Drawing, Painting, Thoughts

Portfolio Pride

PORTFOLIO PRIDE

It’s taken me this long in my illustration career to realise that a portfolio is – needs to be – a constantly dynamic thing. Thankfully, we illustrators very rarely need to carry around neat black folders of printed work any more: everything is online, and this is a much easier format for change.

That said, I resist it. I was upset a few weeks ago when I deleted my website’s portfolio section by accident. I still have copies of all the work, but making the selections of what to include is always a challenge. I was gifted the opportunity to start over, which I might never have done, and it turns out my portfolio needed a massive clear out.

Hardraw ForceBowerbird 3Lost Mitten

So how did I pick what went in? I asked myself three questions:

Is it current?

I began by only looking at work from 2014 and 2015. Despite feeling like I’ve been ‘taking a break’ these last couple of years, I discovered I had created more than a portfolio’s worth of pieces that are strong, and reflect my current approaches (note the considerable delegation from team scratch board!). In the end, I did also choose one piece that was older to complemented my choices, but that’s all.

DoodlesAlasdair Roberts PosterThe Courage To Be Me

Am I proud of it?

Some people might advise against being so subjective, but I think it’s vital. It looked better as soon as I took out all of the piece I thought I should include, or that other people had like but I’d never felt so strongly about. I know sometimes feeling pride is challenging; we all have days when we feel nothing we’ve done lives up to our hopes (maybe try not to pick a portfolio on one of those days?). But I think we all also know what it feels like to be really chuffed with something. It felt good to pick only pieces like that.

More Than YarnWell WishesOh the potential!

Is it the kind of work I want to do?

There were some pieces that satisfied both of the above clauses, but that just didn’t quite fit. On analysis, these were all pieces created in coloured inks, and they were all very personal. I love this medium when working at my own pace, without pressure, when it doesn’t really matter if things don’t go to plan. But I feel nauseous at the thought of working in this medium for a client, therefore it does not belong my portfolio. What a relief!

A Comic for Jason MolinaGeorge

Finally, I think the best thing I can do for my portfolio is keep it dynamic. In the end I have chosen 12 pieces, which you can see here, and 3 comics, which you can see here. But my plan is that this selection will continue to change to reflect my most current work, both by adding and by taking away.

Crafting, Drawing, Knitting, Thoughts, Work In Progress

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.

 

 

Painting, Sewing, Work In Progress

Repeating Myself

Blackberry-Underlayer-2

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.

Blackberry-Underlayer-1 Blackberry-Underlayer-2

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…

Drawing

Self Portraiting

You probably haven’t noticed because, like most things I do these days, it is happening verrrrrrrrrrrrrry slowly, but I am in the process of updating my website. I realised that the most recent photo of myself on this site is from 2013, and the self-portrait I used as an avatar on most platforms was older still. I no longer look quite the same (!) and nor does my work. It’s time for a change.

self portrait 2015 progress

I reflected back on some older self-portraits when thinking about ideas. I like them to show not only what I look like, but be created in my favourite medium of the time. This one, from 2009, was painted in gouache and the collage elements added digitally. I really liked the postage stamp composition, and the presence of a cup of tea (true to life), so I decided to bring these into the new portrait (don’t you think I look a bit miserable though?).self portrait 2009

The portrait I’d been using most recently reflected the style of Lighter Than My Shadow, drawn in Micron pen with shading and texture added digitally. I suppose one could argue that Lighter Than My Shadow is itself one long self-portrait, and this one certainly looks like the ‘me’ at the end of the book. It includes glasses, but my hair has grown several inches since then!

self portrait 2013

More importantly, after drawing 500+ pages in this style I’m kind of sick of working this way and it hasn’t been part of my drawing practice for quite a while now. I’ve been playing with lots of different media recently, especially scratch board. So that’s what I chose for the new portrait.

Finally, of course, the new portrait needed to include the newest member of the family, whose presence is as important – if not more so! – than the perpetual cup of tea.

self portrait 2015

 

 

Painting, Thoughts, Typography

Recovery is…?

Last week it was Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and I was thinking about recovery and what a misunderstood process it can be. My own recovery began almost 14 years ago, at which point I thought it was only about weight restoration (ha!). At various points in the years since, I’ve considered my time in recovery to be over, and while in some ways that’s true, in other ways it really, really isn’t. So I got to thinking about how I’d define recovery now, 14 years into the process, and put some of my thoughts down on paper. It’s worth saying that this is a very personal piece of work which you may or may not find fits with your experience – and I’d be interested to hear thoughts on that. Heck, in another 14 years I’ll probably have a totally new perspective again and laugh at this. But for now, in this moment at least, this is what recovery means to me…

Recovery Is