Category Work In Progress

A Page of Penguins

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I’d like your opinion, please.

For the last couple of months in between other things, I’ve been working away on the largest scratchboard drawing I’ve made yet: a page of penguins.

I’m rather chuffed with how they look, and though I hadn’t really planned on doing anything with the finished piece, a few people have suggested that it would make a nice poster and I rather agree. So I’ve been looking into the costs of a print run.

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As is so often the case, the unit price of anything printed drops significantly the more you order, but this isn’t a real saving if I end up with a pile of penguins stuffed under my bed for the next few years. It’s a balancing act of knowing that it’s a product enough people might want, at the same time as being able to offer a reasonable price. I’m trying to be pragmatic – and honest – about the challenges of putting artwork out in the world, and what the difference is between an image that people like and a viable product.

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So I’d love to know, is a penguin poster is something you’d actually be interested in?

It might be that this is just a page of penguins that I’ve enjoyed drawing and people enjoy looking at online: that would be OK! But if it is something you think you might like to buy – with no obligation – please let me know, because I would like to try and make it available.

And if it is something you’d like, what would you consider a reasonable price? It’s 50 x 60cm, if that helps. Again, no obligation. I’m just wondering where’s the price point that would make you say “yes, definitely!” and the one that would make you decide “hmm, no that’s too much…”

I will be SO grateful to hear what you think. Thank you :)

 

Slowly Does It

penguins 2Some days I think my growing fondness for scratch board, officially the slowest drawing medium in the world, is a curse, impractical and quite frankly idiotic.

Other days I think it is teaching me an important lesson.

Since Lighter Than My Shadow was published, I’ve been trying really hard not to approach everything in life like an eating disorder. If anyone is wondering how that comparison makes sense, consider that my former approach to making art involved a lot of lists, target sheets, unreasonable goals and considerable self-flagellation for not achieving them. It became clear in the aftermath of my book that this approach was not only destructive, but unsustainable and honestly not a lot of fun: it was removing all joy from drawing, purportedly the thing I love most in the world. And so I decided to learn to do things differently.

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Here’s where the world’s slowest drawing medium comes in. I have no choice but to let it go slowly. An A4 page takes me the better part of a week. My penguin poster has taken two months so far and is still not done. Yet I’ve just decided to also use scratch board for some (not all!) of the next Green Bean.

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I am making marks every day, and by my old standards I do not have a lot to show for it. My blog is quiet because I am not churning out work at an unsustainable rate. When I do post, I feel like I’m writing the same thing over and over, justifying to myself that this slower pace is  OK. In truth, living with it is extraordinarily uncomfortable. The old pattern would have me down tools in despair, lamenting that there’s no point trying if I can’t conquer the world by tomorrow lunchtime.

I am not doing that. I am going back to the drawing board and making the marks I can make today; learning to let that be enough.

January in Black and White

JANUARY IN BLACK AND WHITE

I can hardly believe the first month of 2016 is nearly over, but it has been a lovely one, if rather wet down here in Devon. After some consideration, I feel as though there has been a clear theme…

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Over the course of the past month, I’ve observed that monochrome is really my favourite way to illustrate. I’ve been experimenting with picking a knitting project to complement what’s on my drawing board, and it has been a lot of fun. Above are my Fledgling mittens, designed by fellow Pom Pom Quarterly contributor Anna Maltz, which I knitted while working on my Penguins of the World poster (which is nearly finished, but not quite). Matching crafting and drawing themes is something I plan to continue.

January concluded with a visit from my friend Katriona Chapman, and the excuse to go to some beautiful local spots one can easily take for granted. I was especially inspired by our visit to the beach, perfectly timed with my re-reading of Ursula Le Guin’s masterpiece A Wizard of Earthsea (if you have not yet read this book, why on earth not?). I’ve decided the magic of the seashore will become the theme for my coming months’ drawing and knitting, including the new issue of The Green Bean. The perfect excuse to visit the sea more often…

My Maker’s Year

Penguin in Progress

Knitting

In thinking about what to prioritise creatively for the year ahead, I’ve been particularly inspired by Kate of A Playful Day . Her project for 2016, The Maker’s Year, first caught my attention on instagram. Her goals include time to reflect on all aspects of daily making, and what I connected with especially was her phrase, “in a way the nourishes, not weighs down.”

This really strikes a chord with what I’ve really been grappling with personally for the last year or so. I chose my particular direction in life because I delight in making things, and yet so often I feel pressures and burdens that make it anything but fun. Most often, those pressures and burdens are self-induced.

One example of this is the idea I’ve held that I need to ‘be professional’, since my book Lighter Than My Shadow was published. You have no idea how much this nonsense has held me back. Another aspect of Kate’s Maker’s Year, which you can read about on her blog, is that it’s “not about driving further divisions between the words making, crafting or art but instead allowing a simple act of creativity the room to grow without hangup or uncertainty.” For me, that means not about sidelining certain aspects of my creativity because I’m worried they don’t fit. I’m seeking a sustainable way forward that feels more whole and honest, for my work’s sake and especially for my mental health.

Recovery is...

What does this mean in practical terms? Well let’s take knitting. I have knitted since I was about seven years old, but I really took to it about two years ago. In the aftermath of Lighter Than My Shadow’s publication, I relocated from Bristol, left my therapist of eight years and was not in a good place mental health wise. Knitting became a powerful resource in those months, and has remained so, but something else has also happened: I have become obsessed. I knit every day, I think about it almost constantly. When I visit a new city, it’s to the yarn shop I gravitate first, before the comic shop. I can no longer deny what an important part of my creative life this craft is becoming. Until now, I’ve held back on blogging about it because I’ve worried that it doesn’t ‘fit’ with my identity as an illustrator. But is that creative identity even appropriate any more?

Things I made in 2015

The more I think about the Maker’s Year, the more I relish the opportunity to acknowledge and respect these other aspects of creativity. Last year I learned to sew garments, a craft I’m really excited to explore more. I made toys, something that I featured often in early issues of The Green Bean but have not revisited since. I also learned how to tat lace, and how to weave. And what about the daily, small acts of creativity that are so easily taken for granted? The food I prepare, the decoration and care of our home? Why shouldn’t my blog also honour these things?

So thanks, Kate, for the wonderful idea and inspiration. I’m excited to explore what 2016 #themakersyear brings, and to learn from what it brings for others too.

 

 

Repeating Myself

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Lately I’ve become obsessed with sewing, and textiles, and patterns, and this obsession has meant I’ve finally got around to trying something I’ve been meaning to have a go at for a long time: designing repeating patterns. I am constantly inspired by colours and textures and over the years many people have suggested my style would lend itself to creating fabric designs. I don’t quite know why it’s taken me so long to have a stab at it, because it’s so much fun!

I used the blackberries I painted last week, and followed Julia Rothman’s exquisitely simple and easy-to-follow tutorial on Design Sponge (though I worked digitally, rather than cutting up my painting with scissors!)

Blackberry

I began by setting up the repeat, then I tried adding an ink wash background (which I’d painted separately). I like the result, but somehow I find it looks…tableclothy? Is that just me?

Blackberry Repeat

Blackberry-Green

So I got to wondering about what it might be that makes a print look like something you’d dress your dinner table with rather than yourself, and kept experimenting. I tried altering the colour of the background but it didn’t especially help. I started to see some improvement when I added more layers of brambles below the surface. The addition of depth, I think, must be part of the answer to my question.

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Hours later, I’m still siting here twiddling with layers and colours, not to mention imagining one hundred more designs I might try. I’ve heard several designers mention that this process is addictive, and I begin to see what they mean. I definitely want to try more, play more, learn more.

And eventually I will bite the bullet and order a swatch from Spoonflower…