Since January I’ve been working on a Children’s Illustration course and recently I’ve been finding that I’m really enjoying it. Oddly, it’s the more basic things I find difficult. My brain loves details and up until a year or so ago my work had more of a fine art vibe. I’ve always had a soft spot for children’s illustration though and admit that I’ve spent much time in the children’s section of Waterstones looking at the variety of styles in the picture books.
I find it difficult to limit myself when it comes to details so the most recent task in the course was challenging for me. We were to first use the ‘wet on wet’ method to apply watercolour or gouache to a page and do this with 4 different colours. Once that was dry we were to create a scene using only basic outlines, which we would cut out from the watercolour sheets and stick to a blue background. I found it quite liberating roughly sweeping and dabbing the gouache on and being really free with it. In fact, even my ‘mistakes’ turned into positives as they added interest to the look.
Whilst waiting for my pages to dry I sketched out an idea of how I wanted my final page to look. It was enjoyable just going with my instinct and not worrying about whether what I was doing was ‘good’ or not.
I used letters as a key of what colour to use where and considered what colours would stand out against each other.
I was worried the final piece would look too basic but I was quite pleased with how it turned out. I feel like the exercise helped me loosen up and feel better about omitting detail.
I’m looking forward to starting the next brief, which is a double page spread for a story book aimed at 2-4 year olds. Check back for the finished version in next month’s update post!
As any artist will know it can be difficult to focus when your mind is all over the place. Lately, my mind has been flitting from one thing to another meaning any sustained period of work has seemed near impossible! However, I’ve had a couple of short sessions over the past week where I felt really engrossed in my work and felt I channelled a lot of emotion.
I feel like art isn’t just a subject for some people, it’s so much more. To me, it’s not just something I’m ‘good at’, it’s an outlet, a distraction, part of my identity. Art is such a huge part of who I am I feel like it’s actually part of me, which is actually really quite reassuring when you’re battling with identity and trying to establish your place in this busy world.
I’ve started my distance learning with the London Art College and so far I’m finding it interesting. Initially I was wary of the way Unit 1 had me going right back to very basics but I feel like I still took something away from it. Unit 2 was interesting as it covered perspective, which is something I haven’t particularly found myself delving in to much over the 15 years I’ve been studying art. It was generally assumed that perspective was just a matter of getting the proportions and distance of what you were looking at right. Unit 2 took a more…’geometry-based’ approach (if that’s the right term to describe it) which actually had me searching the library to find out more. Next week I’ll be reviewing the book ‘Perspective & Composition’ by Barrington Barber. Perspective isn’t something you generally always have to worry about in the world of Illustration and I’ve found many inspiring pieces that appeal to the eye that aren’t in perfect perspective. It got me thinking of my own work though and how I’ve dealt with perspective without using the system described in Unit 2. Generally, I rely greatly on my own perception and trust what my eyes are seeing. I remember being just 8 years old and a teacher saying to me: we often draw what we think we should see, not what we actually see. I’ve remembered this ever since and always make a point of saying this to myself when I’m drawing from life. Below is an example of how I’ve used perspective relying on this concept.
At the moment I’m working on a still life piece that focuses on using shading to create depth. The advice given was to focus on the display as a whole. This is a real challenge for someone like me who often gets bogged down in the details! But I’ll be posting the finished piece soon. It feels good to be working in pencil again and taking time out from life to be 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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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’.
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’.
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.
Next week i’ll be posting my usual ‘Monthly Tutorial’. This time I’ll be showing you how to develop your ideas.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I’ve been dying to get stuck in to some artwork lately, especially as my Sakura Pigma Micron pens arrived yesterday but my time has been taken up mostly with packing things up to move. I’ve been having a good sort out of my art and craft materials and going through old pieces. My collection of past work has been piling up over the years, so I’m considering being ruthless and finally parting with some!
As I’ve known my current neighbour for over a decade now I wanted to make her a special card to say goodbye rather than just buy one. Since I’ve been experimenting with children’s book illustration lately I decided to go with a cute design which would be good practice in this area.
I’m already thinking of my next project and the deadlines I have. For the past couple of years I’ve been involved in the Y Galeri Caerffili Winter Exhibition and as soon as I get myself settled I’ll be starting work on this year’s entry. I have so many ideas in my mind and at the moment am doing a bit of reading on my subject choice (which is top secret for now!). As it’s going to be quite an involved piece I think it’ll be my main project for the rest of this year. Next year the charity Viva! are holding an artwork auction and I’ve been asked, as part of ‘Art for Animals’ to contribute a piece. It feels wonderful to feel excitement again over projects after a very difficult beginning to the year.
Welcome to the third week of the New Year! I’m glad to say that so far I’m keeping up with my resolutions, and finding them quite rewarding. The wonderful thing about pledging to do a ‘deed a day’ is that there’s mutual benefit. Studies have shown that people who help other people report feelings of satisfaction and gratitude. There’s also proof that doing good benefits your mental health. Win-win! To read more about the science behind this, and get even more inspiration to help others, take a look at this interesting article from goodnet.org (link) which brings me to my second resolution – to be aware of what I Put in my body, physically and mentally. In a previous post I mentioned the book Touching Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh, in which he explains the importance of maintaining ‘a proper diet for our consciousness, refraining from ingesting toxic intellectual and spiritual food’. I realised that by starting my day by reading of all the sadness in the world in the newspaper, and then flicking on the news channel to also view it, I was starting my day with thoughts of what I was seeing and hearing – violence, death, crime. In common with other people who suffer from anxiety, I find mornings to be one of the most difficult times of the day. Research has shown that cortisol levels (the fight or flight hormone) is at its highest during this time. By ingesting negativity I was feeding this anxiety, which is why I made the decision to instead fill my morning with craft and creative journaling. This has definitely given my sewing projects a boost! And I’ve started work on a St Dwynwen’s day (Think Welsh Valentine’s Day) inspired skirt.
As with all my clothing this is entirely hand sewn, and made using upcycled material and vintage broderie anglaise found in my local market. The material is fantastic quality, and of course this piece will be one of a kind due to limited material. Next month I’ll be bringing you a tutorial on how to make your own basic children’s skirt, which is so easy it’s even suitable for beginners. If you feel the need to get crafty in the meantime, there are plenty of tutorials from the past couple of years to choose from:
Last week I was excited to drop off my piece at Y Galeri Caerffili (website) ready for the Winter Exhibition. It’s uplifting to see how the small town of Caerphilly has evolved over the years to now have a real presence of creativity. Next month I’ll be bringing you a review of the visitor centre/art gallery, and hopefully inspiring you to visit for yourselves. If you’re interested in seeing this year’s Winter Exhibition, which showcases the work of 72 shortlisted artists, the gallery is open from 10am – 5pm Tuesday – Saturday. The exhibition will run until 2nd February. You can even participate by nominating your favourite work for the Visitor’s Choice Award.
Although I’ve found my focus more craft-based than art-based lately I’m occasionally dipping in to an autobiographical piece that I started late last year. I’m taking my time and enjoying the process of creating. I found a wonderful quote by producer Carlton Cuse that I feel really expresses the creative process: ‘The creative process is not like a situation where you get struck by a single lightning bolt. You have ongoing discoveries, and there’s ongoing creative revelations […] along the way you must allow yourself room for your ideas to blossom, take root, and grow’. As I paint I feel different things, ideas come to me, and the piece almost always evolves from what I originally envisioned. I like to think that’s what puts ‘soul’ in to a piece.
Seasons Greetings to all my followers! What a year! It’s been a while since I last posted, I’ve been inundated with hospital and clinic appointments, but now thankfully I have some time to myself to ease myself in to a less chaotic time, and just enjoy the season. And I kicked off with trying a craft I’ve had my eye on for quite some time: needle felting. I’ve been saying for years that it’s a craft I’d love to learn, and finally I had an excuse! My friend bought me a needle felting kit for my birthday. Take a look at my sweet little robin, who I will be giving to my Grandmother who is a wonderfully creative and crafty lady and will appreciate the love and effort behind him. If you feel like giving this satisfying craft a go, I’ve managed to find some vegan-friendly, wool-free options too! Heidi Feather’s has a wonderful starter kit which includes all you need to get going, along with a project book full of cute ideas from a robin, elephant, penguin, and even bunting (HeidiFeathers)
Christmas is always a time when people become a bit more generous, and embrace love for one another more, and lately I’ve been reading some inspiring articles that have really brought in to focus the changes I want to make myself, not just this time of year, but for the year ahead, and hopefully the future. Already I’m laying the foundations for my New Year’s resolutions by making small changes.
There are two books which I’d recommend if you’re interested in making similar goals. ‘Touching Peace‘ by Buddhist poet, scholar, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh may have an unassuming cover, but inside can be found gems of wisdom on many topics, from relationships to diet and general daily living. The second book I’m going to recommend is ‘Zero Waste Home‘ by Bea Johnson, which is an interesting read for anyone thinking of embarking on a more environmentally-aware lifestyle. This year I’m also pairing up with a resolution buddy! A nice idea as you can encourage one another when your motivation is flagging.
As well as being the start of a hopefully more aware year, I’ll also be kicking off 2018 as I mean to go on – in a creative way. I’m happy to say that this year I’ll once again be taking part in the Y Galeri Caerffili‘s Winter Art Exhibition after my piece ‘The Artistic Autistic’ was chosen to be included. I created this piece with the intention of communicating how it feels to live with autism in our modern world. Many people with autism have sensory issues, which can lead to what’s known as ‘sensory overload’. Whilst most people are able to filter out outside stimulus, this can be difficult for people with autism, meaning we experience a constant flow of sounds, sensations, and sights, which can become overwhelming. I chose the colours carefully to try to communicate the feeling. If you’re interested to know how it feels to experience sensory overload, there are some great autism simulators on the web. If you know someone with autism it’s definitely worth taking a look at these: Sensory overload simulator
It’s become somewhat a tradition of mine to have a real sort out of everything at the beginning on December and put my decorations up, and this year I found a stash of artwork that I’ve accumulated over the years, some up to 6 years old. It was interesting to see how my style and the materials I use have changed over the years.
As promised earlier in the year, I also kept a visual diary of my visits to my hospital/clinic appointments. I took the time I would have spent just sitting waiting to challenge myself and create super quick sketches – something which I find a bit difficult as I’m a stickler for detail! Here are just some of my sketches.
Hopefully in the new year I’ll be back to my usual weekly posts, with reviews, tutorials, and the occasional vegan recipe thrown in!
Merry Christmas (and a belated Yule to any Pagan followers out there)