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.

This Week's Video - Sunday Drawing

Hello lovelies! So, I really enjoyed making my Drawing Mr Handsome video last week. It made me feel nostalgic for my teenage years when I used to play around filming my sister on a massive old VHS camera as she pretended to be a presenter. I then went on to study media at university mainly so I could run around with a camcorder. I loved it.

I've also been feeling curious about Premiere Pro as two friends of mine who are editors have recommended it. So I downloaded a trial from Adobe and while I was out for the day visiting some friends I filmed some footage on my iPhone. I also signed up for a trial of Skillshare so that I could watch some Premiere tutorials to get started. It took me a bit of trial and error but below is the result of my first attempt. I loved making it and it's really inspired me to think about more video ideas. I'm not sure where this fits into my plan for my illustration / publishing business but it's sparked my curiosity so let's see! I hope you enjoy watching it. Please comment on the video on YouTube if you like it.

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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Five Things I Learnt At The London Book Fair

Although I've been to the London Book Fair a few times before, today was my first visit as an illustrator and I have to confess I felt a little nervous! Although I share my illustrations online, I rarely share them face to face when I can actually see an immediate reaction. I spent some time last week printing out a selection of my latest drawings to create an up to date portfolio, packed up some copies of my books and some postcards to give to people and set off.

I started the day by attending some seminar sessions, followed by a good browse around the stands and then spent the afternoon in the Children's Publishing area listening to art directors and having a one to one portfolio review. I thought I'd share a few notes on what I learnt today.

1. A lot of the fair is about the business of books. It's a great opportunity for the industry to get together to have meetings and network in one place, which means being new to it can feel a little intimidating. People are rushing everywhere keeping to their schedules while you wonder round wide-eyed. Most of the big publishers have huge stands with lots of tables where colleagues and visitors are talking intensely. It's helpful to know that approaching stands to speak to editors or art directors on spec may not work as appointments are often pre-planned. However, the majority of publishers I spoke to were very happy for me to leave samples and to chat about their submissions policies.

2. Head for the area that is relevant to you. The fair is split into sections, Authors HQ and the Children's Hub for example. The floor space is huge so wear comfy shoes, allow plenty of time to get from A to B and spend a little time studying the map to ensure you know where you're going. Give yourself breaks and try not to worry too much about what everyone else is doing!

3. The Insight Seminar Programme is brilliant and worth the entry fee alone. As I'm relatively new to publishing I am still learning a lot (!) and the fair runs almost 200 conference sessions about all manner of subjects with a whole host of experts. The timetable is published on the fair website. Today I joined sessions about demystifying book distribution with Ingram Spark and getting started with Kindle Direct Publishing and I also listened to a presentation about book PR & Marketing.  Most sessions are about 45 minutes long and importantly the speakers are always very available for questions both during and after their session.

4. Take opportunities. When I was reading about the fair a few weeks ago, I noticed there was an Illustrator's Afternoon taking place in the Children's Publishing area, which included the chance to have your portfolio reviewed by an art director. After being so absorbed in independently publishing An Amazing Alphabet of Cake I thought it would be really interesting to be brave and to get a professional opinion on my work so I booked a slot. I met with a lovely lady, Strawberrie Donnelly from Scholastic, who gave me some really helpful and encouraging feedback and advice. Although I am really enjoying working independently, I also love collaborating on projects and it was great to investigate a little about whether my style is going in the right direction to make that possible. If you are an illustrator, I would highly recommend making a note to sign up for a portfolio review next year!

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5. As a writer and illustrator I also love the fact there are some wonderful opportunities to see authors being interviewed. I didn't have time to go along to any today but enjoyed an impromptu brief speech by Author Of The Day Joanna Trollope who addressed the crowd of writers who were gathered at Author HQ. Joanna talked about how important failure is and how it is just part of your story. She also spoke about her process and how she loves to note down all sorts of things about people all the time. A turn of phrase, what people choose to wear and what that says about them, small habits people have, even things like what art they like. Joanna mentioned that she feels like, "Fiction is where we learn more about life than anywhere else..."

I hope you get the opportunity to visit the London Book Fair, if not this year, in the future. If you have an interest in books from any angle, it really is a great place to learn and to enjoy the company of people who love stories just as much as you do.

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.

#MarchMeetTheMaker

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I had a little time to join in with #MarchMeetTheMaker on Instagram today. The idea of the challenge is that you post one photo a day to introduce yourself to the creative community. It's a great way to connect with people and to get inspired by fellow makers.

There's a different prompt every day, today's was 'Tools & materials'. Although I use Photoshop & a Wacom pad to draw digitally, all of my ideas start with pencil sketching. I often use watercolour and ink when I want to free up my creativity & to relax. I should have also included coffee in this picture as I also consider that a vital tool : )

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Five Ways To Keep Going

I've been thinking about tenacity a lot lately. I absolutely love being creative and I love dedicating myself to my projects and seeing them through. But sometimes, especially when I'm tired or when I'm faced with obstacles, it can be tough to keep going. And because I have a job as a freelance event manager to balance, like a lot of people, I only have limited time to create. So when I do have time, I find myself determined to fill every free moment with drawing and writing. I become obsessed with achieving something creative before I'm back doing my day job... and I completely forget to rest.

So I'm writing this list for me... and for you, as I realise that we all need to look after ourselves and to feel supported. And I also realise I would like to feel as tenacious as I do now in ten years time. And twenty years time. And when drinking gin for lunch when I'm 95, still drawing and still publishing books.

1. Take a break
First things first, you don't have to work all the time. Rest is so important. Those moments of quiet are the moments when your mind processes and restores. Therefore often the time when you come up with some of your best ideas. Also if you work continually, you can get so close to a project that you can't see it any more. Stepping away and taking a break allows you to see things with fresh eyes and this can make what you're creating even better.

2. Achieve small things often
Set small goals rather than just seeing the end goal and you'll feel you're achieving more. Think of all of those little achievements as treats just for you. Be kind to yourself. It takes many bricks to make a home.

3. Visualise
Close your eyes and think about how your book will feel in your hands. Turn the pages in your mind. Study the pictures. Imagine looking with wonder at what you have created. Think about how it will feel when people tell you they have read your story. What will your life be like if you follow your dreams? Visualising your goal will make it real to you and will make it feel more achievable.

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4. Focus
Like a lot of creatives, I often find myself with lots of different ideas at the same time and find it hard to choose between them. An old friend taught me the importance of focusing on one idea at a time and this has helped me to publish my two picture books. Write down all of your ideas and think about which one you are most drawn to. Which one speaks to you most? Which one are you most curious about? Most passionate about? Which one won't leave you alone? And then get started.

5. Make your environment lovely
It's lovely being able to draw or write all day but it also often involves sitting still in one spot for hours on end. So make sure you're comfortable and that you love the space you're in. If you can, create a space at home that is dedicated to creating. I have a desk and chair in the corner of my lounge with artwork that inspires me washi-taped to the walls. I also often have fresh flowers on my desk and drink tea out of a pretty cup that I bought specifically for when I'm working. My chair is comfortable with a pretty cushion and I often work with a hot water bottle on my back. Depending on what I'm doing, I might work in silence or I'll have my Roberts radio tuned to BBC 6 Music to keep me company. Or if I'm drawing I'll set my iPad up so I can listen to podcasts or have Netflix treats such as the Gilmore Girls or Friends on a loop. Make snacks to nibble on and pop out for some fresh air at least once a day. A comfortable environment will make working a treat and will encourage you to keep going.

I hope this list is helpful. Please get in touch with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and let me know what helps you to keep going. Happy creating.

Sweet Treats for Easter

(Fondant) fancy a different kind of sweet treat this Easter? My book An Amazing Alphabet of Cake is available now on Amazon! Cute little cake stickers are available in my Etsy shop. And fondant fancies are available in all good supermarkets - obviously I had to buy a box for the photo and didn't* eat them all.
* did (sideways look to camera)

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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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New Brush Lettering Website

Anyone who knows me knows I love a project. I've been spending some time resetting my creative mind but find it difficult to do nothing! So I've been enjoying getting back into brush lettering. I went to some workshops a couple of years ago and wanted to remind myself how relaxing and meditative it is. A while ago I thought about writing an online course but had a rethink and decided to simply share what I've learnt for anyone else who wants to get started.

I created a little website to do just that. Please click on the picture below to take a look.

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).

Angel's Great Escape Featured in The Sun

"A real Christmas treasure that is a delight to look at." - The Sun

What a Christmas treat! Angel's Great Escape was featured in the Sun newspaper this week. I'll be honest, I'm very much at the beginning of learning about marketing my books and as a tiny independent it's sometimes hard to be seen in the sea of publications. I'm really grateful for every review we get, for people taking the time to include our creations. So a huge thank you to Natasha Harding for this write up AND for giving Angel the same number of stars as Paddington!

Angel's Great Escape Reviewed By Read It Daddy & Being Mrs C

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Putting your work out into the wild and hearing what people think about it can be a nerve-wracking experience! And it can also be really wonderful. This week, we have received not one but two lovely reviews for Angel's Great Escape from book bloggers Read It Daddy and Being Mrs C. I always wanted to give children the same feeling I had when I read picture books and hearing how little ones are enjoying the story on the lead up to Christmas really does make it all worthwhile.

We snuggled down together for another enjoyable read through. The print version is sublime, and definitely belongs on our Advent Calendar this year.
Read the full Read It Daddy review here

Written in rhyming text it’s lovely to read out loud when all snuggled up together and the accompanying illustrations are gorgeous, really bringing the story to life. It’s a definite must read in our pile of Christmas books.
Read the full Being Mrs C review here.

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!