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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a lovely festive season, I know for some it’s still not over yet but with a little disappointment I took down my decorations earlier today. On the other hand, I’m ready to start a brand new year and have been creating an ‘inspiration board’ to refer back to when I’m feeling a little lost.

An inspiration board can be a great way to almost ‘meditate’ over your goals. Get yourself some mountboard (available in hobby/art shops like Hobbycraft), a stack of old magazines and any crafty extras you want to make your board beautiful (glitter glue etc) and pull out any images or text that relates to your goals.

Collaging can be very relaxing and I find it very therapeutic allowing myself to just be creative with no worries of how the final product will look. You can make words by cutting out different letters, make areas stand out using 3D tape/craft dots and really experiment creatively. Put it up somewhere where you can look at it throughout the year, to refresh your enthusiasm.

If you’d prefer a less ‘busy’ board or have some material hanging around that you’re not sure what to do with, you can take a look at one of my tutorials from a couple of years ago that takes you step-by-step through creating a fabric-covered inspiration board (click here)

Before Christmas I visited a local Christmas market as I like to support local small businesses, especially art and craft-based ones. Unfortunately I was on crutches meaning hobbling at a snails-pace from stall to stall, but I discovered some real treasures! The handmade item that made me most excited was the gorgeous fairy tree topper I came across from the ‘Magical Fairy Emporium’. You can find them on facebook here: link 

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In my last post of the year ‘How to have a greener Christmas‘ I told you to hang on to any wrapping paper you couldn’t recycle and gave some ideas on how to put it to good use. Next week I’ll be demonstrating some of these ideas in a step-by-step tutorial.

Happy New Year to all my blog followers!

Tis the season…to get creative

Here in sunny Wales it’s been raining for over a week! Although soggy strolls with my dog and taking refuge in coffee shops have been welcome excursions out of the house I’ve been enjoying finishing off my Christmas card design. I’m happy with the finished product and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my order from the printers.

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Final card design, water mixable oils.
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Edited design 1 (pre-made digital background)
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Edited design 2 (pre-made digital overlay/text)

I feel it was worth taking time over the colour palette as it all ties together nicely. If you missed last months tutorial: ‘Developing your ideas’ you can read about how to tie all your ideas together: link

As my old neighbour (‘old’ as in from my previous home) has been so kind to me this year I decided I would also get a mug printed using my design and give it to her as a Christmas gift.

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Now that I’ve got my Christmas cards sorted I’m focusing on a sewing project for my best friend’s nephew. I finally have an excuse to use up the stash of felt sheets I’ve been hanging on to for a while and am working on hand-sewing a personalised pouch (with lion pocket on the front) filled with wild animal finger puppets.  So far I’ve finished an elephant, a panda, and a tiger. As a long-term vegan I feel it’s important to know all about what I’m using; where the material/food/cosmetics etc I’m using are sourced and the process behind creating them. As some of you may know vegans generally avoid using any animal-related products, one being wool. It’s up to each individual what they choose to avoid/use but I believe in the importance of making informed decisions. You can read all about wool and the ethical issues behind it in my up-front guide here (click to view) : ‘Loom knitting for beginners and your guide to ethical knitting’

Although I’ll be using my own cards this year I have purchased a special one from a talented individual for the owners of a gorgeous little cockapoo who my own dog is in love with! The likeness is uncanny and if you’re looking for some unique dog-inspired art or cards for that dog lover in your life then MindfulDogCo is the shop for you! Run by the talented Imogen who’s based in Southampton, you can find her online shop here: link

 

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Christmas card from MindfulDogCo

Christmas is such a wonderful excuse to get creative, from card making to baking and making your own gifts. Next week I’ll be showing you how to use your leftover wrapping paper and turn it into something beautiful!

 

Happy creating!

Monthly tutorial: Halloween treat bag

Halloween is coming up so this month I’ll be showing you how to sew your own mini drawstring treat bag. As my blog followers will know I’m a huge fan of recycling/upcycling material (take a look at my eco wear: link) so when I was given a stash of random bits of material I was keen to get stuck in and get sewing again. I hand-sew all my items as I like the control and the feeling that i’m really engaging with what I’m doing. I also feel that hand sewing can be therapeutic due to the repetitive motion and concentration it requires but this bag can be done using a sewing machine if you don’t have much time. Some materials are easier to work with than others. Generally speaking thinner cotton fabric is quite easy to work with. The spiderweb material I used had a lycra-esque quality to it which made it difficult to work with, for this tutorial I recommend sticking to non stretchy fabrics.

You will need:

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♦ A cutting mat (optional but useful!)

♦ Fabric scissors

♦ Fabric marker/pencil

♦ Pins

♦ Sewing needle

♦ Cotton thread (in colours matching your material)

♦ A piece of material measuring at least 32 x 18 cm

♦ A piece of contrasting material measuring at least 32 x 8cm

♦ 2 pieces of ribbon approx. 32cm

Step 1

You’re going to need to cut out two pieces of material for the main part of your treat bag. Using a fabric marker/pencil, mark out two rectangles measuring 16 x 18 cm and cut out.

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Step 2

For your casing you’ll need to cut out two rectangles measuring 16 x 8cm.

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Step 3

To give a neat edge, fold shorter ends of your casing over 1cm and pin in place before sewing. I used basic backstitch.

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Step 4

Pin your larger pieces of fabric together around three edges (2 long edges,1 short) with the wrong sides facing. Sew with 1cm seam allowance and turn the right way.

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Step 5

Take your casing pieces and fold in half so you can see the neat side of your stitching. At this point if you have time it’s good to press your pieces with an iron but as I had limited time I skipped this step. It just makes your material more well behaved and neat. Pin your folded pieces to the top of your bag (raw edges at the top)

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Step 6

It’s up to you how far down you wanht to sew, the further down you sew the less of the contrasting material you’ll be able to see and bear in mind you’ll need to be able to get your ribbon through. As I had a gap at the top of my material where the spiderweb pattern stopped I chose to sew quite low down, just above half way but anything 1cm or over is fine (providing you can fit your ribbon through).

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Step 7

Turn your casing in. This is also a good time to press your material to keep your joins/edges crisp. Please remember that some fabrics can only be pressed at a very low heat though! Stretchy fabrics can actually melt. If you’re using cotton as recommended this isn’t a problem.

Step 8

Attach a safety pin to the end of your ribbon and feed it through the gap you’ve made with the casing.

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And there you have it, your own unique Halloween treat bag! This pattern is so versatile, it can be used for any occasion, including Christmas and birthdays. You can alter the sizes to make a smaller or larger bag and is a great way to use up scraps of fabric.

Happy Halloween everyone!

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…

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!

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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Forget me not

I’m going to admit something surprising….until the other day I hadn’t touched a paintbrush for the entire month of February. As an illustrator whose whole world revolves around art, I’ve found myself in an odd space these past couple of months. I’ve kept my creative self active, as you know, by sewing and crafts, but since the beginning of the year my artistic side seems to have gone in to hibernation. The other day, fearing I’d somehow magically lost the ability to create art, I had a strong urge to return to my desk and pick up where I left off with my autobiographical piece, and as I got lost in that bubble I enter when I’m painting or drawing, the floodgates opened. I found my heart pouring in to my work, fuelled by music (which I hadn’t listened to this year until that point), and felt just like I used to when I was engrossed in a piece; the piece becomes sort of like a puzzle, like a ‘paint by numbers’ in my head, where my brain works out what colours to mix and where to put them, until bit by bit the picture forms. As I was painting, thinking about a truly adored family member who we lost at the beginning of the year, I realised what I was actually painting: Forget me not’s.

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As some of my followers may know veganism is another huge art of my life (links to recipes at the end!) and last month I was excited to attend the Viva Vegan fair in Cardiff. It seemed even more popular than last year! And it was great to see creativity, as well as compassion, was a big part of the fair. There were stalls with all sorts of creative offerings, with artists, crafters, and even a photographer selling their work. Here are my top 3, take a look at their websites, especially if you’re looking for something ethical as well as unique!

1

‘Wear your voice’ website: link

I’ve mentioned this website before as I love the unique designs that are like wearing a piece of art! What’s more the fabric ink used is environmentally friendly and not tested on animals.

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2

‘The Healing Pear’ Website: Link

When I came across the intricately carved gemstones I was stunned that they’d been hand carved! This talented maker gets her inspiration from: ‘the amazing places I’ve been fortunate enough to call home around the world’

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3

‘BeWilder Nature Photography’ Website: link

I was awe struck when I saw Geraint’s stunning work. From unbelievable macro shots of insects, to birds and landscape scenes, Geraint’s online gallery brings to life the beauty of nature.

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I’ve always been interested in using art and creativity as a springboard to benefit other causes, from using it therapeutically, or in this case to contribute to animal welfare, which is why I jumped at the chance to get involved with Viva’s (link) planned art auction next year. For those who’ve never heard of Viva, they’re an animal charity promoting an ethical lifestyle and have gone from strength to strength over the past 24 years. The website is bursting with useful and interesting content, from health guides and campaign materials, to an ethical shop and recipes. Their ever expanding list of projects also includes ‘Art for Animals’, a way for artists and makers to use their talents to benefit animals. Take a look at the artists here, or if you’re a creative type then why not get involved? I’m already planning the piece I’m going to contribute!

Vegan Recipes (click to open new window)

Chickpea bites

Alternative Easter oatcakes

Healthier sushi

 

An art lovers’ guide to Caerphilly

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In previous posts I’ve mentioned my involvement over the past two years in the Y Galeri Caerffili Open Art Exhibition and this month my ‘monthly review’ brings you an introduction to the small but blossoming art scene in this little Welsh town.

Type ‘art in Caerphilly’ in a search engine and the first thing you’re likely to see mentioned is Y Galeri. This small gallery, which moved to its current location in 2015, has become a hub of creativity, displaying work from talented local artists and makers, and bringing together creatives, as well as offering the wonderful opportunity of guidance and gallery space for each year’s Open Art competition winner. The gallery, though small, is a must-see for any art enthusiast visiting the area, and is just a stone’s throw away from the impressive Caerphilly castle, which has been the subject of many entries in to the yearly competition. One such piece which was shown at this year’s exhibition was a lino cut by Elanor Whiteman, who lives and works in Caerphilly, and has taken part in an extensive list of solo and group exhibitions around England and Wales. You can view Elanor’s work on her website here: http://eleanorwhiteman.wixsite.com/print/about

The Gallery is a great place for visiting art fans to begin, especially as just upstairs you’ll find the visitor’s centre (link) where you’ll find information leaflets, a café, and local crafts and gifts. The friendly staff are also on hand to answer any questions, and it’s open daily from 10-5:30 (The gallery is open Tues-Sat 10-5:00).

If you’re planning a trip to the town and want to cram in as much creativity as possible, Caerphilly holds a number of craft fairs throughout the year, with handmade items from talented local crafters, conveniently near the visitor centre. You can find out more by visiting the Caerphilly Craft Fair facebook page here:  link

In addition to craft fairs and the gallery, Caerphilly also has an art society, which holds a week-long exhibition each Autumn displaying members work, from enthusiastic beginners, to professionals. The society also holds demonstrations and workshops and guests are always welcome (prices apply). To find out more email caerphillyart@gmail.com

Useful Links

Trip adviser reviews for Y Galeri Caerffili: link

Y Glaeri Caerffili facebook: link

Twitter: link

Website: link

Caerphilly art society facebook: link

Website: link

 

Cariad the cat

Some see it as a way for companies to make money, others go giddy at the romance, I see it as a chance to get creative! I’m talking of course, about the swiftly approaching Valentine’s Day. For the past few days I’ve been busy honing my skills (and stabbing my poor fingers!) in a craft I’m pretty new to: needle felting. My followers may remember a post from the end of last year in which I shared my very first foray in to the world of needle felting [link] Since then I’ve taken the craft in my own direction, straying from instructions, and adding my own little extras. With Valentine’s Day in mind, I created this kitten from a set given to me as a gift. When I got going, my creative mind took over and I began to improvise…may I introduce you to Cariad (Welsh meaning ‘love’)

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Want to have a go but follow a vegan lifestyle? I’ve got it sorted! Read my guide to everything wool here: Guide to ethical knitting or take a look at the Heidi Feather’s website and etsy for vegan-friendly supplies.

If you’re interested in ethical felting, or looking for a truly unique felted gift, it’s worth taking a look at the work of Matilde Bartoletti [etsy link] who strives for ‘CRUELTY-FREE FELTING and art (created without the use of materials coming from animals exploitation; or that do not contribute to animals abuse).’ and whose creations are made using ‘either synthetic, vegetal, or recycled wool’. Take a look at some of her work below (click image for direct link)

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As well as keeping myself busy sewing and felting I also attended the Y Galeri Caerffili awards presentation event. It was great to see so many like-minded creatives enjoying and discussing each other’s art work. The winning piece was actually the one that stood out to me most at my visit the week before, an ominous and atmospheric etching titled ‘Blodeuwedd and the Pedigree Moon’ by Ian Fisher. You can see the winning piece by scrolling down on Y Galeri Caerffili’s facebook page [link]

In the spirit of the impending Saint Valentine’s Day, I leave you now with some Buddhist quotes on love to ponder over…

‘Relationships are based on four principles: respect, understanding, acceptance, and appreciation’ – Gandhi

‘Where there is love there is life’ – Gandhi

‘Happiness never decreases by being shared’ – Buddha

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