What a week since my last post! Having been eager to really get stuck in to my artwork I found myself on pause as a fibro flare-up engulfed me! Thankfully I’m feeling much better and after a few days of giving in and resting (in addition to practically bathing in ibuprofen gel and having a heat pack permanently attached to my shoulders) I’m ready to get to work again.
I managed to get some sketching done early last week for my second project (which terrifyingly has a deadline of 3 weeks!) whilst my Christmas card design took a bit of a back seat. After several months of experimenting with other mediums I use less often (gouache, watercolour, pastel) I’m back to my old favourite: water-mixable oil paints, though I use them as though they’re ‘real’ oil paints, thinning them out with Liquin Original. I’ll be revealing the complete card design at a later date but for now have some sketches for my other project to share with you.
It feels good to work more freely and just experiment rather than go in straight away wanting my work to be perfect. My process has altered slightly over the past year as I’m allowing myself to play around more with designs and have a rough draft that I then improve on rather than jumping straight from rough thumbnails to final piece. This ‘middle’ step feels the most enjoyable as you can play around with so many possibilities.
I’m also eager to get back to sewing,particularly as I’ve recently been given a stash of beautiful material that would otherwise have been dumped. My followers will know how important keeping my sewn items as eco-friendly as possible is to me. I recently received an email that gives me the perfect excuse to get my needle and cottons out again. October 11th is ‘International Day of the Girl Child‘ and to celebrate this the charity ‘Days for Girls‘ have set up the ‘Global Girls Festival‘ running until the 1st November. There are several ways you can volunteer with Days for Girls, but the most creative way is by becoming a solo sewist, setting up a sewing team, or joining/founding a chapter. ‘Sewists’ create what’s known as the ‘D4G Kit‘ which is then sent on to young women in deprived areas of the world. You get access to all their patterns, can get support in the D4G ‘Kit chat’ group on facebook and of course get to scratch your creative itch whilst doing good. I have a feeling that stash of colourful fabric I’ve been given will be put to good use this month…
After an impromptu break I’m finally back and feeling like my old creative self again. After two losses of two wonderful, strong women I found myself in a bit of a daze, neglecting the part of my personality that used to bring me so much joy and a sense of identity: creativity. A few weeks ago though I felt as though a veil of apathy had been lifted suddenly off my body, and the ideas and excitement came flooding back. I’d really missed this important part of my life and it feels so wonderful to welcome it back.
Although my degree is in illustration I’ve always been most at home with a more fine art style, sticking to this because I know it’s my strength and I know how to get the results I want, but inside my heart I’ve always held a love of children’s book illustration, and I’ve been having so much fun lately playing around with this style. Until now I’ve always wanted my work to be ‘right’ from the time I start until the time I finish, not really allowing myself much time to play around and experiment, but I’m turning over a new leaf! I’m reminding myself that it’s ok to make mistakes sometimes, and that experimenting is part of the joy of creating. On a long train journey recently I listened to an interview with Judith Kerr, the inspirational 95 year old who wrote and illustrated children’s books such as ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ and ‘Mog’. It was so refreshing and reassuring to hear her admit that even after decades of illustrating she still finds certain things difficult and said ‘ I do a lot of rubbish, you have to work through the rubbish’. I’m allowing myself to be more experimental and reminding myself it’s ok to explore an idea, then decide it’s not going in quite the right direction. ( You can listen to the interview with Judith Kerr here: Link)
I’ve been spending a lot of time imagining up characters that belong in the pages of a children’s book and feel like I’ve finally found a style that works for me and that I’m happy with (excuse the dimness, i took these early morning)
Artists and illustrators, particularly students, often talk of ‘style’, something which I’ve been reading about lately. It’s interesting to hear different people’s views and I’ve been a bit on the fence with my own opinion. I’ve just signed up to a 5 day email course on ‘finding your style’ as I’m curious to see what this could bring up. After years of creating art work almost daily I feel like when it comes to fine art I’ve developed a way of working that works for me, that I ‘know’, and use again and again, but when it comes to illustration I feel like I’m more transient. When it comes to character design I’ve found a way that works for me, but on the other hand there are so many ways of drawing and creating that a part of me feels I shouldn’t confine myself to a certain way of working. I read an interesting blog post that left me feeling reassured, that said some illustrators just don’t stick to a specific way of working, they work more to their brief, something I feel I can accept. However, I’ve also read other opinions saying that style is important as it’s almost like your calling card, it helps identify you as an illustrator. After reading some good reviews I’m currently working my way through ‘Illustration Workshop’ by Mary Kate McDevitt, which has been helpful in giving myself some focus. It claims to help you ‘find your style, practice drawing skills, and build a stellar portfolio’. Although the book is American, it’s still relevant to the UK, and I’m enjoying working on the projects, as well as reading the useful tips that are scattered throughout. You can find it on Amazon for around £10-£13 (LINK)
I’m really enjoying engaging my brain again and have been looking into possibilities for the near future. As someone with ASD and fibromyalgia getting about can be a bit difficult, but after some research I’ve been opened up to a world of possibilities. I want to reassure anyone with physical or social difficulties reading this that there are options out there for you, you just have to find them, and find a way of working/living that works for you and your particular lifestyle. For quite some time now I’ve been interested in using art as therapy and although I looked into doing my masters in Art Psychotherapy and went to an open day I knew it would be very full-on, especially for someone with limited physical and social energy. Although disheartened I decided to look in to alternatives and found an online course. Although this won’t qualify you as an art therapist you’ll receive a diploma and learn what art therapy entails. I’m hoping to use this when I begin volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Society as a ‘side by side’ volunteer (one to one visits to individuals with Alzheimer’s) to engage who I’m paired with. The Open University is also a good option for those who have disabilities or work/family commitments. I’m currently studying ‘Improving Health & Wellbeing’, which I felt could also help with my volunteering. It may surprise some people to know that even some mainstream universities offer ‘distance learning’. For example, the University of London offers an MA in Art History. I’m keen in the near future to apply to study for my Masters in Illustration (distance learning) at the University of Hertfordshire. I was also excited to see that the London Art College offer an ‘Illustrating Children’s Books’ year-long online course. So whilst living with a disability can often feel frustrating and feel like your possibilities are limited, there are ways around it.
Last week I visited for a second time the awe-inspiring Peterborough Cathedral. My best friend lives not too far away and first took me to this treasure a few months ago. The architecture is unbelievable and sitting in the grounds sketching on a sunny day under a tree is a lovely way to spend an hour. Last time I visited we popped in to the visitor centre and discovered a little exhibition. It was so nice to meet the artists behind the work. It was all fantastic but two women’s work really spoke to me. I loved the way Stacey-Ann Cole (LINK) used watercolour, it translated really well into postcards, and was definitely something I’d love to frame and put on my wall. I also met mosaic artist Mahemuda Arsalani whose work was so beautiful. I loved her mosaic hearts so much I got one for my Mum’s birthday (she also loved it!). You can visit her website here: LINK
As for my sewing (as you know I love nothing more than upcycling material into something new!) for a while now I’ve been interested in getting involved with a charity called ‘Days For Girls’, who in their own words: ‘increases access to menstrual care and education by developing global partnerships, cultivating social enterprises, mobilizing volunteers, and innovating sustainable solutions that shatter stigmas and limitations for women and girls’. There are sewing groups and individuals (known as ‘super sewists’) all over the world, creating the ‘DFG Kit’, which is then sent to young women across the globe. What a great way to use up my leftover material…as well as a good excuse to pick up some more! If you’re a keen sewer with a little time to spare, or have been interested in joining a sewing group, visit their volunteering page to find out more: Link
So I’m happy to say that I’m back and will be starting my monthly reviews again, kicking off with Body Kun/Chan artist model dolls (gone are the days of the clunky wooden mannequin!) and in coming months I’ll be reviewing materials, books, and hopefully exhibitions.
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)
About: A set of 12 tinted graphite pencils which can be used dry as you would a pencil/watercolour pencil, as well as brushed over with water to ‘soften’. They give a subtle colour finish.
I was so excited to try these out, not knowing quite what to expect; would these handle like graphite pencils? How would I get tone like I would from B-6B? I was keen to get stuck in, and they didn’t disappoint, though did take some getting used to. I initially made the mistake of setting out using them as I would normal graphite pencils, but these are something different entirely. I soon realised that these pencils are a medium all of their own; not quite a watercolour pencil, not quite a graphite pencil, and like when you’re just starting out with a new medium these need a little getting used to and a little practise.
Whilst some of the characteristics are the same as graphite pencils, blending is not one. This is where the medium crosses over into watercolour pencil territory. Forget attempting to use a blending stump or your fingers, as these can only be blended using water. They have a harder point than I had expected, which actually makes them more economical than Derwent’s watercolour pencils, which, due to softness wore down very quickly.
Good for detailed work
Take some getting used to
I very much missed white in the 12 pack (though this is available individually)
Generally pricey (though in my opinion it’s not worth scrimping on materials and these are good quality)
Availability of individual colours (so far only found on derwentart.com)
Personally I’d buy these again as I found them quite unique. However, it’s worth looking around a bit first as price can vary drastically. Availability of sets is an issue, though The Range seem to be the best high street store for this, offering sets of 6,12 and 24. I feel these are more suited to those with a real interest in art and mediums, as opposed to simply for use in colouring in for example.
The days are getting longer, the daffodils are in bloom, and each morning I’m greeted with the sound of a blackbird singing his heart out. It can only mean one thing…spring has sprung! I’ve been celebrating the changing of seasons by capturing the beauty of nature by collecting and pressing interesting leaves and flowers (non-protected species of course) to use in a craft I’ve been wanting to try for quite some time: paper making.
I have a family member who adores card making, and her birthday is coming up in April. I’m always looking for something meaningful that reaches further than just being a mass-produced item, so, in support of recycling and hand made crafts, I’ve decided to make a mini paper stack for her to use in her own craft, with petals and leaves from my mini adventures set in. I’ve been taking photographs of the beauty I’ve witnessed along the way, to share my experience with her, which I’ll put in a miniature handmade album (tutorial to make your own coming later this year!)
Whilst on the subject of unique and handmade gifts, I’d also like to introduce you to a talented crafter who works with stained glass. Wanting something beautiful to brighten someone’s day I came across Joy’s Folksy shop and found a gorgeous one-of-a-kind sun catcher. I recommend taking a look at the stunning items in her shop. It was so difficult to choose just one!
As my readers will know I’m often working on multiple creative projects, and one I’ve been working on for a good half a year is soon to be revealed! At the beginning of the year I promised to produce a collection of spring/summer eco wear by April, and now April is just around the corner. On the 1st I’ll be posting the first images of my hand-sewn children’s clothing, made almost entirely from recycled/upcycled material. I promise lots of colour, pattern, and of course uniqueness. And just for my blog readers, here’s a little sneak peak of what to expect…
How do you turn frustration into something productive? How do you share an experience with someone when the moments gone?
Until the end of 2017 I’ll be working on a mini-project (project ‘Speedy Sketch’) where I’ll be documenting the health-related side of my life through quick illustrations. Moments spent in hospital, doctor, and clinic waiting rooms will be put to use to capture my surroundings, and at the end of the year I’ll curate an online exhibition, to share with my readers little glimpses of what I’ve seen along the way.
1st April – the big eco clothing reveal!
7th April – Easter Inspiration, including alternative (and further-reaching) gift ideas
15th April – Monthly tutorial: The second of 2017’s new content addition: vegan recipes. This one will be how to make a healthier, delicious alternative to Easter eggs for those wanting something a little more nutritious or different; Vegan bunny-shaped savoury oat cakes (and how to present them)
23rd April – The previously promised Graphitint pencils review