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Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

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Monthly Review: Perspective & Composition

Last week I talked a bit about the online art course I’ve started and how one unit had been focusing on perspective (link). The unit prompted me to dig a bit deeper into the subject and today I’ll be reviewing the book ‘Perspective & Composition’.

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Full title: Essential Guide to Drawing; Perspective & Composition

Author: Barrington Barber

Price: £4.99 – £23

Where to buy: WaterstonesBook Depository, Amazon, ebay

About: An instructional guide to the ‘rules’ of perspective and composition, with step-by-step exercises.

I first came across Barrington Barber’s instructional drawing books when I was a teenager and used to lap up the art books in The Works. Although this particular book claims to be ‘practical and inspirational’ I’d argue that the former is at least true! As someone who loves step-by-step instructions both written and with visuals, I do like Barber’s books. However, this more methodical, instructional tone doesn’t exactly get you fired up with creative ideas. The covers of Barber’s books tend to be quite tame with a ‘school’ vibe about them and the interior looks almost text-booky. However, the contents is quality.

The layout is logical, with a clear font, sub-titles and diagrams so is good for all kinds of learners, be they visual or more text-based. There are also mini projects throughout to ensure you understand the concepts being explained so there’s a good balance of theory and practical.

I think this book would be best suited to art students, particularly around GCSE and would be useful in a classroom or tuition setting. Although, it would also be useful for those teaching themselves. One section mentions ‘Compositions by Master Artists’, which could potentially encourage further research and study.

Another thing I like about this book is that although it’s short it tries to keep the users interest by covering different ways of using perspective, for example when drawing people or objects in addition to just landscapes and scenes.

Although this book wouldn’t encourage me to purposely seek out any more of Barber’s books I did take something away from it and it’s worth a read if you’re really struggling with the concept of perspective. For me, the best way to learn about perspective is to practice, practice, practice and learn to trust your eyes; draw what you see, not what you think you should see.

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Creative gifts: My favourite five

Christmas is just around the corner so today I’m going to bring you a little bit of inspiration, thanks to some very talented artists and craft enthusiasts. I always like to support small businesses and individuals and as these items aren’t mass produced the recipient of your gift will be getting something truly special and more personal. Click the name to be taken directly to the shop.

My Favourite Five

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Lyndsey Green Illustration

Rabbit Illustration eco tote bag, £8

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Aside from the fact that this is a fantastic illustration (and perfect for any animal lover) I also love the fact that this bag is eco friendly. Delivery is just 95p.

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Artwork by Angie

Dog illustration print, £14

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As a dog lover this really appeals to me. I love the cheerful colours and humorous caption too. This would be great for someone who has a dog. Postage is free.

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Casey Illustration

Watercolour robin illustration print, £6

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I just had to include this! I think this has so much character and is really unusual. You’ll also find a selection of printed gift tags in Casey’s shop. Postage to the U is free.

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Lyndsey Green Illustration

Red fox cushion, £20

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This is one of Lyndsey’s illustrations printed on a faux suede cushion (so perfect for art-loving vegans!). It’s also available on an eco cotton bag. Postage is a reasonable £1.50.

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Inkishop

Dog mug, £10

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I love everything in this shop! From the quirky tote bags, to the adorable cards and mugs, they’re all quirky and guaranteed to bring a smile to any animal lovers face! Postage £4

 

 

Three to see!

As my blog followers will know, I love to find enthusiastic artists out there and give them a bit of exposure here. There are so many talented individuals out there whose work just needs to be seen and shared! As I’ve been working on my large Mabinogion piece (if you missed the post about this you can find it here: link) I decided to have a dig on Deviantart (you can follow my account here: hmwillustration) for some Celt-inspired work and came across some superb pieces. It was difficult to narrow down my favourites but after much deliberation I’m sharing my top 3. Be sure to check out each artist’s profile, or better still let them know what you think of their wonderful work! Please remember that the copyright belongs to the artist.

 

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Roberto Pavic  (DeviantArt name: roblfc1892)

Roberto has been a member of DeviantArt for many years and his gallery is full of interesting photography and tattoo designs. He has a whole gallery folder dedicated specifically to Celtic tattoo design, with my favourites being his Celtic dragons. Also look out for the exquisite ‘Swallow’ and ‘Ravens’.

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Rachel Arbuckle (DeviantArt name: CelticArt)

Rachel is from Italy and has a love of Gouache paint. Her gallery is entirely dedicated to Celtic designs and is a treasure trove of intricate work. Below is one of my favourite pieces, titled ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’.

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Lucie Ondruskova (Deviantart name: LucieOn)

Lucie is from the Czech Republic and works a lot with watercolours. Her gallery has a collection dedicated to her ‘Knotworks and Patterns’ which are made truly unique with her interesting application of watercolour and small additional details. Below is ‘Celtic Butterfly’, just one of many beautiful pieces of subtle knotwork.

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Next week i’ll be posting my usual ‘Monthly Tutorial’. This time I’ll be showing you how to develop your ideas.

Monthly review; Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Letters

Title: Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Letters

Authors/illustrator: Brian Froud, Ari Berk

Price: From £8 – £160 first edition

Where to buy (UK): Amazon, ebay, Waterstones

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This is one of my most treasured Froud books in my collection, possibly because it really stands out from the others. What makes this book so unique is the interaction the reader has with it. Each page is filled with Froud’s distinctive fairy illustrations, but also draws the reader/viewer in by having all sorts of interesting attachments. From ‘handwritten’ pull-out letters, to envelopes containing quaint surprises, this book encourages exploration by the reader, involving another sense (touch) rather than the usual individual sense of sight (though I must admit I’m a fan of the smell of new or very old books…I know I’m not alone in this!).

As with many of Froud’s book the creativity and attempt at authenticity doesn’t stop with the artwork. The text itself could be argued to be a work of art in itself. Throughout we’re treated to a range of interesting fonts, from beautiful italic handwriting to calligraphy-style work. One thing that Froud never fails to do is draw his audience in. It’s almost as if he believes these wonderful scenarios and worlds he imagines. I love the dedication to making the book and backstory seem as authentic as possible, it shows Froud’s utter enthusiasm for his work.

Much like his other books the target age for this book is debatable. Whilst fairies and similar subjects are often thought of as geared more towards children, Froud’s work always seems to fall into this ageless space. I can imagine children and adults alike enjoying this hands-on book. That being said, for the very reason that it is hands-on this book isn’t suitable for very young children as delicate pull-outs may be easily torn/damaged. Some understanding and prior-knowledge is also needed to understand the basis of this book. Many adults will be familiar with the true story of the girls who, in 1917, took ‘real’ photographs of fairies in Cottingley, England (which were later exposed as being fake). The book is intended to be a ‘scrapbook’ of the girl in the famous photograph, named Angelica Cottington. As mentioned in last month’s review of Froud’s ‘A Field Guide to Goblins; The Goblin Companion’, whist wonderfully elaborate the story can be difficult to follow, particularly for younger readers. For this reason I’d recommend this book for older teenagers on wards, however I’m sure children would love to be shown the quirky illustrations and would delight in the pull-outs being demonstrated (do take note that some fairy poses are quite cheeky though! Parents may want to flip through and judge for themselves first).

Price-wise this book is affordable and I personally feel that the joy I get from revisiting this book again and again is worth every penny paid. I’d recommend this book to anyone with an interest in illustration, other worlds, and those young at heart.

 

TIP: If you like this book there are other Lady Cottington books, which are available in Waterstones. You can see the whole collection on their website here: link

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

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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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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Monthly review- Derwent Inktense watercolour pencils

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been putting Derwent’s Inktense watercolour pencils to the test with interesting results. As promised, here’s everything you need to know…

Product name: Derwent Inktense watercolour pencils (24 set tin)

Price: £18.99-£40.75

Rating: 4/5

About: A tin of 24 watercolour pencils which can be used with or without water.

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Having relied on the same brand of watercolour pencils for the past 9 years I was excited to try these and, I admit it, slightly sceptical that they would live up to their implied vibrancy…but I was pleasantly surprised!

Although it took me a little while to get used to the softness of the tips (more on this later) when I got stuck in I was delighted to see a vibrant drawing begin to emerge. The quality of these pencils are evident, and provide an intensity I personally find hard to achieve with other, ‘normal’ watercolour pencils.

What I like about these pencils is the control you get. They’re very versatile in the way that they offer the best of both worlds; if you want a softer, subtler effect this can be achieved by using light pressure, whilst if you want the promised ‘inktense’ effect this is achievable by layering and applying the right amount of pressure. The fact that the drawing may be left as it is, or diluted/smoothed over by applying water with a brush afterwards also demonstrates this versatility. I found I was happy with the effect I had achieved without feeling the need to add water.

However, as you can tell from the comments above, it would take someone who has at least some experience with watercolour pencils to understand about the amount of pressure you need to add, which is why these wouldn’t spring to mind when thinking of children or beginners. I feel these pencils are suited more to practicing artists, particularly as they’re quite expensive.

As I mentioned earlier, the tips of these pencils are very soft. Whilst watercolour pencils are often very soft in comparison to ‘normal’ coloured pencils, these seemed softer than the average. So, if like me you like to work with a very sharp tip you’ll need to sharpen these often and with a scalpel/thin craft knife. Due to the soft nature of the tips they’ll become ‘blunt’ quicker, particularly if you’re using them with the aim to produce that promised vibrancy.  This makes them less cost-effective so there’s a bit of a trade off: vibrancy or pencil life?

To conclude I’d say that these are a genuine pleasure to use, which will be picked up by artists who appreciate their materials. They’re something I would use for a special piece, or if material costs were included in a commission, otherwise, these are good to put on Christmas and birthday lists!

wherebuyThe most competitive prices seem to be on amazon, but these pencils are available in stores too. The Range stocks Derwent Inktense 24 tin (as well as 12) at £29.99, whilst Hobbycraft stocks them for £30 and are currently offering those who join the Hobbycraft club 15% off their first online order.

 

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Undiluted watercolour pencil drawing, Hanna-Mae Williams

 

 

 

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watercolour pencil drawing with ink background. Hana-Mae Williams

 

 

 

 

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