Tuesday 27 October 2015

Illustrating Autumn Faries with The Big Draw & The RSC

Every so often, I'll stop for a second and be hit with the realisation that I haven't drawn anything in ages. It can be surprising how little physical drawing time can go in to running an illustration business sometimes!

Yesterday was one of those days, and I fancied a little bit of a warm up before delving in to some serious work. You may have seen The Big Draw floating around on social media or the news recently - they're, very basically, a huge campaign to get people drawing. This week they've joined forces with The Royal Shakespeare Company to theme drawings on fairies and A Midsummer Night's Dream. 

I illustrated this little Autumnal fairy quickly, in ink, then sort of fell in love with her and decided to add in full colour in Photoshop. I'll admit that I rarely draw fairies. I'd been told too many times that I had to draw fairies in anything for little girls that it irked me - come on, we all know little girls can like space, treasure-hunting, dinosaurs AND fairies. I'm not one for telling anyone what they should or shouldn't like.

If you've kept up with my Pinterest boards lately, you'll see that I've been pinning a fair few golden beetles, so if you look carefully you'll see a couple of them make a little appearance in this Autumn-inspired dress, along with a few delicate cobwebs. Anyone else want a life-size version of that outfit? I know I do.

You can see this illustration featured on The RSC's facebook page and on my Twitter here!

Monday 19 October 2015

Exciting Small Business 100 Feature!

Very pleased to announce that today is my Small Business 100 feature date!

Throughout the day you'll see tweets, articles and clips on my freelancing and illustration promoted by Small Business Saturday UK. One hundred diverse (and very talented!) small businesses across the country were chosen to feature in the run up to Small Business Saturday on December 5th. 

You can see all the businesses involved and find out more about the day over on the official website. It's all about getting together to support small businesses and celebrate our drive to do what we love for a living.

I really recommend finding some way to get involved this December.  For last year's Small Business Saturday I hosted a picture book reading and children's art workshop at Ebb & Flo bookshop in Chorley - sometimes you really just have to break away from the desk and connect with other people! It's incredibly rewarding.

You can keep up to date on all the Small Business Saturday social media hum over on Twitter and Facebook. You might well spy little snippets about my work floating around today, so keep an eye out for those, and I'll hopefully be making an appearance with some very interesting people on the Small Biz UK bus tour in Manchester this November! Hurray small businesses!

Thursday 8 October 2015

An Illustrator in Italy - travel, sketching and snapshots from Lake Garda

When I’m travelling, you’ll almost always find a good portion of my suitcase brimming with sketchbooks and pencils. There’s something so personal about documenting your experiences through a sketch. I find it really builds a memory and captures the atmosphere as you study each detail and transfer it to paper.  Reportage and travel sketching has become an integral part of each trip I take, and looking back over my sketchbooks immerses me in the memory often far more than a quick snapshot can.

Well, after this near disaster at a festival recently (and only taking hand luggage) I opted to leave the ink pot at home and stuck to pencils, brush pens and a watercolour set as I took a week in Italy last month. I’d never visited Italy before (despite dreams of going to Bologna book fair each year). This trip was purely for family-time (and a much-needed break from work!) so we headed to Limone on Lake Garda for lake-swims, mountain climbs and castle adventures.

There aren’t many views I love more than mountains and vast stretches of water. I love the variety of weather, the way the light plays on the peaks and the array of colours as the day cycles. The lakeside beaches were calm enough that I could sit for a few hours to read, paint and brave a swim.

Limone is famous for its gorgeous lemon groves, and it’s one of those places where the tourist shops grab a theme and run with it (doesn’t everywhere?). There were bundles of lemon themed gifts, the best lemonade I’ve ever tasted and the town centre had wafts of sweet citrus as you walked along the cobbled streets. Luckily, I love lemon! I really enjoyed learning about the heritage and history of the town at a few of the restored lemon groves/museums where I also found this little guy below (the cat not the grapefruit, but yes, also the grapefruit). I won’t pretend my travel photos don’t always contain at least two pictures of cats.

We hired a car for the week, so we had the freedom to explore the less-touristy spots and visit other towns on the far stretches of the lake. I picked up these beautiful illustrated postcards in an old bookshop in Riva! It was a bit intimidating navigating the narrow tunnels with ginormous coaches hurtling at you like a stampede, but we made it through with only a few near misses.

Illustration by Ricardo Guasco [left] and Antonio Simeoni (1926) [right]

I’m back at work now, my family returned to their respective opposite ends of the country, and the memories of feeling warm in a t-shirt are gradually being swaddled in coats and knitted scarves (hey, it’s fine, I love Autumn!). One day I’ll put together a book with all my travel sketches, but until then, I’ll just look forward to my next adventure.

Just a note to say many of these photos were taken by the wonderful Andrew Jolly

Monday 5 October 2015

Do You Believe In Fairies? Vintage 1930s Peter Pan Book Illustration

With Egmont's new edition of Peter Pan popping in to bookshops last month, and my recent post about the behind-the-scenes processes of illustrating the cover, I thought it was about time I shared this nice dollop of inspiration with you. 

When I first told my Mum that I'd been commissioned to illustrated the cover for Peter Pan, she got pretty excited and said "I HAVE A BOOK TO SHOW YOU!". So next time I visited Cornwall, she dug this beauty out:

This edition of Peter Pan and Wendy is from 1931 and illustrated by Gwynedd Hudson. It's falling apart a little bit, it's got that gorgeous old-book smell and the illustrations are beyond beautiful.

I spent most of the afternoon carefully going through each page and taking photos of all the interesting bits of illustration (I can't feature them all here, there are so many!) to make sure they're preserved, to share them with you and to use as a little catalogue of inspiration for when I'm home!

Although my book cover and illustration style followed a completely different path, it was so inspiring to see this take on the Neverland world whilst in the depths of working on the project. I particularly love the really clever use of colour layering when working with a limited colour palette. It took me back to all the figuring out I had to do whilst arranging an illustration for risograph printing!

Each chapter heading is so dynamic and captures the essence of the story. There are loads of tiny spot illustrations dotted around the margins as well, which are really lovely to see as you read through; it immerses you in the atmosphere without being too visually prescriptive. 

I adore old books (and, well, books in general obviously) and collecting inspiration from vintage illustration. It's definitely a great find by my Mum, I'm so glad she rescued it and kept it safe! 

I'll be posting more of my vintage book illustration finds soon, so keep up with it on Illustrated Life or by following on Bloglovin here

Thursday 1 October 2015

Inktober 2015 - A Daily Ink Illustration Challenge

Today marks the start of Inktober, a daily ink illustration challenge running throughout October each year. I took part last year and it was incredible for pushing my motivation to create and for sparking new ideas (I'm currently working on a series of comics based around The Falconeer above!). 

I'm a huge fan of monthly illustration challenges. It's often so easy to get sucked in to the admin side of business (or life?) and spend hours emailing or organising, whilst neglecting the creative element. Prompting yourself to create each day you do end up discovering a lot about how you work and what you actually enjoy illustrating.

That said, I'm sad to say I can't properly take part this year as I've got some huge things coming up this month where I'm 90% sure I'm barely going to get a second to break out the ink each day. But I'm hoping to dip in every so often with a drawing or two.

So, if you'd like to take part (and I really suggest you give it a go at least once!) take a deep breath and commit to one drawing/painting/scribble in ink each day in October and post it on Twitter, Facebook or wherever you like with the hashtag #Inktober. If you don't want to take it so seriously, no problem, but you might fall in love with it.

The full collection of my Inktober drawings from last year can be found here, and a summary of everything I learnt, enjoyed and struggled with is on my blog here (worth a read if you're going for it!).

Go and have some messy, inky fun.