Sunday 20 December 2015

Christmas Lists & Childhood Inspiration

Christmas is juuuust around the corner now, and so you may have seen my Christmas gift guide pop up on my blog earlier this week. Putting the gift guide together made me feel incredibly nostalgic for the late nights scrawling my childhood Christmas lists and (our little family tradition) sticking them halfway out of the letterbox for the robins to collect for Farther Christmas!

My Christmas lists would always be brimming with the coolest 90s toys (yesss Tamagotchis, Polly Pockets, Furbys and Pokémon cards) and huge bundles of books and art materials.

In perfect time for Christmas (and nicely-fitting with my current exhibition on collections), I was gifted some goodies which threw me straight back to my childhood. 

I absolutely loved my Sylvanian families collection when I was little. I used to create the most elaborate stories with them (think intense mysteries and epic dramas!) and give them detailed character back-stories. I would round up a supporting cast of Barbie dolls, soft toys and odd creatures I made from blu-tac to enhance the tales, and there would always be some sort of make-shift set I'd build from cardboard boxes or toy buildings I'd turned the wrong way round. 

I really loved imagination-fuelled playtime when I was little, and I think that's what has continued to inspire me with my stories and illustrations throughout my career. I often see shades of my old stories and characters (as well as influences from the stories my parents would tell) when I'm writing my own comics and picture books these days! 

I think it's always so important to feel you have the freedom and confidence to explore your imagination through storytelling whatever age you are. Luckily enough, as a bit of an early Christmas present a couple of my friends gave me a Pirate-themed storytelling dice game, so I'm all set to delve back in to a few fictional adventures!

Roll on the imagination-inspiring Christmas presents for everyone!

Wednesday 16 December 2015

The Illustrated Christmas - A Gift Guide!

I'll admit I often struggle to work out what I'd like for Christmas, but this year...oh man, there's been so many gorgeous goodies popping up. I just want them all! 

I wanted to put together a carefully chosen selection of my very favourite illustrated products that would make fantastic presents for the illustrator (or lover of illustration) in your life.

So if anyone's feeling generous, yes please to all of this!

1 - Bonne Maison Socks
2 - Peter Pan Egmont Classics Edition (Cover illustrated by me!)
7 - Beautiful Darkness Graphic Novel
12 - Pentel Brush Pen (my personal tool of choice!)
14 - Faber Castell Jumbo Pencils (another of my favourite illustration tools!)

Monday 14 December 2015

Light Grey Art Lab - Bower Bird Exhibition

I've been a busy, busy bee over the last few months, and (although a tiny bit late) I'm so excited to finally show you my full illustration for the Light Grey Art Lab 'Bower Bird' exhibition that opened last week in Minnesota. 

I've wanted to get involved in a Light Grey Art Lab project for years now (some of my very favourite illustrators are regulars) but I've always been unlucky in missing the call-outs, until now! I finally saw a live call for applications, darted in there and I was incredibly chuffed to have been chosen to take part in the Bower Bird exhibition.

A total of ninety international artists have taken part in the exhibition which (if you know your birds, the name suggests) focuses on collections, collecting and collectors of all shapes and sizes. In true reflection of the theme, each of the illustrations were formatted to postcard size with one copy being exhibited and an extra one hundred or so being divvied out into special postcard sets of each illustration for the artists taking part. I absolutely can't wait until my set arrives, there's so many amazing illustrators involved!

I had an awful lot of choice when it came to choosing which collection I wanted to focus my illustration on: books, tiny toy animals, vintage scarves, old purses, pens, boardgames, pokémon name it; but I decided to think a little less directly and I chose to create my illustration based on memories and a small box of mementos I keep. Small relics of my happiest days and most important moments that would probably look like rubbish to anyone else. Something personal, but with a hint of universality.

My memory box is full of odd little things, drawings from friends, childhood toys, gifts from loved-ones, souvenirs from my travels, ticket stubs, notes and secret codes. I love the idea that I can stumble across these personal little treasures (most often when I'm rummaging for lost keys or a hairband) and be transported back to a special time. I like to think that most of us have a box of mementos hidden away somewhere: our own unique collection that sparks our memories and reflects our lives.

The exhibition is running throughout January at the Light Grey Art Lab Gallery, Minneapolis. If you'd like to buy one of the limited edition postcards or a gorgeously luscious giclee print you can here, and you can see the full collection of illustrations here and the gallery launch night flickr page here

Saturday 5 December 2015

Illustrating Small Business Saturday 2015

Hi everyone! So it's Small Business Saturday 2015 and I'm down in London celebrating it after a huge #SmallBiz100 Christmas fair and celebration in Westminster yesterday.

Today (as I pledged in this article in The Guardian) I'm going to be celebrating the variety and diversity of the small businesses and entrepreneurs in the UK through illustration. We're an incredibly important bunch, and I really think small businesses are worth supporting and recognising, so I've decided to create a series of illustrations inspired by real-life SmallBiz100 companies!

In November I wrote a quick post in the SmallBiz100 Alumni group asking for a little summary of everyone's businesses, helping me grab a little inspiration for my illustrations, and the response was overwhelming! 

There are honestly so many exciting, varied and incredible companies springing up across the country (from forensic educators to candle-makers!) and I quickly picked a few that I thought would capture the diversity of all these amazing entrepreneurs. 

I've posted the full collection here, but I'll be putting these out over the course of the day on my Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr using the #SmallBizSatUK hashtag! So keep an eye out for those. 

I also really, really, really recommend you take a quick look on the Small Business Saturday website and, well, go out right now and see what your local small businesses are doing for the day! Support them, celebrate them, and take a second to reflect on the fact that if you wanted to start up your own business today, to follow your dream, we'll all be cheering you on!

A huge thank you to the Small Business 100 companies that helped inspire these illustrations - Town Mill CheeseAgile AdministrationGolden Hare Gallery, Serendipity Jewellery, Aspect MakeupFifth Dimension Chocolates, Ma BakerSmart Little Web, Frou Frous Cakes, Bils & Rye GalleryVirtuoso Assistant and Acorn Gallery!

Friday 4 December 2015

Hello From Westminster!

So, it's all been kept very secret, but last month I was invited to Downing Street as part of the Small Business Saturday celebrations, and today I'm tabling at the Christmas fair in The Treasury Drum next door (we were re-located at the very last moment!). 

I'm one of 28 businesses plucked from the 'SmallBiz100' to host a stall in a cosy Christmas Fair chalet, sell my illustrated goodies, draw live portraits and discuss the importance of small businesses in the UK. I'm hoping I'll also be able to voice some of my opinions, praise and, ahem, concerns over current support for freelancers as well.

2014 Downing Street Christmas Fair. Picture by Suzi Ovens

Small Business Saturday is a grassroots campaign supporting small businesses and promoting the idea of shopping locally and independently (certainly appropriate between the madness of Black Friday and the run up to Christmas). 

The Christmas Fair event is hosted on the eve of Small Business Saturday, and each of the 'SmallBiz100' have been invited to gather together to highlight the importance of (and celebrate!) small businesses across the UK. It's full of media, news and political-types, so keep an eye out for me on social media (try #SmallBizSatUK). I'll also be tweeting pictures and updates throughout the day.

Since I'm in Westminster, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to unveil an illustration I've been working on, focused on the idea of the power of the public's voice in current affairs. I had a lot of fun illustrating this at the start of this week (and I love what an appropriate audience it has here today). I think it's really important for us to feel like we do have a voice in these times (especially after events like on Wednesday), and it is worth continuing to speak up on the issues that really matter to us, as tough as it may seem to be heard.

So, as tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, I'll be posting illustrations celebrating the vibrancy and diversity of the UK's small businesses! 

I think we're such an important bunch, and I think it's vital that future small businesses and entrepreneurs feel secure, supported, confident and creative enough in starting up their own companies and forging their own paths. I'm proud to be representing us today! For the sake of innovation and, hell, an interesting world to live in, I will always fight to support small businesses, freelancers and those brave enough to break out on their own.