Saturday, 26 February 2011

Prophetik at London Fashion Week: Illustrations for Amelia's Magazine

Just a quick post to say that I was so pleased to have 4 illustrations included in Amelia Gregory's review of the Prophetik catwalk show. It is well worth a visit to Jeff Garner's Prophetik site. It includes a beguiling and fascinating video in which he describes his ethos, and also shows something of the painstaking methods used to dye the fabrics using traditional, indeed ancient, methods and ingredients - hence the uniquely wonderful colours made from combinations of, for example, madder root, rumex, logwood, curled dock and gallnut. Even the leather for the shoes is vegetable-tanned. 

You can the full article here in Amelia's Magazine

Comments very welcome!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Poetry Collaboration for Creaturemag

The Orange: gouache on paper

Recently, and for the first time, the wonderful creaturemag arranged a collaboration beween a poet - Ben Macnair - and 6 illustrators. Each artist was allocated one of 6 poems to illustrate, with no knowledge of the other poems - although we were in touch with each other (leading to quite enigmatic communications!). 

'My' poem was 'The Orange' - brief and to the point ... a woman treats her heart like a Terry's Chocolate Orange:

The Orange
She treats her heart,
like she does her
Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
She drops it on hard surfaces,
introduces it to the business end of hammers,
peels off the expensive covering,
and gives it away piece by piece.

I have to say that at first I did not care for the poem at all! It seemed very abrupt and cold. I also struggled with the stark inclusion of such a well known brand and product. 

But the more I considered it, the more I appreciated it. As it was early February, I wondered if each of the 6 poems concerned the heart and different ideas of love (this turned out not to be the case). It seemed that the Terry's slogan 'Tap & Unwrap' or even more 'Whack & Unwrap' was central but unspoken / implicit. At first I saw the 'she' of the poem as a victim but then I found the attitude to 'her' increasingly ambiguous. 

I began with some sketchbook work to feel my way into the task: 


In my final illustration, I have tried to suggest the rather brittle, defiant facade - even some power -  that the woman has developed, but also her vulnerability in the face of  life & its demands.

The 6 poems with illustrations were posted by creature mag in 2 lots of three - read all 6 collaborations here and here. In addition to appreciating 'The Orange' more, I also found the other poems (especially the 2nd three) even more complex and moving. 

This was a fantastic brief to do and I, indeed all 6 illustrators, found it utterly compelling and really enjoyed doing it. We would love to do the same again!

Comments very welcome!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

SeedSwap / Heritage Seed Library Illustration

As mentioned in the last post, earlier this week I had the lovely task of creating an illustration for a Seedy Sunday  seed swap event. It was to accompany an article for the Earth section of  Amelia's Magazine, written by Faye West. (who also does the most beautiful illustrations). 

My picture was to focus on a climbing bean called 'Cherokee Trail of Tears'. This seed has a place in The Heritage Seed Library - which conserves rare varieties of vegetables.

The story of this bean's history and its name is compelling and moving - The Trail of Tears was the forced relocation of Native Americans. The Cherokee were the final group to be relocated, in1838. The conditions were appalling, and out of 15000 Cherokee, more than 4000 died. The climbing bean is named for this and forms one of The Three Sisters (maize, squash and beans) that have been traditionally grown by Native Americans.

The research for this illustration was fascinating and it was also lovely to find links with fellow bloggers such as Celia Hart, whose 'indoor' illustration / printing work is wonderful, but who also sent a link to a post about growing a Three Sisters bed on her equally inspirational Purple Podded Peas blog of her 'outdoor'  activities. 

Gosh, such a lot that could have been be included in this illustration ... but having started with some preliminary sketchbook work about the Cherokee background, I decided I had to simplify the ideas to the matter in hand - the SeedSwap event. This was my first idea:

But a simpler one was opted for:


Finally I 'sprinkled' the outer sections to suggest soil, fine seeds... 

You can read the Seedy Sunday article here, and also take a look at the the beautiful illustration done by Cat Palairet for the article. Thank you to Faye West and to Amelia's Magazine.


Sunday, 13 February 2011


This weekend I have been working on a lovely brief relating to a Seed Swap event (which will be posted here once it's been published) I am focusing on a particular endangered climbing bean that is in Heritage Seed Library  - it has a fascinating history and story. 

Researching it  caused me to pull out some sketchbook work I did last summer - I am without fail stunned every single time by the colours of runner bean seeds and pods - that pink with that green ... wow. I realised that I happened to have a bowl in exactly the same colours so took (far too) many photos then did some watercolour and fineliner work. 

: fineliner pen runner bean studies :
: Brittany bowl with beans : fineliner pens :

: watercolour sketches :

Friday, 4 February 2011

Happy Chinese New Year / Central Illustration Agency: Hare Etching

On Thursday, at the start of the Chinese New Year - of the Rabbit -  the CIA (!), aka Central Illustration Agency,  did a callout for illustrations of rabbits (or hares fortunately). So I sent this lovely chap who has been waiting in a very dignified way for his moment:
Hare: Etching

I am very fond of him..apologies to all the amazing rabbits out there...somehow hares always have the edge

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The story of my first illustration - for Amelia's Magazine

Something thrilling happened to me recently ....

A couple of weeks ago I took the plunge and, for the first time, answered a callout for illustrations - for an article in Amelia's Magazine. The illustrations were to accompany an interview by Matt Bramford with Kim Sklinar of 'Preloved Reloved'. To raise awareness of the effects of cheap fashion, and to raise money for the Macmillan cancer care charity (for very personal reasons),  Kim has set herself the interesting challenge of  not buying any new clothes for a whole year. 

The 6 illustrators chose from 6 different themes - I was really pleased 'making and mending your own clothes' was still available, as that is something I used to do a lot of ... well, designing and making clothes (to sell on a market stall, then in a shop, in York) .... and I have a love & nostalgia for those days of fabrics, threads, patterns, sewing machines...

From the start I had a clear image in my mind - a 50s retro style image of a woman (sitting face on)  at a sewing machine - a duck egg blue/green sewing machine to be precise! It was to have a stencil effect, although would actually be painted - probably in gouache.. 

But quickly the illustration took on a life of its own, even at the initial sketching out ideas stage:

The one on the right seemed to work somehow, even though it was nothing like what I had planned.
This pencil sketch was scanned and, because it was so faint, I printed it over and over. In addition I played about with 'illustration' settings and printing in sepia. For the moment, until I open that Photoshop box sitting on my shelves, this is the extent of my photo 'manipulation'. 

Very much wanting to include some retro fabric patterns, I sepia printed (and used pen to 'work up') some contact print size images of 50s style fabrics. These were then 'collaged' into the picture and pen was used to write the text on top. A final scan and ....
the final illustration existed! Matt (as above & Fashion Editor at the magazine) then very kindly, and with only encouragement and no fuss whatsoever, dealt with resizing the image (something I have now learned to do).

I don't think I have ever been more excited than on Friday 21st of January when it appeared in Amelia's Magazine.
To read the article click here.

Of course there are issues here about establishing one definite style in your work, and someday very soon I shall have to address that one. But in the meantime, I have learnt so much in a very few days from this... and thank you so much to the incredible Amelia and her magazine for her approach and ethos that is so supportive, valuable and encouraging to new illustrators. (Yeah I know ... too many 'so's..)