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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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Resurrecting the old

Recently my focus has been a bit all over the place when it comes to where to direct my creative energy. I’ve been dipping into my children’s illustration course then reviving old projects and feeling the need to work on those. Over a year ago I started an autobiographical piece that after a bereavement I felt unable to complete. I thought that that would be that, I’d never have the inclination to finish the piece as it reminded me of a difficult time in my life. However, the other day the urge to get back in to some….forgive me for this term….’serious’ art overwhelmed me.

It’s been a little while since I did what people in my life know me for, which is more fine art (not including the still life we had to do for one of the units in my course). As some of you may know over the past year I’ve been turning my focus more to less precise work and embracing the freedom of illustration but I do miss that feeling I get when I get really engrossed in detail. I’m having mixed feelings about beginning work on this piece again but I have this feeling that right now I’m supposed to be out-letting some emotion with it.

The other project I’ve brought out again is one I worked on years ago after the loss of my beautiful Springer Spaniel. Wanting to create something good from something bad I used the box her ashes came in to create a piece of work that had meaning behind it. I called it ‘The Fairy House’, but in a way it’s like a memorial piece. A lot of the materials I used represent something meaningful.

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‘The Fairy House’ by Hanna-Mae Williams

 

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‘The Fairy House’ by Hanna-Mae Williams

In addition to the box that made the main structure of the house I used twigs collected from places I visited regularly with my dog. The field I used to walk in with my Nan (who has also now passed), moss which I dried from places we’d also walked, and even the shells on the roof have their own story. Many years ago on freecycle someone was advertising a box of craft materials that had belonged to their late wife. They wanted them to go to good use as his wife had spent many hours enjoying crafting with them. I promised they would and so they became part of the Fairy House.

Some of the elements are handmade too; I used polymer clay to make tiny mushrooms that are ‘growing’ out of the roof, the blanket in the shell bed was knitted and the little pillow was a section of an old teatowel that I embroidered. A lot of work went into this project, yet for the past year the Fairy House has been sat in a shed. Now feels like the time to tidy it up a bit and decide where it belongs.

I’m enjoying my volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Society and am incorporating my love of craft and all things creative into the session I’m doing. I feel like getting creative can have a positive effect on our wellbeing, even if only for the time we’re doing it.

I’m yet to visit the Da Vinci exhibition in Cardiff (I mentioned in my last blog about the nation-wide exhibitions that were being held to mark the 500th anniversary of his death) but as it’s running until the beginning of May there’s still plenty of time to get there. Since I started researching the Italian Renaissance during my A levels (13 years ago) I’ve had an interest in the subject and artists from that time. I love the use of symbolism and considered using this era in my dissertation but opted for the Symbolist Movement (late 19th century)…you can see why.

This week I’m allowing myself to just be creative in whatever way I feel. How much I create and how much I engage with my work is often dependent on how I’m feeling. This week I’m feeling in need of some freedom, to outlet emotions with whatever project feels right at the time.

 

 

 

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Floral inspiration

 

Last week I brought you a review of the wonderful temporary exhibition currently at The National Museum & Art Gallery in Cardiff: ‘Nature’s Song; Chinese Bird and Flower Paintings‘. Feeling inspired by the experience I decided to have a rummage around the internet to find other appreciators of this delicate art genre, who have created work reminiscent of the traditional style. I unearthed some superb examples (please visit artist online gallery for full-size images) here are my top 3…

1‘Chinese Hibiscus’ by Nikole Lowe of Nikole Lowe Paintings on Etsy.

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I love the delicacy of this piece, something which was really evident in the original 16th century work on display at the exhibition. What makes this piece really special is the fact that Nikole has used Chinese paints on rice paper, in a nod to tradition. Her Etsy shop is full of must-see original paintings, mostly dedicated to this particular style. You’ll even find an adult colouring book and an interesting video of Nikole at work.

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2I came across Claudia Hahn’s work on Deviantart and was mesmerised by her bright and soulful depictions of nature. Her gallery is bursting with inspiring artwork, including this Peony painting done entirely with beetroot juice and tea!

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3I love how Etsy shop owner Vartus Varadian has utilised her talent as a form of meditation (she describes how she took up Chinese brush painting in response to illness) as well as making this art form accessible to all. Her work is available in card form, is affordable, and is a joy to look at.

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Recently I joined an art group run by Mind,  and decided it was the perfect opportunity to experiment with my own Chinese art-inspired piece. I often use photographs as a reference, but with such a limited slot of time this proved to be an exercise in improvisation as well as observation. Having completed the base drawing and graphite sections during the session, I applied colour from memory later on, using Inktense watercolour pencils. In my initial review of these pencils I was impressed with the delivery of the promised colour intensity, but it took this small painting to really make me realise that these pencils really come into their own when diluted.

 

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With Mother’s day around the corner, I thought it would be a nice idea to turn my little drawing/painting into a card, and here’s what I came up with…

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A change of schedule. You’ve got to see this…

A bit of a change in schedule with this month’s review! I’ve pushed the promised Graphitint review back until next month (I was surprised by how they handled – more next month) to allow you plenty of time to visit this inspiring exhibition:

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What: Nature’s Song; Chinese Bird and Flower Paintings

Where: National Museum & Art Gallery, Cardiff

When: Until 23/04/2017 Tuesday-Sunday 10-5

Admission: Free

About: An exhibition showing and explaining traditional Chinese flower and bird paintings from as far back as the 16th century. 

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What really stuck me about this exhibition was just how thought-out and thorough it was. It was evident from the moment I stepped through the double doors into the space that whoever was behind the curation of this exhibition had passion.

Far from being what most would expect of an exhibition of paintings – walking around a space, looking at pictures on a wall, this exhibition is about becoming part of something. As you step into the space you’re immersed in a culture. You’ll initially be greeted by an information board offering introductory information, behind it a Chinese room divider, with a table offering high quality colour exhibition leaflets.

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Not only are they informative, but also multilingual – another example of thoroughness, which is continued throughout the entire exhibition. Video/audio adds a whole other dimension and interest to the exhibition, with the sound of spoken Chinese and traditional instrumental music wafting through the space, accompanied by English and Welsh subtitles! This exhibition accommodates thoughtfully for their most likely visitors.

I was surprised by the size of the space too. However, the space wasn’t sparse nor jam-packed to the extent of feeling claustrophobic. Visitors could move around comfortably without bothering each other, but never be short of points of interest. A wooden bench in front of the projected video was a sensible touch, and again, a thoughtful one.

In addition to the large screen there was also a small video station situated in front of what I’d describe as an installation, showing a replica work room, displaying traditional-style furniture, paper scrolls, and tools such as brushes and holders (copies of which are available in the gift shop). This allows you to truly appreciate the process and situation in which the surrounding artwork was created, especially as the video demonstrates how the tools would have been used.

notsoIt’s hard to find fault with such a well thought-out and intriguing exhibition, however there was one aspect that I’m still on the fence about: the lighting. Whilst I can appreciate the intention behind the decision to include ambient lighting to create a certain serene atmosphere, I feel that by allowing the lighting to be a form of creativity in itself (there were also lighting effects – patterns on the floor resembling waves) it took focus away from the real beauty – the exquisite art. I feel that this should have been pared back a bit, and I personally felt I wanted to turn the lighting up to properly see the detail in each piece, though some may argue that the dim lighting reflected the delicacy of the work.

concludePersonally speaking, ‘Nature’s Song’ proved to be one of my favourite temporary exhibitions of the past few years, and has real substance to it. For art history fans, cultural studies students, and of course artists and art appreciators, this exhibition offers not only beautiful visual aspects, but also a peek into a whole way of life and working.

In regards to child-friendliness, I feel this exhibition is more for older children, who can appreciate the art as more than just a ‘painting on a wall’. This is an exhibition to take your time in contemplative silence around. With Easter half term around the corner, it’s the perfect opportunity to keep GCSE and A-level art students immersed (and hopefully inspired) for a while. I may just go back for a second look…

 

 

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A confession…

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I have a confession…one that may surprise those who have never met me…I struggle to eat. What most people would find appealing, and indeed class as ‘every day’ foods; noodles, toasties, curry, spaghetti, you name it, I probably don’t eat it. But in the interest of my health, which determines how much energy I have to work on what I love – art & design – I’m embarking on a quest (yes, this challenge feels so monumental that I feel justified in labelling it in such a way!) to challenge the compulsion that finds me reaching for the exact same foods every day.

I’m inviting you, my readers, to follow me on my journey to discover and create nourishing vegan recipes to support both body and mind. Veganism and vegetarianism has always been an influencing factor in my life, fuelling my interest in creating eco-friendly clothing, and using our natural world as inspiration for a great deal of my artwork. In next month’s ‘tutorial’ spot, I’ll be bringing you the first recipe instalment – vegan sushi. In the mean-time, here’s a list of some inspiring and useful vegan-related sites:

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Vegan Huggs – A blog packed with recipes, reviews, and more!

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Wear Your Voice – A website I’ve mentioned before where a passion for art meets a passion for animals, with truly unique illustrations printed on to t-shirts.

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Vegan Supermarket Finds UK – A super useful facebook group run by vegans, for vegans, where you can share your surprising vegan finds, as well as get some great tips on where to find all manner of vegan goodies!

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In the interest of keeping myself distracted whilst re-building my strength, I’ve been revisiting a seascape I began last year, yet lost the motivation for. Well the itch is back! and I’ve been compelled to dip in here and there. The tones of blue in the sea are proving to be a source of intrigue, as they’re not as straight-forward as they may seem; in order to achieve one elusive tone, I found myself cautiously mixing phtalo blue, cobalt, a tiny dot of ivory black, and an atom of yellow ochre, before deciding to substitute the black for burnt umber.

The relationship between colours and how they combine fascinates me! Explaining to those who don’t practise art that a blue can contain  brown, black, and even ochre, feels as though I’m revealing some clandestine key.

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Whilst my home studio is a base for all my inspiration and tools – my pattern folder, old art/craft magazines, art postcards etc, over the years I’ve grown fond of inhabiting a quiet corner of a library – a haven from home. This week I’ve been squirrelling away in the reference section (often good for exquisitely illustrated nature books) trying out Derwent Inktense pencils and making notes for next month’s review.

Costing £29.99 in the Range (£40.75 on Derwent’s website) for a tin of 24, it;s understandable you’d want to ‘try before you buy’, which is where I’ve done the work for you! Look out for the full review next month, which as always will be straight to the point and up-front.

 

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Finally, I want to tell you about the Winter Exhibition at Y Galeri Caerffili, which is displaying a whole range of styles and mediums, and at which my piece ‘One For Sorrow’ is currently on show. The exhibition will run all this month and directions can be found on their facebook page: Y Galeri Caerffili facebook. If you can’t make it in person, you’ll find some images of the artwork on display on their page and on the website.

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‘One For Sorrow’, graphite & oils, Hanna-Mae Williams

 

Quentin Blake exhibition review

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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.

Extras:

♦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.

 

New Experiences

Earlier this morning I had the pleasure of speaking with several students and academics on Radio Cardiff concerning the idea of a utopian future and our movements as a society. To listen to the podcast visit: link Including discussion on poetry, culture, and updates on exciting events due to take place in the following weeks/months.

A creative event celebrating individual talents!

After months of planning I bring to you…

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