Thursday, 22 June 2017

Exploring 'The Japanese House'

After a very late night at the IPSE Freelancer of the Year awards on National Freelancers Day earlier this month, I made the most of my time in London with a Pidgen-sibling adventure, which ended up with an accidental Japanese architecture theme!

Firstly we walked over to the House of Illustration near my hotel, to check out the 'Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan' exhibition, which featured some incredibly gorgeous original sketches and gouache paintings for the backgrounds of classic animes like Ghost in the Shell. I'd never actually been to the House of Illustration before, I've been meaning to for literally years but I could never quite place where it was or find the time to go until now. It's a cute little building, nestled in King's Cross between a fancy Waitrose and a trendy coffee shop or two (one with an unnecessarily snooty barista!). It's little, but packed full of really interesting shows and a real passion for illustration (obviously right up my street!). You can keep an eye on what's on at the house of illustration on their website!

Next up, we popped on the tube down to the Barbican - well, actually, I say "next up" but first we grabbed a drink (from the rude barista coffee shop!) and literally twenty seconds after we left my brother tripped and the world was suddenly covered in coffee. SO, "next up" was actually getting a new coffee from somewhere a little friendlier, and then on to The Barbican's 'The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945' show.

Okay, yeah "1945 architecture" might not sound great to everyone - but one look at the promo and it was completely sold to me. There's a giant bloomin' Japanese house built into the space, and a charcoal-decorated tea room, and old films projected in front of humongous bean bags where we could rest our mildly hung-over heads! Yes 👏 yes 👏 yes 👏.

The exhibition was full of really interesting history and insight into the reasoning behind the modern wave of minimalist design, framing, and open space the architects loved. There were really great tiny models of buildings, constructed with really graphic shapes. There were piles of books; tiny porcelain cats; orange trees; and a really amazing ladder-only-access tea house covered in charcoal! As I walked round I kept seeing such incredible angles and shapes, honestly there were so many Instagramable shots, and so many new ideas for illustration compositions.

It felt so good to actually be in the space, walking around the building, between each room and out into the main gallery - it's something kind of rare to find in a gallery space, which you'd so often think of as "you stand, you look". It was such a nice place to just hang out in and be in a bit of a different world for a while!

Again, this was my first time at The Barbican! I'm definitely going to go again, even whilst we were there there was a really awesome-looking sci-fi exhibition that I really wish I'd had time to go to (I feel like I'm their demographic right now!). The Japanese House is only on until June 25th, so if you're interested go for it! Here's to family exhibition adventures, a lack of sleep, and Japanese architecture!

Monday, 12 June 2017

National Freelancers Day 2017 - Passing on my 'Freelancer of the Year' crown! 👑

So first off, let me just say that I can't believe it's been a year since I was up on that stage:  tear on my cheek, a waver in my voice; receiving my 'Freelancer of the Year' award from IPSE. A year?! To be fair, an incredible amount has happened over the past twelve months, and I find myself a stronger, more confident and more focused freelancer - and so much of that is thanks to the opportunities and support that came from both winning the award and through IPSE.

One of those opportunities, of course, was judging this year's awards! Knowing how much the award meant to me, I felt the full weight of the responsibility I held in scoring the finalists. We had ten incredible Inspire finalists, and five Aspire young freelancer finalists, you can read more about them over on the IPSE site (you definitely should, they're all awesome!).

We were judging for almost a full eight hours, fuelled by pastries and mint tea over at super tendy 'The Trampery' in Shoreditch. We interviewed each of the finalists; keeping our eye out for passion for their field, a love of freelancing, an inspiring plan for the prize money, and their potential as a freelance spokesperson. It was a tough call, and we had some serious discussion before deciding on our two top freelancers and runners up, but we left feeling confident we'd picked the right winners.

Finally on National Freelancers Day, we got to spill the beans on our winners! First up was the absolutely lovely photographer Nisha Haq. Nisha was so incredibly passionate and full of energy in her interview, and when she was announced as Young Freelancer of the Year you could see how much it meant to her! Following on from Nisha, we had two runners up in the Inspire category, and those awards went to the wonderful Chichi Eruchalu and Melissa Holloway - both incredibly inspiring, strong female freelancers! Finally, our winner was announced as Luke Nicholson of Improve Your Accent, a business set up to help people hone their communication. Luke's business was so unique, and he gave such an incredible interview, again it was that sheer passion for his work and a really strong plan for the prize money which really made him shine through. I spoke to Luke about his win:

"I'm delighted to have won the Inspire UK Freelancer of the Year award – and humbled given the quality of the other candidates. Winning this prize gives me the boost I need to grow and develop my business. It’s such an honour to receive acknowledgement from the freelancer industry."

Honestly, all of our finalists were so brilliant and it was such an honour to hear their stories.

Earlier in the day, I'd been able to share my own freelance story as I spoke on the National Freelancers Day panel with fellow award winners from past years. So, quite surprisingly, I wasn't really nervous about this at all! Seriously, a few years ago if you told me I'd have been speaking on a panel infront of a room full of people I would've actually been on the verge of a panic attack, honestly. So it's seeing how far I've come over the last few years, and in particular the last month, which has made me realise how important it's been to have pushed myself out of my comfort zone and to grab new opportunities. 

The panel itself was great, we talked on everything from freelance motivation, to that infamous dad-in-a-skype-call-gets-interrupted-by-his-kids video; pricing illustration work and maintaining a work / life balance. I love the chance to talk honestly about life as a freelancer - it seems so often that top freelancers won't share their challenges as they think admitting that vulnerability makes you appear less successful - but I'm here to say, yes, you can be successful and still struggle - it's not binary, so let's talk about it!

I was also interviewed by the lovely 'Freelance Mum' about my year since winning the award, and my next steps! Please excuse my wind-sweptness, and listen to that here: Emmeline Pidgen inverview.

After the awards, we all celebrated in London until the early hours - ending with a few glasses of champagne and some takeaway pizza on the floor! What an amazing event. Here's to a perfect National Freelancers Day 2017, and to freelancers across the country world! 💗 

Bear & Moon Live Ink Drawing

After my recent house move and new studio set up (more on this soon!!), I've been digging through a lot of my old files and sketchbooks to make sure they're at least sliiiiightly organised. After flicking through one sketchbook, I found this never-posted drawing I'd illustrated live in front of an audience at a festival last year. Seriously, there's something so nerve-wracking about drawing in front of people, it's like the equivalent of when you hear a word said too many times and it loses all meaning - as soon as someone's watching, you just kind of forget how you're supposed to draw!

Luckily, I managed to find my groove a few moments after starting, and I drew this without a single plan at all. Girls, animals and leafy foliage are kind of a staple of mine, things I feel really comfortable drawing, so I'm not surprised that's what I ended up drawing here. 

I used my trusty Pentel ink brush pens, in both black and grey, along with a few streaks of pencil for shading. I remember feeling really relieved that my ink lines had gone precisely where I'd wanted them to, as without a base pencil sketch, you're kind of at the mercy of luck and experience in hoping that you don't make a glaring mistake in front of everyone!

I have to say, I love the challenge of drawing live. I'm hoping to level up a little and take on projected drawing in the near future! Here's to new challenges, and messy ink pens 

Monday, 5 June 2017

The challenges of going freelance (plus a plate full of cake!)

 So you might have noticed I've been taking some huge leaps in terms of my on-screen presence since my Freelancer of the Year win with IPSE last year. Seriously, if you'd asked me a few years ago how comfortable I'd be with half of the promos and panels I've been doing over the past few months I would've had a reaction-gif-worthy look of horror on my face. But yes, practice makes perfect, and between my illustration workshops and a bundle-full of professional appearances talking freelance life; I'm at the stage where I'm really starting to love it!

A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to get some A++ practice getting comfortable being interviewed on-screen with IPSE's feature on the challenges of freelancing. I headed over to Ziferblat in Manchester to meet with the team, and after a few prep shots alongside the lovely Kelly Gilmour-Grassam (that's us walking down the street, I think we were actually talking about hot-dogs right then!) we jumped straight into discussing the highs and lows of being a freelancer.

Okay, who loves seeing themselves talk on film? Anyone? Yeah, so, I've made peace with my fluffy-as-a-duckling fringe, and of course there are going to be answers I might have rejigged a little, but I love taking the time to talk honestly about life as a freelancer - especially to those thinking about taking the step into freelancing for the first time - it's incredibly important to share that experience, and encourage others to go for it armed with the facts!

Ziferblat was an incredibly cool venue, it's pay-per-minute with a £20 cap, so it's perfect for freelancers who might want a chilled out but social space to work, or need somewhere for a quick meeting. There's a gigantic buffet with free food; you might notice my plate piling up in the film...that shot went on quite a bit longer than I thought it would...I was there like "just one more cake...okay, still rolling?!". So...don't judge me, although I'll admit I ate it all. Nom!

You can watch the full film on Youtube, and if you'd like to hear more of my freelance talks keep an eye on my workshop schedule! I'm next up on the National Freelancers Day event panel in London discussing freelance success later this week!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The National Festival of Making

Earlier this month I popped over to Blackburn for the brilliant National Festival of Making taking place in the city. Craft stalls, historical industries, music, art - all intertwining with Blackburn's vibrant people and culture over one beautiful weekend.

The festival conference ran from 27th April to 5th May, with its main public events taking place on the Saturday and Sunday afterwards. Earlier in the week I was invited to attend an intimate round-table event hosted by Creative Lancashire and featuring Jane Foster, Dave Kirkwood and Hamish Muir of Muir McNeil to discuss all things making and creative industries.

It's always inspiring to break out of the studio and mingle with other creative people, so it was such a treat to not only meet so many fantastic attendees, but to get the time to chat with the speakers about their practices. I particularly loved Jane's bold, gorgeous illustrations and homeware (and I'm oh-so-jealous of her amazing looking outside studio with a bright yellow door!). 

Over the weekend, I ate street-food, made music, bought some treats from the maker's market, and wandered the streets constantly surprised by the exciting little workshops and performances that seemed to be down every single street in Blackburn! I managed to pop into a local comic shop to make the most of Free Comic Book Day as well, and picked up Boom Studios' 2017 Summer Blast and a Betty & Veronica comic - nice!

Make sure you keep an eye out for next year's festival, I definitely recommend grabbing the chance to attend some of the workshops and events!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Illustration, Freelancing & 'Being A Part Time Moviestar' Interview in Creative Boom Magazine

Things have been a bit of a whirlwind recently, I've been zipping off to Manchester to be filmed for an IPSE promo video, I've been putting the finishing touches on a brand new book AND comic, and I've navigated the dark waters of a complete computer breakdown - all whilst buying my first home, phew! 

One of my very favourite pieces of news is about this really brilliant interview with Creative Boom Magazine. It was great to get a chance to speak about my creative (and very supportive) family on International Women's Day, as well as a few hobbies you might not expect from me. You can read the full interview here: Emmeline Pidgen Illustration on Creative Boom, and I'll let you in on the rest of the news as soon as I'm able to!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

An Engagement Card Coincidence This Valentine's Day!

With Valentine's Day on the horizon, I thought I'd share a little story and a big coincidence!

So, you may have seen my 'A Bicycle Built For Two' card flitting around, in my range as well as part of Ohh Deer's card series, which can be found stocked in the likes of The Tate, The V&A, and Urban Outfitters! 

Last year, I heard the beautiful news that my friend Rory had just announced his engagement to a lovely lady: Leyla! I haven't met Leyla yet unfortunately, as they both live in Australia! But to my surprise, a few months later, I got a message on Twitter from Leyla with a bit of a coincidence..

It's not often that I get messages that tug the heartstrings quite like that! It's such a lovely coincidence, and it's really touching to see my work brightening smiles out in the wild (even if I do accidentally know them!). 

Cycling was an important feature of their wedding, with Leyla arriving at the wedding via bicycle to symbolise the bike rides they both do each morning - so it's no wonder the bicycle card caught her sister's eye! 

I thought with Valentine's Day coming up, it would be the perfect time to share this lovely little story with you! The 'Bicycle Built For Two' cards are available on both Ohh Deer, as well as a matte version in my Etsy store. Shop my other Valentine's Day cards.

A huge thank you to Leyla for sharing the story and these wonderful photos with me! ❤ 

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Emmeline's January Print Giveaway!

It's been a while since I've hosted a giveaway on my blog, and after just realising I pipped 5000 followers on Tumblr last week, I thought it was high time I give back with a little print giveaway!

The prize

This week I'm giving away this little number from my newest series of prints! 'The Crane' is a hand-signed high quality art print on slightly textured 300gsm acid-free white watercolour paper stock. A5 size (148mm x 210mm). 

How to enter

So this will be the first giveaway I've done since having my Instagram account, so I'm going to give it  cross-platform entry - so pop over to follow the instructions on my posts on Twitter, Instagram, or leave a comment on this blog post to enter. Get your entries in by 11am February 1st (GMT) to be in with a shot!

The competition is open worldwide, and one winner will be randomly selected from all entries on Twitter, Instagram and this blog post (max one entry per person on each platform, so total 3 entries possible per person). Competition closes at 11am on February 1st (GMT). The winner will be contacted via the platform they entered on and announced on this blog on February 1st! If the winner does not respond within one week, a new winner may be picked. Remember you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook or via Bloglovin'!

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Cass Art's 'Be Inspired' Challenge

It's no secret that I love to switch things up and work with a variety of media in my illustrations. You'll probably most often see my digital illustration work, as that's usually what I work with for commissioned illustration, but you'll also find me using a lot of ink and watercolour behind the scenes.

Sometimes I think it's really a case of getting away from the computer and completely throwing yourself into the physical aspects of painting. Often when you're running a business, you inevitably end up spending a lot of time staring at screens, and so I like to give myself (and particularly my eyes!) a bit of a break and get a bit messy with some paint. It's relaxing, it's fun, and more than anything I find with traditional painting (and the lack of the ol' Ctrl + Z)  there's a lot more chance for mistakes to lead you to new ideas.

Cass Art invited me to take part in their 'Be Inspired' challenge, where I would be sharing what inspires me and my illustration work. They sent over some new materials for me to have a play with: a gorgeous set of Winsor & Newton watercolours, Cass Art brushes and watercolour paper, and a pot of beautifully blue ecoline liquid watercolour (all of which, as I mentioned earlier, are perfect for a media experimenter like me!).

You'll almost always find a sketchbook in my bag, and to be honest I feel a bit lost without one as I never know when an idea will suddenly spark! I particularly love sketching when I'm travelling to new places, as I find it perfect for capturing memories and atmosphere in a way that photos can't always do. 

I recently popped over to York for the weekend, and continued my series of #EmmelineOnLocation travel sketches by spending some time drawing the people of York from a lovely little Tudor pub right in the heart of the city. I love using drawings like these to feed into my inspiration for characters and stories later in my work. So you'll see in this post that a lot of my experiments with these watercolours are character-based, and so much of my work is given depth by my experiences and adventures in real life (the character below looks suspiciously a lot like Andrew).

So for these illustrations, I've been using this gorgeous Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour paint set, Ecoline liquid watercolour in shade 578, and Cass Art's sable watercolour brush set and 300gsm non-textured watercolour paper. 

The paints are lovely to use, they're creamy to mix but there's a lot of control with translucently when you're layering on the page. The colours are bright, and there's a really good selection of shades in the set (but with space for extra colours that you can snap in) - it can be a little tricky to remember which shade is which when the covers are off them (as they're much darker in solid state), so I might make a bit of a cheat sheet of colours to stick to the space in the middle. The Ecoline watercolour looks very similar to ink (which I'm used to using), but with the added benefit of a little more flexibility with blending - the colour is incredibly vibrant, and it's definitely something I'll enjoy using for linework or sky washes. The brushes are reliable, with a useful variety of sizes - I particularly appreciated the really thin brushes for detailed linework on character's faces.

I really love using the Cass Art watercolour paper, the textured version has long been a staple of my traditional illustration work as I always found it was the best quality I could find for its price. With watercolour paper, you can sometimes struggle to find sets that are weighty enough to feel professional, or pages that absorb paint well rather than feel like they're coated in some kind of plastic! Both the textured and smooth versions absorb paint beautifully, and feel really high quality at a yummy 300gsm. All I wish is that I had a never-ending supply so I wouldn't feel as bad about hammering through so many pages in a creative whirlwind!

A huge thanks to Cass Art for inviting me to be part of their challenge. It's been a great opportunity to let loose a little and get back to the play side of my career. I often find that in taking a break from the businessy side of work can spark such fresh and brilliant ideas - and in the end that's what moves you! I've loved this project, and the work that I've created within it - so expect a lot more watercolour paintings from me!

Note - As part of the BeInspired project Cass Art provided all their artists with a sample art pack for free, but as with all my features I don't leave anything out! You can always expect an honest review.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Have An Amazing Christmas!

Okay, it's officially Christmas time for me now! So this is me signing out (from work at least). Have an amazing Christmas everyone! x

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Unseen Illustrations From 2016

So, by now you're probably used to seeing lots of my personal work, sketches, or newly released published work online. But I realised, as 2016 draws to a close, I rarely showcase a lot of the work I do behind the scenes for more corporate clients - but this year has been full of work for local schools, festivals, and national business events, that I thought it'd be worth sharing a few of my favourite pieces! 

This very blue themed invitation was created for Small Business Saturday's Blue Tie Ball (does the theme make sense now?), who commissioned me after seeing my small business themed illustrations for last year's Small Business Saturday. 

It was a really lovely project, where I had a lot of scope to spend time drawing amazing small businesses and freelancers, and keep everything simple with pure linework. The ball itself in London was amazing, full of glamorous business leaders and a delicious meal - and it was brilliant to see my illustration work used across all the media for the evening.

I love working for local companies and events, so it's been a great year for building connections around Manchester and Lancashire. 

I had a really lovely few commissions for Cheadle Hulme School (at the top of this post), for their brochures and presentations; as well as this poster for the incredible Grub Food Festival's May event and these (slightly silly, but loveable!) pufferfish illustrations for the Museum of Wigan Life's children's trail.

I was also commissioned by Salford City Council to illustrate a poster and social media campaign image for their annual Bridgewater Weekender Festival over Summer. This was such a fun one, just look at all those happy people! 

I loved being challenged with a bit of problem solving in following EST.1761's strict brand colours for the illustration (which were actually not that far off my usual palette!), and it was so interesting to delve into the history of the Bridgwater canal. That's one thing I love about local commissions, they always spring open so many opportunities to learn new things about the area, and meet so many incredible and creative people! Here's to more in 2017.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Creative Bloggers Secret Santa

I love getting involved with creative groups and, as I've mentioned (so many) times before, I think it's a great idea for freelancers to connect and support each other, even if it's online! 

I've been taking part in the Creative Bloggers social media chats for a few years now, and this year I signed up for the Creative Bloggers' secret santa! I honestly think this is the first secret santa I've ever done - a symptom of freelancing I suppose! We were asked (as we're a creative group) to include something we've made by hand as well as a few other gifts. Okay, so it wasn't 100% secret, we all wrote little notes to our giftees, but up until the packages arrived we were completely in the dark as to who we'd be receiving gifts from. 

I chose to include two handmade items in my parcel, a cute little sketchbook I put together (with a hand-painted cover) and one of my favourite new prints. I went on a bit of a stationery and artsy binge for the rest of it, which I thought the lovely creative lady I was paired with would appreciate it! 

So I was lucky enough to receive gifts from the amazingly talented ceramicist Harriet Cheal. She sent me some gorgeous hand-crafted jewellery, as well as a candle and absolutely beautiful lacy heart pendant she'd made (which I've put on my Christmas tree!). I feel like I've been spoilt, she's so generous! 

It's been so nice for me to feel part of a creative community with this, and I'll forever be an advocate of social media bringing people together. You can read more about Creative Bloggers here and have a look at Harriet's gorgeous ceramics on her Instagram here!