Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Shop Keeper!

I've just opened a shop on etsy selling prints, cards and ceramics. In the New Year I plan to also sell paintings and things made from fabric with my artwork on it. It was such fun photographing etc and no dusting to do like in a real shop.

I have a fifties green kitchen cabinet in our hall that I kept planning to get rid off (I bought it for £3 at an auction in 1991) which I've turned in to my shop/packing area. Dennis suggested I get a bell I could ring if I sell something :-)

Friday, 25 November 2011

Thanksgiving - Rhode Island Monthly

I did this a couple of months ago for Rhode Island Monthly

It was for an amazingly poignant piece of writing by Ann Hood – about her teenage years spent wishing to escape her home and after years of travel her return…and how Thanksgiving with her family is now so special. It’s actually the type of writing that is so vivid and visual it almost doesn’t need illustrating…but I don’t want to do myself out of a job :-)

I just remembered to post these as it's Thanksgiving in the US at the moment and also because I'm just about to watch tv show Pan Am on catch up tv! Being an air hostess in the 60s/70s looks so glamorous.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Illustrations as Diagrams

Nobody told me when I was a student that illustration could involve drawing simple diagram type information - I knew botanical, technical and medical illustrators did this....but on my course it was all about illustrating Iris Murdoch, Angela Carter or stories we wrote our selves.

I think out of the twelve on our course (only twelve!) I would have been far down the list of those likely to end up drawing "information illustrations" - actually we probably all would have been - we were all encouraged to tap into our imaginations and be explorative with different media. Which I think is fantastic and two of the main purposes of an illustration degree.

But as a working illustrator a lot of my work involves doing step by step type illustrations - often for craft books or exercises/yoga positions for magazines  - and I love doing this. There is a real satisfaction in getting it right but also aiming to make it look attractive. I think my nineteen year old self would not have believed I'd ever end up doing and more so enjoying such work!

The above illustration was for the US Family Circle Magazine - a simple foot relaxing exercise - it feels amazing!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Vintage Fair and vintage reflections

When I arrived in London in 1991 after art college via Paris and Scotland, my friend Katie and I rented a small, tall terraced house in South East London. No heating and no carpets...just gaps in the floorboards and wonderful coal fires in most rooms. (We'd take a taxi to the coal merchants with polythene sheeting to lie in the taxi driver's boot on the return journey).

In the basement we had a workroom where we'd stay up late listening to the radio and making papier  mache pots, painted boxes and furniture, mono printed and hand bound albums and notebooks. I'd done my thesis at art college on the Bloomsbury group and inspired by the Omega workshop we'd come to London to make and sell!

Over that first cold winter we'd get up early on a Sunday and stagger to the station loaded down with those big cheap checked laundry bags and head for a stall at Camden or Greenwich Markets. The money we'd make mostly went on cosy lunches and hot chocolates with marshmallows to keep us warm. We had business cards printed and that was our promotion done! It's strange now in this land of Etsy, websites, twitter and blogs to think how different things were just not that long ago. I remember whilst still in Scotland writing a letter to a ceramicist in London who I'd read about in a magazine asking politely for some business advice....I never had a reply. I always think of that unanswered letter when contacted by students. Nowadays it seems as if there is much more a culture of sharing and supporting amongst artists/makers - all made easier by the internet. Most of our planning for the move to London and our "business plan" was done over the phone - me in Scotland, Katie in Guernsey. My Dad wouldn't allowed me to chat on the phone so I'd go to the phone box across the road with a bundle of ten pence pieces and a notebook and pen.  Pre mobile phones and pre internet days. I wonder where we found the contact details for the market organisers...and I guess we read printed timetables to know which train to catch!

Anyway after a few winter Sundays Katie got a real job and I got a full time job working in a friend's shop (where mostly I spent my days drawing and writing stories on the back of the shop's fliers, occasionally there would be a customer - often lovely, lonely women who would return, after pouring their hearts out to me, with a box of chocolates or once an amber necklace!) and later I started a Post Grad Art History course. And our dream for the "Worldbackwards" emporium quietly died away.

After a round trip of fifteen years to North London I'm back living in South East London and two weekends ago I found myself up early and trundling along the road to the station with a wheely suitcase and a bundle of bags....helped by my boyfriend...regretting the death of our car in the springtime and on a train to Caterham Vintage and Art Fair. I caught myself thinking here I go again....still doing the same old thing "carrying my wares around" has nothing changed!

Later in the day Katie turned up to keep me company in the beautiful Edwardian Soper Hall and we enjoyed delicious cup cakes from Bake plus more yummy cake and coffee from A Grand Affair served in old china cups. With a sound backdrop of 40s and 50s music we chatted to customers and other stall holders and I ended up spending some of my takings - on vintage children's books and a 60s pale blue Finnish enamel kettle - not a good business model!

By the return journey in the evening I found myself reflecting how lovely it is to meet the people who've bought the things you've made and to be around other people who are selling things that they've made or gathered with love or care.

It didn't feel any longer like a step backward - just looping back around on a beautiful walk!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Rug design for Land of Nod

My simple spiral design is now on rugs for Land of Nod.

So much of my work is for books and magazines and so it's initially created on paper and then ends up printed on paper  it's interesting for me to see something finish up on a different type of surface. This was such a "flat" image it's wonderful to see the added depth and texture that the hand tufted wool adds.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Caterham Vintage and Art Fair

On Saturday the 17th of September from 11am - 5pm I will have a table at the Caterham Vintage and Art Fair.
I'll be selling gouache and acrylic animal paintings, prints of some of my illustrations, painted ceramics and cards. The event is being held at:

Soper Hall
Harestone Valley Road
Surrey CR3 6HY

here is a link to a map

There will be tea and cakes, tombola (I might finally discover what tombola is!), a raffle and live music plus vintage and art stalls. I'm so looking forward to it!

The event is organised by Anita of Mrs Antil's Apartment.

here is what she write on the Press Release:

"The Caterham Vintage and Art Fair is a community event for affordable vintage and art lovers as well as those who are just curious or love a rummage through vintage clothes, accessories and home-wares.
This will all take place on the ground floor of the beautiful and historic Soper Hall in Caterham Valley, 3 minutes from Caterham station.
All items will be reasonably priced - making beautiful and old things available and affordable for the local community.
There will also be vintage inspired art, as well as a variety of quirky, original art works from Surrey and London based artists including: LittleToucan, DiDoesVintage, KatyLou and Trina Dalziel.
Old fashioned music hall style live entertainment will be provided by quirky, sultry and soulful singer-songwriter, Ziba.
There will be a vintage 'tea room' to replenish with ration recipe cakes, pretty cupcakes and of course tea!
Entrance is free and anyone from 5 days to 105 years is very welcome.
Come and have fun!"

Friday, 2 September 2011

The Cat and Dog Lover's Companions

I loved working on this project way back in the winter so lovely to receive copies in the post recently.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Visit me at Sydenham Visual Arts Trail

I'm taking part in Sydenham Visual Arts Trail - an open house/studio event for artists to show their work. It takes place on Saturday and Sunday the 9th and 10th of July and Saturday and Sunday the 16th and 17th of July from 11am to 5pm on each day.

I'll be showing my new acrylic and gouache paintings, large inky drawings and hand painted ceramics - all on animal themes both real and imaginary. I will also have archival digital prints of some of my illustration work and greetings cards.

You can find me in the home of textile artist Diana McKinnon who will be showing her amazingly detailed free machine embroideries. And Sally Earlam will be showing her silver and semi precious bead jewelry. If the weather is dry there will be tea and cakes in the garden (with money raised from teas going to charity). I'm almost as excited about planning the cakes I'll make as preparing my work...but not quite!

Diana's House is at 40 Dacres Road, London SE23 2NR just 5 minutes walk from Forest Hill Station (which is on both the mainline from London Bridge and also the Overground that runs from Highbury and Islington  through the East End to Crystal Palace/West Croydon). Here is a link to a map (we are number 37) and on the right you can click and download a pdf of the Visual Arts Trail Map and Guide -  on the guide. There are over 45 homes/locations in the area open and more than 100 artists participating - so lots to see. Plus ten minutes from Forest Hill Station is the wonderful Horniman Museum which is also well worth a visit.

If you are local and able to come along it would be really lovely to meet you. Let me know if you read about the event here and I will have a small present for the first (or perhaps only!) person who mentions my blog.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Suffolk Alumni Magazine and gathering reference


This was for the Alumni Magazine (SAM) of Suffolk University in Boston.

It was a piece about an American woman and her husband who moved to Australia to start a new life and her experiences of her move and starting afresh in a different continent.

The unusual thing about coming up with ideas for this project was that I was working on it before the text was written so it needed to be quite a general image.

I often wonder how I managed to gather reference for commissions pre-internet.....a stock of books and a trip to the library? Now I so often turn to Google - however for this project I got the opportunity to use a book, that has been quietly waiting to be of use for over 30 years. 

 The book I used for reference “Furred Animals of Australia” was given to me by an elderly Australian gentleman, Mr. Marshall, in 1977. He’d emigrated to Australia in about 1912 as a small boy and when he returned to our town in Scotland for the first time sixty five years later, he was put in contact with my grandfather as he was the town Provost and an expert on local history. It turned out they had been next-door neighbours and best friends as children prior to Mr Marshall emigrating! They spent a magical week reminiscing and visiting the local area together. And I as an animal obsessed nine year old when I met him quizzed him about the animals of Australia.
My grandfather died a few months after his visit and Mr Marshall treated me as his “adopted” granddaughter sending me books and presents from Australia and letters that talked sometimes of his childhood memories.

This book has always had a special place on my bookshelf and in my heart and I was delighted to be able to use it for this project - so much more rewarding than clicking on Google!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Family Circle - the benefits of writing down anxieties on test scores

This was a recent illustration for the US magazine Family Circle. The piece was about how test results improved if children were encouraged to write down their anxieties prior to exams.
I'm pretty sure it works for adults too!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

One minute Promo Video for Surtex

This was made for Surtex - the surface design and stationery fair in New York that my agents, Lilla Rogers Studio, attend in May. Surtex were asking us to make up to one minute films promoting our work/brand to show on a screen at the fair.

Dennis offered to make a little film for me so I gave him some jpegs of my surface design work and left him to it. Well, mostly left him to it... I went in his office a few times and started being a bit "can you do this can you do that ish" but luckily I had a commission to complete by the end of the day so managed not to be too interfering!

I think just as it is sometimes easier for someone else to put your portfolio together this feels like it captures what I do much better than if I'd tried myself.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The PaperQuilt Collages

The Paper Quilt Project was initiated by Dawbis (her psuedonym) a Texan based artist in 2007. 244 illustrators and artists from around the world were sent a small card and pieces of scrap paper to produce a collage on the theme of "A Day in My Life". The plan was to submit them and Dawbis would make twelve "paper quilts" to auction for a charity voted for by the artists.

The top collage I did in 2007 however it got lost in the post somewhere between London and Texas. The project was then on hold for a bit but when it relaunched last year I got the opportunity to submitted a new collage.

It seem the days of my life have changed little in the meantime...still involves drawing at my desk, drinking coffee and looking out for an elusive fox!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Freedom of Speech for Hamsters

I've been meaning to post this for ages. Dennis made this film "Free Speech for Hamsters" last summer. I hope it isn't just because he's my partner but I really think this is animation used to its best abilities - it conveys complex and important ideas in a simple, concise and funny way. And just like how sometimes an illustration can be so much more universal than a photograph the use of animation and fluffy little creatures speaks more directly than more "related to our world" mediums might.

This is the second of his Public Information Films for Hamsters. The first one "Advice for Hamsters Buying Squeaks" was done fourteen years ago and won him several animation awards. I love the simple pencil drawn quality of it. Wondering what the third hamster film will be about in 2024!

(Here is a link to view it in YouTube without the right third of the film missing! I'm not sure why this always happens when I import videos? If anyone is able to explain to me how I can correct this I'd really appreciate it - thank you!) - Addition 27th April - I found the answer! Before I'd been pasting in the embedded info straight from youtube but if I use the insert video link on the blogspot tool bar when making a post it centres it! It's strange how learning such simple things make me happy!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Backgrounds for Fly Origami Fly

I loved working on this project last year. It's a book on how to make origami flying objects - planes and rockets but also kites, birds and animals and flying toys. The origami is designed by and the book written by Mari Ono and her son Roshin.

It's published by Cico Books, for whom I've been producing illustrations for nearly ten years. Sometimes when you work for people they can only picture you being able to do what you already do, however I'd shown Cico some styling I'd done for a photographer friend and they asked me to make and style the backgrounds for the book; simple paper and card environments for the origami objects to inhabit. I really appreciated them giving me the opportunity to try something new and combine my passions for illustration, making and styling.

It's strange how cutting cardboard and using glue can bring such joy!

Above some shots of the book containing photographs by Geoff Dann, a couple of works in progress and a view of my kitchen table mid project!

Last month I worked on a sequel which was even more fun than this one! Will show some images when it's published later this year.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Our Afternoon Visitor

Mr Foxy was curled up in our garden this afternoon! I called to him and asked him up for hot chocolate and toasted fruit bread but either he was ignoring us or very deaf. I'm hoping he was just feeling bold lying there and not poorly.

Below is an inky fox drawing I did last autumn.

Friday, 25 February 2011

The Cresswell Horsehead and where does our need to make marks come from?

A week Saturday I'd gone to Chichester without a sketchbook. On the train home I drew these on the back of a brown paper bag.

When I've imagined being imprisoned somewhere - like you do :-) - as well as the obvious fears - one thing that would concern me would be not having access to paper and pens.
I wish I knew more and understood more in an anthropological and psychological way about where this need to make marks comes from and why we as humans have it?

On the BBC documentary the "History of Ancient Britain" a couple of weeks ago they showed a beautiful drawing/engraving done 13,000 years ago of a horse's head scratched into a horse's bone. Here is a clip about the Cresswell Horsehead.

When I'm responding to a commission I'm conscious of and considering an end result. But there is something about the sometimes sudden need to draw that is so immediate and the act of making the marks is the total driving force. I feel a much closer connection to the Cresswell Horsehead artist than to all the more recent art historical periods in between him/her and me.

I see the British Museum are planning an exhibition "Creative Beginnings: European art in the Ice Age" from October 27 – February 2012.

Friday, 28 January 2011

26 things I wish I'd known...about being freelance

Earlier this week I took part in an Employability Event for third year art, design and media students at Portsmouth University. I'd been invited to speak about my route from college to what I do now and my experience of working as a freelancer.

Professional Practice is something I have taught on several Illustration degree courses and that I feel particularly passionate about as when I graduated twenty years ago this just didn't feature on the curriculum.

I'm always wishing there was more discussion (online and in the real world) about the experiences and realities of being an illustrator so I thought I'd post here "26 things I wish I'd known...about being freelance" which were the headings to my powerpoint slides. I'd love to hear your thoughts, experiences and any additions to these...

  1. If you are self employed you need to be able to do a bit of everything

  1. Working from home can at times be very lonely and at other times a delightful and privileged experience

  1. Working in a shared studio space can be an immensely supportive experience. It can also give you a sense of professionalism, give structure to the day and can lead to making contacts.

  1. Networking is not a nasty 80s word but something that occurs naturally

  1. The best way to be able to keep in contact with existing clients is to have new work to show

  1. All commissioning and buying decisions are related to appropriateness and marketability. It can be a balancing act staying in the industry, staying “fashionable” yet staying true to self

  1. Your priorities might change

  1. As an illustrator you may be able to work from anywhere in the world!

  1. The way you might be working in five or ten years may not even be invented yet

  1. Your greatest creative spurt might still be to come

  1. Not everybody is ready at the same time

  1. The most important clients are the ones you already have

  1. It can often seem like good money - but you have to divide it over times you aren’t working or when you are focusing on promotion and business and office management and over holidays, etc

  1. Everything will constantly change so you will need to continue learning and developing new skills

  1. Sometimes work days will go by that don’t involve doing any creative work

  1. Some of the people you are sitting next to might be commissioning you in the future

  1. The grouchy people are just as likely to employ you as the enthusiastic people

  1. Self-promotion is about promoting yourself often as much as about your work

  1. It’s a competitive world but we are all different

  1. How hard you work doesn’t always relate to how well you do so sometimes it feels like Snakes and Ladders

  1. Don’t take things personally and persevere

  1. Be persistent (without being pushy) And follow up opportunities quickly

  1. Don’t hold back because things aren’t quite perfect. Get your work out there - into the world

  1. If offered poor pay or poor terms - consider the long term consequences as well as short term gains - both for you and for the industry

  1. Don’t get overwhelmed by what other people do

  1. Keep tapping into the things you are passionate about


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