Monday 27 October 2014

Coming soon!

So this year I was actually organised enough to embrace ridiculously-early-Christmas-Spirit and get some card designs illustrated on time!
I've just sent these (among others) to print, so they should be up for sale next week. There's three vague sets: Slightly Naughty Christmas Animals, Christmas Love and Christmas Castles! They'll all be available to buy individually or in a set.  They're a pretty limited run right now, so drop me a line if you're interested and I'll make sure you know they second they're out.

Thursday 23 October 2014

A's Assignment

This week, I've had a great time delving into possible futures illustrating this fantastic micro-story by Andrew Jolly on Medium.

The story was written in response to the Writing Prompt "What would you do with your last ten dollars?", and I think it's a great take on it.  I'm a big sci-fi and futurology fan, so it was a lot of fun to dream up super futuristic classrooms and (stylish) teacher get-ups. And yes, that is a telepathy-helmet projecting the class visuals straight to screen - no more Powerpoint in the future, guys.

You can read the story and recommend it here, and it is well worth a read if you have two minutes. I've recently joined Medium myself, and will be posting a lot of my freelance advice articles up there, so jump in!

Thursday 16 October 2014

Glasgow inspiration

As you may have read in my earlier post, last weekend I ventured up to Glasgow for the launch of my new picture book The Lavender Blue Dress.  The launch event in Waterstones with Aidan Moffat was absolutely fantastic, a seriously big moment in my career, and a lot of my weekend was spent at the venue!  I did get a chance to explore the city and wander, it was my first time in Glasgow so there was definitely a lot to see.

Glasgow has such an amazing atmosphere, I honestly couldn't believe how friendly everyone was - I loved how disinhibited people were to start chatting away!  I saw a lot of the gorgeously cultured side of Glasgow, as well as the parts that were a little rough around the edges, and it all combines into such a vibrant place.

The whole weekend was inspiring, and I snapped some of my favourite finds.  I really loved the brushwork on the china vase in Scottish Colourist Francis Cadell's painting in the Kelvingrove gallery, as well as this stunning piece of street art painted on a wall in central. There was so much to look out for, in every corner of the city.

I was staying near the West End so enjoyed the falling Autumn leaves in Kelvingrove park and the museums in the area.  The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum was incredible, there was so much to see; whilst the Riverside Transport Museum was full of fun and engaging attractions (I never thought I'd be so interested in transport!).  I can't imagine that I've even seen half of the things I'd like to in Glasgow, so luckily I've realised that it's really not that far away from me (a three hour drive), so I'll definitely be back!

Wednesday 15 October 2014

The Lavender Blue Dress Picture Book Launch!

Photos by Andrew Jolly
Last week saw the launch of The Lavender Blue Dress, my newest picture book with Aidan Moffat and Cargo Publishing.  To celebrate the release on October 10th, I headed up to Glasgow for the big launch event at Waterstones Argyle Street.  Aidan's a brilliant musician (you might recognise him from Arab Strap), and he played a few songs before I joined him onstage with Cargo's Murray Buchanan for a Q&A about the making of The Lavender Blue Dress, and a book signing session.

The crowd was absolutely packed, and I was genuinely shaking with nervousness before the Q&A (I'm not quite used to public speaking!).  According to the audience I pulled it off though, and answered some great questions from Murray on the making of The Lavender Blue Dress and how the project got started.  It surprised a lot of people that Aidan and I had only first met just before the event, it's definitely an odd modern world where you can work with someone on such a big, soulful project and only meet after it's completed! But it's also very refreshing to be able to collaborate with people all over the world so easily.

After the grown-up's event on Friday, we had a kid-friendly (and slightly chaotic!) event on Saturday chaired by the lovely Diane Buchanan. Again, the space was packed, and Aidan read the book to excited youngsters.  We brought back the 'design your own dress for Mabel' sheets, and it was fantastic to see the kids engaged in the story and creating such beautiful dress designs!

It was so humbling to have received such support for the book, and I can honestly say that the launch was the absolute highlight of my career so far.  It was definitely a personal hurdle for me to jump into the public realm with my work, I'm often quite shy, but it was such a joy to meet so many people touched by something I've helped create.

Huge thankyous to Aidan, Murray, Diane, Waterstones and all the amazing people at Cargo Publishing for making the event so great! Thanks as well to Andrew Jolly and Michael Gallacher for the event photos.

Keep your eyes peeled for my post about my other adventures in Glasgow, up later this week!

Thursday 9 October 2014

Best Arts & Culture Blog Winner

So, last night I went to the Blog North Awards as part of Manchester Literature Festival. Hosted at the Deaf Institute (one of my very favourite gig venues!), the atmosphere was sizzling with excitement for the entertainment, and of course the awards themselves.

There were some great performances from the likes of The Flashtag Writers, Claire Dean and some of the shortlistees from the Best Writing award category.  I particularly loved General Lucifer's Repro-man stories, Kevin Boniface's Huddersfield-postman-tales and Mollie Simpson's teenage diary readings!

The awards category rolled around, and I'd managed to calm my nerves by convincing myself that they must've told the winners beforehand.  Best Arts and Culture Blog flicked up on screen, and I prepped myself to buffer any confidence knocks if I didn't win (hey, even being shortlisted was a bloomin' honour) - but somehow, my name was called! 

This year there were some glitzy crowns and tiaras up for grabs, and I stumbled nervously up the stage towards them.  The judges crowned two winners in our category, so I was lucky enough to share the stage with fellow winner Marc Provins.  I made a warbly little speech about the sheer talent of the shortlisted blogs, how unprepared I was, and apparently got a few "aww's" as my voice tremmored saying thankyou. 

I'm absolutely over the moon to have won Best Arts & Culture Blog.  I've put so much work into this blog over the last few months, and having that recognised in some way is fantastic; a real encouragement.  As General Lucifer so rightly said in his winning speech "Blogging sometimes feels like just shouting into a black hole, to hear something back is brilliant".  

Thank you to everyone who voted for me, the judges and all the lovely people I met last night!

You can see the full list of winners, runners up and shortlistees at Definitely check them out, there's some really fantastic blogs there!

Friday 3 October 2014

Portfolios, pitches and microbiology.

In all my busyness over Summer, I've just realised that I completely overlooked this piece.  This illustration stemmed from my research for a pitch to The Eden Project, who were seeking written proposals for an exhibition on the theme of 'The Human Microbiome' and microbiology.

This was really only ever a quick sketch to wrap my head around my writing, but it was one of those defining pieces that has really snapped my work into a new direction.

There was a wealth of information to respond to in the brief, but the thing that caught my eye was the idea that our preoccupation with technology and the digital world could have adverse health effects. 'Is our disconnection from the natural world making us sick?'.  Personally, as a dual digital world explorer and fully fledged nature admirer, I found this idea really interesting.  The brief centred on the concept of us, as humans, being interwoven within a worldwide ecosystem; and the issues that can arise when we remove ourselves physically or consciously from it.  There's obviously the idea that getting outside, going for walks and taking time away from zombie-staring at screens helps improve our sense of wellbeing and connection to the world; but the report also considered the idea that interacting with nature and all it's muddy wildness exposes us to a far greater variety of microbes, which in turn help strengthen our immune systems.

That's what I wanted to focus on in this sketch, and I chose to approach it as if I was responding to the report as an article for an editorial illustration.  This is really where my work has turned.  A lot of my portfolio is centred around narrative illustration, which isn't a bad thing, but I've always wanted to strengthen my conceptual thinking in terms of editorial illustration.  It's those illustrations for magazines and newspapers that have such layered communication - the instant visual summary of the article, and those subtle little details that enhance the writing and fit snugly into place as you read through the text.  

I chose to work in a simple visual style (for me!), with cut-out figures and a limited colour pallete. I've had a great response to this style of illustration, so I'm hoping to keep it up with more editorial work, both personal and client-based.

In the end my exhibition proposal didn't go through with Eden. But, as always, it's something to grow from.  I always enjoy taking the opportunity to write out my ideas, and I'm a sucker for learning new things.  But really, the main thing I've taken away from that proposal is the re-boot in the confidence I have had in my own conceptual visual thinking.  There are always benefits in taking a critical look at your portfolio and knowing where you need improvement, or what you need to work on.  No illustrator is ever perfect at everything (although there are certainly some that seem that way!), but it's always worth a shot at adding another string to your bow.

Wednesday 1 October 2014

The Results Are In!

Big thankyou to everyone who took the time to enter my Big Print Giveaway this week.  As I mentioned in the original post, there were three signed prints to giveaway (Wild Ride, Norwegian Wood and Summer Dip) and a quick comment of your favourite would enter you into a draw to win that print.  Wild Ride was inevitably popular as it's part of a limited edition run of screenprints! But it's great to know that the prints will be going to people that specifically chose each one.

I wrote this scruffy list of the entrants to each draw, and used a random number generator to pick the winner in each section! I'm contacting the winners as we speak, and the prints will be shipped out in the next few days.

If you're shedding a single tear that you weren't so lucky this time, remember all these prints are available in my shop at Check back for more giveaways soon!