Anthropologie/Front Row Society Scarf Design Competition

These are close ups of a piece I designed last autumn for a Front Row Society competition in collaboration with Anthropologie (a shop I adore!) The brief was to design a scarf 200cm x 65cm based on one of the four elements.

I chose Earth as it’s definitely the element I most connect with. I don’t think I’ve ever designed anything so big before! I called mine “Gone to Earth” – partly after the animals that live and seek refuge underground, the idea of returning to nature and after one of my favourite films with that name by Powell and Pressburger.

Rhode Island magazine - Spring

 This was for Rhode Island Magazine to illustrate a piece by Ann Hood. It's was a very reflective and poignant piece of writing about Spring from early childhood memories of Easter celebrations with snow still on the ground surrounded by her extended Italian family through to the loss of family members and how it affected  her ability to notice or appreciate seasonal changes through to the springtime adoption of one of her children.

I've also included how the illustrations looked in the magazine layout - I really like how the designer laid out the pages, the text and the flowers against the clean white pages.

Decorating Eggs

I illustrated this book by Deborah Schneebeli-Morrell  a few years ago but thought of it again today. 

When small in Scotland on Easter Friday - my brother and I would paint hard boiled eggs or colour them with felt tip pens and then roll them down a hill, chasing after them until they smashed, then eat them as part of a picnic  - often the whites of the egg were very stained with colour from the shell! I never really understood why I was doing it - but it was to symbolise the rock rolling from Jesus's tomb. It's been pointed out to me that my family were three days early in celebrating this!

Map of Great Britain

I created this for Pedlars Product of the Month Competition. The theme was to create a piece of Wall Art on the theme of Great Britain. I think this is quite a nostalgic view of Great Britain – our industries have declined, our buses and Jaguars aren’t so beautiful now and our hedgerows don’t seem so full of flowers! Though we do still have lots of deer and puffins.

Work for Illustrated Ape Magazine

In the autumn I was asked to contribute a double page illustration for a special issue of Illustrated Ape  - and my fourteen year younger self was super excited - I can still remember the thrill of seeing the first issue of the magazine in 1998 and feeling like it was a sign of a new emerging illustration "scene". The fact they asked me to contribute to a comic themed issue, printed in red and black and to illustrate a section of a really dark torch song seemed like a slip up - don't they know I mostly draw dogs in clothes and flowers?! However I loved the challenge as so often having a colour palette that isn't a natural choice to me or subject matter I wouldn't normally be asked to tackle are the types of things that move my work on.

Four Seasons Illustrations

This was a project I did in December - it was a commission from a friend's husband to do four illustrations of his wife and dog through the seasons as a Christmas gift from him to her.

I loved working on this and producing a set of four meant it gave me the opportunity to play around more with scale and composition and viewpoints.

Drawing New Lines in the Sand

Sometimes I love to do really detailed work but I also love it when an art director is happy for me to go with a simple drawing as the solution. Looking from the objective outside I'm totally aware the idea/message the illustration is conveying is key and the length of time to produce it is irrelevant...but I do still have a small interior "voice" that sometimes says I should be working hard and long for my fee! It must be my Scottish work ethic :-)

New Family Traditions

I loved illustrating this book so much!

It was for Running Press in the US and written by Meg Cox. It's packed full of great suggestions on  how to create personal family rituals and traditions - it has a really imaginative and cosy feeling text. I also loved working in two colours plus tints for the interior illustrations and as well as the forty illustrations I also produced a few repeat patterns that were used as backgrounds throughout the book.

This project was a bit like reading a good book because as I got near the end of it I felt a little sad it was almost over!

An Angel by Your Side

I did the illustrations for the book "An Angel by Your Side" by Jane Smedley back in the springtime.

I think it was my first project on my new iMac. Having had hand me down computers for the previous sixteen years of my illustration career and for the last few years used a laptop with a monitor plugged in it was super exciting to work in front of a huge new screen. Having a new computer seemed to give me a push towards becoming more tech savvy as I also discovered - only sixteen years late - how to make palettes and store in the library in Illustrator without making little squares and copying and pasting them between each file! :-)

Dinogami - Paper Props and Styling Project

I loved making the paper props for this project. It's the third origami book by Mari Ono I've worked on for Cico Books. When I first heard it would be twenty five backgrounds all for dinosaurs I thought they might all end up being really similar but once I cleared out all the dinosaur books from the children's section of our local library and also watched "Walking with Dinosaurs" I became fascinated by the different forms of life on the planet at the time and ended up with too many different background ideas. I also thought since it would be a lot of fanatical eight year old boys making the origami dinosaurs that it was important that I got the facts right. So the dinosaurs in the third period - Cretaceous have some flowering plants in the backgrounds but the dinosaurs in the earlier periods just have ferns.

I think one of the great things about being an illustrator is that you end up researching subjects you might not otherwise go to. I remember in primary school the only things I ever received prizes for were art and projects...which is exactly what illustration is.

Isn't the Tyrannosaurus Rex at the bottom just the gentlest, sweetest looking dinosaur.

Themerson Day and Wonderful Papers

Back at the beginning of the summer I was lucky enough to be able to attended a one day conference on the artists, film makers, writers. philosopher, poet...all round creative couple Franciszka and Stefan Themerson. Not only was the event, held at Queen Mary's University, London, free but we were each given an envelope full of duplicate documents from the Themerson Archive and this lovely book full of Franciszka's drawings.

I can still remember the afternoon in the early 90s and not long out of art college when working as a part time nanny (whilst starting out in illustration) I took the three children to the Imperial War Museum and I discovered Franciszka's drawings for the first time. I remember the thrill and that connection I felt with her simple sketchy, quirky drawings - that strange powerful , sort of emotionally overwhelming feeling you get when something resonates with you. I'm fascinated by that feeling, what  instigates it and why do we respond to somethings and not others? Any one know anything about this?!

"My Felted Friends" - Prop Making and Styling Project

I worked on this project back in February making all the props and backgrounds at home then working with Geoff Dann the photographer at his studio styling them. The book is by Mia Underwood who not only makes these amazing felted animals but just seems to be all round talented - take a look at her beautiful work on her woodfolk website. 
I loved how on this project I was free to mix up "real" animal settings and anthropomorphised ones. So the badger lived in a house with a wood burning stove but the hedgehog lived amongst leaves.

The Fundamentals of Illustration

"The Fundamentals of Illustration"by Lawrence Zeegen has been revised by Louise Fenton and my website is featured in it. Isn't that mustard and pink cover by Mia Nilsson gorgeous! 
I think it would make a great book for an illustration student or recent graduate - though I too plan to read it. Thinking back to when I graduated in 1990 there just wasn't any printed information on starting out in illustration  - just three pages of handouts from the last term. 
In February next year my US agent Lilla Rogers has a book coming out "I Just Like to Make Things: Learn the Secrets to Making Money While Staying Passionate About Your Art and Craft" which I'm looking forward to reading.

The Homemade Home for Children

The Homemade Home for Children is the sequel to Sania Pell's previous book the Homemade Home. Both are full of her gorgeous projects and ideas for the home and all the photography is stunningly styled by her. I love her colour sense and the way she uses shades of grey with flashes of bright colour and the way she uses flowers to bring rooms and settings alive.

I drew the step by step illustrations for both books. It's funny how at the start of a project like this where over 200 illustrations are required the end seems unimaginable - then you just get your head down and work away and at the end the beginning seems unimaginable!

The look for the illustrated steps was initially to be sketchbooky in feel. Above is a rough mock up I did at the start of the project - where I placed my sketches on top of various bits of paper from my beloved "paper drawer". However the finished book has a more uniform feel and the designer laid my drawings on top of water colour paper.

I think I'm repeating my self about this - but I really couldn't have imagined when starting out in illustration that I'd end up drawing step by step illustrations and enjoying doing so - so much.

Paper Archives

Last week I listened to an interesting programme on the radio about digital archives and the way people can now keep track and record so much of their lives. I liked the view of an interviewed psychologist who said "there is a good reason we forget things". I think this is so true - how much more messy would our lives be if we could instantly access images, text, video and sound of things long past that our minds and hearts would rather have edited out. 

Sometimes we need so little to recapture a memory or sense of time. Yesterday afternoon I looked through some of my old "visuals files" from the late 80s and 90s. 

I remember when I used to file these every few months I'd sometimes wish I was being more methodical. I remember seeing other illustrators who were filing saved images by category. Mine are random other than chronological (within a year or so) and compiled by what I thought looked good together. Now years later when I can use Google if I need to know how a certain animal looks or search images on a certain theme, what I most appreciate about these books are the randomness of them. I remember being intrigue by the Surrealists' use of Lautreamont's famous phrase, 'as beautiful as the chance encounter on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella'.

I have a huge box full of similar papers from the last ten years that I've never got around to filing. I also seem to gather less now....whether this is because less catches my eye or there is less printed material generally or whether I just don't look for it so much I'm not sure. I'd love to hear about other people's experiences of collecting printed ephemera.

Family Fun Magazine

This was for an article in the US Family Fun Magazine about a young girl overcoming her fear of cycling up hill. I have the same fear about driving up hills!