Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Illustrating 'My Anxiety Handbook'

I’m so thrilled to finally show you this very meaningful project I’ve been working on: 'My Anxiety Handbook'!

Written by psychologists Sue Knowles, Bridie Gallagher, and co-authored with Phoebe McEwen, the book guides young people aged 12-18 through their issues with anxiety in a warm and light-hearted way. I was so thrilled to have been asked to illustrate the book with relatable, character-based spot illustrations - especially as I have suffered from anxiety myself.

The book delves into the psychology behind anxiety, as well as promoting useful self-care steps, a journal section, and lots of really insightful personal experiences with anxiety written by a huge range of people – from young people at school, to England footballers, and, well, me!

It was incredibly nerve-wracking to fully share my experiences with anxiety or the first time, but it was therapeutic to write it all out, contained, and in such a safe and welcoming place as this book. It would definitely have been reassuring to read something like this when I was little, so I hope in sharing my experience I can help someone else.

The illustrations were lovely to draw. I’ve been doing a lot of work for school-aged children and young adults lately, and this book was a great chance to create a set of characters to reflect the fact that anxiety can affect anyone – no matter what they say, what they look like, or how they present themselves.

The spot illustrations were all created using brush and ink linework, with digital shading – keeping them simple, with a focus on relatability - presenting the text in an engaging and illuminating way! I was also asked to create hand-lettering for the journal section in the back, with titles guiding readers to note down their experiences and help unravel and identify the different strands of their anxiety!

It's a really special book, and it was an honour to work on it. If you fancy a copy you can pick it up online , in bookshops like Waterstones, or hopefully, in your local library!

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Emmeline's Hourly Comic Day 2018

A post shared by Emmeline Pidgen (@emmelinedraws) on

Hourly Comic Day 2018 was last week, and yup, I'd forgotten what a toughie it is from last year (seriously, I had to take a day off afterwards to recuperate!) - but as with so many of the illustration challenges I set myself, it was incredibly rewarding!

Hourly Comic Day challenges creators to post one comic for each hour of their day, in real time, on February 1st. Think of it as a kind of diary comic, an insight into that artist's behind-the-scenes, and if you follow the hashtag #HourlyComicDay, a glimpse into the different lives of creators across the world. 

A post shared by Emmeline Pidgen (@emmelinedraws) on

I love it! Sure, you let yourself in for around 16-18 hours of almost constant drawing (or at least being "on it" thinking and preparing the next comic), but it's pretty cathartic to take that time to focus inwards on your life, what you like to draw, and your thought processes. Hey, it's even nice just to be able to look back at what on earth I did on a particular day too! 

Last year I collated my Hourly Comic Day strips into a book called 'Drawn Until Dusk', and I've had an incredible response to that through selling it at comic festivals up and down the country, as well as through my Etsy shop. This year I wanted to introduce a bit of colour (yup, I like to make things incrementally harder for myself) and roll with a slightly sketchier, looser style. 

This time I was drawing directly on-screen, rather than via a graphics tablet, and my god did my hands thank me for it (you might remember the Wacom-claw panel from last year?). With my new-found portability I actually managed to get out and about to draw the comics this time, and set-up shop in a local cafΓ© or nestled on my sofa instead of just sticking to my desk. 

It's really interesting seeing how the comics turned out, I don't know if other artists do, but I certainly didn't have any kind of plan of what the comics would be like, or even what I'd do on the day content-wise. I kind of like that spontaneity, and that risk that every panel might just be me sat at my computer forced me to get out of the box, and, well, the house, and brought forth new ideas.

A post shared by Emmeline Pidgen (@emmelinedraws) on

A lot of the comics seem to feature odd little moments between me and my partner, or small introspections. I love seeing that what ended up being in the comics is such a reflection on my world and my personality - I guess that makes sense, I was constantly focusing on the small moments I noticed throughout my day. It's been lovely to hear how relatable and honest people have found these. 

Trees and nature also seem to feature heavily! I think that's mostly down to the fact I spend so much of my time wandering through nearby parks and forests, and they're definitely one of my favourite things to draw! Okay, yes, trees are pretty easy to draw quickly (and that provided some relief!), but it was great to be able to indulge myself in experimenting with really simple mark making and colour to bring a sense of atmosphere and environment. I'm usually pretty perfectionist, so it was kind of liberating to be forced to let go of that through facing thirteen one-hour deadlines throughout the day!

Thanks so much to everyone who liked, commented, re-posted and sent me messages of support on the day - especially from the other artists taking part (seriously, go and look through the hashtag, there's so many amazing threads!). You can find my full series on the Twitter thread, or on Instagram!

So, today, I'm working a exciting new comic project - so, if you liked what I did in one day, I can't wait to show you this! πŸ’•

Friday, 3 November 2017

Comic Festival Round-Up: Thought Bubble & LICAF '17

Comic festival season 2017 is finally winding up for me now, and I have to say it's been my busiest year ever! It's been brilliant to spend time getting to know so many new comic-industry faces, and an honour to have been invited as a guest to so many of the festivals this year. Everyone's been so incredibly welcoming!

In September I popped over to Leeds for Thought Bubble Comic Festival. Thought Bubble is always a special one, it was my very first comics convention a few years back, I created the festival artwork last year, and it's always brimming with such friendly creators and enthusiastic attendees! 

This year the convention moved from The Royal Armouries into the city centre, with the convention spread over four venues centred around the town hall and millenium square.  The new location definitely gave the festival a different feel: it was by far the busiest convention I've ever had, but there were a few sleepy-looking people complaining about the security queues and distances between tents (a little extra walking never hurt, right?).

I managed to pick up a few choice prints and comics from the festival (all weirdly colour-themed, see above!), plus a gorgeous mermaid pin given to me by the insanely-talented Jen Bartell (this year's festival image creator!). I always end up wishing Thought Bubble was a three-day festival so I could grab a little bit of extra time away from my table to pop around and speak to everyone!

With the help of Andrew, we grabbed some footage and for the very first time you can see a little video summary of my weekend above, or on Youtube right here!

In October I travelled up to the Lake District for The Lakes Comic Art Festival in Kendal. It was good to see so many people acknowledge the earlier Twitter dispute, and build on conversations on how to create a more supportive and diverse comics industry - we definitely have a long way to go, but it's good to see something positive sprouting out of such a horrible situation.

At the end of September, I was invited to take part in the festival's window art trail - where businesses in Kendal are matched up with artists and community groups to create unique window displays as part of a trail around the town. The theme this year was 'superheroes', and as I was matched with the wonderful Staff of Life bakery, I created a life goddess! Drawn in Posca pens, the goddess grows and nurtures the ingredients used by the bakery: wheat, damsons, elderflower - a force for good, nature,!

A post shared by Emmeline Pidgen (@emmelinedraws) on

I love illustrating on windows, it's such a different experience than being constrained to my usual small pages of paper - it's expansive and freeing! It was great to integrate with the products in the bakery, and to create something beautiful to draw customers in!

This was the first time I'd been to LICAF, and it was a pleasure to be so warmly welcomed to appear in the Page 45 room with the Page 45 comic shop team, and other incredible creators like Felt Mistress, Johnathan Edwards and Emma Viecelli. What a bunch of heroes!

One of my very favourite parts of the festival was running children's workshops in the cartoon-a-room. I ran two (iiiiiiincredibly busy) kids' workshops giving an introduction to comic creation to through shape! It was great to be able to represent female comic-creators to a new generation, and it was really fantastic to see so many young people coming away from the workshops with comics they'd made in the session, saying they were going to go home to create more!

This year LICAF was partnered with the Toronto Comic Art Festival, and I managed to slip away from my table to pop into a talk by Jillian Tamaki - an incredible Canadian illustrator and comic creator, who's inspired me for years! Another huge highlight was the 'Finnish Village', which was home to, honestly, one of the best exhibitions I've ever been to: Felt Mistress (Louise Evans) &; Jonathan Edwards' 'Archipelagogo'. It's a gorgeous combination of felt character sculptures, paired with Johnathan's beautiful paintings incorporating the characters! The colours were bold, the characters were stunning, and it was such a treat reading through the backstories of each set of characters and how they lived on the islands. If you ever get a chance, definitely try to catch one of their exhibitions, it's well worth seeing in person!

So I'm finally winding down, my stock is packed up and ready for my etsy store, and I've made a ton of new friends. Thanks so much to everyone who's been so hugely supportive these past few months! I'm working on an exciting comics commission right now, as well as some of my own author/illustrated narratives - so by the time convention season is around again I'll have even more to show you!

If you missed out on the opportunity to grab a signed print, comic or book at any of the festivals this year, you can find (almost) everything over in my Etsy shop right now!

Until next year!

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Game Of Thrones & Secret Illustration Process

It's been a fair few weeks since we waved goodbye to season seven of Game of Thrones on tv; but I wanted to finally share my Thrones-inspired illustrations with you, and give you a peek at my process!

Working pretty neatly within the 'Ice and Fire' framework, I decided to illustrate Jon Snow, and the 'Mother of Dragons' herself, Daenerys Targaryen - what a, um, pair! So, as a little heads-up, these are inspired by the Game of Thrones characters, not direct portraits, so yes, there's a bit of artistic license here!

These were both illustrated using a combination of watercolour and digital illustration, which is my favourite way to work at the moment! For the first time ever, I created a video showing my entire process (from digital sketches, to traditional painting, then back to digital!) for my Daenerys illustration, and you can watch it here! Sneak a peek :)

Both the Daenerys illustration and Jon Snow print are available in my etsy shop at the moment, and you can pick them up at Thought Bubble comic festival this weekend! Woop!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

London Film & Comic Con 2017

With only a few weeks to go until Thought Bubble Comic Festival, I thought it was high time I give you a round-up of London Film and Comic Con!

So despite a growing list of comic festivals under my belt, LFCC was my very first London / three-day convention. So I arrived at the con with some seriously late nights of preparation, some analytics studying, a tum full of butterflies, and a whole batch of freshly printed comics!

It was SO much fun getting to know the other comics guests, they are seriously some of the most lovely and talented people I could have hoped to meet - Aneke, Guillermo Ortego, Emma Vieceli, Will Simpson, Lew Stringer, Ben Templesmith and my #1 table neighbour Dani Strips just to name a few! ❤

The convention was heeeeaving with celebrities and fans stampeding to meet them - which made everything quite surreal! I'll admit I had one or two squeako moments being in a lift with Benedict Cumberbatch; having my portrait of Mads Mikkelsen handed to him; and getting helped off the coach by John Rhys-Davies (Gimli!), who happens to be, almost officially, the nicest person in the entire universe.

As well as selling all kinds of prints, comics, books and original art on my table; I also spoke on a panel discussing 'Creating worlds for children'. The speaker line-up was stuffed with talent from the children's comic and publishing worlds! We chatted in front of an audience on everything from digital media vs print, what we enjoy most about working for a younger audience, to how we develop our ideas! It was great to discuss so many of the key issues in the children's illustration industry right now, especially given the breadth of perspectives the panel formed, and the insightful questions from the audience!

The festival comic zone was put together by the brilliant Tony Lee, and it was great fun to sneakily illustrate this family portrait (above, centre) he'd asked me to draw as a present for his wife! Live portraits and commissions have always been one of my favourite things about festivals, it's always so great to see the reactions people have when they see the finished pieces!

The festival was an exhausting but fantastic three days - I felt so welcomed by the other guests, and so looked after by the festival team! They were all absolutely incredible, and I came away completely brimming with inspiration and ideas. Roll on Thought Bubble, the convention bug has seriously grabbed me again!

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Playing with colour & Uniball Posca pens!

A post shared by Emmeline Pidgen (@emmelinedraws) on

It's not all that often I receive a parcel through the door that makes me squeal with delight as much as this incredible stack of Posca pens from Uniball. Okay, you all know I love pens, but the colours! The versatility!

I've wanted to try out Posca pens for absolutely ages - I've heard such great things about them, and I've seen countless comic shop windows adorned with Posca-drawn illustrations, so they've always piqued my interest! So I was thrilled when the lovely team at Uniball were kind enough to send me a whole rainbow's worth of colours and nib types for me to play with and explore creatively (hurray!).

Right, so before this little exploration (or shall we say, scientific creative experiment?), the only thing I really knew about Posca pens were that they're the go-to pen for drawing on glass as they have such a broad range of sizes, opaque finish, and most importantly they're perfect for easily wiping off afterwards. I recently found out about a bit of a disaster a few years ago at a local library, where someone had decided to decorate the library windows a) without permission, and b).....with permanent ink pens....ARGH! So it's safe to say, if you feel the need to get creative on glass make sure you're using the right pens! You'll be glad to know that after a little sketch or two with the Posca pens on my own home windows, they look amazing and clean off perfectly with water and a tiny dash of washing up liquid, phew!

Beyond glass, I was really excited to learn just how many surfaces you can work on with the pens - everything from ceramics, to paper (obviously?), to fabric. I kind of had to restrain myself from bounding about the house doodling on everything like a three year old on a sugar high.  I particularly enjoyed adding a little pizzazz to this flower pot (home to my beloved chilli plant), and I have some big plans for the potential to illustrate my designs onto ceramic jewellery over the next few weeks - I'll keep you updated!

One thing I didn't know before using the pens, was their versatility in terms of working with their opaque quality. Obviously, I'm constantly drawing, but with traditional media I'll admit it would mostly be pen-on-white-paper; but with the Posca pens I'm able to draw on a huge variety of paper colours with a bold, strong line even with the lighter pen colours (and gawd the metallics look good!). It's been incredibly useful for signing my prints as well, especially with all these comic conventions coming up! A gold Posca pen has definitely become a staple for my comic-con artillery for quick signatures on books, prints and live drawings, whatever the background colour.

In my illustration work, I most often use ink brush pens to create my linework; so it was great to try out Uniball's Posca Free Size brush pens. Again, they have that great opaque colour, so it really opened up a lot of opportunities for me to play creatively in ways that ink might not necessarily allow. I did find that on some paper stock, overworking an area sometimes led to a little eating away at the paper texture, so I'd recommend using a good quality paper if you're doing anything more than light sketching. I absolutely loved the broader 1.8-2.5mm bullet nibs for drawing on larger surfaces and block colouring, whilst the 0.7mm bullet nibs were my favourites for sketching and for illustrating faces. The 0.7mm pin type nibs were a little bit fine for my style of illustration, but perfect for writing, or if your usual style is fine linework, more controlled comics art or you want to transition from biro pens.

The range of colours is really impressive; they're all so bold and have a gorgeous chalky quality to them. One look at my portfolio and you'll notice I use a lot of coral and teal in my work (not sorry), so some of the pens wouldn't have been my very first choice of colour for a final illustration, but my oh my do they make me happy to use for sketching and ideas! I'm also really excited to try them out with some of the window illustration projects I have coming up later in the year - those are the kind of times that call for bold colour!

The metallics were really fun to use, although they might not factor into my everyday professional illustration much (as so much of my work needs to be shown digitally), they're a joy to use for adding an extra flourish onto original watercolour illustrations or ink drawings. I found that the thicker nib pens had a slightly more opaque ink flow than the smaller pin nibs, but obviously with a thick nib you can't get as much detail in - so I'm definitely going to look into buying a 0.7mm bullet tip gold pen which will be perfect for details and the print signing.

The pinks, oranges, red, white and gold were definitely my favourites - I found myself reaching for them again and again to draw with. Maybe the Summer has put me in a warm colour palette kind of mood!

All in all, Posca pens are definitely going to become a staple in my preparatory work, sketches, and print signings - and I think they'll really come into their own when I use them as part of the window illustration trail at LICAF this year!

Head over to the Uniball website to have a browse of their Posca pen line, and if you've tried Posca yourself, show me your creations! 

Note - This is not a paid-for post, although the pen set was provided - I'll always give you my honest opinion :)

Monday, 24 July 2017

Macc-Pow Comic Festival

A post shared by Emmeline Pidgen (@emmelinedraws) on

This month kicked off my string of 2017 comic festival appearances with Macc-Pow, the first of four I have lined up so far!

I was invited as a guest to table at the one-day festival in Macclesfield, with a big ol' table selling my prints, comics and books, and plenty of space for my live portrait sessions.

A post shared by Emmeline Pidgen (@emmelinedraws) on

The festival took place in Macclesfield town hall, and was brimming with talented comics creators from near and far! Organised by the incredibly lovely Marc Jackson (who I'll be doing some comic workshops with at LICAF later in the year!), the festival catered really well for families and young comic fans - it was so inspiring to see how many children there were ridiculously enthusiastic about comics!

It's always a pleasure to spend time drawing live portraits at these sort of events - it's great to get a chance to chat to new people and to spend some quality time drawing. I had quite a few live portrait commissions, and although it's always a little nerve-wracking, it's the best feeling when they absolutely love the drawing! These guys were some of my very faves:

I'll hopefully be back at Macc-Pow again next year, with even more comics and illustrated goodies! Here's to a thriving northern comics scene!

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Emmeline's Illustrated Home: Big Steps, Interior Design Trends & A Collaboration With DFS

So this year has been quite a year so far, but after more than half a decade of living in a teeny, tiny studio flat, I'm pleased to say I finally have my first house! What?!

Freelancing and home ownership aren't usually ingredients you'd think of in the same cake; the prospect of trying to get a mortgage as a freelancer absolutely terrified me for a long, long time. But after a lot of work, a little luck, (and a life based far, far, outside of London); I finally have a place to call my own.

Our first week in the house was serious go-time, Andrew and his Grandad completely redecorated the living room, whilst I hulked-out a little and dragged up the long-pile bathroom carpet (whyyy) and painted, re-floored, grouted and even re-plumbed the bathroom πŸ’ͺ We have a little veg patch in the garden now too!

It's definitely been a work in progress. Honestly, the number of times I've wished I could instantly decorate, fix everything and create the perfect furniture with my mind Sims-style has been ridiculous! It takes time, and sometimes it's frustrating having all these incredible design ideas, but lacking in the free time and budget to make it happen.

One room we're finally in love with is our living room! It's our space for relaxing, playing Witcher 3 on xbox, eating snacks, watching Twin Peaks, film nights with friends, playing music and reading books; our window to the outside world, and the first impression we have for visitors. 

We've completely shaken up the design from the previous owners, with a new warm-grey wooden floor, ghost white paint on the walls, a burst of orange with the curtains and some choice art prints (naturally!). But the thing that's really brought the room together has definitely been our gorgeous charcoal Zinc sofa and footstool from DFS. Seriously, after years and years of hand-me-down sofas disguised with throws, it feels so great to be able to curl up on one that actually looks amazing.

Working with DFS, we looked at the key trends from the Salone del Mobile design festival in Italy, and focused on the yum combination of burnt orange and the revival of the footstool! Okay, so you might not have instantly thought that's a footstool in my photos, because yaasss we've multi-purposed it into a little reading nook seat! 

We have a lovely big window in our living room, so Andrew and I thought about our space at different times of the day: during bright daytime, the far end of the room is the perfect spot for reading, thinking of creative ideas, and gazing out of the window; whereas at night we love cosying up in front of a film - so we needed our space to work for all purposes. We realised the footstool is perfect for that! With a few cushions on the back it works as a great little reading seat between the bookshelves - but can be easily moved over to the sofa for when we want to stretch out like big ol' starfish to watch a few episodes of Orange Is The New Black!

Speaking of orange; with the living room as it was, it was practically a Pleasantville-style monochromatic world; seriously, almost everything was greyscale! Once we'd moved in our book collection, and a curated a few of our favourite boardgames, we brought a bit of extra warmth to the room with a shock of burnt orange textile - and it makes the world of difference. The orange really brings out the warm tones in the floor, gives it that bolt of the unusual, and makes everything just seem that bit cosier. As an illustrator, colour is obviously incredibly important to me, and it's taken time to make sure everything is accented just right, and works wonderfully with the base greys and whites.

As I write this, I'm sat on the sofa in the living room, curled up with a cup of tea (and a cheeky biscuit), and gawd, I feel happy. Okay, so the house isn't exactly like the rose-covered thatched-roof dream home I sculpted out of clay in primary school, but right now it's everything I've needed, and I'm so grateful I've managed to get to this place. Things are finally coming together, one step at a time, and it's really starting to feel like home. 

A huge thank you to DFS for working with me on this blog post and letting me explore some interior design trends! The gorgeous sofa I chose is their Zinc Three Seat Sofa and matching footstool from the French Connection range, all in charcoal (very yum, and just a heads up that it's on sale right now if you're in the market for one) and you can see all the other colours and stylings through #MyDFS. It's not often I get to collaborate on a blog project which has such an impact on my life; there'll be an awful lot of films watched, books read, conversations had, and ideas dreamed on that sofa, and in this new house! Here's to taking adult steps!

Note! This is not a paid-for post. The sofa and footstool were kindly provided by DFS for me to explore the creative design trends of Salone Del Mobile, which is well worth checking out (hurray burnt orange!).