more is more


I thought I would share a little of the process I've used whilst recently immersing myself in all things ink. I am a huge admirer of illustrators who use ink in a really intuitive way but I'm realising that there's so many ways to use most mediums there's no 'right' or 'wrong' way. That being said, learning something new always involves a whole load of research, I love finding things out myself and this week has prompted many lightbulb moments when the penny has spectacularly dropped and some nugget of realisation has bedded in. 

One of the first delights I found out a little while ago was that not all inks are created equal. In the past I've used ink to draw, not with pens or brushes but with sticks. There is a very particular skill required to get a piece of wood make a sympathetic mark and without any obvious means of allowing the ink to flow, it can get tricky. I wasn't very precious about what ink I used and didn't consider its properties at all.

So when I found out that ink can be both watercolour and waterproof I was a little excited. ok, make that very excited as I realised the opportunities this offered. After acquiring a few new bits, a couple of bottles of ink and some nibs and pens I was off! That sounds like I dynamically set forth and created but what I actually did was spend a little time mark making, getting the feel of the pens, which nib produced what line, what effect could I get with which brush. I read about what paper to favour, looked at a myriad of inspiring images......then just had to get on and start.

I should say that although I'd read which paper to use I rather foolishly decided I wouldn't bother, it was my first attempt so it didn't matter. Huge mistake, ink loves decent watercolour paper and behaves quite nicely if allowed. Unsurprisingly it was none too impressed with the A4 crappy computer paper I started with so that was quickly rectified and we promised never to mention it again.

These images show the process.


I learnt that whilst the ink can be pushed about you have to act fast. I told myself that if the phone rang or there was a knock at the door then it had to be ignored if ink and brush were in motion! Before I started I'd mixed up six 'shades' from black to palest grey. I let these sit in the little, dipped palette I have and the ink was happy to be resuscitated with a little water the next day. If I needed to add a little drawn detail then out came the waterproof ink and pen. I also learnt that there is no helpful barrier when working ink up to a line, unlike when I use watercolour paint, though that could be more to experience and intuition than an actual fact!

My brain is teeming with possibilities now, I've started another one I intend to work the same way but after that, who knows? I do know I love the idea of combining the static with fluid, that's something to explore at a later date. 

testing, testing, testing

I feel absurdly excited as as I do this. This is exactly the equivalent of tapping on the mic at a dodgy disco (I've lived a life, what can I say?) For some reason this lack of knowing what I'm doing is having an adverse effect on me. Usually,  this kind of feeling my way blindly would send me into a small tailspin but tonight I just think.........HA! bring it on. I should add, by way of explanation that I am currently navigating my way around my new website. EVERYTHING needs changing, I haven't a dolly blue what I'm doing, yet it's all good. I am just wondering I am brave enough to pull the plug on my old blogger site? I think I just may be.

what's a girl to do?

So there I was, happily perusing the lovely search feature in Instagram for my daily fix of inspiration. You know how it is, you scroll down, see something that catches your eye, click, mooch through a few more pics, hit a few likes, follow them if you're lucky and you've struck inspiration gold.

So far so normal. However a moment later I did a proper, double take when my poor brain couldn't really take in what it was seeing. There, in front of me, was an illustration of mine, just not by me. I honestly couldn't take it in at first but one of my little pictures (not such a little one actually) had been copied.

This is odd, I thought and didn't and still don't really know how to react. Perhaps I'm over reacting I thought? Hmm, thought about it for a bit, dug my original out to see if I was being oversensitive, it was a coincidence, whatever but nope, it's the same no matter how many times I look at it.

To all intents and purposes a whole image has been copied, tweaked here and there, with a different colour palette thrown in for good measure but the same. Now, I'm sure this has happened to umpteen people but its still quite odd.

I actually felt a little apologetic for being so uptight as to mind.WHAT! Till I gave myself a talking to and a much needed back bone injection, that seemed to sort it.

Still, I do feel strangely.

Here's a little snippet of mine, the original.

I don't think watermarking your work gets round this problem and there is a big difference between inspiration and outright copying. As I can't think what else to do I'm putting it down to experience.       That usually does the trick. 





a funny thing happened before Christmas

Sometimes wanting to describe something so perfectly can have the effect of rendering me silent. I've wanted to share some amazing news since before Christmas and this post had turned into a lengthy draft I thought I'd never complete. So I did the right thing and deleted it and am going to tell my news very quickly, instead.

This rather grey picture is actually the rather wonderful view I could see as I approached the home of Faber and Faber in late December. Just a few days before Christmas I got the incredible news that Faber were interested in some children's stories I'd written and wanted to meet me. Getting the opportunity to chat about my stories with Leah Thaxton and my lovely agent Angharad Kowal was an experience I don't think I'll ever forget. As important as this meeting was Leah and Angharad both managed to make me feel at ease and I left full of excited hope. Thankfully I didn't need to wait long and just as I got off the train I found out that Faber wanted to publish my stories and had made an offer for a four book deal. 

This is a very condensed version of what has been a huge journey but it's enough to say I'm so, so excited and can't wait to start. As soon as I can tell more I will but there's lots of exciting things planned!

ready or not

I don't usually post so quickly but I realised yesterday that I have done masses of work and, other than the odd pic on IG I haven't documented it at all. My poor website needs a massive overhaul as I have so much new stuff to add! It's penciled in as a job for the downtime that is surely coming at Christmas. I made these few images a little while ago.

this and that

I've been working on quite a diverse range of stuff for a while now, just haven't got round to showing any here. I thought I'd use this perfect opportunity for a bit of a catch up, sharing bits and pieces from the last few months. As well as a still secret project, I've been building my portfolio.

I've been painting feminine images.... I really enjoyed trying to capture the sheen of the satin on this one.

Old sewing ephemera was the starting point for this one. I love vintage velvet ribbon.


 I've created lots of male designs too, but I'll leave those for another post. At the moment I'm seeing all things Christmas, currently - donkeys!

so much news.....

September is upon us and summer appears to have disappeared. I've realised that I've hardly blogged at all this summer, not down to having nothing to tell, rather I have too much. Other people seem to handle this a lot better than me, I'm not naturally the type of person to broadcast things but I seem to be turning keeping things under radar into an art form. I'm hoping this can change really soon. I can't do a recap of everything I've been up to but here's a little snippet.

I've found that as much as I admire simplicity and economy in other's art I find it difficult to employ myself. It was forced upon me recently when I used coloured pencils for some little sketches.

 Coloured pencils are really hard to use. I don't recall them being this tricky when I was younger (though I used to lick the lead to make the colour a bit more intense) though suppose it's like anything. You need to do it lots to improve. I thought I'd bought pretty good quality but I definitely found that some colours respond better than others. I'm sure I'll come back to it again.

 I've also imposed a 'no drawing first' rule on myself which is certainly making me embrace mistakes. It hasn't turned me into a lovely fluid painter, which was my hope but maybe being a quiet, reserved painter is ok. I started painting some small studies for larger works that are completed in my head already. For now they just exist as little studies. They are quite the opposite of fluid but it's good to learn what makes you tick. When I remember, I like to take a quick photo, helping me to see where I need to paint next or colours, proportions I need to try to adjust. It's quite interesting to chart the progress. Here's a teapot, only captured three times unfortunately.

Quite a lot of drybrush used, which I love though it destroys your brushes!

And then the last part, legitimate detailing.

Not the greatest photos I know but the idea's there.

sugar stealer

A recent trip to Venice made me realise how little I look and notice whilst at home. It's a given that around every corner or over every bridge in Venice you are going to see something amazing but whilst there I found myself seeking out, and finding little details of interest everywhere.
So, with this in mind I am challenging myself to see and document something interesting every day - or thereabouts. I'll be posting what I find over on instagram

I've come back to edit my photo and realised that the bulk of this post hadn't been published! It's a little while since I wrote it but I should explain the relevance of the sugar stealer/dandelion clock. From being quite a small child I've always loved them and have quite distinct memories of being transfixed by their perfection, only for a gust of wind to set the tiny seeds flying. I used to make papier mache figures and paintings a long time ago, and dandelion clocks featured heavily in this small painting.

Even now I'm drawn to them, either as a printed image or in real life.

let the battle commence

I started this little painting today with the aim of using no drawing, pencil or otherwise to guide me. I am seeing where I stand with regard to outlines, do I need them, what happens if I don't put them in? To be a bit more extreme (if you can use such a word whilst discussing gouache and watercolour) which one do I like the best?

Well, I know which one I find easier to use, that's easy. I'm so used to the way watercolour behaves, what to do if something goes wrong. Gouache, on the other hand seems to like doing its own thing.
Well, obviously I know that's not true. It's just going to take a bit of time until the surprise element goes.
Here's what I found out. 
If you make a mistake you can lift it out.....just.
It can stand overpainting without it looking too muddy.
It seems to eat water if a large drop accidentally falls from your brush
It has a chalky effect that I quite like.
Gouache colours make my palette a little brighter.
I do actually know the difference between the two mediums and am sure I'll be gouaching with the best of them soon. Or at least like a bit less of a novice.

I almost forgot, outlines or not? It was certainly a more measured process as I was trying to get it look like the pencil sketch I'd done earlier. I tried to avoid drawing with the paint too. It's funny, most of these constraints or desires we put on ourselves. I think the ideal will probably be to combine mediums and techniques and not get hung up about the how.

round and round

 Not the best cropped pictures I'll admit but I like some bits of them. I wasn't drawing with any other purpose in mind but to make my images a little 'rounder'. I started off quite well... and she looks happy.

Here's a few more.

 I find this kind of drawing therapeutic, whatever shapes come up, I go with. This little one started with the hood, then for some reason she needed a party hat on. As you do. Now all I can think of when I look at her are narwhals. So that might lead somewhere, who knows?

arthur's blanket


A not entirely successful attempt at circular cropping - it must be possible I'm sure. Also my first attempt at painting a knitted blanket, definitely needs revisiting! From a little story of a boy and his blanket. 

repeat, repeat, repeat

Three little owls, taking it easy.

Looking a bit clueless, to be fair. Perhaps that's just how they look though.

new too

I thought I'd better show some new stuff after the last offering.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

a long time ago

or so it seems there was a girl who dreamt one day of being more than what she was. I made this picture way back, when I knew nothing about illustration, how brilliant and tantalising it could be. I'm getting my excuses in early, you can see.

 So, I had the brilliant idea of girls in masks and proceeded to make a small number. As so often happens with brilliant ideas (I've just remembered one I had last night!) they fizzle out and slowly become....bad ideas.
However, I still have a certain fondness for her little tattoo.....


Cake is always tempting isn't it? At least, it is for me. Seems like this guy has succumbed too.

He has definitely conquered the cake. I've been pretty busy, with one thing and another and need to add a few things to my blog and give it a bit of a shake around. Lots of things brewing, all good......


This little guy thinks he's going on a voyage, and that's what counts.

As long as he gets there before the sheet dries he'll be ok


When I first saw this week's Illustration Friday topic my heart sank. But after a little think (and recalling how loosely the topic is sometimes interpreted by others) I thought, I can do that! Once I'd thought of my image I then couldn't decide which way to colour it - watercolour or digital. So, without this becoming a habit, I did both.


Frustratingly, I can't show them as large as I'd like so a click is called for. I think I like the digital one the best though it took a lot longer! What do you reckon?


I realised after my last post just why (or at least partly why) I was taking so long on each picture. Instead of using scanned drawings I was creating them from scratch. So that made me feel a bit better, at least.

Nothing like a hug to make you feel better. Throw in some cake and you're sorted.


I know I am master of my own destiny but I seem unable at the moment to create a quick image. I suppose I will get a little faster the more I do. I am consumed by my mission, at the moment. Everywhere I look there are things I want to try, artist's work I want to look at, people I want to contact. I do know that the need to focus is paramount, so that is what I'm going to do.

I decided to stop at this point, though could have continued working the flesh tones. I am quite happy with the shade from the tree though. It took me a few goes but whilst not quite as sophisticated as fashioned by my imagination it gets the idea across. One more then I can submit my next assignment. I'm looking forward to that one as I will finally be able to add text to my illustrations. In theory......


I am so happy! I've just had a lovely, lightbulb moment. I spent the best part of yesterday beavering away on my first Illustration Friday entry. I had a few technical mishaps which left me feeling a little deflated last night as I realised I'd missed the deadline. So I've spent the morning finishing off my illustration consoling myself with having a new pic to post on my blog. Duh! Today IS Friday! I can submit it now!

Ok, so my little light bulb moment dimmed somewhat as I realised the image I've posted has a BLACK BLOB ON IT but I have tweaked and it is no more. Unfortunately I now have two images posted, one with a black blob and one without but hey, you live and learn. Maybe someone kind who can, will remove it? Probably not. I'm killing a few birds with this one, I've been grappling with the joys (seriously) of layers on my digital art course, it just gets better.I have to submit three images using layers, one down two to go. Now I'm going to hop back over to IF to fret like a ninny.