Tag Archives: illustration course

What do you mean it’s March already?

fell and waterHello there! It’s been AGES since my last post – months and months in fact. I fell out of the blogging habit somewhere along the way and then it kind of felt pointless to try and get back to it. I wasn’t sure what I was trying to achieve and I didn’t really feel I had the time for it.

But then I realised the other day that regardless of goals and (un)available time and any sense of overarching purpose, I enjoy blogging. And I just plain old miss it. And I remembered that one of the things I loved most about it was creating a record to look back on. All the posts I wrote about my kids, and the poetry and short stories I shared are a genuine joy to me now (well ok, some of the latter make me cringe a bit now but still, it’s all part of the creative process!). If the last five years have been a whirlwind, this blog has been the resilient stone wall in the middle: solid, immovable and with memories safely nestled into all its nooks and crannies.

So I’m going to carry on writing here regardless of anything else. It’ll probably be at random intervals but that’s fine – shoving stuff into the wall feels like a worthwhile thing to keep doing. A dash of permanence in an unstable world. Or something.

Right, let’s catch up! I last wrote in November at which point I was in the middle of my 40th Birthday celebrations. I basically celebrated for three months solid. Drove my husband a bit mad: “I’m just going out for dinner/to the pub/off to London/on a spa weekend/having a dinner party” but he survived and I had an amazing time! Then it was Christmas which was as manic as ever with three kids and all the associated malarky. Oh, and a very busy time for Helena Handcart, my greeting card business.

I hit January with loads of plans which got a bit derailed when I got flu and had to spend quite a while in bed watching episodes of Teen Wolf on the iPad. Not as fun or relaxing as it sounds – I felt dreadful and small boys kept jumping on me. Recovering from that took a while ( I don’t recommend burst ear drums to anyone), but amidst it all – Drum roll please – I finally finished my illustration course! And I got a distinction! Woo hoo!

An early assignment from my course. I can't attach a more recent illustration because my blog won't let me upload any new images.

An early assignment from my course. I can’t attach a more recent illustration because my blog won’t let me upload any new images right now!

I now plan on illustrating some of my picture book manuscripts. I’ve already been re-reading them and making sure they’re ship shape. I’ve had a couple professionally edited and had positive feedback from literary agents so it’s pretty exciting to have reached the stage where I can have a crack at blending my writing and illustrating together!

Also over in the artistic corner, I’ve been loving designing cards for Helena Handcart. We’ve just printed a new range and are always working on new ideas and images.

I think that brings you just about up to date – oh wait, no record of the last few months could be complete without mentioning last week! We had crazy blizzards and 40mph winds and the schools were shut for three days as ‘The Beast from the East’ ran amok. We live on a hillside which is windy at the best of times so it got pretty intense! We  had some great fun sledging  when we managed to get out, but spent most of the time nestled inside trying to keep the house, and ourselves, warm. Wearing a dressing gown over my clothes is my new favourite thing.

I was going to add some relevant photos to this post (sledging, diploma certificate, some of my recent illustrations…) but my website won’t let me upload any. I’ve just spent the last hour reading about permissions codes and I can’t really make sense of it. So I’m just going to reuse some photos from previous posts while I attempt to sort it out. Grrr. Argh.

Anyway, I usually sign off my first post of the year with some kind of ‘Happy New Year’ message but we’re way past that. Happy rest of year though – here’s to spring!

it’s a spring thing

yellow flowersDo you find your creativity fluctuates with the seasons? We’ve had gorgeous weather here in Northumberland these past few days and, in response, I’ve felt a tug from the creative part of my brain the likes of which I haven’t felt in months. An awakening, a stretching and an unfurling of sorts. A throwing aside of winter wrappings.

Sitting in the garden this weekend, bathed in the sun’s rays, stories suddenly started running through my head. Well, story fragments at least – they need building on before they become fully-fledged ideas but still…stories, poetry and creative words have alluded me for months. It’s good to feel they might be on their way back.

Of course, I haven’t had an entirely creativity-free winter: far from it. I’ve been focussing a lot on my illustration course and on some very exciting commissions… but even those, under the weight of winter, felt a bit of a slog. No, not a slog – I love drawing – but sunshine, bursting buds and birdsong (oooh, right now I can even hear a wood pigeon!) just make things feel lighter don’t they? The fun stuff feels more fun and the hard stuff feels more achievable.

I’m going to go off into the sunshine with my sketch pad now. I’ll blog again soon, though. I thought I might share some of my drawings here. Some work from my course, perhaps, and from another project I’m working on.

In fact, tell you what, I’ll leave you with an illustration that was part of my last assignment. It’s a very old limerick by an unknown author. I originally drew ‘Nan’ as a rather traditional, long-skirted figure running across Nantucket, then I thought, nah – if you’re going to steal a bucket of cash on an island you’d definitely escape on a jet ski!nantucket limerick illustration

New year, new something.

sunset-2016It’s 2017! Happy New year!

I like to start each year with a reflective blog post looking back at the year that was, and thinking about the promise that the new year holds. I spent hours yesterday writing such a post. It was hard to write because it was really honest – a kind of ‘I can’t gloss over 2016′ type exploration. Last year brought us some harsh realties and taught us some difficult lessons and I think it’s important to address that in order to find a way forward. I really don’t think there’s a scenic route – we have to go into difficult territory to really move on with hope.

Then I was all ‘oh no, that’s too intense, I need to write about the good stuff that happened in 2016!’ Because there really was some good stuff, most of which, for me, revolved around creativity and around the people I love… of which there were substantially more at the end of the year than at the start – how lovely is that? :) That post took a while to write too.

So then it was really late at night and I had these two posts, neither of which were even finished, and I realised that all the time I’d meant to spend on my illustration course that day had been used up on blog posts that weren’t even ready to be published. And I thought of all the stuff I needed to do the next day and I felt this jolt of anxiety that I didn’t have time for that either (and some of it is really flipping important too). And I realised that right there was my new year message to myself. Something has to give… and it has to be my blog.

I blogged less in the latter part of last year – cut back massively in fact – but running my linky meant I still wrote two posts a week and did a fair bit of reading and commenting. I’m fond of my blog and I love, love, love my writing community but I do not have enough time to dedicate to blogging and hosting a weekly linky any more.

One message that really came through to me loud and clear amidst all the horrible stuff last year was the importance of art, in all its forms. I wrote here about its ability to build understanding and unite us, to lift the spirit and to help fight the demons. I truly believe it’s more important than we might ever imagine so, in trying to figure out a way forward for myself this year, it’s become obvious to me that art, alongside friends and family are where it’s at. That means my priority is going to be my illustration course and setting up an artistic project with a friend. Hopefully some creative writing too. I don’t want to stop blogging altogether but I can’t keep up the pace I have been.

I haven’t figured out what to do about my linky yet. I’m hoping to find a co-host to remove the weekly pressure, but, quite honestly, I’m not even sure a fortnightly post isn’t too much. Part of the problem is I’m a really slow writer but it’s the headspace that blogging takes up as much as anything. I need to not be thinking about what I might blog about and how many blogs I need to read and how much commenting I have to do. Time is so tight!

So that’s about it. The boys are back at school today and I have a to do list reaching over the hills and far away. Enough blogging for now.

Happy 2017 everyone.

getting by with a little help

snowflake-baubleSince early this year I’ve been doing an illustration course with the London Art College (this isn’t remotely a sponsored post though, just an honest shout-out). I’ve been really enjoying it and my tutor, Spencer Hill, has been great – really understanding and supportive despite my rather slow progress through the course! His comments on my last assignment were really helpful –a careful balance of confidence-boosting and constructive that left me motivated and with lots of new ideas. All in all, just what you need in a correspondence course tutor.

Over the last few weeks though, Spencer’s gone above and beyond what I would have expected and I just wanted to share that here because, y’know, it’s Christmas and he’s a bit of a shining star really!

In my post last week I mentioned I’d been working on an illustration commission – my first ever, which was very exciting! I was offered the work without much notice though (sometimes that’s just the way things go) and that, combined with my lack of experience, had made me wonder if it was really wise to take it on (yes, the self-doubt demon came a-calling). I contacted Spencer for advice and he got back to me really quickly saying he thought I was totally capable but that only I knew if I could do it in the required timeframe. He gave me lots of suggestions about what to charge and other stuff and said to contact him if I needed anything more.

As you know, I decided to go ahead with the commission. I also took Spencer up on his offer of further advice and over the following week, a fair few emails flew back and forth between us. It made a massive difference to my confidence knowing that he believed in me and that I had someone to turn to with all those issues that you never consider till you’re actually working on a proper commission. I won’t go into them now, but let’s just say it was good to feel someone – a professional illustrator, no less – had my back, and I am extremely grateful.

Another person I turned to for advice was the lovely Teika from Mother’s Milk Books who was also full of useful information and suggestions. I definitely felt lucky to know someone who worked in the publishing industry and was willing to help me out that way.

And the end of the story is that I got the commission done bang on schedule (having learned masses in the process), the author loves the illustrations and I’m so looking forward to seeing my work in a real, actual book in the spring! I’ve had a little look on my kindle (not that the book’s been formatted properly yet) and that was exciting enough!

There’s probably some kind of moral in this little tale somewhere… ‘don’t doubt your own abilities and be willing to ask for help because people are lovely’, perhaps? Anyway, the whole thing has definitely made me feel full of the goodwill of the season.

I’ll finish with a sneak peek at one of my illustrations!kindle-illustration
Writing Bubble

tackling the self-doubt demon

self-doubt-demonThis time last week I was battling with the self-doubt demon who was determined I shouldn’t submit my illustration assignment. You know the drill: “This is rubbish… you can’t draw at all… call that a picture? Pah, a child or a lamb could do better!” The nasty creature. I couldn’t let it win could I?

Or could I?

No, I couldn’t! I drowned him out with loud music, finished the pieces off and hit the submit button. And yesterday my super-speedy, very lovely tutor, Spencer Hill sent me feedback on my work. And it was really positive!

Admittedly, Spencer is the sort to be very supportive – despite having never met him, I can just tell through the emails he sends all his students and in the way he’s interacted with me online that he is good at encouragement. But still, he clearly knows his onions so I’m going to take his positive remarks to heart. Best of all, the depth of the feedback he sent (nearly 4 A4 sides, typed) was massively useful – it’s given me lots to think about and build on and I’m really keen to get my teeth into the next section of the course now.

Take that self-doubt demon!

Last week I shared a few little snippets of my three assignment pieces. I really appreciated each and every comment I received – they helped me hit that button. Since sharing last time had a positive outcome I’m going to take an additional leap now and share one of the final pieces. The assignment was to illustrate song lyrics – here’s my illustration of a line from “Somewhere over the rainbow”somewhere-over-the-rainbow-blog-picAs you can see, the illustration is very literal, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but my (self-imposed) challenge for my next assignment (illustrating poems) is to think differently and come up with some more surprising interpretations.

And I will get back to some writing soon, honestly. Maybe I’ll even have a go at writing and illustrating something of my own. Who knows – it’s exciting to think of the possibilities!

Writing Bubble

 

my week in rhyme – #WhatImWriting

storysphere-2

A Story sphere I drew to represent all the different thoughts bouncing around in my head!

It’s Monday night – the time has flown, my weekly post is due,
I’ve not got much to write about…

No, wait, that’s not quite true.

I’ll tell you how I’m feeling now the new school term has started
– in truth I’ve been a mixture of elated and downhearted,
as my eldest son has taken to his new school like a pro
though my middle son has told me that he misses his big bro,
while my youngest took his first four days completely in his stride
but on the fifth day, he said “What? again?!” and clutched my leg and cried.*

What else?

Oh yes, my writing… well, last weekend was a blast,
so awesomely inspiring – my ‘to do list’ now is vast!
I’m determined to take action and submit, submit, submit
I know I’ll get rejections, but the key is not to quit.

Apart from that…

My art – I’ve nearly finished my assignment!
two pieces are completed while the third just needs refinement
(that’s really not exciting as I’m rather far behind
though thankfully my understanding tutor doesn’t mind.)

So onwards!

With my mega-plan (I’ve made an epic list)
to knuckle down and focus now on all the things I’ve missed
And that means lots of time for friends and chats and cups of tea
for drawing and for writing, because f**king FINALLY
after nine whole years of parenthood I have some time for me!

Writing Bubble
Prose for Thought

*I sat with him and built some blocks. He recovered (probably faster than I did).