Folk Tale Week

I’ve been wrapped up in a freelance event contract for the past two months which has made it difficult to find time to draw. When I finish a contract it takes me a couple of days to get back to my projects even though I find myself wanting to rush at it. To slow myself down, I absorb myself in drawing. Last week I spotted an illustration challenge that is perfect to transition from data (the events role I have been doing) back to creator. I’m not sure who runs it but the hashtag on Instagram is #folktaleweek. The ethereal prompts are just what I need to get back to creating.

Here’s my first illustration for the prompt, forest.

Portfolio Piece

I am between working on events at the moment so am taking a short pause from working on my picture book. However, I find I miss illustrating so squirreled a couple of hours today to draw one of my favourite things to draw, a girl with flowers on her head or a flower head as I like to call them. Drawing for me is an act of mindfulness & this piece represents a couple of hours of clearing and calming my mind. And a new piece for my portfolio : )

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This Week’s Picture Book Progress

I had planned such a lot for this week but as I mentioned in my previous post I’ve been feeling lethargic after my latest day job. So I was pleased that I managed to drag myself to my laptop to make a good start on another page of picture book number three. As it’s Father’s Day this week, I felt inspired to draw this chair from my childhood. My Dad used to spin us around in it so fast that we felt like we were on a rollercoaster. I remember laughing so much as the chair span and insisting on him twirling us again and again. It’s lovely to think it’s found a home in my latest book : )

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This Week's Picture Book Progress

Progress for my third picture book is slow and steady as I juggle my day job. I find I like to work on it when I know I'll have an hour or two of uninterrupted time and when it's not too late in the day so my mind isn't too tired to concentrate on the screen. So there are often quite bit gaps between drawing sessions. I've learnt to embrace this rather than get frustrated by it as it gives me time to form my ideas. This weekend I found a perfect little window of time and settled down in front of Photoshop.

Firstly I revisited my last drawing, that I posted on here on a couple of weeks ago. I'd been thinking a lot that the character of the little boy didn't look young or cute enough. When I first drew him I knew something was wrong but couldn't quite see what it was. A couple of weeks away let me see the drawing with fresh eyes and I set about making amendments. You can see the two different versions below. On the left my first attempt, on the right my updated one. Giving him bigger eyes is more like my style from An Amazing Alphabet of Cake and is my comfort zone but I feel it works a lot better on him. I also made his hair a bit less styled and changed the shape of his body. I'll revisit him again in a couple of weeks to start drawing him in different poses.

I also drew another image of the little girl in the book, also ready for bed and holding her teddy bear. Her hair needs work as it once again feels a little too styled but I'm quite fond of the colours and her bunny slippers!

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This Week's Video - Sunday Drawing Episode 3

This week's video shows me drawing some little mindful faces using my favourite Faber Castell watercolour pencils. I wanted to show a simple glimpse of how they work when you add water to the pencil marks. I am very much a beginner at the moment and pretty much just slosh it on! I love the messy imperfect effect and the texture that the pencils create.

Once again, I'm learning a lot about editing with each video I make. This week I learnt about adding an adjustment layer to brighten footage, when I realised that everything I had filmed made it look like it was twilight! Premiere Pro is so brilliant, I know I am only scratching the surface at the moment and can't wait to learn so much more.

As an aside, I chose a soft house track from Epidemic Sound to accompany my drawing. I'm not sure it works... But it does reflect how uplifting I find drawing : )

This Week's Video - Sunday Drawing Episode 2

I've lived in London for many years and had never visited Holland Park so I left the house early when half the city was still asleep and had a lovely wander round. I started by spending some time sharing my breakfast with the squirrels in the Japanese garden and then strolled by the peacocks to get a coffee and to admire the wisteria which was in full bloom. The park looked amazing in the sunshine and I found myself totally absorbed in drawing. Filming footage on my iPhone SE was easy and mini projects like this are really helping me to learn more about editing with Premiere Pro. I hope you enjoy this little glimpse of London in the sun.

Picture Book Progress

I finally found a little time to work on my picture book today. I've sketched all of the drawings out in pencil so I'm slowly transferring them into layered Photoshop illustrations. I'm also trying out smaller eyes and a little more definition to see what feels right for my characters. I know that the style isn't quite right yet but I enjoyed spending a couple of hours drawing this little poppet in pjs. 

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Drawing Mr Handsome - My First Illustration Video

After watching wonderful illustrators such as Holly Exley and Frannerd on YouTube, I love the idea of making videos of drawing. I find illustration videos really relaxing and interesting to watch. I also love the ones where drawing is shown in real time rather than shown in timelapse as I think it allows you to really see the technique used by the creator. So here's my first attempt. I find myself drawing a character I like to call Mr Handsome over and over again so he seemed to be a logical first subject. I used an iPhone SE to film and iMovie to do a little editing. I really am very much a beginner and never underestimate just how much work vloggers do to make their videos so beautiful! I hope you enjoy it : )

Drawing Frida Kahlo

Since I started drawing, I've noticed that so many illustrators are inspired by Frida Kahlo and her iconic appearance. When Mexican Pink was announced as the #colour_collective colour recently, her image was the first thing to come to mind. A lot of people draw Frida with flowers in her hair but for some reason, pink made me think of pompoms so I adapted her headdress a little. The end result was quite different from my usual style but this is what I love about these illustration challenges, they push me out of my comfort zone and make me create new things.

If you like my version of Frida, I've popped it in my Society 6 shop as a print.

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Picture Book Progress

This week I've been really enjoying making progress with picture book number three. My book An Amazing Alphabet of Cake was made up of 26 separate illustrations, one for each letter, with different characters on each page so I was able to approach each image as a new piece. I worked hard to keep my style consistent, making sure that small details like highlights in eyes were shown throughout. However, with this new book I have a family who feature throughout so I am facing the new challenge of ensuring not just my style but my every aspect of my characters are consistent. Their face shape and features need to stay the same, with different expressions and poses. I'm also experimenting with more shading by using darker lines of the same colour on different elements of the drawing. You can see this particularly on the clothing below. I like how this helps to make the characters feel more rounded.

One of my favourite things about any project is seeing it grow, step by step, piece by piece. From an idea to something real. I'm finding the need for consistency and a common thread through the drawings is adding to the joy of this particular challenge. And having been through the experience of creating a picture book before, achieving something small each day towards the project is making me excited to see it come together.

Making A Start On Picture Book Number Three

This weekend marked the beginning of picture book number three. I'm not going to reveal the concept and title just yet as I'm still playing with it but I have started sketching. And it feels exciting!

The first thing I do with a book idea is think about how the words and illustrations will fill the book. Is the idea big enough? I use a fresh sketchbook for each idea and first write down the proposed wording and split it into 26 sections that feel right. Bearing in mind good moments for page turns and how illustrations may fill the page or whether they may be across a spread or just a spot picture in the middle. I then start sketching, very roughly, using one page of the sketchbook to represent each page of the book. This gets my creativity flowing, a bit like free writing. Nobody really sees these pages so they are messy and simply to get the idea for each picture started. I then switch to digital drawing in Photoshop when I feel ready.

While doing this I am bearing in mind that most picture books are 32 pages but this needs to include end papers and the title page. The advantage of independently publishing is that you can play with this convention a little bit but you do still need to stick to multiples of four because of the way printers work. I am working on a 'how to' guide which will include everything I have learnt on my journey so far but one of the important things is that print on demand via Createspace or Ingram Spark will always need to include a blank page at the back of your book where they put their barcode and reference code. I think this helps them to match the pages with the cover in their print factories. It isn't too noticeable in a novel but really stands out in a picture book and takes up valuable space. So don't be caught out by this requirement and make sure you include it in your maths!

Below is my first digital sketch for book number three. On the left is the sketch from my sketchbook - it's actually unusually tidy for my first attempt! These little cats will appear somewhere in the middle of the book but they captured my imagination so I started drawing them first. This is unlike me. With An Amazing Alphabet of Cake I worked religiously from A to Z but without the structure of the alphabet I feel I can be a bit more free. I was pleased with the expressions on the cats' faces in my initial sketch and was worried I might lose this in the digital version. It still needs work but is getting there. I really want the cat on the wall to be a tabby so my next challenge is to see if I can make some stripes work on him.

It feels fantastic to be drawing again. Almost like coming home. Having published two picture books already I feel the process is becoming more familiar. I know what I can achieve and it spurs me on to take little steps, even when it feels like a mountain ahead, knowing that one day I will be holding book number three in my hands and starting on book number four.

Back To The Books & Brushes

This week I'm really looking forward to starting work on picture book number three. I've been completely absorbed by my day job lately working on a busy event. I love collaborating with a brilliant team to produce exciting events but I find myself really missing drawing. It's become like a friend to me.

After an event I always need a few days to wind down and for me, this means hiding out at home and getting back to drawing. It's meditative and re-engages my creative brain. I sketch, draw and paint with no plan or purpose. This time, I realised I haven't drawn digitally for over a month and it was really nice to get back to my digital brushes. I found this calm little scene appearing on the page. And today, despite telling myself I would have the weekend off, I couldn't resist starting some pencil sketches for the new book. I'm looking forward to sharing my process and progress. As always, if in doubt, create.

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This Is Why I Create

One of the very best things to have come from publishing An Amazing Alphabet of Cake is the messages I've received telling me about little ones enjoying it. I was absolutely bowled over recently when a lovely friend of mine told me that her little girl had been coming home from school every day and drawing pictures from the book. She had been determined to draw every page and my friend presented me with a collection of pages, tied together with golden ribbon, that her daughter had asked her to show me. Well, what can I say? I was so touched that my drawings had inspired her to create something so wonderful. She had picked up on all the detail and even drawn herself into the pictures. Wow. What an amazing piece of work. THIS is why I create : )

Celebrating My Cake Book

This week I received my first confirmation of sales figures for An Amazing Alphabet of Cake from Amazon. The numbers may be modest but I'm so chuffed that people are buying and enjoying the book. Lots of friends have been sending me photos and videos of their little ones reading about cake. One of the little poppets is even trying to eat the cake from the page : ) Every review and note I receive makes me feel a little bit emotional and encourages me to create more. Thank YOU.

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Illustration Inspiration At The V & A Museum

I've been taking a little break from illustration over Christmas and although I've been sketching a bit with pencil and paper, I haven't used my computer to draw at all. It's been really nice to take the pressure off after working so hard to complete An Amazing Alphabet of Cake. Today I took myself off to the V & A Museum in London to seek out a little inspiration for the New Year. I took my sketchbook, a Blackwing pencil (my favourite) and my camera and took my time, absorbing little details in each of the galleries. I was planning to spend the day looking at classical art and sculpture but discovered a lot more illustration than I expected. I was particularly enamoured with an amazing cabinet that was made in western India in the late 17th century, which was covered in quirky illustrated characters. A real gem (shown top left and bottom right below).

New! Sweet Little Cake Stickers

I'm super happy with these brand new cake stickers that I added to my Etsy shop this morning. I've used illustrations from my new book An Amazing Alphabet of Cake to create an A6 sheet of 7 stickers that you can use to brighten up your notebook or laptop. Stickers include a lemon drizzle cake, cupcakes, a towering Victoria sponge, a rainbow cake and a cute cluster of fondant fancies! Unfortunately you don't get any cakes with your order but they do look good enough to eat and are the perfect stocking filler : )

You can order yours by clicking here!

Illo Advent 2017

For the past three years I have been taking part in #illo_advent on Twitter and Instagram. It's a simple illustration challenge where you draw something Christmassy each day throughout the festive season and post it with the hashtag to share it with the lovely illustration community. I love it. It helps me to practise and makes me feel part of something cheery and creative. Here are my first four pictures. Lots more to come : )

From Sketchbook to Sales

So after a year of sketching, illustrating, proof-reading, designing, tweaking and tidying, it's finally here! An Amazing Alphabet of Cake was published on Thursday 30 November. A very special date for me as it would have been my Dad's birthday. The book is inspired by an A to Z game we used to play on car journeys. A game I still play often with the little ones in my life.

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This time last year, I sat down in a cafe with a sketchbook and set myself the challenge of coming up with 26 ideas for 26 pages of a book about an alphabet of cake. I loved the idea of my second picture book coming from something that was so close to my heart. I scribbled anything that came to mind, brainstorming words that might work, remembering cakes that the little ones had come up with when we had played the game. I slowly started translating my thoughts on to Photoshop, one letter at a time, sketching and layering, trying out different colours and building the illustrations slowly but surely.

As I've mentioned before, I only started drawing about three years ago. Creating this book has given me a project to really practise with. Working independently has meant I only have my own deadlines to work to so I fitted drawing around my day job. Slowly ticking all the letters off the list.

By June I had drafts of all 26 pages and was ready to start working with my book designer. I had worked with Sarah Goodwin on Angel's Great Escape so knew we worked well together. Although I had figured out the composition of most of the pages, Sarah helped so much by suggesting fonts, tweaking the palette to ensure consistency and creating the files in InDesign ready to publish. I also engaged a proofreader to check through the wording for me. She really helped by suggesting edits that would help the rhythm of the text.

I absolutely love working with my small team. I love the independence of being able to make our own decisions. I love how I can quickly tweak an image if I need to. Although this is the second picture book I've published, it's the first one I've illustrated and I'm very much feeling my way. Seeing the reviews start to come through on Amazon, seeing how the book is resonating with people, really makes me happy. I'm already starting to sketch book number three. Building my tiny empire one picture at a time.

"What a brilliant book. Beautiful illustrations, very quirky, and would keep a child entertained for ages, whilst learning their alphabet. A great stocking filler too. Highly recommended."

"This book is such a sweet treat (pun intended). The characters are full of life and mischief and you basically want to sit with them and join in the fun. Inventive, colourful and joyful. Each turn of the page brings a smile. Wonderful!"

"What's not to love? The joy of choosing your favourite cake without the guilt of the calories. Such a beautifully illustrated book and one that I'm really looking forward to sharing with my young nephew".