pencil Set

Derwent Graphitint Pencils

Derwent Inktense Watercolour Pencils

Creative Paper Cutting Book

An Illustrated Life Book

Handstitching Guide Book

Paintbrush Cleaners

Taking Great Photos Book

You can also read about exhibitions I’ve been to which have now ended:

Quentin Blake Exhibition- Cardiff

‘Your Gallery’ Exhibition- Newport

‘Nature’s Song’ Exhibition- Cardiff

If you feel like getting creative yourself, in September I’ll be resuming my monthly tutorial but in the mean time you can find all my tutorials at the link below, from sewing to painting:

Tutorial archive

Enjoy the last bits of summer and check back in September for updates, tutorials and more reviews!

 

 

Monthly review:affordable gouache

I started using gouache in 2004 when my artistic ability (and obsession!) was just developing. I had just started a college summer course and had never heard of it before but it soon became my go-to paint for the next 5 years until i went to university and branched out a little. I loved the versatility of it, the fact that you could use it as you would watercolour (very dilute) or more thickly. Though unlike watercolour it’s opaque. For this reason I find it preferential for pieces where I want vibrant colours. However, this type of paint does dry fast so you’ll need to work fairly quickly, which is why when I’m doing more involved pieces I like to use water-mixable oils (a faster dry time than traditional oils, but not as fast as paints such as gouache and watercolour).

Gouache can be expensive with individual professional tubes costing as much as much as £10. However, there are budget options available. These sets are great for experimenting with and I own both professional and cheaper brands and use them together. A more purse-friendly brand that I’ve found to be quite good is Reeves, not as cheap as paints you’d find in bargain stores, but not as expensive as professional brands, this set is a good in-between, so that’s the brand I’ll be reviewing today.

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Name: Reeves Gouache Artist Colour Tube Set – 24

Price: £9.99-£27

Where to buy:  Hobbycraft, The Range (cheapest so far), Amazon, ebay, many other craft stores/online

Having tried various brands, including professional more expensive ones, I’ve never felt disappointed with Reeves gouache. In fact, I trusted it enough  to use during my time at university alongside these more expensive brands and still use it today. It retains its quality well and doesn’t dry out after months of storage, unlike a much more expensive brand I also regularly use. It still remains smooth, whereas the more expensive brand had become thick and unusable. For students on a tight budget and beginners wanting to just experiment before shelving out for premium brands this is a great option.

These paints can be used on their own, but I find them useful as ‘base colours’ underneath soft pastels. I do this to achieve a ‘softer’ look, but the good thing about gouache is it can also be used for pieces where you want vibrancy. Reeves gouache delivers this and they mix easily with water. The more liquid texture (in comparison to more expensive brands) can be thanked for this. However, the fact that it’s more liquid may suggest that to save costs there are more ingredients such as water and binding agent and less pigment, which is what gives you vibrancy. Gouache is made of pigment, water, and a binding agent such as gum arabic or dextrin. In higher quality paints you’d expect there to be more quality pigment. However, these paints are very workable and once you get the hang of them you can control the intensity of your colour by adding more/less water.

One issue with the Reeves set is actually not specific to this brand, but shared by all gouache paints; the fact that you must be careful when using the paint undiluted/thickly or you risk cracking. One thing lacking with this specific set though is any assurance of permanence, which is something you do get when selecting professional/more expensive paint. Winsor & Newton for example use the system: AA, A, B, C with AA being extremely permanent and C being most likely to fade. If you’re creating a piece of artwork for exhibition it would be best to opt for a brand that gives you an idea of the permanence of your paint and opt for the highest possible. For everyday experiments and general practice though I feel the Reeves set serves a purpose and the quality is good for a mid-range product.

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‘Moving’ Gouache base under soft pastels

 

To see some of my past gouache work, click the icons:

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