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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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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!

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!

 

 

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

Monthly tutorial: easy peasy toddler skirt

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This month I’m bringing you a super easy introduction to making children’s clothes. This tutorial is good for beginners or sewers looking to boost their confidence. The skirt will fit most 3 year old’s, but can stretch and will sit just above the knee.

You will need:

. 2 pieces of material (I used light cotton) measuring 45cm (width) 25.5cm (height)

. Fabric scissors

. Cotton to match your material

. Sewing needle

. pins

. 47cm elastic

Step 1

 

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Iron your material and cut out your 2 pieces

Step 2

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To make the edge of your skirt neat you’ll need to create a hem. You can use bias binding, but to keep it simple we’ll be making a simple hem. Turn over a few cm’s of material and pin into place.

Step 3

 

 

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Use back stitch to sew your hem. Back stitch is an easy, strong stitch. If you’re not sure how to do back stitch you can find tons of tutorials on youtube [link]

If you want to add sequins or decoration to your skirt, now is the time to do it before you sew your pieces together.

Step 4

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Once you’ve done your hem on both pieces of material, put your material right-side together, and pin around an inch from the edge of your material, on both the left and the right. This is going to be your seam. Use back stitch again to sew up your sides.

Step 5

 

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Press your seams open. This is the easiest option for beginners, but if you want extra neat seams you can find my tutorial here: How to neaten a seam

Step 6

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Turn your skirt the right way around. It should be starting to resemble a skirt.

Step 7

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Now we have to make the waist band. Take your elastic, and fold the top of the material over it, leaving some excess, and pin in to place (see below). Do this on both sides, and remove the elastic.

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Note: make sure your seam is flat, not folded over:

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Step 8

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Use back stitch to sew all around your waist band, leaving a couple of inches to feed the elastic through.

Step 9

Attach a safety pin to the end of your elastic and feed it through the waist band.

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Step 10

Once your elastic is all the way through, overlap the ends by about an inch, and sew together.

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Step 11

Sew the gap up, and adjust until ruffles are even all around, and voila! you’ve just made a skirt!

Once you’ve gained some confidence the sky is he limit! But if you’re looking for something read-made take a look at my newly uploaded collection of eco-friendly upcycled clothing [Link] including the piece I mentioned in a recent post, inspired by St Dwynwen’s/Valentine’s day. Simply click the images below for more pictures and details.

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Monthly Tutorial: Loom knitting for beginners (and your guide to ethical knitting)

Wool is a subject that occasionally comes up in the vegan community, and for years I was unsure of where I stood with using it. I’ve been doing some research to bring you the facts about wool, the impact it has on animals, and how you can make your knit more ethical.

So, what’s wrong with wool?

Question 1. Don’t sheep need to be sheared?

I’ve found that many people assume shearing a sheep is essential and the ‘kind thing to do’ to ensure the sheep is comfortable. This is partly true. Sheep develop thick coats that do need shearing to ensure they’re comfortable, but here’s the thing: wild sheep have the ability to naturally shed their coats, it’s breeders who have bred sheep specifically for wool to develop thick coats, which they cannot naturally shed, meaning they need to be sheared. Like with dogs, we’ve almost ‘edited’ sheep for a purpose.

Question 2. Isn’t shearing painless?

Yes and no. The cutting of the wool itself is painless, but it’s when skin gets nicked or accidentally cut that it’s painful. This is more likely when wool is being mass produced. Shearers often get paid per sheep, rather than per hour, which means workers are more inclined to work faster, which can result in mistakes.

Where your wool comes from and why it matters

80% of wool comes from Australia, where a practice known as ‘museling’ is legal. Museling is when the skin from around the sheep’s rear is literally cut away, usually without anaesthetic. Why would they do this you might ask? Well, it’s claimed that this practice prevents something known as ‘fly strike’ which is when blow flies lay eggs which eventually hatch in to maggots which eat away the skin of the sheep. This can be fatal. However, there are alternatives, as the RSPCA Australia outline on this page (link).

Question 3. Where can I get ethical wool or alternatives?

The good news is that museling is illegal in the UK, so any wool that’s produced in the UK won’t come from sheep that have been subjected to this painful practice. This may be enough for you to decide you’re happy to purchase UK wool, but of course there’s always the matter of welfare whilst sheering. In my opinion if you still feel you want to use wool it’s best to go for small businesses that don’t focus on mass production. I contacted the owner of Laura’s Loom who collects fleece from ‘small manufacturers across the North of England into the Scottish Borders’ to ask about welfare. She was most helpful, actually speaking to one of her farmers, who assured her that their small flocks were well cared for. As well as selling accessories her online shop also stocks yarn for knitting and weaving (link).

If you decide that you’d prefer to take animals out of the equation all together, there are also plenty of synthetic wool’s available. You can pick these up at most craft shops, such as Hobby Craft, at a reasonable price. Materials include cotton, acrylic mixes (acrylic, acrylic with cotton, acrylic with viscose) and there are even more options online, including materials such as bamboo. I’ve found that etsy has quite a few options available, and also means you’re supporting small businesses (link) However, if you’re looking for a truly ethical/eco option it’s important to remember that acrylic is man-made and doesn’t biodegrade as natural fibres do.

So now you’ve decided the material for you, it’s time to get crafting. This month I’ll be giving you an introduction to loom knitting. This project is so simple, and is a good starting project for beginners. I found my wool in a charity shop. It’s always worth taking a look as occasionally you’ll stumble upon a stash.

loomknit

You will need:

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  • Small round loom (mine was intended as a flower loom)
  • Scissors
  • Wool/other
  • Loom hook
  • Button (optional)

Where to buy:

Loom Hook (link)

Round loom (link)

Step 1

Put a small length of wool through the middle of your loom, so you have a little tail, then wrap your wool once, in a clock-wise way, around each peg.

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Step 2

Once you’ve done this on each peg and you’re back to your first peg, wrap the wool around it again, as you’ve been doing, to create a second loop. Take your loom hook and pull the first loop (the one underneath the second you’ve just made, and pull it over the first, off the peg.

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Step 3

Repeat above over and over until you reach your desired length.

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Step 4

Once you’ve reached your desired length, snip the wool so you’re left with another tail. This time, instead of creating a second loop and pulling the first over it you’re going to pull the length of wool through the loop.

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You’ll be left with what resembles a loose knot. (I have removable pegs so remove them as I go along)

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Step 5

Repeat above until you’ve done all of the pegs, then gently pull to tighten a bit, and tie a knot to stop unravelling. Tie a knot in the other end as well.

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Step 6

Turn your wrist warmer the right way (it’ll be inside out).

 

Step 7

Sew on either a button, or you can use a little wool to make a bow to sew on.

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Happy crafting!

Creative chaos!

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Chaotic! That’s the best way to describe my creativity lately, flitting from one project to another depending on my mood. I’ve been in search of inspiration in many areas, from spending time in beautiful natural spaces (which often stirs something in me) to searching pinterest for art, sewing, interiors, and everything in between. I’ve been re-visiting pieces and photographs, working on my seascape (yes, finally tackling it again) and searching my photo file to create a ‘thank you’ piece for a kind health professional.

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That’s one tip I’d give anyone embarking on learning/developing artistic skills: compile a reference image folder. That way, when the feeling to draw/paint strikes, you only have to reach for your file for inspiration. Mine is divided into sections: places, people, flower/plants and misc. It also encourages an interest in photography, and is a way to capture a little part of your day. I often carry my digicam with me, even if I’m going somewhere familiar. The beauty of natural spaces and even man-made spaces/views is that things are constantly changing, so there’s a constant supply of new material to work with.

Sewing-wise I’ve been letting my creativity have free-rein, and have been creating a colourful panelled skirt with bright colours, beautiful patterns, and those little details that bring a piece together. I found the perfect fabric which I immediately saw the potential in the moment I set eyes on it.

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Although my clothing project is a little behind where I’d initially planned by this point, I’ve decided the best route to take is to take my time making and researching, and to try to enjoy the creative process, which is in keeping with my objective to be more ‘in the moment’.

 

 

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