Instagram Flashback: Sisters

Instagram Flashback: SistersA picture from March 2014, which is a lot blurrier than I realised at the time. This was a cartoon of my two younger sisters, Kelly (far left) and Stacy (far right) with myself in the middle. Kelly is sophisticated and urbane; Stacy is a student; and I am lost. This was for a Mothers’ Day card.

They say it’s spring…

Ink sketch of a woman with glasses


I’m working on a post about my time on the Book Illustration course in Chelsea, but for now, here’s something I drew today for another Skillshare project.

It doesn’t need such a large copyright notice on it but I wanted to play with some of my scanned-in ink blobs!

Picture books are made in Chelsea: Book Illustration short course, part 2

Chelsea College of Arts

Chelsea College of Arts campus at John Islip Street, next door to the Tate Britain

Now I’ve had a bit of time to process my time in London, I thought I’d try to do some justice to the experience by writing a couple of more in-depth blog posts. Alina Kasparyants, a fellow student on the course, took lots of photos and has kindly allowed me to use some in this post. Thanks, Alina!

To recap: in April, I went on a week-long Book Illustration course at Chelsea College of Art in London. This mostly involved drawing cats with the wrong end of a paintbrush, and spending lunchtimes wandering around the Tate Britain, looking at Proper Art. But it also meant meeting a lot of really talented people (and eating a lot of deceptively unhealthy snack bars).


Sharing work (and apples!) at the end of the course.

On the first day, I met the other artists in the class. We shared examples of our work. Each person came from a different background and had brought something unique – from whimsical decorated paper plates to photos of complex, dream-like automata; from colourful, professionally printed books to intricate hand-drawn black and white artwork.

I think all of us were a bit self-conscious as the course is advertised as ‘Intermediate/Advanced’, but there’s no assessment or test of this before you book it – so how do you know if you’re ‘advanced’? Well, nobody got sent home early for not meeting the criteria! And I hope that by the end of the week, we all had a good idea of what our strengths were as illustrators, and a better idea of where to go next. That seems important.

Me, working diligently away on my 'book illustrations'. Photos by Alina Kasparyants:

SERIOUS ART FACE. Me, working away on my ‘book illustrations’. Photos by Alina Kasparyants:

Our tutor, Mary Kuper, talked with us about the variety of illustrated books being produced today – not just those aimed at children, but complex and beautiful stories for adults, too. Some of the most creative examples can be hard to track down. France, for example, has a more sophisticated culture of graphic novels than we have in the UK; because a market exists for the work, artists there are empowered to create it.

The impact of the market on picture book creators was something I learned a lot about during the week.

On the second day we met Carolyn Dinan, the other tutor on the course. Carolyn and Mary have taught together for many years, and both have a lot of experience in the industry as successful illustrators. They were able to offer different perspectives on our work, insightful advice and suggestions for other artists whose work we might find inspirational.

For the rest of the week, each person worked on a project drawing on their own interests and influences (mine currently include cats, and Filofaxes). Carolyn suggested I try working with ink and a dip pen, so I toddled off to the lovely on-campus art supplies shop and acquired some new tools…

bookillustration-showingworkHere are some of my doodles with the ink, using both the pen nib and a brush. They allow for a much more expressive line, which makes everything look a bit more dynamic on the page.

In the next post I’ll explain a bit more about my project, and how cats and Filofaxes can usefully be combined for dramatic effect. I also want to shout out to some of the great people I met – but this blog post has been in my Drafts folder for over a month now, so I’m just going to post it and save that for the next instalment!

ink sketch of Other Cats

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).

Book Illustration Short Course at Chelsea College of Art: Day One

Statue of a man surfing on a dragon

Here be dragons: a statue outside Tate Britain – right next door to where I’m studying

I have embarked on an interesting adventure of sorts – a trip to London, and a week-long course in Book Illustration (not just children’s books, mind, but any and all varieties). It’s at Chelsea College of Arts (now part of University of the Arts London), and I’m working right next door to Tate Britain – allowing for interesting lunch breaks spent exploring the galleries.

I have already succeeded in getting on the wrong underground train and going back to the station I started from; garbling my introduction to the rest of the class and basically telling them I am rubbish; and spending perhaps too long in the planning stage of my ‘first day’ quick project, leaving a lot of work to finish overnight. Time to get on with it!

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?