Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Playing with colour & Uniball Posca pens!

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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

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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 💪 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!).

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Illustrated Birthday Present Extravaganza!

A post shared by Emmeline Pidgen (@emmelinedraws)

Ahhh what a pile of loveliness! So, back in May I was incredibly lucky to receive these awesome gifts from my nearest and dearest for my birthday. I like to think this builds a bloomin' strong case that my friends and family know me well - has there ever been a photo that sums up my interests quite so well?

Okay, so maybe I've been a bit slow in posting this - but can you blame me? Look how distracting all these things are! 

First up, wow, I finally got my paws on the first two volumes of Sam Bosma's incredible 'Fantasy Sports' series. It's funny, unusual, brilliantly paced and has great characters - and uarghh it looks amazing! So completely up my street. I haven't read the second one yet, but I'm excited to set aside some time to drink it in. After the first one, I'll admit I had a bit of a rummage in my garage for a basketball (before realising it went flat years ago, noo!) hurray for books that make you wanna move!

Following the Nobrow thread, I also snagged myself a copy of Robert Hunter's Map of Days, an absolutely stunning graphic novel - seriously, every panel could be a poster in its own right. Nobrow and Flying Eye Books stories are rapidly filling up my bookshelves, and I couldn't be happier - they always have such incredible curation and pay such good attention to detail and quality in their printing and binding.

Okay, I won't get far without mentioning Stardew Valley. My. Oh. My. What an addictive game! I'm not going to lie, I've sunk a loooong time into this game already. It's just...lovely! There's farming, fighting, foraging and friends - all with a nice little 'let's support the little guy!' and a 'follow your passion!' subtext to it. Speaking of games, you'll notice the Andrez Sapkowski novel in the picture, well that's the first (chronologically) in the series of books which my other current favourite game, The Witcher 3, is based on! It's on an entirely different spectrum to Stardew, but it's honestly incredible. I'm finding it hard not to read the book and completely imagine everything from the game; the short stories read exactly like the missions, although in a way it's quite a relief to know you're not going to have to make some harrowing grey-area moral choice at the end (who am I kidding? I love those!). 

Alongside that I got so many gorgeously patterned and illustrated goodies - I felt so spoilt this year. Two of my lovely friends got me this Cath Kidston bag with an incredible horse print on it (I'd seen it a few days before and fallen in love with it, but didn't quite have the pennies!); I got some beautiful quirky stationery and homeware; and my mum and dad bought me a Janome sewing machine! I've been wanting a sewing machine for years, but never had the space for it until now. Okay, I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to sewing, but I've got the drive at least! On one of my first days having it, I completely winged it with a vague idea of a pattern and sewed a top! Yeah, it was a bit short, and maybe a bit messy - but it felt so good to do. One of my serious goals at the moment is to start thinking of designing and screen-printing my own fabric to sew into products for my shop - so watch this space!

It feels like so long since my birthday now, but I still completely brim up with feelings when I think about the lovely time I spent with my friends and family, and how perfectly they know what gifts I'd like! There's no denying I'm a lucky duck (and I have a lot of reading to do). Hurray! 💗

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! ❤