Stylised Animals

I wanted to try drawing animals in a more stylised way. I have a tendency to draw as I see, yet a desire to create something more relaxed and abstract.

My first choice of animal was a Fox. A little while ago I rescued one that had been hit by a car. It was wandering aimlessly in and out of the traffic and I was worried it would either get hit again or cause an accident. Placing him in the passenger seat of my car wrapped in my sweatshirt I drove him back to my home. Where the RSPCA collected him and he thankfully made a full recovery. I’m presuming it was a male fox of course. I didn’t get that up close and personal with it. 

I started with some sketchbook drawings. Using different photo references I drew several poses. Simplifying the fox anatomy into basic shapes, then creating a silhouette outline of its main characteristics. Then I used photoshop to digitally paint each one, arranging them into a repeat pattern using the Textile Designer feature.

I was pleased with the results and had a go at a few more woodland animals.

#ourplanetweek

Our Planet Week was created by a group of amazing artists on Instagram to help raise awareness for our world’s ecological crisis.

Prompt 1: Flora and Fauna

If we carry on the way we are….. exhibits will be all we have left.

I chose to characterise the flora and fauna of the Mediterranean in this illustration, having spent many happy times there.

The bell jar represents not only the potential future of our wildlife, but the frailty of its existence beneath the strain we thoughtlessly bestow upon it.

The number twelve symbolises zero hour on the doomsday clock. We are currently on a second away.

#letsmakeartforfun

I enjoyed the Instagram folktale week so much I thought I’d join another illustration challenge. Visual storytelling has really captured my imagination.

‘Lets make art for fun’ was set by children’s book illustrator Claire Powell. One wacky prompt each Friday in January.

Cattywampus – 19th Century slang for an imaginary fierce wild animal.

I pictured victorian children running away for a terrifying hairy beast.

Bumbershoot – 1920’s word for an umbrella.

I imagined a stylish 20’s socialite taking her fashionable Boston Terrier out for a nighttime tinkle on the sidewalk.

Lollygagger – An 1860’s Americanism for spending time idly.

I imagined Victorian sisters leisurely chatting in the drawing room.

Folktale Week

Folktale Week is an Instagram illustration challenge, created by a group of renowned professional illustrators to encourage artists from all around the world to share stories and explore visual storytelling. There is a prompt each day for a week, to interpret however you wish. 

The prompts were issued a week prior to the challenge start. However, Last-Minute-Lucy here only decided to join on the first share-on-Instagram day. So no time to prep. 

Prompt – Home

Not wanting to waste time trying to figure out a concept (it was already midday on the first day of the challenge), I started with an interpretation of a traditional folktale. Little Red Riding Hood.

Prompt – Secret

For this prompt I decided to illustrate a scene from one of my favourite books as a child. ‘Knock Three Times’ by Marion St John Webb. The story’s main characters follow a magical pumpkin pincushion through a door in an ancient oak tree to a secret land.

Prompt – Path

A recurring childhood dream of being trapped in a tall tower inspired this artwork. I thought it was time to change the image in my mind’s eye to something less ominous.

Prompt – Darkness

For this piece I wanted to create a contrast between the calm fisherman and the rough sea. The quote is a line from the book ‘Moby Dick’ by Herman Melville.

Prompt – Smoke

I enjoy reading and adore quotes. Which is were I took my motivation for this creation. In particular, a couple of quotes by Australian author Nikki Rowe. ‘There’s only one place I want to go and it’s all the places I’ve never been’. And ‘She was born to be free, let her run wild in her own way and you will never lose her’.

Prompt: Key

I took a slightly different approach to this prompt, not so literal. And thought about the word ‘key’ in terms of the key to our planet’s future. Motivated by the young people who have join the global environmental movement Extinction Rebellion. Our future belongs to the curious!

Prompt – Crown

Bohemian snow queen was the inspiration for this winter scene. I imaged all the forest animals awaiting her arrival.

Still Playing with Dolls

The eclectic display of nicknacks that adorns my mother’s home are a never ending source of art inspiration. A striking variety of objet d’art from around the world, that helped implant the seed of curiosity deep within me from an early age. I would often wonder in delight at where and who they were from, imagining myself collecting such treasures when I was older. 

The little wooden Kokeshi doll, that sits on the windowsill, caught my eye recently. A beautifully handmade gift from a Japanese cousin my mother has had since the seventies. 

These traditional Japanese dolls date back as far as the 19th century. Made from the seasoned wood of the Mizuki tree. Crafted with a carpenter’s plane, on a potter’s wheel, then delicately hand painted and dipped in wax for a high sheen finish.

I thought their simple yet bold colours and shapes would make some nice wall art.

I’ve been playing around with Photoshop’s beta version of Textile designer. Creating repeats is now so much easier. No more placement calculations or starting a design from the corners. The instant previewer means you can see the repeat in real time, at any scale. I’m totally hooked and can’t resist trying everything in pattern form.

Words and Pictures

I took a painting Skillshare class over the weekend. Needed a break from the screen. – Illustrated Words & Monograms: Paint and Print Techniques (for Wall Art and Greetings Cards), by Illustrator Claire Picard.

Using a variety of methods, the brief was to illustrate words and letters with paint and liquid mask practises.

In the first task I used liquid mask to block out the word “j’adore”, then painted a mixed watercolour wash over the top. Adding hand painted hearts once the wash was dry. Finishing off with a small splatter of paint made with a toothbrush.

Filling the page with colour was a lot of fun. Although I did struggle with what to layer on top of the background and didn’t really take any risks. On my next attempt, I will experiment more. I lack somewhat in confidence when it comes to watercolour washes and was so pleased with how this turned out, I didn’t want to ruin it by overpainting.

I need to get over my fear of florals, so decided to use this assignment as practice. I resisted the temptation to view flower photo references and started by just painting flower shapes. Then I added detail with a black Micron fine liner.  

I wasn’t as happy with the results of this piece. I didn’t spend enough time thinking about what flower shapes would work well inside the letters or how they should be placed. It is very rudimental, to say the least. I will try again with just one big letter. Think I tried to run before I could walk with painting a whole word. The curse of being dyslexic…. my brain runs away with an idea that my physical self has no experience with and can’t keep up. 

Feel the fear and do it anyway….. Is how I felt doing this class project. Abstract, although a style I like, is something I’ve never tried before and I usually avoid florals. Especially loose expressive designs. I’ve kept my distance from such designs on account of not knowing where to start.

Claire’s class was the perfect introduction. And although my results are a little haphazard and very rough, (don’t think I’ve ever drawn so many flowers on one page), I’m totally inspired.

Portfolio Club

Illustration Prompt – Folk Costumes

This month’s Portfolio Club prompt has had me fondly walking down memory lane. Handmade folk costumes were a speciality of my French grandmother. Creating outfits for local folk groups was a favourite pastime of hers. And she enjoyed dressing me up in her creations. 

When I was young my grandparents lived in the mountain village of Pierre-Châtel. Five minutes walk from their farmhouse was the most beautiful blue lake. My brother and I would spend hours playing in the cool water during the long school summer holidays. As our mother was a teacher, we were fortunate enough to visit every year. 

Today when I hear the sound of crickets singing, I am momentarily transported back to that lakeside. I distinctly remember the fresh sensation of the cold mountain water on my sundrenched skin as I swam. And the tickle of warmth from the long grass on my back as I lay in the sunshine drying off. I can even recall the dappled light from the tree lined walk down to the waters edge. And how we would skip with glee along that dusty road towards our treasured destination. Such happy days, I have been very privileged. A big thank you to my mother, who made our childhood endlessly adventurous by preserving her French roots.

I used these photos, that were taken in 1977, as inspiration for my illustration. I had a friend who’s grandparents lived opposite mine and we often dressed up in my nana’s homemade costumes.

Video Killed the Radio Star

The one thing I do every single day is listen to music. It brings me so much joy. Tapping my foot, singing or dancing along elevates my disposition instantly. It also helps my concentration and keeps me in the moment. Often inspiring the recall of a fond memory or pleasant moment in time, and particular melodies remind me of people I’ve met or cared for. I couldn’t live without it, I am a massive music fan. 

The radio has played a huge part in my musical history and was the inspiration behind this print design. As a teenager I would listen enthusiastically to the chart show every Sunday for two hours. Shutting myself alone in the bedroom recording my favourites on cassette tape, which I would then play over and over again, until the following Sunday. It used to drive my little brother crazy. He was a jazz fan and detested popular music. 

Today I have more of a penchant for variety and my musical tastes venture way beyond chart hits, but the radio is still the perfect receptacle for discovering new music. And a great source of recollection. If only I could remember all the names of all the songs I’ve ever heard. 

Accompanying repeat surface pattern

Moth Balls

Last week autumn was on its way, this week the sunshine is back. Wanting something cooler to wear I reached for an old favourite from the back of my wardrobe. A lightweight cotton dress that is comfy to wear and easy to style up with accessories. To my horror it was full of tiny moth holes. 

This illustrated print design and accompanying repeat pattern was inspired by my discovery. Whilst researching a natural moth repellent online, I got distracted by the pretty moth pictures. Totally seduced by their phenomenal beauty, I just had to draw them.   

Using a fine black liner I drew the moths on paper first. Then working with Illustrator’s ‘image trace’ tool, I created vectors from the scanned-in drawings. And finally I added colour using the ‘live paint’ tool.

Moth half drop repeat pattern

Easy-Peasy Mac and Cheesy

macaroni cheese step by step illustrated recipe

As the nights draw in and the temperature drops I yearn for warm hearty filling food. Gone are the salad leaves, new potatoes and couscous. Making way for pasta, rice, mash and pastry. My tiny, dark galley kitchen seems to shrink in the autumn and winter months. So one or two pot meals that can be prepared and then left to cook, unwatched and unattended are favourable. Here is one of the Adams family classics. 

I have submitted this illustrated recipe to theydrawandcook.com, a site where creative people share their love of food and art through illustration.

Mushroom Magic

There are over 140,000 species of mushrooms in the world. 50,000 of them are edible, 2% of them are deadly poisonous. Unlike plants they don’t need sunlight to grow. Around 30 species actually glow in the dark. You can eat them, treat illnesses with them and even dye fabric with them.

A wondrous gift from nature that everybody can enjoy….apart from me, as I have a fungi allergy. Penicillin is out of bounds too. When I mention it, people tend to snigger in disbelief. Many of them my own friends. 

No more so, than on a weekend girls trip a few years back. We were camping by the coast, celebrating the impending nuptials of a group member, in a popular site not too far from our home town in Essex. 

I am not the biggest fan of camping. It is great in warmer climates. However, in the UK it get so cold at night you are forced to wear a hundred and one layers. Then the morning sun rises and you are so hot you are literally….‘Boil-in-a-bag’. 

Putting my adversity aside, I revelled with my fellow hens until the early hours on the first night. Serving tequila cocktails like a Mexican flare bartender, dancing round the fire pit like a tribal warrior and skinny dipping like an excitable teen. 

Unfortunately the second night was not as much fun. I was inadvertently poisoned by a Quorn burger. The camp BBQ chef had used the same grill area to cook both the meat and veggie supper. 

Not wanting to spoil the proceedings, I played down the uncontrollable vomiting and sky high temperature. Presuming the symptoms would not worsen as it was only transference and not consumption, I took myself off to bed. Ice pack and sick bucket in hand. 

Later that night as the whole campsite slept, I struggled to keep cool. In an attempt to reduce my temperature and avoid the risk of fitting, I resorted to leaving the tent. Big mistake, especially considering I was wearing only my briefs. Everything else had ben stripped earlier in a desperate bid to cool down. 

Just as I inhaled my first deep breath of crisp fresh night air, legs astride and arms outstretched, campsite security flood lit our area with their van headlamps. 

‘Night time patrols?’ I heard one chuckle to the other. ‘More like…Right time patrols’

I felt like an extra from ‘Carry on Camping’ . Not my finest moment. 

Although I can not medicate with or eat mushrooms, I can enjoy drawing them. They make a great subject, so many individual shapes, colours and markings. I found it difficult to stop. 

Mushroom Magic repeat pattern
Mushroom Magic mini collection

Beatle Mania

Beetle Mania surface print

This design was inspired by a movie my twins and I recently watched. The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise. We had enjoyed the originals together when they were kids and recalled the scarab beetles. 

Watching films together was a past time we favoured most weekends when they were children. Friday nights in particular we would have dinner on our laps in front of a movie of their choice. We visited the local DVD hire shop so regularly they knew our first names. 

It was a great way to connect with one another and encourage conversation. And meant I could sensor what they watched. Sanctioning age appropriate genre when they were young and introducing cult classics and my own favourites as they grew.

Today we still share a love of movies. 

Beetle Races hero repeat surface pattern
Dance the Beetle support repeat surface pattern
Beetle Mania mini collection

International Cat Day

If I was an animal I would be a cat. Fierce independence and zealous curiosity are traits we share. Along with playfulness and spontaneity. And although dominance and laziness (particularly when it comes to house work) are feline attributes I would rather not identify with, I regrettably do. Just wish I had the same freedom. 

Challenging myself to draw using only the blob brush tool, Illustrator was my design weapon of choice for this artwork. 

Portfolio Club

I have joined a low commitment illustration challenge group on Instagram called #PortfolioClub. On the first day of each month an assignment is posted and participants have till the end of the month to share their work using the hashtag.

Illustration Prompt – Circus 

It has been inspiring seeing all the different interpretations pop up each day on my instagram feed. 

Well… the days I have had an internet connection that is. This past month has been plagued with provider problems. No service, intermittent service and bad customer service, to mention but a few. Client work didn’t escape harm’s way either, with one of the sites I edit suffering severe technical problems. Resulting in a months worth of work having to be redone. 

All the tech dramas led to absentmindedly forgetting I had actually joined the illustration challenge. It wasn’t until the 31st, as I scrolled through my Instagram feed admiring the circus themed images, that I remembered I was supposed to be taking part. 

I knew I didn’t have enough time to create a circus scene, so took a different approach. Using the prompt as a loose theme instead of a literal one, I created some poster artwork. Sketching out my concept on paper first, then rendering it in Photoshop. 

Hearts Alight

I often design licensed artwork for clients on a work for hire basis. Contributing to a variety of collective projects, creating surface prints and patterns for an assortment of different products and apparel. However recently I have been pondering on the idea of creating my own print collections.

Using Adobe Illustrator I rendered my watercolour sacred hearts into vectors and created this mini collection. With a valentine themed greeting card as the hero design and three supporting repeat patterns. 

‘Hearts Alight’ Collection

Flaming Hearts

The Sacred heart is a symbol of devotion in Roman Catholic religion, representing the divine love of Jesus for mankind. It symbology is very popular in Mexico.  Artisans craft ornate trinkets from wood and metal, decorating them in colourful folk art and religious iconography. 

Inspired by their bright and bold colours, my interpretation of these delightful little treasures is a reminder to always follow my own heart. 

Floral Fever

Watercolours…forgive me, it’s been 3 weeks since my last session. Actually finding the time to execute a daily art practice of traditional mediums is not as simple as I first imagined. Partly because once I start, I don’t want to stop. 

Yesterday’s intention of painting for only one hour, quickly morphed into the whole day. Chores were neglected, work postponed and the world outside my studio was completely disregarded.

Inspired by a friend’s beautiful country garden, which I visited at the weekend for an engagement celebration, I thought I would try florals. Not a subject I would usually choose, in fact I have kind of avoided drawing flowers. Not entirely sure why, considering how much pleasure I derived from yesterday’s undertakings. 

I will have to suffer the consequences of such self indulgence today of corse, but it was worth it. I feel strangely refreshed and energised, ready for whatever the day entails. 

Lets Dress Up

Taking my cat illustrations a step further, I though it would be fun to dress them up and accessorise them depending on their behaviour.  

Hapless Harry spends hours sitting by the pond in his owners garden, just staring at the fish. His little head bobs round and round as he watches them circling the small raised water feature. Quite happy just observing, never attempting to snag its occupants.

Hapless Harry

Irritable Issac’s owner is a French Canadian musician, who enjoys a daily bike ride. He waves goodbye to the bad tempered cat as he cycles off down the street each morning. I often wonder if it is his absence that makes Issac so moody, or does the cat just long for a ride in the basket of his owners vintage bike. 

Irritable Issac

Pretty Pepper adores lying on the warm bonnets of recently run neighbourhood cars. Favouring those that have been freshly parked, leisurely swapping from one to the next, up and down the road all day. 

Pretty Pepper

Audacious Audrey spends all day following the sun around my garden. And she doesn’t even live here.

Audacious Audrey 

Neighbourhood Cats

I have been off the creative grid for a couple of weeks whilst my French cousin has been in the UK. We have had a lovely time visiting local landmarks and attractions and spending time with family. 

Feeling rather uninspired I decided to take a Skillshare class. Most of my spare time has been spent playing around with watercolours lately and I wanted to try something new digitally.  

Illustration in Photoshop: ‘Professional work from your sketches’, by licensed artist and illustrator Anne Bollman was my lesson of choice. Ann asks the class to draw their pet using various photoshop practises.

Until this class I have been using the photoshop pen tool to redraw the solid shapes in my illustrations, following the lines of my scanned sketches as a guide. However I have always been a little unsatisfied with the results. Preferring a more hand drawn look instead, but unable to recreate it. 

Ann demonstrates a technique of drawing shapes with a brush tool, then selecting outside your line with the magic wand, inverting the selection and then adding a solid colour fill. Producing a hand drawn shape. And the results feel much more like how one would draw on paper. 

My cat Boo

One evening last winter there was a terrible storm. Hail and sleet battered the window frames and howling winds tore down the garden fence. My son and I were curled up on the sofa under thick blankets watching a movie, when we heard a meow at the front door. Our cat Bruce had gone missing 3 years previous and for a split second, we both thought he was back. 

What met us at the door was actually a sopping wet, bedraggled black and white kitty. And she has been here ever since. Her name is Boo, on account of her surprise arrival. 

Having enjoyed using this new approach so much I couldn’t stop at just one moggy. So I would like to introduce you to my neighbourhood cats. Over the years we have given them all nick names, depicting their individual character traits.