Christchurch Food Festival 2015: An illustrated viewpoint

Photo of a blue caravan that sells waffles.

Adorable duck-egg blue waffle wagon.

My annual visit to Christchurch Food Festival always begins early, as I try to arrive before it opens. I get the chance to find out where everything is, and what might be good to draw; as well as observing those interesting ‘behind the scenes’ moments of traders putting the finishing touches on their stalls. There’s a lovely feeling of anticipation; you imagine all the people thinking, will the weather improve? Will people like what I’m selling? What else looks good here, and what am I going to have for lunch? A lot of them know each other from doing the same festivals, in previous years or in different locations, so it’s a supportive atmosphere.

Riverford Organic Vegetable box display at Christchurch Food Festival

On both days this weekend, long bus journeys scuppered my chances of getting to Christchurch for 10am; but I still managed to arrive before most of the crowds. Saturday had begun rainy, but I climbed the stairs of the underpass into bright spring sunshine, and a hint of barbecue smoke.

A copper still for making Conker Gin, displayed at Christchurch Food FestivalNoticeable improvements to the festival for 2015 included the addition of the ‘Festival Village’, another batch of food stalls by Christchurch Quay (an area known as the ‘Quomps’, for reasons I am unfamiliar with). This was a really vibrant space, with lively musical entertainment on the bandstand, local and ‘celebrity’ chefs in the cooking demonstration tent, and plenty of grass and seating where festival-goers could enjoy their food. It was a welcome respite from the high street market, which can get very busy – though here there were also improvements, with more open spaces, particularly in front of key food businesses like cafés. On Sunday there was also the welcome return of family entertainment and more food traders on the Kings Arms bowling green.

What did I draw?

The Riverford Organic vegetable box stall (see top image), which displays some lovely fresh produce which you aren’t allowed to eat! I also drew a basket of garlic at The Garlic Farm‘s stall, and lamented that they don’t seem to make banana chutney anymore (although Riverford – by coincidence – apparently do).

Conker Spirit Dry Dorset Gin have beautiful branding, and hosted a tented bar area by the river. On display was a magnificent vast copper globe, with a tube coming out of the top, which I couldn’t help but draw (lower image). I suspect this was a copper still, of the kind that would be used to make the gin; surrounding it were jars of botanicals, and happy festival-goers sipping gin-based cocktails.

What did I eat?

Here are my recommendations from this year’s festival:

  • Bread of Devon apricot and almond brioche swirl – this was a bit denser and less sweet than the brioche I’m used to, but made for a pretty perfect breakfast, alongside a latte from Dorset Coffee.
  • Wild boar and apple sausage in a baguette – I remembered having one of these last year at the Bournemouth Food Festival, and that it was perfect. This one was similarly satisfying.
  • Chillicious frozen yoghurt, peanut butter and banana milkshake – it’s got fruit so it’s healthy? Probably? But anyway it was delicious, so I don’t care.
  • The Posh Kebab Company – Aberdeen Angus kebab with home-made tzatziki sauce and other interesting condiments – at £7, these were a little more expensive than some of the other options at the festival, but really worth the price. Even the bread was delicious. They also sell a lamb version which I’d love to try.
  • Banoffee crêpe from the crêpe stand by the quay – banana, toffee sauce, and layers of pancake, alternately crispy and squishy; tasty, but more importantly, hot – Sunday’s weather wasn’t as nice as Saturday’s!
  • Strawberry Fields Foods – lemon tea marmalade – I had to get some more of this after demolishing a previous jar. A very fragrant marmalade with lots of peel, and a hint of bergamot. Their pear and vanilla jam is also glorious.

I would also highly recommend The Gourmet Grilled Cheese Company – lovely people, high-quality bread and cheese and some creative combinations (they did a special edition spiced cauliflower cheese toastie at a Bournemouth street food event last year and it was AMAZING). And churros from Churtopia (or churros from anywhere, really).

Go big or go home: scaling up my design skills for large-format print

Last week my choir, La Nova Singers, performed a concert – our first with a small orchestra! As the PR, social media and general marketing person for the choir, I like to dress the venue up as much as possible with things that make it feel personal to us, putting our stamp on the event and making it special for the audience. One of my secret weapons in this area is to use our vertical banners…

Standing banners in place at a wedding venue in Christchurch, Dorset

I designed the banners myself, incorporating the choir’s existing logo, as well as eye-catching photography from Lemonade Pictures and Concept Photographic. There’s a lot more text on them than I would perhaps have chosen to include, but our musical director’s brief was very specific!

The banners were printed for us by Andrew at AJ Print, who also supplied the stands. They’re easy to put up and have a professional look and feel, without feeling ‘corporate’.

Pop-up banners for local Bournemouth non-profit group La Nova Singers

Working on these was the first time I’d designed something to be printed larger than A1. Having the logo available in vector format already was a big help. I also made liberal use of Photoshop’s resizing tool to ‘blow up’ the images: using the ‘Bicubic Smoother (enlargement)’ setting ensures that you don’t end up with a pixellated result, and I found that even when I examined the finished banners close-up, the image quality was fine.

I think my favourite is the one with the image of us singing by the lake… that photo was taken at Stourhead Gardens, a National Trust property and one of the choir’s most-loved places. We all have happy memories of performing at Stourhead Festival of the Voice. And the photo on the bottom is the group larking about in the choir stalls at our local Christchurch Priory… guess who volunteered to sit on the floor?

Process post: Inking a Halloween illustration, with help from Skillshare


Ink illustration of a witch carving a pumpkin, shown half-finished on a desk

As promised, here’s a little more detail about my Skillshare: Mastering Inking coursework, including the tools I used, my process and the final image. I’ve written a bit about the inspiration for this work already on my Project page for the course:

My project is an homage to one of my favourite childhood books, ‘The Witch’s Handbook’ by Malcolm Bird. It’s October, so Halloween has been on my mind recently and I decided to do my own take on one of the illustrations in the book, in which some witches are carving pumpkins.

For simplicity’s sake I’ve gone with just the one witch, plus furry feline associate.

Although I have some good quality watercolour brushes that I use for my illustration work, I didn’t want to risk getting them all crusty with dried ink, so I bought a few cheaper ‘student quality’ brushes for this project. One of the great things about using the less ‘prestigious’ art supplies is that it allows you to be a lot freer in your work, without worrying about doing things ‘wrong’. Artistic types can tend to be a little bit neurotic!

Paintbrushes, Winsor & Newton india ink and dip pens for creating illustrations

The tools I used were (left to right):

  • Two Manuscript pen nibs, one of which is sellotaped to a wooden chopstick!
  • Jackson’s ICON Series 702 flat brush – this is a nice brush that I used to add a watercolour wash to the finished image.
  • Winsor & Newton Cotman (student) brush, size 6
  • Winsor & Newton Cotman (student) round brush, size 1 – for fine detail
  • Langnickel ‘Royal Knight’ brush – came from a discount store; this brush is pretty scrappy-looking and great for adding rough texture!
  • HB Graphite stick, from a set
  • Entré eraser – an old and trusted friend!
  • Kitchen towel
  • Winsor & Newton Black Indian Ink, complete with spiderweb box!
  • Watercolour paper

The basic process, as explained in the Skillshare videos, involves creating an initial pencil sketch and then transferring this to your watercolour paper. I have a light box which my uncle made for me some years ago, which made the tracing a lot easier. Otherwise a good method is to hold your work against a window on a sunny day – it only needs to be traced roughly, enough to get the basic shapes. You then wet your brush in clean water, dip into the ink, blot any excess on kitchen towel and finally start inking. The course videos explain everything very well – from selecting your materials, to how to create different textures. Since inking is such a permanent process, with no easy way to erase mistakes, having Yuko Shimizu’s expert guidance and advice in the videos was a great confidence-booster. The other members of the Skillshare community are also there to help each other out with advice and resources.

Ink illustration of a witch carving a pumpkin, with her cat asleep on the rug

Here’s the finished illustration! If you’re using Skillshare already, it would be great to get some ‘Likes’ on my project.

I’ve taken some fantastic courses through Skillshare and will share my experience of a few more on this blog in the future. There’s also a coloured version of the above picture that I’m currently finishing up, so watch this space!

Witch crafts.

Ink illustration of a witch carving a pumpkin

Late last year I took Yuko Shimizu’s Skillshare class on inking with a brush. Here’s a photo of my project in progress – it was near Halloween so the subject matter isn’t as incongruous as you might think!

I’ll share a little bit more about the process, as well as the finished coloured illustration, in my next post.

Sketchbook Archive: Edinburgh 2012, part 2


(Read Part 1 here)

Drawing was a welcome distraction during this trip. These are my sketches from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, where there are paintings, photographs and sculpture; it was one of my favourite places to visit in Edinburgh.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

The building is also beautiful.


The National Museum of Scotland has an altogether more eclectic range of exhibits, including – as seen here – the wall-mounted skeletal remains of an American bison.

There are artefacts from around the world, taxidermy animals of all sorts, and – of course – teapots.


I most enjoyed drawing these two sets of chamber bagpipes, which here appear to be warring. They look rather like a cross between a goose and a Dalek.


Something which I did not capture in my sketchbook, but which I feel compelled to mention, is the cardamom buns at Peter’s Yard – a Scandinavian bakery which was coincidentally, and vitally, only a short stroll through The Meadows from my B&B. I wholeheartedly recommend them, and also enjoyed a delicious pizza-in-a-basket for dinner here on my last night in Scotland. At some point I hope to return, as there is a lot I haven’t yet sketched. And more cardamom buns to eat.

(Read Part 1 here)

Sketchbook Archive: Edinburgh 2012, part 1


I had long wanted to visit Edinburgh – a capital city, but smaller than London, less sprawling; where the light was said to be noticeably different in quality. A genteel place, if you believe the books of Alexander McCall Smith; or not, if your mental image relies on Ian Rankin and Inspector Rebus.

First I went to London to spend the night at my sister’s flat before the long train journey northwards. She had two free-range pet rats, Ratty Jake and Ratty Elwood, who scampered and would not pose for their portraits.


In the morning I sat in the near-empty Leon café at Kings Cross station, at the back near the window, with glorious morning sunshine lighting up the steam from a takeaway cup of scalding mint tea.

Then, to the train. I am an aficionado of books, podcasts, and albums played in their entirety; I also lead a sedentary life in general. The four hour train journey from London to Edinburgh would therefore have been very pleasant, if it hadn’t been that the air conditioning in my train carriage was broken – and possibly the toilet too, judging from the smell. I was glad to get off at the station, but then proceeded to get lost. Google maps, dear reader, are not really designed for pedestrians. I wandered for a long time, trying to find what should have been a very obvious and large road, before realising that I was standing under a bridge and the road was above me.


When I eventually became un-lost, and arrived at my B&B, I fell upon the thoughtfully provided teapot and shortbread biscuits – for where there is tea and a biscuit, there is comfort and a sense of normality.

Pictured above: various teas. To be continued…