Saturday, 31 December 2011

Year's End

So, anyone want to tell me where the last 12 months have gone? One minute I was signing a contract for a new illustration job, the next it's Christmas. I've been going through my Flickr stream for this year, and I've been surprised how few photos I've taken; that's what being crazy busy does for you, I suppose! I wanted to find just one image that would sum up the year succinctly, and the nearest I could get was this one:


Light and dark, sunshine and clouds. A bit like every year, I suppose, although this year has been one of more contrasts than recent ones.

On the plus side, we moved into a nicer flat, we went away for some nice weekends, I actually had a bit of money for a change due to an awesome job that's kept me busy, busy, busy.

On the down side, my Crohn's decided to play up good and proper, which has meant being in and out of hospital, becoming a human pincushion and taking enough medication to make me rattle! It's also meant all notions of dieting and controlling what I eat has gone out the window, with some pretty crazy weight swings, but now things are settling down I hope to get on the straight and narrow again.

So, I suppose that brings me on to resolutions, which, as I've said many a time, I don't really believe in. There are some things I'd like to do in the upcoming year, but I'm not going to pile on any pressure by making wild promises I might not be able to keep. I'd like to visit more places of historical, scientific or educational interest. I'd like to go out on my bike more. I'd like to pay a bit more attention to personal work and getting a few new things up in my Folksy shop. And get some nice, new jobs, natch. I think they should be possible now I'm not working so continually. Let's see how it all goes.

So, see you in 2012. Thanks for continuing to come by to read my ramblings, you're all aces.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Lovely Little Red

 Little Red Riding Hood, Designed by Helga Mandl from GOSM September 2010, stitched by Mrs Milkybar Kid. Think I might have to get me this pattern ASAP.

Friday, 23 December 2011

More Christmas Cards

How cool it this? The ELT Design department at OUP, who I've been working with all year on The Project, have used one of my images as their departmental Christmas card. It's been sent round to all their artists and clients and what-not with my name on it, so that's good promo for me as well as being a bit of an honour.

ELT Christmas card 2011

We just need some snow ourselves, now...

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Crimbo Card

It's here! As promised! A few days later than planned, but still. This is a stage-by-stage snapshot of how I generally put my illustrations together, specifically this year's Christmas card. I'm not giving away all my secrets here, but I think it gives an idea of the steps involved in my style and how I go about it, which I hope you might find interesting. Here we go:

OK, Step 1:

stage 1

What I have here is a scanned in sketch of my main reindeer character; not much more than a doodle, really. Also open in the right there is Vistaprint's template for their Christmas cards, which is going to be my canvas. Vistaprint are great at providing templates for all the products they offer. I use them for pretty much all my printed promo. The other box is my layers palette, which keeps track of all the different layers I'm using.

I ummed and ahhed about this year's design for ages, working out a range of ideas in more and more detail until this simple guy just popped out of my pencil, kind of fully formed. I generally work out my very first rough ideas in my sketch book (on real paper, gasp!) and then scan them in for more developing and tidying, which is.....

Step 2:

stage 2

Here I've taken my trusty Wacom and drawn over my initial sketch on a new layer in Photoshop, using different coloured lines for all the different coloured parts of his body. I then delete the sketch layer; I don't need it anymore.

Step 3:

stage 3

This stage is using the magic wand tool to capture all the different areas within the outline and filling them very simply with block colour. The samples of colour on the right there are ones I created and used for The Project, but thought they'd work well here, too. They all have strange names like "Dizzy's Legs" and "Frankie outline". It's going to be so odd drawing and colouring other things. Anyway, moving on to...

Step 4:

stage 4

One of my favourite stages, the adding of textures. I have a texture library of interesting stuff I've either found online or scanned in myself. Husband pointed me in the direction of a great site called BittBox which has a TONNE of fantastic free textures available for use in artwork and the like. The top one there came from them and is wolf fur, I believe. The bottom left is a towel I scanned in ages ago when I was working on the Star Pirates project. Here, I've just changed the colour of it to a nice brown. I've been using it in The Project, too, as a texture for shell and mud.

To use, I just drag the texture layers over the top of my colour layer and then play with the opacity and multiply tools until I get the effect I'm after.

Step 5:

stage 5

Adding in shadows. They, too are on a separate layer. Again, I fiddle with the opacity and multiply options to get the right feel.

Step 6:

stage 6

And highlights. Again, on another layer and fiddled with opacity-wise.

Step 7:

stage 7

The laydeee reindeer. She is exactly the same reindeer as red-nosed Rudolph. Honest, guv. I've just flipped her and altered both the outline and the block colours just by sliding the Colour Balance tool around, and gave her some flirty, girly eyelashes. They are the best thing about drawing girls. Girls must always have eyelashes. I guess she's either Donner or Vixen. She's kinda cute rather than sexy, so let's go for Donner.

Step 8:

stage 8

Adding textures. She has a different body texture to Rudolph; I used the wolf fur. I also scanned in a wooden button I have to add to her cowl.

Step 9:

stage 9

And highlights.

Step 10:

stage 10

Dragging them over to the canvas, adjusting their positions on the canvas/template and rotating them both out slightly so the lights (watch this space) will look a bit more in tension.

Step 11:

stage 11

The background. I went for a simple dark blue here, using a rough bristled digital brush to get a nice texture on the outline. I didn't think too much about this shape, I didn't want it to look too contrived. I always like to have something "breaking the frame", to use poncey, artist's jargon, so the characters aren't restrained by the background at all. The trees are on another layer on top, just coloured the same white as the canvas background to look like a paper cut-out or similar. I've laid a half-tone dot in a slightly darker blue over the background to give it a bit of interest; I think you can see that better in my banner up the top there.

Step 12:

stage 12

The lights! Woo! These are just a simple green line drawn between the two reindeer on another layer.

Step 13:

stage 13

The bulbs. I added tiny little vertical lines to the main green ones and then drew a basic blub shape on another layer. I then copied, pasted and rotated that bulb a gazillion times and altered the colours using the Colour Balance slider again.

Step 14:

stage 14

My absolute fave bit of doing the whole thing, adding the GLOW. These are on another layer behind the bulbs, using the same colours and a very soft-edged brush and knocking their opacity down a bit to give that Christmas glow.

I also decided here that the two deer were looking too alike, so Rudolph now gets to have his mouth open and Donner is looking up at the lights. It's very easy to change things at this stage while all the elements are all still on separate layers. I just had the redraw the outline around his mouth, then remove the excess block colour and texture with the rubber tool.

Step 15:

stage 15

Nearly there. I added in a few robin chums as you really can't have enough fat, friendly, fluffy robins at this time of year. They were really simply drawn, no outline or anything, just a blob of brown, really, with other blobs of other colours on top.

The snow is copied over from last year's card, I just moved the flakes about a bit to give the best view through them. The snow is actually the top layer, I like being able to see the characters through the flakes, it gives a nice feeling of depth and movement.

Step 16:

stage 16

The end! When I'm finally happy with it after a whole lot of faffing with this and that and the other, I flatten the whole thing and remove any guidelines. I always do an inside/back for my cards in greyscale, not only as it's free to print one, but it gives you another opportunity to show off your stuff and demonstrate you can work in black and white as well. I took the fairylights theme and wound them around to read "Merry Christmas", added a few bulbs, a half-tone background, and one of the robin chaps from the front. I always stick in my contact details, too, although I've blurred them here as, as much as love you, I don't need random phonecalls.

There we go. That is pretty much it. It's taken me much longer to write this than I thought it would. When you're working on something like this, you just do it automatically, so to actually think through each step and write it down in something like clear language is actually quite hard! I hope it makes sense and was both entertaining and informative. Enterformative, if you will.

I'm off to make up the last of my Christmas crafting; I'm very much looking forward to some time off after this crazy busy year!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Bitter Rivalry

xmas rivalry 2

xmas rivalry 1

Two families on the same street. Wonder if it's all Montagues and Capulets, or if they're actually really good friends?

Bleurgh. I hab a colb at the moment. I had my fingers crossed that I'd get through my deadlines and the craft fair without falling foul of seasonal germs, chanting: "Can't be ill til Saturday night, can't be ill til Saturday night." Well, I made it til Monday lunchtime, which I suppose is good going! I shouldn't really complain, I haven't have a cold since August 2010, which is a miracle and a record for me; I'm probably overdue. I suppose, then, I should be taking it easy and relaxing or something. A STRANGE feeling indeed!

PS Just changed my blog header to something more festive. Will put up my step-by-step on my Xmas cards tomorrow, time willing.

Sunday, 11 December 2011


Phew!!! Well, what a crazy few weeks that was. The last part of The Project has been sent off. I'm just waiting to hear if there'll be any tweaks this week, then it will be well and truly over. Very strange.

After being evacuated on Tuesday night, I didn't have time to make quite as much as I wanted for Saturday's craft fair, but, in the end that didn't matter as our table was groaning under the weight of all our wares as it was! It was such a great event, we all did very well. The remainder of my Woodland/Fairytale brooches are now all up in my Folksy shop, having made the most of the 10 minutes of sunlight we received today to get some photos taken. Take a gander at a few; I'm pretty chuffed with them:

owl and pussycat cardi

mermaid cardi

fox cardi

red and wolf window

deer cardi

I'm leaving the Circus and Scrabble badges off for now, as I have to make up more Scrabble ones - popular as ever - and find a way to list them that avoids making 26 separate listings!

So I can theoretically take a breath now! I have a few Christmas presents to make, but nowhere near as many as I usually would, that would just have been madness with my recent schedule! I've had to wait a bit to get everything in as I don't get paid until tomorrow; it'll be shopping and making like crazy this week. And it's about time it began to look a bit like Christmas here in this house as I just have had no time to get any decorations up. Hopefully I'll rectify that tomorrow once I've hoovered up all the little bits of shrinky plastic that are everywhere and given all the long-neglected surfaces a good dust!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Merry Kissmas

Bit obsessed with this song by the amazing Brigitte Aphrodite, who I saw supporting Kate Nash last year, and just love:

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Getting It Together


The craft fair is on Saturday. I'm getting the last few badges cut and baked and, hopefully, varnished tonight. Then tomorrow it'll be sticking on the pin backs and attaching the larger ones to a backing card. I'm a little behind as we were evacuated on Tuesday night due to a gas leak on our street (!), but there are a few things I can cut corners on if time gets a little too tight tomorrow. Do come along if you're in the area on Saturday, 11am-5pm at Fabrica. Come!

Anything that doesn't sell will be up in my Folksy shop next week, as soon as I can get it up there, light levels permitting for the photos.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Festive Felty Foxies




I am a bit in love with these life-size felt foxes in the window of Aubin and Wills on Prince Albert Street. I'm not really familiar with this shop, having automatically assumed it was far too expensive for me anyway, even if I did like their stuff, so I've never been in. Apparently, though, their logo is a top hat-donning fox (automatically awesome), so it's nice to see that played with in their Christmas window display. Looking at their website, they actually have a lot of nice foxy things. I particularly like these rubber-topped HB pencils:

Lovely packaging. Now, if only I could get my own fox and take him about on a lead....Maybe not. Not sure he'd go for the red bow at the neck, either.

So, felty foxes aside, I'm working on the very last pieces for The Project. I cannot believe it's almost over. When that's out of the way, I've got to work like a fiend getting all my gubbins together for the Craftaganza craft fair next Saturday the 10th. Please do come along if you're about. Progress photos to follow....