'The place where inspiration hits the page running... A sketchbook to fail and reflect on my work and my process'

Friday, 22 June 2012


A while ago I entered the folio competition and didn't get anywhere with it. Not surprisingly either, as I was using a new way of working which was still in it's infancy. Although I'm glad I entered it, I'm also glad I've decided not to enter any more competitions, or fling my work anywhere now until it is ready. Otherwise I will repeating what happened in my career, by not establishing who I am in my illustration, I risk getting known for work that really isn't me and therefore starting the whole cycle again. So I am keeping it close and moving forward only with the bits I am confident with. I have to earn a living so the new bits of work are slowly building a new folio ( it will take time), and then moving my own stories forward, in my own time and looking for work the rest of the time.

So anyway, the shortlisted results for the Folio Illustration competition came out and the results are good. Really strong in fact. It made me realise how I was nowhere near ready with my work, and a huge rethink in my process was needed.... So for beginners I took inspiration from one of the shortlisted entries and really quickly redid mine, and it was so much better! They are here....

my entry here...my work always has a tendency to look old fashioned! 

and then the one I redid...

...which looks more fresh and current. So obviously this is direct interpretation of one of the shortlisted entries, so won't go anywhere near my folio, but as an exercise it taught me that I can go too far with my work. It's almost like I feel like, without time and effort a piece isn't worth it, But actually with all the learning and skills I have, the best marks are the marks I make first and most intuitively. I have said this before and know this, but I have to keep reminding myself of this....aghhhh!

I guess I have realised that 'quick' doesn't mean throw away, it can mean confident and capable. This is what I want my work to exude, not laboured and safe like I believe my work does at times. Lesson learned on a rainy Thursday! 

Friday, 15 June 2012


...these sketches feel fresh and are by no means correct in their perspective etc etc.. but I always enjoy a laziness in my application...almost not caring at all...just applying in response to what's infront of me without thought or consideration. It's something I can do more easily with every one I do. In complete contrast to the realistic work I do, and my commercial work which is so crafted and prescribed. This is freedom to me...it's my naive I guess, not meaning to be, but just out of being relaxed with your tools. I guess that comes from being comfortable and relaxed with the tools enough for them to do the talking. Cy Twombly used to use his left hand, or draw under the bed covers in the dark, in order to disengage his skills. I just try not to think about the outcome when I'm working in my sketchbook...pretend it's a throw away piece, a means to an end. Invariably this works too!

Thursday, 14 June 2012


...and then came the pies! Again commercial folio bits


Teatime favourites...


...and then there were cupcakes! My inspiration came from my friends new business
Purely Scrumptious! back to painting! Just building up a library of images so I can get some work!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


 More monkies...these are really quick, so I can begin to work out the kind of images that work best. I can then maybe put them into a context? in order to make them work, rather than being random images on my blog, as they are now? who knows....this is just my sketchbook in progress....so just because I'm posting them doesn't mean I like them or think they are worthy of an audience. It just means that I can see them from a different point of view, from an audiences point of view?

...Just playing but has given me an idea that I can use on all sorts of animals and moves on nicely from my personal work, and could be the material/work for my show in St Ives??


  I can copy reference pretty well, I can make images look photographic, (if I can be bothered) like these... but these images mean nothing to me except they show that I can copy well, and then that always depends on the quality of the photo. If the photo is bad, my image will be too. I also have to be feeling very patient, as I rarely am.

So my quest is to add soul to my work and to cut out that part of the brain that desperately wants to recreate life as seen in the photo. I have worked really hard over the past two to three years to disengage that part of my brain. It would seem that my natural talent is to copy well, to recreate what I see in front of me. So by working from memory I am taking my ability back to square one, back to the child artist in me. This excites me as the work I then create comes from inside, from that child who is inspired by the world, not wanting to own it but instead wants to share it. This to me sounds like a much more fun and honest way of working.

Every time I sit down and start a painting I have an idea of what I want to achieve, and every time the results depend on my approach. If I want to own the process and be in control, creating a masterpiece (because that's how it looks in my head!) I fail right royally! but if I approach it from an inquisitive and more honest, and humble? way, with no expectations, it tends to work more often. By doing a series of images this helps me take my brain out of the equation too, so it becomes more intuitive and takes the deliberate marks out, because you are already thinking of the next mark, so your current mark holds less importance. The work I did yesterday was ok, bits I really liked, but some I didn't so I decided to work from memory on the same images to see if they were any different... take a look and see what you think? for this to work I have to have seen what I wanted to paint ie the reference, but wasn't allowed to refer to it at all after the first look.

The reason why I'm doing this is because for my children's books in the future, I want to have a realism about them, but not so much they lose their magic and explain too much. I want room for imagination to take it's place in the experience. I believe more of these exercises may help me and may even become part of my process. It kind of is now really. When I'm drawing characters from books I have to use lots of reference until I feel the drawings are mine and the characters have personality. This is when I can freestyle and make them up, adding my own personality (or that of the publisher).

It is subtle but I see the difference and understand a little more how I can make it work. It's about going from a world of realism into a make believe world of magic....and how exciting is that!

subtle difference but I see it... ref v memory

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


Finally I've done it and put a shop up on Etsy. I have no idea if it will work or if anyone will want to buy anything? but I gotta try. Go have a look and see if its any good? I will be adding more bits as time goes on.

In other news I had a consultation with Fig Taylor at the AOI yesterday, and it was interesting. She didn't say anything mind-blowingly inspirational, and not surprisingly with the work I sent her, buuut she did pick up on things I had rumblings of thoughts about and it has made me focus further on the things I am good at, and the things I'm not so good at!....animals is my bag!....in children's books and just art in general. Somehow I can capture the poses, well I say that, not always. Sometimes it takes a couple of goes, but I have always loved painting and drawing them! These are all done really really quickly so some aren't quite right and could be better but the more I do the better they get I hope?....So here goes for a new look, and next to change my website, so watch this space....more to come and maybe a visit to the zoo with my paints.