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.
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.
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’.
It’s been a while since I posted, and although I’m not tip-top I feel as though I’m taking the first steps on a long, but ultimately positive one. After years of pain that has got increasingly worse, I finally have a diagnosis. I feel it’s a bitter-sweet thing, as now that I know what I’m dealing with I can tackle it head-on by researching my condition, and trying things that have helped others. I’m hopeful that physiotherapy will prove useful, and I’m keen to explore all avenues. In terms of my mental wellbeing I feel this is just as important as my physical wellbeing, and feel as though, for the first time in a long time, my mind is open to new ways of thinking and living my life. It’s early days, but I feel a change is afoot.
I’ve been keeping up with ‘Project Speedy Sketch‘ and am quite excited at the prospect of curating an online mini exhibition to share with you. I’ve also been experimenting with pens after stumbling upon some unbelievably detailed work that I never imagined could be achieved with this medium. To keep myself busy I’ve been taking my sketchbook along with me to various places keep my mind occupied and teach myself how to use this medium. I often use fineliner, and have tried brush pens in the past with no real breakthrough, but was inspired by how these talented artists (see end of post for awe-inspiring work) managed to achieve such works of art! I’ve been dabbling with Winsor & Newton promarkers and find myself currently ‘on the fence’ as to whether this is a medium I’ll pursue.
In addition to this I’ve also been putting some finishing touches to my Spring/summer children’s clothing collection, and have donated some pieces to charity. As my health has been quite tricky this year, I’m gearing up for a ‘proper’ launch when I’m feeling stronger. I’m thrilled to bits with the tags I had made by RibbonReelPrinting on etsy, and as the story behind my clothing is such a significant part of what I do, I’ve added a tag with an explanation on to each item.
I’ve also taken my Folksy shop off ‘holiday mode’ and re-listed some of my items. I’ve also added sections to make it easier to navigate. If you’re looking for a unique card for Father’s Day (don’t forget – June 18th!) then take a look at my cute illustrated keepsake card.
I’ve got loads more so share with you over the coming months, so keep your eyes peeled for new book reviews, vegan recipes, and lots of inspiration. You can find a list of all previous reviews and inspiration here: List
To finish I’m leaving you with some ink work that will leave you amazed! (Click names to visit full online gallery)
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…
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.
I 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!
I 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.
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.
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…
There’s nothing new with me dividing my time between art and sewing, but as I’ve been working towards a deadline (in this case a birthday) the balance has been significantly tipped, and I’ve been dedicating as much time to embroidering and sewing as possible.
The giftee owns a camper van and is always complaining of cold hands (yet refuses to wear gloves!) and so the little grey cells in my head set about providing a solution…
Introducing the cuddly camper cushion! A personalised cushion to keep in the back of your van, with a pouch to store reusable hand warmers.
And as I’m so fond of recycling/upcycling, I made use of fabric left over from December’s inspiration board tutorial and utilised studs rescued from a handbag destined for the landfill.
When I’ve had the chance I’ve been sneaking a few hours here and there to work on an illustration using graphitint, putting the pencils through their paces ready for next month’s review. The piece was inspired by some old books I came across whilst sorting through my grandmother’s belongings. She, like myself, has always appreciated the beauty of nature. One book in particular caught my eye – The Hamlyn Animal Encyclopedia. It may have a dingy, stained exterior, but inside lies a treasure trove of detailed illustrations.
For my piece I chose animals and fungi native to Britain that I thought would compliment the limited colour palette of the tinted graphite and not deduct anything from their natural interest/beauty; the shape was as important as the palette, with the curved backs of the Pine Marten adding to the symmetry – something I use quite often in my work, particularly my paper cuts.
Pine Marten’s used to be a regular sight in Wales in the past, but during the 19th and 20th century became all but extinct. However, conservationists are trying to prevent this, and in 2015 the Pine Marten Recovery Project (part of The Vincent Wildlife Trust) attempted to recover numbers in Wales by transporting some from Scotland.
Finally, as my regular readers will know, I like to discover and share inspiring artwork and artists, so this week I leave you with a mini collection I’ve named ‘Wonderful Wildlife’. Click the icon to be directed to each artist gallery/profile. Click image to view full-size.
‘Mountain Bluebird‘ by Pamela Earleywine
About: Caroline’s Deviantart gallery is full of beautiful nature/wildlife inspired art work, as well as exquisite portraits and sketches.
‘White Lies‘ by Tess Garman.
About: This gallery is packed full of impressive use of colour, with animals being a core subject. She captures expression so well and there’s a boldness to her work.
‘Fungus Study’ by Ruvell Saylon Ates.
About: Ruvell’s gallery is an interesting mixing pot of studies such as the one above, fantasy, and the occasional photo. I’m especially keen on his fungi studies, including ‘ Black Morel Study‘.
Last month, in the post titled ‘A cofession‘ I mentioned ‘One For Sorrow’ (my mixed media oil/graphite piece) was included in the winter exhibition at Y Galeri Caerffili. At the end of last month all entrants and their guests were invited to a presentation event with the mayor of the town, and, being the first time I’d seen the complete exhibition I was blown away by the talent I found myself faced with. I’m pleased to say my piece was highly commended, but what a tough decision the judges must have had choosing from so many unique and powerful pieces.
As he exhibition draws to a close, I want to introduce you to some of the gifted participants, and hope you’ll find their work as inspiring as I do. (Social media icons are clickable)
Elin Sian Blake – Elin’s agricultural history is communicated strongly through her artwork, with work including beautiful Welsh landscapes and her favourite subject – Welsh Cobs and mountain ponies. She studied graphic design at the University of Glamorgan. Above is one of my favourite pieces from Elin’s online gallery.
Neil Chard – Like Elin, Neil studied at the University of Glamorgan, studying Art Practice. As soon as I entered Y Galeri Caerfilli I noticed Neil’s atmospheric portrait. Neil’s work is detailed and you can see the real skill behind each piece. Above is his piece ‘Face in Recession’ in oils.
Shirley Fursland – Shirley describes herself as an ‘amateur artist’ who ‘enjoys using acrylic and mixed media’. Shirley’s exhibited piece stood out to me as I thought the way you could see some of the newspaper print on the roof of one of the houses gave it a real quirky feel. Her pieces are wonderful examples of how texture can be used to create interest. You’ll find contact details for Shirley on her website.
On the 14th I’ll be bringing you my ‘monthly tutorial’, but with a twist! As it’s valentine’s day we’ll be showing some love for sea life (as well as ourselves – your heart will thank you for this healthier version) by whipping up some vegan sushi. Over the coming year, as promised, I’ll be replacing some arty/crafty tutorial slots with animal-friendly cookery. But don’t worry, I’ll still be including some creative ones, starting with a mini sewing project in honour of St David’s Day on the 1st March.
I’m also working on a couple of reviews that’ll appeal to art lovers, and will be scoping out a promising-looking exhibition.
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)
About: A tin of 24 watercolour pencils which can be used with or without water.
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!
The 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.
‘There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep Sea, and music in its roar: I love not Man the less, but Nature more’
From ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,
by Lord Byron,
published between 1812-1818
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve recently brought my focus back to the seascape I began late last year. Having recently signed up to DeviantArt (you can find me here: hmwillustration) I was excited to delve in to their user-contributed galleries, to sift through hundreds of inspiring seascapes by artists from across the globe. Here are my top inspiring pieces. Be sure to check out the links for more of these talented artist’s work and for full-size versions.
Artist/photographer Paul has many captivating seascapes in his online gallery, and this is one of my favourite. I love the rich colours in this piece, and how the ‘traditional’ expectation of blues and greens that are associated with the sea have been completely ignored.
As soon as I saw this piece it made me feel nostalgic as it reminded me of something I’d see in a storybook as a child. In fact, artist Erin used her favourite book ‘Winter’s Tale’ by Mark Helprin as her inspiration. I love the almost muted tones and the patterns in the sea.
Looking at AnnMarie’s gallery I was surprised to learn she works mainly with acrylic as her pieces have a ‘softness’ I often associate with oils. The colours in this piece was what drew me to this, and it’s not just limited to this piece either. In AnnMarie’s gallery you’ll find tons of stirring pieces, I highly recommend checking out her ‘Golden Wave’ painting, which uses colour in a way that may surprise some.
I have a confession…one that may surprise those who have never met me…I struggle to eat. What most people would find appealing, and indeed class as ‘every day’ foods; noodles, toasties, curry, spaghetti, you name it, I probably don’t eat it. But in the interest of my health, which determines how much energy I have to work on what I love – art & design – I’m embarking on a quest (yes, this challenge feels so monumental that I feel justified in labelling it in such a way!) to challenge the compulsion that finds me reaching for the exact same foods every day.
I’m inviting you, my readers, to follow me on my journey to discover and create nourishing vegan recipes to support both body and mind. Veganism and vegetarianism has always been an influencing factor in my life, fuelling my interest in creating eco-friendly clothing, and using our natural world as inspiration for a great deal of my artwork. In next month’s ‘tutorial’ spot, I’ll be bringing you the first recipe instalment – vegan sushi. In the mean-time, here’s a list of some inspiring and useful vegan-related sites:
Vegan Huggs – A blog packed with recipes, reviews, and more!
Wear Your Voice – A website I’ve mentioned before where a passion for art meets a passion for animals, with truly unique illustrations printed on to t-shirts.
Vegan Supermarket Finds UK – A super useful facebook group run by vegans, for vegans, where you can share your surprising vegan finds, as well as get some great tips on where to find all manner of vegan goodies!
In the interest of keeping myself distracted whilst re-building my strength, I’ve been revisiting a seascape I began last year, yet lost the motivation for. Well the itch is back! and I’ve been compelled to dip in here and there. The tones of blue in the sea are proving to be a source of intrigue, as they’re not as straight-forward as they may seem; in order to achieve one elusive tone, I found myself cautiously mixing phtalo blue, cobalt, a tiny dot of ivory black, and an atom of yellow ochre, before deciding to substitute the black for burnt umber.
The relationship between colours and how they combine fascinates me! Explaining to those who don’t practise art that a blue can contain brown, black, and even ochre, feels as though I’m revealing some clandestine key.
Whilst my home studio is a base for all my inspiration and tools – my pattern folder, old art/craft magazines, art postcards etc, over the years I’ve grown fond of inhabiting a quiet corner of a library – a haven from home. This week I’ve been squirrelling away in the reference section (often good for exquisitely illustrated nature books) trying out Derwent Inktense pencils and making notes for next month’s review.
Costing £29.99 in the Range (£40.75 on Derwent’s website) for a tin of 24, it;s understandable you’d want to ‘try before you buy’, which is where I’ve done the work for you! Look out for the full review next month, which as always will be straight to the point and up-front.
Finally, I want to tell you about the Winter Exhibition at Y Galeri Caerffili, which is displaying a whole range of styles and mediums, and at which my piece ‘One For Sorrow’ is currently on show. The exhibition will run all this month and directions can be found on their facebook page: Y Galeri Caerffili facebook. If you can’t make it in person, you’ll find some images of the artwork on display on their page and on the website.
Full title: An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers
Author: Danny Gregory
Publisher: HOW books (US)
Price: From £8.29 – £18.78
About: A look inside the sketchbooks and lives of 50 creatives, chosen by author Danny Gregory, acting more as a curator of inspirational material than traditional ‘author’.
♥ Ideal for visual-minded people (the very people often interested in the subject matter in the first place) It appeals wonderfully to its target audience. A visual table of contents is one example of the thought put into the layout/aesthetic of the book.
♥ The contents is international, giving the impression of dedication on the author’s part to unearth the creme de la creme of the art & design world. From Scotland to Sweden, Gregory reaches across the globe to compile his top 50.
♥ I can liken the contents to pinterest – You pick this book up looking for ‘creative inspiration’ and are met with a mass of results all in one place. From sketchbook pages, to photographs of work spaces, it’s all inside the pages of this book!
♥ It’s not style-biased. Often our own preferences see us gravitating towards a certain style; in Gregory’s book you’ll find no such thing! The book includes everything from traditional children’s book illustration, to digital drawings such as those by Barry Gritt, and even more detailed work with a more ‘fine arty’ feel.
Where can I get it?
Aside from searching your local library, the book can be purchased at a reasonable price on Amazon. The book was published in the USA, but after having a search around I found it quite easy to source as it was distributed in the UK. Click below to find out more: