Crafting, Drawing, Inspiration, Knitting, Work In Progress

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…



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…

Drawing, Thoughts

Adventures with Scratch Board

(A long blog post in which I behave like a grade one idiot)

When I was little, my Grandma used to say I would grow up to be a nutty professor. This was because while I displayed gifts and talents in many things, common sense was not one of them. Time has not altered this one bit.

I’ve spent most of the last week working on a gig poster, commissioned by the B-Bar in Plymouth who are soon to host one of my favourite musicians, Alasdair Roberts. Needless to say designing the poster was an honour and a lot of fun. I’ve been sharing sneak peeks of the work-in-progress all week, and now it’s done! But not without heartache…

Alasdair Roberts at B Bar Plymouth

In my last blog post I promised to be honest, so it seems fitting to begin with a confession of complete idiocy, or perhaps if I’m being less harsh, learning from one’s blundering mistakes.

Scratch board is a relatively new medium to me. I started experimenting with it when working on The Crystal Mirror in 2013. It proved not to be the right approach for those stories, but I liked it nonetheless and intended to revisit it. When I sketched out the design for this poster it seemed like scratch board would be a good fit. I didn’t have any large pieces of white scratch board handy, and working to something of a deadline I figured that the large silver piece I had lying around would do. Ha!

A little bit about the process: I sketched the initial design on paper in pencil, and then outlined the main shapes with a Sharpie so the image would bleed through to the other side. Turning the paper over, I was able to trace the lines on the back in a soft pencil, creating a mirror-image. I then laid this flat on the scratch board, and scribbled over the right side to transfer the outline to the scratch board surface. Doing it like this creates a much fainter mark that is easier to erase than drawing onto the scratch board surface directly.

Alasdair Poster Process 1

Alasdair Poster Process 2

I then scratched away merrily for several days.

Alasdair Poster Process 3

I finished the piece in a flurry of pride and excitement on Monday, stuffed it straight into my scanner, and got this:

Alasdair Poster Process 4


At no point had it occurred to me that I might want to test the silver scratch board, the medium I’d never worked with before, perhaps see how my scanner captures it before committing hours to a piece of work that needs reproducing. At not point did it occur to me that iridescent metallic shininess might perhaps cause something of an issue. I threw all my photoshop skills at it, getting progressively grumpier, but to no avail. There was no way I could get a poster-quality print from that scan. so I tried a different tack: photography! There was much standing on tables, angling of lamps (and swearing, I’ll admit there was swearing). How do you capture a flat image of an iridescenty silvery shining thing?

You ask a professional.

The day was saved by the kind chaps at Spectrum Photo Labs, who had the tools and knowhow to take this fantastic photograph. All was not lost, and I have to say I’m rather proud of the completed piece. Next time I work on metallic scratch board I won’t have to factor in time for cursing, standing on tables and wrestling with lamps, just a little extra cost because I know I can’t scan it myself. And perhaps next time I use a new medium I’ll conduct a few test pieces first…

Alasdair Roberts at B Bar Plymouth