Tag Archives: illustration

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

Illustration news!

I’ve been quiet online recently for various reasons but, listen up, I’ve got some exciting news to share!

Remember how I said I’d been working on an illustration commission? Well, I can now announce that ‘The Mystery of the Disappearing Underpants‘ by Nikki Young will be published on April 28th, complete with illustrations from my very own pen!

Nikki’s book is aimed at 9 – 11 year olds and centres on Harry, his best mate James and neighbour Stacey who form a spy club and spend their summer holidays solving mysteries. Things start off fun and light-hearted but then events take a sinister turn…

You can find out more about the book (and see my own review of it) here but I can certainly recommend it. My nine-year-old son is desperate to read it and I can’t wait to give him a copy!

dog and people final for instagram

 

Nikki has also written a short story introducing the characters from her novel. This is called ‘A Special Day’ and is available as a FREE ebook over on Nikki’s website with cover illustrations by yours truly. Why not pop over for a read?

I’ve loved creating the illustrations for both books, and working with Nikki was a joy. I can’t wait to attend the launch of ‘Underpants’ (as it is affectionately known) next month! It might be worth keeping an eye on my instagram feed as I practice making underpants-themed cupcakes… undercakes? Cup pants? Erm… maybe I’ll just stick to biscuits.

art and the broken heart

sunset-skyI just watched Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech. It’s fantastic. The way she exposed the awfulness of the US president-elect’s behaviour without even mentioning his name…

But what struck a chord most was her final sentence where she quoted something the late Carrie Fisher said to her:

“Take your broken heart, make it into art.”

I love that. It totally sums up where I am at the moment. So much bad stuff happened last year – horrible stuff, sad stuff, stuff that we know is going to cause problems for years to come.  It broke my heart. It broke many people’s hearts.

But it’s made me resolve to throw my passion and my energy more into the people I love and into art – in all its forms. I want to write and draw and illustrate. I want to learn and explore new creative skills. I want to experience art created by other people, to read and watch and see and feel and listen and devour art in all its glorious forms.

“Take your broken heart. Make it into art.”

That. Just, that.

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
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costume chaos and illustration news

frosty-fieldOk, so it’s really late and I’m really tired and I have about thirty seconds to write a post for ‘What I’m Writing’ tomorrow. Not that I have to write a post for my linky I suppose, but tomorrow it’s the one hundredth week of ‘What I’m Writing’ so I don’t want to miss linking up when it’s such a nice, round figure!

So… It’s late because I’ve been really busy this week. I’ve been writing stuff for work, I’ve been doing an illustration commission and, given it’s December and I’ve got three kids, I’ve been running around in a kind of Christmas frenzy trying not to drop the ball on nativity costumes, social events, presents, parties and end of term thingymabobs. This morning I was frantically trying to assemble a snowflake costume for my three-year-old for the dress-rehearsal of his school play. He ended up in a thermal vest and a cellular blanket. “It will do, it will have to do!” I chimed until I got to the classroom and realised the other kids were all adorned in flashing lights, glitter, home-made wings, amazing headwear, baubles, tinsel and perfectly carved ice sculptures. Ok, I made that last one up but blimey, it took all my powers of ‘cool, parent-of-a-third-child zen’ not to rush home and construct an elaborate walk-in ice cave for him to wear for the performance tomorrow (shhh but I’m still thinking there might be time in the morning… )

So, did you notice that bit just up there at the top of the previous paragraph? The bit where I said I was working on an illustration commission? I have been and it’s my first ever! Well, strictly speaking it’s the second I’ve been asked to do, but I’m not due to start the first one till the new year so the one I’ve been working on this week is the first I’ve actually done, if that makes sense? Probably not. It’s even later at night now. Anyway, I’ve just finished the commission and sent it off to the writer this evening. It’s illustrations for her middle grade book which is coming out next year… more info to follow… I’m dead excited, truth be told!

Right, it’s really, REALLY late now so I’m definitely posting this and going to bed!

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writing, submitting and casting spells

sunset

Just a quick one from me as it’s half term and we’re about to head off for a few days to the Harry Potter Studios! My nine-year-old is a huge Harry Potter fan – he and I have both read all the books and watched (most of) the films. We’ve just been watching The Goblet of Fire to get ourselves in the mood. Very exciting – I’ll let you know how it goes! I may well cover Instagram with photos!

Before I go, I do have a teeny bit of news to report on the writing front. I’ve just submitted three picture book manuscripts to an agent! I really meant to send off a batch of five or six (one of the pieces of advice I heard at the Festival of Writing was to submit this way) but researching suitable agents and following the different submission guidelines takes time and I just wasn’t getting round to it. So, since I had an agent in mind who I knew I wanted to submit to, I figured I’d send my manuscripts to her first and go from there.

Submitting also meant I spent lots of time last week polishing my third manuscript (one and two were already good to go) and I’m pretty happy with it now. It’s the only non-rhyming book I’ve written and though I love rhyme, prose translates more easily, making it better in commercial terms (potential for huge international sales, see!) so I figured I should at least give it a go. The book was actually inspired by this picture I drew back in February – I had a hunch Stanley had a story so I’m quite chuffed to be right! Stanley's jumper

Oh, and on the subject of drawing, I had an inspiring conversation with a friend about all the pictures we’ve done this year. Plans are afoot – watch this space!

That’s it for now, I’m off to cast some spells.

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looking back, looking forward

autumn-walkSo, half term approaches!

I’m not sure how I feel about that really, it’s been a funny old six weeks since the kids went back to school. It’s been busy, really busy – one of those times when all the different aspects of my life need attention – and I’ve been floundering a bit trying to keep on top of everything. A feeling of mild bafflement and a low level sense of ‘WTAF is going on?’ have been my stalwart companions.

I was saying to a friend on the school run this morning that I’m only just starting to feel like I’ve got a handle on what our new daily routine is and knowing which books need signing, which homework requires parental comments and who and what needs to be where, when and why. Of course, only seconds after making this announcement I realised my son had left his P.E kit at home… then, when I went back to fetch it, I realised he must in fact have left it at school last week (all damp and muddy and festering… ) because it isn’t anywhere here. So I guess we haven’t *quite* reached a stage where we’re sailing perfectly along. I’m still prone to getting caught off guard by a gust of wind and having the boom crack me round the back of the head.

But progress has definitely been made. I mean, I made it to the school harvest festival on time (despite a dash home for a forgotten swimming kit, and a disgusting dog poo emergency), I’ve finally met my son’s teacher (middle school is so much more ‘hands off’ than first school!), I’ve written copious comments in various reading journals and even spent a very happy couple of hours yesterday helping my eldest create some 3D art for some ‘enrichment homework’ that we thought was optional but turned out not to be quite as optional as we thought!

On this basis I’m sure that after half term we’ll have all our rigging in order* and just sail seraphically along until Christmas. Because I’ve got this school thing nailed now. Oh yes. No more capsizing for me.

So I now have three more days (mornings) to try and do all the things that I can’t do while the boys are around. Then it’s a week off from the school run (yay!) during which we’re off to Harry Potter Studios! But shhhhh don’t tell the boys – it’s a surprise!

My plan is to tidy the entire house (clearing out all the junk that’s been building up for years), complete another module of my illustration course, research agents and send my picture books off to another batch, submit some work (that I haven’t written yet) to a competition that’s caught my eye, return to my novel and write another ten thousand words, write some more limericks and… oh, ok, probably none of that.

I have three mornings. I’m going to have coffee with some friends. I’m going to do some hoovering. I’m going to draw some pictures. It’s enough, I think.

I’ll leave you with a drawing I did last week as part of my course, the next module of which is on illustrating poems. One thing I really struggle with is speed – I’m an over-thinking slow coach – so I decided to have a go at illustrating a poem without any planning at all, just to dive in. This is one of my favourite poems. It’s by Elizabeth Jennings. I (re)read it then drew a picture. This is what appeared on the paper:a-child-in-the-night-poem-illustration

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*I don’t know why I’m sticking with the sailing metaphor… I don’t even know why I’m using it at all, I know NOTHING about boats!

 

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!

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not writing but drawing

Nope, It’s just not happening. This post is refusing to write itself. I can’t think of a single thing to say this week, or rather, I can but it’s all way too introspective and lacking in focus.

So I tell you what – I’ll show you a few pieces I’ve been working on for my illustration course. I need to submit an assignment but I’m currently doubting everything I’ve ever drawn. Perhaps sharing a bit here will get me past the hurdle. Worth a try, hey?

The assignment is to illustrate lyrics from three songs. These are just snippets of the illustrations (because I can’t bring myself to share the whole pictures):

sections-of-ilustrationsThe one on the left is for a Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris song. I put loads of work into the picture at the start of the summer and rather liked it, but have basically gone off it in the interim. The middle one is a kind of obvious illustration of a kind of obvious song. Hmmm. And as for the last one – I was going for a bit of romance and softness but, having deliberately chosen to use just pencil, I now feel like it needs colour. My attempts to add some on the computer last night (in an image manipulation program called GIMP which I can’t really get the hang of) didn’t go well.

Yes, the self doubt demon has come calling – he’s sneering in my ear right now (the squelchy git) – and it’s slowing me down. I think I probably just need to put my fingers in my ears, or, even better, play some loud music (my seven-year-old currently loves ‘Walk This Way’ by Run-D.M.C. – that should do the trick) and while the demon is temporarily incapacitated, submit something.

So, here’s a thing – a ‘sticking to my intentions via the medium of blogging’ thing. By this time next week I will have submitted the assignment. No excuses. You can hold me to that.

And once it’s done, I’ll get back to some agent hunting and manuscript submissions.

But that’s a whole other blog post.

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on sticking to decisions (mostly, kind of)

Last week I made some big decisions to do with blogging (and writing, drawing, parenting and life in general, really), one of which was to only blog once a week. My plan for my post this week was to finally get round to summarising what I learned from the London Book Fair back in April. But now I’m tired and my notes from the day are in disarray (and if I’m honest I can’t really be arsed) so that’s going to have to wait a week or two. I think, instead, I’ll just write about what sort of week I’ve had trying to stick to last week’s decisions. So grab some tea/chocolate/beer/toast (depending on time and taste) and I’ll treat (!) you to another mind splurge. Ready?

flying pig

Sticking to my decisions – pigs might fly?

Right, one thing I can say is that my ‘one post a week’ plan, along with the ‘no linkies’ move, has made a huge difference. I only spent one evening last week on blog commenting (with a few other comments here and there) rather than four, leaving me with SO MUCH extra time for doing other stuff – what a relief!

Also, knowing I’m only going to write one post has removed all the superfluous, ‘oh I could write about this… and that and, ooh THIS’ thoughts from my mind so I’ve felt less overloaded. I do feel slightly removed from the blogging community without the linkies but all my blogging friends have been so lovely and supportive (you guys totally rock) and I know it’s the right move so I can’t really regret it.

I’m also pleased with my decision to not pressure myself to write for a while. Funnily enough, having more breathing space has given me more thinking space and thus new ideas, and I’m brewing a new idea for a novel… so maybe I’ll write something this month after all. But, in general, not constantly thinking ‘I SHOULD be writing! What am I doing?!’ is another relief.

Instead of blogging and writing, my aim this month was to focus on my illustration course, and I made a plan to draw every day – and I have! I set myself a new creative challenge (another one!) called #GuessTheFilm where I’m working my way through the alphabet, drawing a picture a day to represent a different film starting with that letter. I’m really loving doing it. I’ve been posting the results on Twitter and Instagram which, as I’ve said before, I find a really useful way of defeating the self-doubt. Here are my first few drawings:

#GuesstheFilms

I have to admit, I’ve not got much further forward with my actual illustration coursework (I’m trying to do an assignment at the moment) but I figure all and any drawing is taking me in the right direction so I’m not sweating over that particular detail at the moment.

The other intended use for my free time was reading – I decided I would read one book a fortnight for the rest of the year (which shouldn’t be a stretch really). This week I’ve read most of the soon-to-be-published Baby X by Rebecca Ann Smith, which I’m thoroughly enjoying and will be reviewing shortly. I’m also champing at the bit to read Claire North’s latest book (I had ALL the love for her first novel, and enjoyed her second too), and Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet’ (about introverts) so things are chugging along nicely there.

And I’ve been pretty sociable this last week! That’s another excellent side effect of feeling less pressured to blog – extra time for the lovely people in my life. My friends are really important to me so they’re always a big priority anyway, but today I had a bit of child-free time and spent it on a huge ramble through the fields with a friend rather than hunched over my computer banging out a blog post as I would have done previously. Much better for the soul.

drawing in a pub

Another bit of friend time – drawing in the pub with my best mate while putting the world to rights.

So that’s all good.

Where I am utterly failing though is with my social media goal. Half an hour a day in the evening, I said. Hahahahhahahhahaha. I mean, just hahahhahahahha! Spectacular fail there. One problem is that I’ve rediscovered my social media apps on my phone. “Oh, but I thought you said you deleted them” I hear you say. Well yes, so did I, but apparently I didn’t (think it’s some kind of app witchery – they don’t want to be deleted) and now I’ve found them. They’re not quite so easy to access but still, with a few simple swipes I can check FB and Twitter again. Bollocks. Actually, it’s not really FB that’s got my attention it’s Twitter and Instagram because I’ve been putting my #GuessTheFilm pics there so it’s totally justified…

Oh, except it’s not because I keep catching myself looking at my flipping phone when I should be interacting with my kids. Since that was the first and most important decision I made last week I’m going to have to give myself a hearty telling off for that one.

But I’m not losing faith in myself yet – I’m just going to have to try again, and not post any drawings (or photos) till the evening this week. It must be doable. I mean it’s only social media – what’s so great about that?! I don’t really need the constant input and affirmation. *twitches and dribbles at thought of life without constant input and affirmation*. I can but try.

So that’s me at the moment. I think I’m going to grab a beer and draw a picture now. :)

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