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.

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

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.