Friday, 30 March 2007

It's funny how things seem to you on one hand, and how those exact same things can seem to someone else. When I was younger I used to wonder whether my concept of the colour yellow, for example, was the same as everyone else's. Did they see yellow as I saw yellow? Was what I thought of as yellow in fact red to someone else? The same with words. Where you see or hear the same word so often you begin to forget its meaning, or you can no longer tell if it's even a real word.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

I suddenly find myself without agent and without any immediate work prospects. I'm not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, it's like an enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders. On the other, I panic that he was the only person who gave me a job when he worked as an AD, so if he doesn't like me, who will?

I can't be that upset about it. Today is the first day in about a week I haven't burst into floods of tears. There are many things I feel angry about at the moment. I have so many friends that have been messed about by agents/publishers/any other companies that it makes me wonder if it's all worth it. I've decided, though, to take an illustration break for a month or two and see what happens. If something creative worms its way out of me, then fine, but I'm not going to sit at my desk for hours on end willing something to come that just won't. Time to spend in the garden, on the house and on my crafting plans, I think.
The Truth is a funny thing. I am very interested in The Truth. I often find that people do not want to hear The Truth, however much they may say they do. They want you say what they want to hear, which is often: "I'm sorry. You were right. I totally agree with you and I was wrong to suggest otherwise. Forgive me?"

Many people, in true Jack Nicholson/Tom Cruise style, can't handle The Truth. It's too painful. Yet, I would much rather be told The Truth straight away, even if it's not nice. The Truth is far preferable to labouring under a misapprehension for days, years even, only to discover you've been a gullible idiot. The lie that covers up The Truth is always more painful.

For a light-hearted example, if you are told an item will be posted out to you on Friday, but in fact the person posting the item hasn't even got it to send out yet, wouldn't you rather they told you they hadn't got it than tell you it's in the post? You'll find out anyway when Monday arrives and your item doesn't, so why did they bother placating you in the first place with a lie that'll just come back and bite them on the bum later on? For me, the lie would hurt more than the fact my item didn't arrive.**

I try to tell The Truth all the time. Sometimes that's not easy or practical, but I do try. Rather than saying I like something when I don't, I'll say nothing. I often find, though, that telling The Truth will get you into trouble. The Truth about your feelings, particularly, as often they're intertwined with someone else's. But surely it's better to get how you feel out into the open? Especially if it's affecting you negatively? How can people tell you, then, that what you feel is wrong? How can your feelings, your thoughts, your opinions, be tossed aside and trampled on, why should you be punished, when they are The Truth?

**This is just a theoretical example. Although this kind of thing happens to Lovely Jon all the time.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

It has been a gorgeous weekend so far down here in Cornwall. Glorious sunshine all day yesterday (I shouldn't feel smug, but apparently it was cloudy and rainy in London. Mwah-hah-hah.) A little cloudy today, but I can see the sun starting to peek through.

The sun shining and the birds singing, I really had no choice but to get in that garden and do a bit of digging. The garden is on a slope, and at some point a previous owner has tried a bit of terracing. There's a thin terrace at the top, and a wide one at the bottom, but nothing but slope inbetween. I managed to dig over most of the top terrace, removing bicycle locks buried in plastic bags and bizarre roots - maybe even roots from the trees at the top of the garden - in the process. Still a way to go.

Amazingly, I don't ache all over. Maybe it's because I was using a claw fork a bit like this one rather than a garden fork, as some bugger nicked ours from our shed at the allotment. (Nothing else. Not the brand new wheelbarrow or the expensive spade, but the cheap, 4 quid fork from Poundstretcher.)

I also managed to plant up some seeds, so we now have basil, oregano, mint, rainbow radishes and carrots, strawberries, lavender, beetroot and three types of tomato busily germinating on the sitting room window sill.

This afternoon I'm off to meet Lovely Jon in Plymouth on his way back from London so hopefully we can have a bit of a wander about and act like tourists. Plus, the clocks have gone forwards, which means, although I would've like the extra hour in bed today, that it'll be lovely and light this evening. Makes me think of long shadows and barbecue smoke. Can't wait for those.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

I think I've finally decided on an approach. Gouache backgrounds with some areas picked out in white, coloured pencil over the top, and graph paper overlaid in PhotoShop like this:

I think the smaller squares work better. More of a contrast with the other images. In places I've removed the graph paper to make a few of the pictures stand out. Now I'm happy with the approach all I have to do are the layouts!

Better get on.....

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

More background experiments. Blue this time, the colour all good little boy bears should paint their bedrooms, although it seems it's a little too pale for my scanner to pick up. What I was trying to do here is paint over the various papers - mainly graph/squared paper and draw over the top with coloured pencil. I don't recommend trying to scan graph paper. It just does not work. (Why, I do not know. One of those great Mysteries Of The Universe.)

The paper is so thin it buckles horribly - as you can see in the first scan below - even with really thick gouache, so I tried stretching it.

It worked OK - here is the scan - but I have resigned myself to having to first paint the background with the line drawings, and then creating graph paper myself in PhotoShop to lay over the top once the paint has been scanned. *Huff*.

Here is where I've overlaid the two types of graph paper I created. I stuck Herbert/Hector/whatever his name is finally going to be over the top to see how he might sit with these backgrounds. I think I prefer the smaller-squared graph paper, although there's something less formal and more childlike in the larger squares. Not sure yet. (Click on each image to see enlargements.)

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Bentin Grubb has challenged us to list our top ten favourite albums. I wasn't sure if I'd even have ten, but of course, once you start thinking about these things a million options all jostle for attention.

So here we are, my 10, in no particular order. (I expect there'd be a totally different 10 if you'd ask me again next week.)

1. Pulp- Different Class. The album of my teenage years, and one that completely invokes that mid-90's BritPop/Tony Blair/Changing Rooms/GCSE feeling. I listened to this album day in day out for at least a year. I can recite every song word-for-word and tell you the exact second Jarvis' vocal comes in on the extended intro to F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E. (1 min 35)

2. Massive Attack - Protection. Amazing title song. Again, the angsty late teenage years.

3. William Orbit - Pieces In a Modern Style. Fabulous album to fall asleep to. When I was on my foundation year, I'd go round to Jon's of an evening, have my second dinner (Guess why I was chubby? Or rather, even chubbIER than now), stick on this CD and fall asleep in five minutes. Then I'd wake up near midnight and have to drive home, infuriating both Jon's mother and mine.

4. The Divine Comedy - A Short Album About Love. Ever wanted to know the lyrics to the theme tune to Father Ted? Then this is the album for you. Jon and I bonded over our mutual appreciation of TDC and he bought me this album for our first Valentine's together.

5. Madonna - Music. Reminds me of piling in the Mini on bright spring days, windows down, bass up and thumping along the road from London to Brighton for spankingly good days out.

6. KT Tunstall - Eye To The Telescope. All fabulous. And reminds me of last January when we bought a CD/radio alarm clock and I woke up to it everyday for three weeks.

7. Puppini Sisters - Betcha Bottom Dollar. Genius. You have to admire a group who cover Blondie's Heart Of Glass and Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights in a 1940's do-wop style.

8. Jamiroquai - quite a few, so let's stick them all under High Times: Singles 1992-2006. You don't realise how many great songs Jamiroquai have released until you see them all here.

9. The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers. Such great voices/harmonies. Like a modern day Mamas and Papas. (Though gone off them slightly since I saw they were doing a "free" show in Fopp in Brighton, got to Fopp early on the day of the release of their second album only to be told we EACH had to buy said album to get the "free" wrist band that would allow us entry to the gig. Was this mentioned on any of the publicity? Was it 'eck.)

10. Pulp - Intro. My love of Jarvis Cocker saw me delve into Pulp's back catalogue and come up with this. Fabulously grimy and scathing. "Babies" is a classic.

Not a bad list. Predominately mid to late 90's (where I had nothing better to spend my weekend job wages on) and relatively modern (where I ask for them for Christmas/birthday.)
I've had a move around in here. A fresh lick of paint and a furniture shuffle is all you need to brighten up the place. Maybe I'll get a vase of daffodils to put on the table.

This week I've been working on backgrounds for my picture book style. Mark and I came up with a new idea for a story and he's furnished me with three layouts to work on in time for the Bologna Book Fair at the end of April. He's given me some great ideas of how to build on all the work I've been doing with watercolour and saltwash. If you look at all the work recent stuff, you'll see that none of the characters have a background. It wasn't intentional as such, I just wasn't sure how to approach it in a way that didn't make it all look too "samey" and one-dimensional.

Here are my first experiments. I've been trying out painting over collaged papers.

This one is watercolour over squared paper, the second an acrylic wash over the same.

This is acrylic over raffle tickets.

And gouache (apologies for the difficulty in seeing this one. It's very pale.)

The acrylic gives a nice base over the squared paper, but with the acrylic/raffle tickets version I put the paint on too thickly for the coloured pencil to adhere to without it looking patchy.

The gouache one seems to work the best - it can look like thicker acrylic, but has the added advantage of a nice chalky surface to draw over. The watercolour was just pants.

Right, more experiments to get one with!

Friday, 16 March 2007

Well, my trip to Penzance wasn't as fruitful as I had hoped. Lots of lovely yarns to buy, but they were all either a wool/acrylic mix - no good for felting - or way to expensive. Sigh. Fabric shopping turned up nothing, too. Didn't help that I had a thumping headache when we got in the car and spent the whole journey trying not to throw up. Penzance's lovely sea air soon made me feel much better once we'd finally stopped moving. I did get a fine array of different papers, though, to try out a new approach with my backgrounds.

And to add to the excitement, we noticed the car was "limping" when we slowed down. I got out to look at the tyres while Lovely Jon drove slowly round the car park of B&Q. The rear passenger side tyre had a lump. A big old egg on it. A quick trip to Kwik Fit revealed we needed three new tyres and the tracking adjusted. Just fifty minutes and 160 quid lighter we were on our way home. I must say, though, Kwik Fit were really good. I hate going into garages as it just reminds me of many a dull hour in my childhood, but they were really nice blokes who did the job straight away with no fuss. God knows what would've happened if I'd been by myself. I'd've probably ignored it until I got back home and then panicked about it.

Today hasn't been all that productive, either. I went into Truro on the train - much quicker and cheaper than driving - for a few bits and bobs. I found the amazing Truro Arts where I was undercharged by 35p - hoorah! -and quite a few nice little shops. My first trip to Truro was back in June and neither of us really liked it, but now on my third visit, it's definitely growing on me. Again lots of lovely yarns and fabrics, but either unsuitable or too expensive. Bum.

Instead I've ordered five mini assortment packs from Atelier Jade in Japan. Much more what I'm after for my crafty bits and pieces. I've had a bit of a brainwave about Primark knickers, too, but I'll keep you posted on that one.

I've recently discovered how great Amazon marketplace is. If the book you want is out of stock/print, someone somewhere will no doubt have it, and usually for a lot less than Amazon. For example, I've just ordered five Delphine Durand-illustrated books that would've cost me £27 in total from Amazon (using their special deals). One of them was out of stock, so using Super Saver delivery would mean I wouldn't get the books for another 3 weeks. But by using Amazon Marketplace sellers, they're all being delivered early next week. I've had to pay delivery on each one, but because the book prices themselves are so low it only comes to a pound more than buying it all from amazon at 28 quid. Genius! I could easily become addicted.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Today has been the most productive day for quite some time. Not only have I now finished updating my web portfolios - including my own site - but I'm sticking to my new rules and I made a one-off piece today.

This is Florence:

Florence likes knitting, legwarmers, choc-chip cookies and horror novels. She hates peanut butter, chick flicks and dogs.

As a quick one-off piece it took too long, really. What I'm aiming for is 30 minutes-ish, an hour at most. Florence took me two and a bit hours, but I suppose that did include running up and down two flights of stairs trying to get all my disparately scattered materials together in one room. BUT I can't find my Prismacolors (the replacements for Karismas.) I bought a huge tin off eBay for 60 quid, which, although bargainous for the pencils, is enough money for me not to want to have to buy another set. I've searched through all the boxes labelled "Emma's Studio" to no avail. I just know I'll end up tipping out every box, only for them to be hiding at the bottom of some totally random one. Bumholes.

However, I had a bit of a brainwave with how to suggest her wooliness - which was painted separately and laid over the top in PhotoShop - so I'll have another go trying to do something similar.

On a plus, all this box-upending meant I came across a few CDs I got for Christmas that I just packed straight away without listening to them. Unfortunately, I did this with all my Christmas presents, so it feels a bit like Christmas didn't happen for me! I suppose it means when I do get them all back together it'll be festive all over again. So, this afternoon I have been listening to "KT Tunstall's Accoustic Extravaganza" which is very good. Mainly new stuff, but also a couple of tracks off her last album "Eye To The Telescope".

Lovely Jon has a meeting in Penzance tomorrow afternoon, so I'm going to go with him. I love Penzance. There's a lovely knitting shop, plus quite a few fabric shops, so hopefully I can find some crafty inspiration.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Good Lord, you mean to say that this is March? But where hath the chilly month of February gone? Aahhh, I remember now. I was but moving hundreds of miles away to a place I had but visited for no longer than a week before. I was plagued with no heating for five days in the coldest week of the year, and hath only in the last week recovered my beloved internet connection, alas.

But it is now fine. We are here at last, we're settling in nicely, and we have some heat. I also have a lovely studio - even it is does need a good sweep and tidy up - and I'm beginning to knuckle down to some work.

There were so many things I wanted to do before we left Brighton/Cranleigh that I was so eager to get on with, yet didn't have the space/equipment/knowledge to do them. But now, because it's taken so long to get sorted (we will have been here five weeks on Wednesday) I've either forgotten what those things were or I've lost the inclination. So today has been a Making A List and Researching On The Internet day. Amazing how time flies when you're reading other people's blogs.

This is my list - kind of like New House Resolutions rather than New Year's Resolutions - and I hope that by posting it here it will remind me of my tasks.


1. Get more crafty. Make and sell things through Etsy, local shops and this 'ere blog. Knit stuff - random stuff -, make jewelry, get out my badge machine and actually make badges with it from odd bits of fabric or paper or anything flat. Do this under the banner of The Yellow House in honour of the colour of our new place. (Strictly speaking the actual shade is ochre, but try explaining that to anyone other than an artist. Delivery men included.)

2. Create everyday. I want to do something creative everyday and post it up here, even if it's just a scribbly idea that won't come to anything. I grapple the idea that everything I do has to have a purpose. These exercises should hopefully get me over that.

3. Just do stand-alone pieces for my portfolio. I often fall into the trap that everything I do must have a story and be a fully-rounded project. One-off pieces could be great one-day projects and good for filling up the portfolio.

4. Update web portfolios more often. This should definitely be easier when I'm just creating for myself.

5. Keep up with blogs. Not just my own updating-wise, but the wider blogging community. There are a 6 or 7 blogs that I visit on a daily basis - although I'm still catching up with them at the moment after my enforced internet absence - that I love. I should leave more comments to encourage traffic back to my sites and hopefully get more publicity.

6. Take more photographs. Of anything. There are some very cool postboxes round here.

7. Do a new business card/postcard to send out with my new address and phone number - once BT have told me what it is, that is.

8. Get more more paid illustration work. As always. Of course, I need to provide Mark with suitable samples, so hopefully once 2,3 and 4 are in full swing, 8 should follow.

9. Join a club. I fancy taking up pilot gig rowing.

That's enough for the immediate future. All I need now is to get on with it!

Jon and I now have a joint blog at There's nothing there at the moment, but we're going to log our progress down here in Cornwall, and show how the house and garden and our hopes for a greener life are progressing. Here are our first livestock acquisitions. Not sure if they'll be much use as agricultural animals, but they sure are cute.

Reeves and Mortimer: