Thursday, 25 September 2014

Autumnal characters and Old Artwork

Autumn marks the end of summer and out with the old fading flowers and greenery and in with the rich coloured, falling leaves and berries. It also marks a transition for me as an artist as I will be entering the real, face to face art world rather than sitting in my little tower painting away.  I am sat facing some beautiful white berries hanging over from my neighbour's garden.  I wonder what they are?

I have been looking through all my old work and having a big sort out.... An autumnal clean.

It's very strange to look at old work as it triggers a variety of emotions... mainly OMG!!!! Did I really paint like that? I have obviously developed my style as I used to be a lot more looser with big paint strokes and I had the goggly one eye bigger than the other stage. 

Old painted artwork alongside new sketches
Looking through I found lots of old character ideas that I never fully developed and my mind has been filled with more ideas.  I definitely need a big board in my studio to organise this mind of mine as it never stops these days!   I would love one of them magnetic glass ones which you can write on too :-) I have found some great board organisers on Pinterest so I might actually make one!
I found these little gems I had painted (above) and decided to do some new and improved characters based on my old idea.

Ready to be painted!!! Check out the chewed pencil and eraser courtesy of Alice the chihuahua!
So as I am sat here on a bleak, drizzly day with a brewing cold I decided to brighten up my day and upcycle some old characters and there is a picture book magically forming in my head with cute characters set in an autumnal scene of rich colours.  The little characters are based on the natural forms of plants and already have names.

I'm looking forward to painting the little cuties this afternoon!

Happy Autumn to you all

Friday, 22 August 2014


A big congratulations to all of you who have passed your exams.
All your hard work has paid off!
Heres to a bright future ahead of you!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Make it in Design School - Tribal Pattern

I have been an avid fan of all things to do with surface pattern for along time and been following many artists and illustrators on blogs such as Print and Pattern and Rachel Taylor's The Art and Business of Surface Pattern.  For a while now I have fancied participating in a course but have been too busy with other commission to do so.

I have had a go at making patterns in Photoshop with the help of tutorials and YouTube so I decided to bite the bullet and signed up for the Make It In Design - Summer School.  It's been such a lovely feeling being part of this creative community and I love how everyone's designs I have seen are so different from each others.  

I missed the first tropical brief but I have just submitted my entry for the beginners second brief: Tribal.
I decided to base it around the tribal warriors and african symbols and keep it child-like rather than being more abstract and geometric.  I have used a few of my animal characters before to create a simplistic pattern so as I only started the design yesterday I decided to do something similar.  I created a couple of warrior children and used flowers and their love of white dotted face makeup as my inspiration.  I then incorporated the symbols meaning: abundance and greatness as the flower-like and radial symbols worked well with the dotty face paint.

African Symbols

I felt a bit nervous submitting my final design as I know it's not a seamless pattern and a bit random but in the end I just thought it's something slightly different to what I usually do and I feel quite proud I managed to get it done really quickly. I am going to develop the design further and make some cushion and bedding mock ups.

Work in Progress
My final submission - Little Warrior

I am so glad I have participated in this brief and look forward to the third one.  I will definitely participate in more online courses and community-based projects now I have dipped my toe into the water.  I fancy trying out Mail Me Art, The Draw and Cook and 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Inspiration - Design Seeds

As I was looking for some new blogs to add to my list I cam across a beautiful yet simple blog that I know will be a great inspiration for me.  The blog is called Design Seeds created by designer Jessica Colaluca.  She posts colour palettes and combinations based on photographs of every day life.   Jessica's gorgeous photographs are works of art and I will definitely be using her colour combinations as a starting point for my illustrations.  As an illustrator I tend to get comfortable using the same colour combos so it will be great to step away from my colourful security blanket.

I will let you know how I get on and post again with a finished piece relating to one of Design Seed's palettes.

Photo created by Jessica Colaluca
A big thank you to Jessica for creating such an inspirational blog

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Zen and Bodhi's Snowy Day - Available to Pre-order

Screenshot of the front cover

Thought I would share my exciting news that "Zen and Bodhi's Snowy Day" will be published on 18th November.  It will be my first book as Sarah Jane Hinder :-)  I feel very fortunate to have worked with the talented author Gina Bates Brown and Wisdom Publications.

Gina is also a yoga teacher and meditation coach and I knew we made a great pairing as I too have a passion for yoga and practice meditation although my mind still tends to wander... a lot! My mind is full of creative ideas and any moment of stillness and quiet encourages my thought  process.

Here is the description for Zen and Bodhi's Snowy day:

"Cuddle up with this playful, warm tale of discovery and winter wonder that will introduce mindfulness and delight your children.

Zen and Bodhi are two koala bears on a snowy day, out to learn about the world. Where does snow come from? Where does wind go?
Lively verses are full of mischievous fun as Zen and Bodhi explore their world; rhythm and rhyme introduce the concept of impermanence to the very young in this magical, cozy bedtime story. The two koalas sniff, taste, hear, feel, and see, exploring their senses and the world around them. Gorgeous illustrations capture the wide-eyed awe of children in snowfall in vibrant color."
Page Layout (without text)

I loved creating the little koala characters and always feel that snow and snowflakes look quite magical in illustrations.  I hope Zen and Bodhi are enjoyed by the children reading this book as much as I enjoyed creating them!

Crossing fingers there will be chance to work on another Zen and Bodhi story in the near future :-)

Friday, 6 June 2014

Seven Stories

I have been wanting to visit the Seven Stories - national centre for children's books in Newcastle for ages and I was lucky to be taken to see it on my last visit to see my cousins, Jane and James.

It was everything and more.  The exhibitions were like stepping into your favourite children's books and made me feel like a kid again. I even had a go a being Alice, Little Red Riding Hood and Mr Fox! It was so inspiring to see authors and illustrator's work up close and personal and I loved seeing all the sketchbooks and work in progress.

Oliver Jeffers
Oliver Jeffers

 It was great to see all the children reading the books and becoming interactive with the characters, dressing up and discovering new worlds of fancy.  One minute you are going through a rabbit hole and the next you are transformed into a borrower sitting on a giant cotton reel.

Shaun Tan - The Lost Thing

Dummy Book - Quentin Blake

Quentin Blake
Axel Scheffler

The Borrowers

Love mustard!!!

Quentin Blake

Lauren Child

So many dummy books!
As always I had to go into the attached bookstore and was so happy and excited to see the book I illustrated The Three little Pigs for Ladybird Books.  I have never seen it in any bookstore before so it made my day!

My book in the Seven Stories Bookstore

       Seven Stories is so inspirational for both adults and children and I would highly recommend it!!!


Thursday, 1 May 2014

My First Book Sighting!

Me in Seven Stories, Newcastle

I was over the moon to see my book, The Three Little Pigs in the Seven Stories book store.  One of my dreams was to see one of my books in a shop but until now my work is predominantly based overseas. I have had people sending me photos of their finds but up until now I have only been able to find the other books in the Ladybird series.

Check out some more of my book sightings around the world!  Send me a photo and I will add you too :-)

Isabel at Waterstone's book store in Darlington
Elizabeth and George from Dubai
Luis in Gateshead

Ellie from Manchester

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

From monochrome to colour

I was looking through my old sketchbooks from art college and uni and they were filled with a variety of colourful sketches using all different medias. There was an old fashion sketchbook where I had to explore texture and colour of a dragonfly and use these qualities in my final clothing designs.  I used coffee and inks, sparkly papers, wax crayons, foil and netting with a dusting of glitter! 

Although my drawing and illustrations have improved dramatically from then my sketchbooks are filled with cute characters and ideas but are missing that touchy feely characteristic of my old sketchbooks that were filled so much they wouldn't close. I love my neat and monochrome sketches and when I look at them I can see them in colour in my mind's eye. This is ideal for first draft sketches to clients.

So I decided that I need to add some colour into my drawings and sketchbooks. Not all obviously as I love my pencil work.  Just every now and again I'd like to so some quick, colourful sketches as my full colour work in acrylics can be time consuming!

So I opened my parcel and it felt like Christmas with all my new promarkers. I've never used them so I'm going to have some fun getting to grips with blending them and making some quick colourful sketches. 

Hope they look good :-)

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Thought for Thursdays

My Little Animation

I would love to see my work in animation and hopefully one day one of my book ideas will be turned into one.  Fingers crossed :-)

I thought I would share this little video with you as I am currently working on an exciting new project where character movement is being addressed. A lot of research into how the body moves and lots of sketching will be happening.

So in the meantime you can watch my little video where it took me ages to get the ship and the sea to move and getting the music just in the right spot ha ha!  My hubby had to listen to hours of the same sea shanty track and didn't once complain ha ha! It features the characters on my picture book idea about three pirate sisters and baby Issy based on my newly found family!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Adoption - A Picture Book with Roots

From a very young age I was told I was adopted.  I didn't really understand it but I got my first Sindy doll at the same time.  I loved her.  She had auburn hair, with a blue shift dress and little red shoes.  She was beautiful and had the most amazing eyes.  From that day on I was in love with Sindy dolls and still to this day if I see an original doll it brings back a lot of fond memories of the hours I spent playing with them as a child. 

After initially being told I was adopted it wasn't mentioned much and eventually became a highly taboo subject.  This resulted in me not looking for my birth family until last year which resulted in a massive family fallout as I looked for them in secret for fear of losing my adoptive family.  Unfortunately I was ostracised for finding them and lots of lies were told about what was known.  I was afraid even in my twenties and thirties to look for them as I didn't want to upset anyone but after a fall out with the golden boy of the family I was being lied to and ignored I thought I needed to find them as I felt so alone.

It has now been seen that I have turned my back on my adoptive family and that I am ungrateful for what they did for me.  This is so far removed from the truth and there has been so much venom spread around with pleasure at my expense. They couldn't even tell me my auntie had died and used the funeral as a character assassination project to turn the whole lot against me.  One family member even told me to get on with my life and I've always been spoilt and am a liar.  Absolutely shocking considering she doesn't even know me!  Only a couple of my amazing adoptive family rang me up or messaged me to ask me what was happening as they were intelligent enough to know that there is more to one side of a story.

No one understands the pain of being rejected at birth throughout the years especially teenage years unless they have been adopted themselves and even then we are all individuals and deal with all major lifetime events very differently and there shouldn't be any judgement put on anyone wanting to find out about their roots!

To be told at 15 years old... "No wonder they kept the other!!!!" during an argument haunted me until I found out I had a sister last year... in fact I have four sisters :-)  And the fact it was denied that they knew "Nothing!" and telling others this when I actually know they knew a lot more than they care to admit to even people closest to them is quite disturbing to say the least.  

Why air my feelings about this on a public blog you may ask?  Why? Because I want other parents of adoptive children to understand what their child may be feeling.  My sister-in-law has adopted a child and came to me for advice.  Just be open and honest.  Don't keep things from that child as they will be questioning where they are from.  Support them if they need to know their roots.  This doesn't mean they are ungrateful or turning their backs on you.  It means they just want answers.  You will always be their Mum and/or Dad.  You are the ones who have nurtured and supported them and this will never be forgotten.

My sister-in-law has been making a little family album for their child with photos of both adoptive and birth family and letters and just little paragraphs to just let their child know how loved they are.  How amazing.  I would have loved something like this.  It would have answered so many questions.  Their child will grow up feeling loved and eventually when they are all ready they will meet and become an extended family.  I'm very sure if things were different my birth family would have welcomed my adoptive family with open arms as they are so thankful I was given great opportunities in my life as they were unable to give me a secure home at the time.

No matter what throw away comments have been said about talking to me about adoption and being supportive about the prospect of looking for my birth family.  It is all untrue and I was certainly not trading them in for my birth family.  It has been a year since they spoke to me and thankfully I am  a much happier and stronger person in spite of this. Seeing such tragic events like the death of Peaches Geldof and the pain and heartache her father and family are experiencing it has really hit home that they are getting on with their lives with no intention of reconciliation and not even one face to face interaction.  I know if me and my son fell out I would go to the moon and back, walk on glass etc. to have him in my life again.  That said, the trust has gone and I am surrounding myself with positive people.

An adopted child is for life and not to be thrown away when they don't turn out as you'd have liked them to!
With this in mind I have decided to write and illustrate a picture book for all parents of adoptive children to give to their child when explaining what adoption means and hope to find a publisher who sees the importance of dealing with such an important issue.  Mental health is being more widely addressed and from experience and hearing other friend's stories about their experiences of being adopted, parental and familial attitudes and support are highly important in the mental wellbeing of the adopted individual.

And to all you haters out there I'm not particularly bothered if you find this self indulgent and full of lies. I am dealing with this my way and you only know what you have been told and you aren't even remotely knowledgeable on this subject! 

Thankfully I am a strong character with a great support system of family and friends and hopefully my bad experience has a silver lining and I can create a book that becomes indispensable to adoptive families.  A cute animal character is in it's development stages alongside my other picture books including "Pearl"

Crossing my fingers :-)

Childhood Memories - Fashion Plates

I absolutely adored this as a child and would love to still own it.  I'm sure it was thrown out when I left home.  I think I may have to try and buy one for nostalgic reasons.  I would spend hours creating catalogues of different outfits always doing a variety of colours for each outfit.  And the plates had textures on the back so I could create patterns on the outfit.  I remember designing a summer dress and using the flower template and creating a multi coloured ensemble.

I also collected paint sample cards and would use their colour names as description colours for each design.

My friend Debbie and I would spend hours making catalogues, booklets and characters.  She had the Fashion Wheel but I loved the way the fashion plates seemed to me at the time like a proper design system :-)

Does anyone else remember this too? Or better still own one?

Thursday, 3 April 2014

A Thought for Thursdays - More Great Creative Advice

Some great advice especially the one where you should take a break.  I have had so many ideas outside the studio.  I could be shopping or in the bath or even out with friends.  Someone or something triggers off that tiny seed of an idea.  This is why a lot of artists and designers carry around a sketchbook or notebook.  I have ordered the cutest Pink Pig sketchbook.  It's tiny but a great size to go in my bag :-)
I also find that my IPhone is invaluable.  I take photos or type in notes plus there are loads of great apps to make lists, take notes and doodle.

And the most important bit of advice ever...

If you believe you can do it... You will :-) 

Monday, 31 March 2014

Treasured family memories and drawings!

I was given some rather large boxes to sort through this weekend and I was pleasantly surprised that there were loads of old photos of my son, Dan and my family when I was a child.  I thought they were lost forever so it made my weekend!  It was very cathartic to sift through and throw out old, damaged and unwanted things and then throughout the junk find some treasures!

I found a lot of my old drawings and stories from when I was a kid and from college too.  The photo above is a few examples of my obsession for making comic books and stories. I used to copy pictures constantly and I do believe this practice was by far the best way to teach yourself illustration.  As a kid I remember the TV programme Rainbow with Zippy, George and Bungle and I would love the part where a picture was animated in stages first in line then colour added.  I was always clocking how things were drawn.  My Richard Scarry Mother Goose book and 1979 Disney album were like my creative bibles and I would copy them all the time.  

There are loads of my stories on scraps of paper and in my school exercise books.  I will be sitting down and reading through them.  Maybe my childhood imaginings could be used as a starting point to a picture book idea :-)

I am over the moon I have found some of my photos especially the ones with my cousin Jane.  We have had a right laugh at how I was dressed.  Victorian and old fashioned with a boy's bowl cut hairstyle at best! No wonder I love long hair and girlie dresses with my DM's and tattoos. My rebellious side never left me! I have just added to my collection with some tibetan script on my arm.

I am now in the process of putting together photo albums and looking forward to making lots of new albums with my ever growing family.  I feel so blessed to receive picture messages like the one above of my beautiful sister and my gorgeous nieces! Stacey is stunning and my cutey Issy is a cheeky monkey already full of personality.  There has to be a book about her!  She's a star! 

 I love being an auntie <3

Can't wait to visit with my big camera and take some lovely photos.  Think I will have to teach Karen a few tips as she keeps sending me blurred and fuzzy photos ha ha! Sorry Karen :-P xxx