A dead blog is worse than no blog at all…

I remember going to a conference once where there was a workshop on using social media at work, and when the topic of blogging came up, the point was made that it is very hard to keep a consistent blog going – a bit like a diary. As you can see I am a perfect example of this! Someone said that having a blog which has sort of died, not been updated for years, was worse than not having one at all, and so should probably be gotten rid of. Maybe this advice was more pertinent for large organisations. And there is a sort of sunken feeling you get when you find a nice new blog to get stuck into, only to look at the date of the last post and realise its author probably barely even remembers that it’s there, just when you’re hoping for more.

There have been so many times that I have thought about my blog in the last few years and cringed, thought that I don’t even want to click on the link, a bit like reading an old diary, for fear of the sheer embarrassment. And that I really should get rid of it. The last few years have been quite full on to say the least, having welcomed our sweet twin boys into the world, and this blog and my illustration have fallen by the wayside. But the other day I got talking to another mother who runs her own blog, which got me nostalgic to look at my own blog, and I was pleasantly surprised by how I felt looking over all my old posts and work! It really made me want to start something up again, no matter how small, or how frequent. I’m now expecting Hornby baby #3, and in this pregnancy, as in the last, I have felt this urge to create, which I’m convinced has some connection to the ‘nesting’ syndrome that so many mothers-to-be experience. I remember when expecting the boys I got it right in the lead up to their birth, and it caused me to create my ‘Series of 5’ collection. Now I feel this surge again, and I don’t know exactly what I’ll do, but I’ll start small, and I’ll start here.

In addition to the twins and expecting another, we’ve also had a huge life change, in that we are now living in Bavaria, just outside Munich! My husband started a post-doctoral research position at a university in Munich for two years, and so since July we’ve been here, getting used to our new life, to the new culture and the new language. It’s been tough and continues to be, but we are also enjoying the adventure and have been so lucky to have this experience so far.

So to start me off on something creative again, I’ll start by posting a few photos I’ve taken since we’ve been here. Enjoy, and it feels nice to be back at the keyboard again!

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Photo walk

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In my last post I mentioned that I bought a second hand camera to take photos of my work. It’s a Panasonic Lumix G1, so a pretty old model, but it’s nice and small and doesn’t have too many confusing features for a beginner like me.

I wanted to get to know the camera a little better so I decided to go on a little photo walk through town, whilst the weather was so great. I’m still learning more, and might even think about going on a photography workshop. But I think walking around and taking shots of the town helped me to try out the various settings and find ones that I liked.

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I had some company with me on my walk – anyone who was in town that day might have seen a seemingly abandoned blue buggy in greens, graveyards and squares, only to find me crouching somewhere nearby trying to get a photo of something!

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Raring to go

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Tired troopers at the end of a long walk

New Prints

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Over the last few years I’ve really come to appreciate the seasons a lot more, and find myself constantly on the look out for interesting plants and fruits that I might be able to capture down on paper. I’ve been doing a lot of walking and have been making mental notes of where the best apple trees, blackberry brambles and figs are – not just for drawing either of course!

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In the last months I’ve started a collection of drawings which I’m calling ‘Series of Five’, inspired by this interest in the changing seasons, and picking up from where I began with this drawing of Oysters I did for A Better Place Journal.

I finally got round to getting some prints ordered, which you can now buy from my etsy shop. It was fun taking some stylised photos of my prints with a new-old camera that I bought recently.

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The camera I bought is a Panasonic Lumix G1, from 2010. I bought it second hand as I was looking for something cheap and fairly basic for a beginner like myself. It’s been really great so far, and I’m looking forward to getting to know it better.

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I’m looking forward to seeing what I can get down on paper as Autumn rolls in!

Easter bunnies at Fountains Abbey

Hello!

So it’s pretty awful that this is my first post since December…things have been a leeeettle busy since then, but I haven’t stopped illustrating. I’ve finished a few projects in the last month and will be sharing them with you over the next few posts, plus something that I’m currently working on which I’ve been having fun with!

This year Fountains Abbey asked me to illustrate the clues for their children’s trail, which was all about bunnies. I have to say that once I started drawing one they just seemed to multiply…. (haha, sorry! Couldn’t resist!)

This was a really fun project to work on, and great to see the final clues printed on boards which were then placed throughout the estate. Trying to portray the bunnies doing human things was difficult at some points, needless to say I definitely looked to Miss Potter for some inspiration a few times!

Here are some of my favourites:

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And here they are all together, shortly before being let loose on the estate!

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Etsy shop and National Trust women

Hallo there! Gosssshhhh it’s been ages since I gave you an update on what’s going on. Though the truth is, after I opened my shop on Etsy I took a little bit of a break, so I’ve not been at the drawing board very much recently.

You heard it right, I’ve opened up my own shop on Etsy! It was really exciting working with the printers to get the right look that I wanted, receiving the final prints beautifully done in the post, and working out how I wanted to package them. I’ve started small, but hopefully as my practice goes on I’ll be able to add more.

Take a look at my shop here, maybe you know someone who’d like one of my prints for Christmas!

About a month or so ago I visited a National Trust property called Acorn Bank, near Penrith, Cumbria. I was checking out an artist residency that had just gone on in the spring months of this year, which I had been following for a while. The lady who’d done the residency was called Chichi Parish, and she’d set up her studio in the house itself for three months. You could still see some of her work there when we went…she had so many interesting sketches on the walls of weird and wonderful herbs from the property’s extensive herb garden, and inspirational drawings taken from characters and animals around the site. The property is made up of a 17th Century house, a recently refurbished herb garden, apple orchards, and a beautiful wood leading down to a watermill (which is still used to grind flour today!).

The property was gifted to the National Trust in 1950 by a lady called Dorothy Una Ratcliffe, who was an amazing woman. She was a patron of the arts, a writer and a traveller. Her story is incredible for a woman of her time, much like her near contemporary, the famous Beatrix Potter, who was also so much more than a writer and illustrator. Not only did she create and own stories which were to be loved far beyond her time, in a period which was hard to do so for women, but she was as scientist, a farmer, and a philanthropist. I had no idea that she had created a series of scientific drawings in mycology, which are still used by scientists to this day.

I was so amazed by these women that I started to conceive an idea…of creating a series of mini portraits of women in the National Trust. I started with these two, we’ll see if it continues!

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Autumn leaves

Been trying to branch out (wheeeeey) with the pencil shavings to see if I could use them in an outdoor scene. I did this test run of a beautiful golden tree just outside my window, and I think it works! I’m imagining a whole forest of them now, mmmmm.

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Watercolour work

Moooorning.

So a while back someone approached me about doing a commission as a gift for their friend. The client had really liked my previous watercolour pieces that I’d done of Fountains Abbey, and so we agreed that I’d do a portrait in this style. I haven’t worked with watercolours for ages, so it was kind of fun to get back into it! I actually really liked testing out the colours, and creating a page of watercolour marks, which look kind of cool in their own right. Maybe in the spirit of re-using I’ll have to incorporate them somehow into my pencil shavings work…

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A Better Place work

Hello people, I’ve got something special for you this fine Monday afternoon!

A while back I did some illustrations for a beautiful website in the making, called A Better Place. Well today, that website has launched! The website, founded by Sophie Caldecott (who you can also find blogging here) is an online platform for ethical consumerism, and it’s totally beautiful. The idea of the website is to make ethical living more attractive, more accessible, and to throw off the commonly held view that it’s too expensive, or too difficult, a lifestyle to live by. On the website you can find everything from product reviews of ethical technology, fashion, and cleaning products, to informative articles on ethical living. It was an absolute pleasure to work with Sophie and the team, and I know that they’re going to go on to do great things!

I did two illustrations for this launch, which I gave a peek at in this post I did back in June. The first illustration is an accompany to Sophie’s first editor’s letter, and illustrates the difficulties in making this project a reality. I really loved doing this piece…the textures and colours of shells can be amazing.

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Oysters – for A Better Place’s first editor’s letter

The second illustration I did was for an article on light pollution. I did two drawings for this, which I layered up to created the final piece. It’s so different from the other piece, but again, a joy to do!

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Stargazing – for an article on light pollution

I’m so pleased to have been a part of the launching of A Better Place, and can’t wait to see what happens next. Give their website a visit, and try not to splurge on all the amazing products they have to offer!

 

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

A while ago I posted a piece I made using pencils shavings that I’d saved up. It was a lot of fun to do, and shortly after I had an idea to do a larger piece based on a fairy tale I’ve always loved by the Brothers Grimm, The Twelve Dancing Princesses.

In the story the twelve princesses go off dancing in secret every night, much to the king’s annoyance, who can’t figure out why he finds his daughters’ dancing shoes in tatters every morning. The story goes that he puts out a public notice stating that any man who can solve the mystery can have one of his daughter’s hand in marriage as a reward. It’s a very magical story, and there have been some beautiful illustrations done in the past.

I wanted to picture the princesses in voluminous colourful gowns, getting ready to go out dancing in secret, so adding the pencils shavings really helped to achieve this effect.

I hope you all like it!

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I’m hoping that in the near future I’ll be able to start selling some prints of my work, so watch this space if you liked this piece!