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

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Step by Step - How I painted Zen and Bodhi's Snowy Day

I have just finished painting Zen and Bodhi's Snowy Day and I can't wait to see the book.  It will probably released later on in the year to go with the winter season theme.  I am often asked how I create my work as most people expect it is all done digitally.  I am pretty old school in the illustrator's world as the majority of my artwork is drawn and painted traditionally with acrylic paints and then scanned and edited, adding text if needed.  I do, when asked, create vector art characters like I have done for Salford City Council and will be doing some more designs for them in the near future.

I am venturing further into the digital world of story telling with a new client who I am working with to create an interactive children's book with animation.  Sooooo excited!  The main characters are designed and I'm just waiting to find out what is next.  

I definitely have the best of both worlds :-)

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Salford City Council Illustrations - Getting Kids Healthy Eating and Keeping Fit

My husband and my step-son came across my work on a phone box today!!!  Was great to know my images are still being used for the Health Improvement services.  My characters have been used to promote healthy eating and exercise for kids around Salford.

Unfortunately I have lost most of my digital artwork.  A lesson learnt to back up my files. But I managed to find the original character illustration and one superhero character drawing.

The Original Boy Illustration

Some of the leaflet fronts for the health packs given to families

I was then asked to use the same boy and girl characters and turn them into superheroes.  They wanted them to be developed into life size mascots that could go and visit schools and events to promote health improvement within the family. 

I was asked to attend an event so I could meet my characters.  It was very strange but exciting to see them.  They went down really well with both kids and adults. 

Me and my chihuahua Paul

Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Law of Attraction

Positivity is something I strive for no matter what challenges are thrown at me and I feel very blessed to be surrounded by like-minded people both in work and play!

I have just completed the illustrations for my latest picture book "Zen and Bodhi's Snowy Day and have some new and exciting work I can't wait to share.  

I have also finished the sketches for another picture book "Goodnight Yoga" written by Mariam Gates.  It has a slightly different feel to it as it features little personalised characters based on the children of people who have invested to help raise funds for The Goodnight Yoga Kickstarter project. It also educational and includes an illustrated yoga flow for kids illustrated by myself :-) I'm sure the double page spread will also become a print/poster. 

I am adding a few more strings to my bow and hopefully animation and plushie toys are on the cards :-) I am visualising and working towards my career goals. I wake up in the morning and can't wait to start sketching or painting.  I love to see my little characters come to life with each stroke of paint.  I wish that with the last drop of paint they really did come to life just like The Magic Paintbrush although I don't think my little chihuahua Paul would like to share me with a menagerie of cute characters!


Happy times :-)

Spending a penny with Hundertwasser!

On our return from our road trip to the most northern point in New Zealand, Cape Reinga, we came across toilets designed by the infamous artist and architect, Hundertwasser. They are the best toilets ever and admittedly had to go and use them to take a few snapshots ha ha!
As an ex-teacher I used to base some projects on the artist and have always wanted to see his work! What a find! Thanks to my mother-in-law Alma... Xxx

I love New Zealand ❤️

The views are beautiful and inspirational.  I have so many great ideas milling around my head.  I brought my sketchbook along but been so busy I have been visually recording everything with my old faithful iPhone and camera.

I have some ideas for a few kiwi inspired characters. Watch this space. I can see a curious kiwi and a wise old cicada. I can see the picture book in my mind already :-)

Great creative advice :-)

I love Pinterest and I was sent this pin by my hubby.  It is so true and definitely worth taking on board.

Last year I was filled with self doubt.  I had had a lot of personal and health problems and took my eye off the creative ball.  I lost my mojo and it was like the world knew it too!  Work was drying up and I didn't know why.  I was improving dramatically yet something I was doing wasn't working.  I definitely feel it was because I wasn't promoting myself the best way I could.  It was a difficult time filled with tears about negative people in my life and then one day I woke up and I found my inner strength.  I am good enough and I wasn't going to let the people who threatened to destroy my life succeed.  I picked myself up and decided to be POSITIVE.  I worked even when I didn't feel like it., when things all around me felt black.   I engrossed myself in my illustration bubble and shut out my problems creating cute animals and kids. I started researching social media promotion and began to put some ideas in place.  Whenever I felt insecure and not good enough I would take a break and do some yoga, went to therapy, read some self help books and found a positive in my work lull.  I developed my website, added myself to social networks and painted and sketched and painted some more.  Things still weren't perfect but magically interest was sparked again. I began to wake up looking forward to doing a specific painting.  I wasn't dragging myself up anymore.  I stopped comparing myself to other successful artists and looked at what I had already achieved and the excitement of what I could achieve. Reading others' blogs I became aware that many artists are filled with self doubt and compare themselves to others.  I am not alone :-) It is great to know with hard work, perseverance and support from my husband, family, friends and fellow creatives that things always turn out just right! :-) I will never complain ever about too much work and deadlines.  I love working :-)

Editing "Zen and Bodhi's Snowy Day

I have had so much fun painting the cute little koalas, Zen and Bodhi.  We have so many ideas for the pair who are at one with nature, including plush toys. Very exciting!!!
Today I have been scanning and editing all the elements of the pages and putting the spreads together.  I work in acrylic paints on watercolour paper and love the traditional way I work as I feel it is becoming a rare skill with the ever developing digital art packages.
As I work internationally I need to scan in my work and then send the sketches and final artwork either by email or a file sharing service therefore my traditional inevitably becomes digital.  I decided to start painting individual elements of the page separately as it became evident things needed resizing or moved etc so I now use Photoshop to piece together characters, objects and backgrounds and maintaining the whole traditional feel to the illustration. 

My New Shop :-)

I have just opened a new shop on Zazzle.  My cute little characters look great on the bags I've designed and I will be adding to the store daily. There are so many products I can put my images on. They are customisable so names can be added.  So great for kids for book bags or PE kits.  Also a lovely gift for family members too!

No doubt I will be ordering several for myself :-)

Yogi Beads

I decided that I wanted to do some more crafty things in my spare time just for pleasure so when I saw some yoga beaded bracelets I thought I can make some myself for half the price. So I ordered some beads and spent a few hours making some cute yoga inspired beads with Buddha, Hamsa hands and Ohm signs. Love them and going to order some more and make a big collection.

Who needs Thomas Sabo when you have Smogawoo :-)

Old sketchbook work - Zodiac Signs


I decided to have a look through my old sketchbooks at some of the characters I have created and realised I have so many cute ones that I need to paint.  I love my characters of children playing dress up and used it for inspiration for zodiac signs when I was on holiday in Tunisia. It wasn't the best holiday so ended up sketching the whole lot one day on the beach.  Every cloud has a silver lining!  These definitely need to come to life with paint very soon as I think they would make great characters for greetings cards.

It's been about 6 weeks since I stopped eating meat or eggs! ***Updated***

As an animal lover I have always felt a little hypocritical eating meat but like many other people I buried my head in the sand and pretended that it came in it's packaging.  I have always refused to eat off the bone as i didn't want any reminder about how it got to my plate.
After many health problems I cut out red meat as it began to cause me pain once ingested. It was then I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and had to become more aware of what I was eating.  After many flare ups I have learnt to avoid certain foods and what foods help to relieve my condition. This has often led to being labelled 'fussy' or the unkind jibes of 'You've always got tummy problems!' But I have stuck to my guns and ignored insensitivity as no one but a sufferer of colitis understands the debilitating pain during a flare up.  It's the sort of pain having ulcers in your mouth and then trying to eat mixed with the cramps, bloating and sickness that goes alongside.
During a recent flare up I began to research more about diet and lifestyle and how it impacts on the digestive system and it was suggested to cleanse and cut out processed foods and meat. I decided not to do an extreme diet as I love my food and get grumpy when I restrict myself of food.
When I am working I often listen to documentaries on my IPad and as I was researching diet i put on this documentary about a group of people going vegan fora month. It was really interesting until they showed footage of what they do to the animals.  I put my paintbrush down and started to watch with tears in my eyes.  After a few minutes I literally ran into the other room and started crying on my husband.  I couldn't shake off the images and they haunted me that night and as soon as I woke up in the morning.  It was then when I decided not to eat chicken, pork or eggs anymore. It was how the eggs are produced that got to me more than anything.
So I'm now a week in to being a veggie who doesn't eat eggs!  Early days but I am having fun trying to find new recipes plus the added bonus that my colon will be happier too!

***Updated*** It has now been about 6 weeks ad I'm still learning but enjoying my home cooked lacto-veggie meals.  Eating out is another issue altogether as I often feel like a burden to the other members of the group who are meat eaters. "There you go veggie quiche!" and my response is "Yeah but it has egg in it!!!" Nightmare! Me and my hubby found a great restaurant that caters for the both of us.  It's called Giraffe and their food is so fresh and yummy.  They also cater for gluten free diets... bonus!

I think an illustrated meat and egg free recipe book is on the cards.  Any yummy recipes would be greatly received. :-)

Work in Progress!

It's been such a busy couple of months working on a lovely book called Zen and Bodhi's Snowy Day written by talented Gina Bates Brown.

I have enjoyed painting little Koala bears in the snow meeting a variety of cute animals.  I can't wait to put it all together and send it to the publishing house Wisdom Books.  My experience with both Gina and Laura has been fantastic as they are both so passionate about their craft.  I'm excited to show them the final pieces.  Gina has seen some of my work in progress and is really happy with the little characters. Happy Days! :-)

An Urban Fairytale - Our Sparkly Christmas Wedding

We had an amazing and magical Christmas in 2013!  Me and Mr Hinder tied the knot in the wintery cityscape of Manchester, UK, literally stopping traffic on Deansgate, street musicians playing "Here Come's the Bride" and joining in the hustle and bustle of the infamous Christmas markets in my ruby red shoes surrounded by fairy lights.  A fairytale wedding for a girl who draws fairytales!

There's no place like home!

Peggies© - Peg doll family portraits

I fancied being creative in the crafty sense and decided I wanted to paint my own matryoshka doll which is a Russian nesting doll.  I decided to search the web for a wooden blank doll and came across these cute little blank peg people.  As a child I remember going to Scotland and being able to buy cute little clothes peg dolls with woollen hair with Scottish kilts and I remember getting a DIY dolly and making her myself.  The only problem I found was I wasn't able to give her much of a face as the round end was quite small.  These peg people had much larger heads and I really wanted to have a go.  There were so many wooden blank products I decided to buy some discs, small egg shapes and of course a selection of peg people.

I was so excited to receive my creative package and decided to create a little family portrait of myself, my boyfriend, Mike and my chihuahua, Paul.  Family and friends loved them and I have had a few asking for a portrait of them :-)  I decided it would be a great little product to go alongside my traditional family portraits so "Peggies" were created.

What I love about them is that I can still create little characters that are not miles away from my painting style.  I decided to predominantly paint the pegs to give that portrait feeling.  I am currently working on a variety of "Peggies" to put in my new Smogawoo Etsy store.  I can't wait to get it up and running.  I have so many ideas for them including Christmas decorations.  I am having so much fun designing and creating them.  Just to top it off I have had my first commission and I'm in the process of creating a family of seven, with lots of cats!
I still haven't got my matryoshka doll but I'm looking forward to painting one and you never know they might also feature on my new store too :-)

"Creativity is contagious. Pass it on" Albert Einstein

I love to see what other illustrators get up to in their working days so I am always reading a variety of illustration blog. It is really inspiring and motivational and a way of seeing new trends appearing.  It can also help you see where there are gaps in your portfolio and spur on your creative juices with a new theme.  As an freelance illustrator it can be so easy to get set in your ways and your work can become stagnant and even (gasp!) boring. There have been times when you do feel that you are churning out the same sketches so it is vital to remain fresh and excited to create the next illustration by pushing the boundaries and trying to improve.  Inspiration not only appears in the form of blogs and social platforms like Pinterest,  Instagram,  Facebook Pages and Twitter but also the world around you.  I am constantly looking through books, magazines, products in shops, art galleries and just observing people, architecture and nature.
I am really inspired by colour and pattern at the moment and have been sketching flowers and painting other elements that I can include in my work.  Cute detail is my new motivation!
It is also vital not to compare yourself to others as it can fill you with self doubt. Every day you need to be proud of your own skills and successes and be inspired and motivated by fellow creatives' achievements.  :-)

"Comparison is the thief of joy" - Theodore Roosevelt


Over the last couple of years I have become a fan of all things yoga.  I make sure I practice daily even if it's standing in the kitchen whilst cooking doing the dancer pose much to the worry of my boyfriend who panics about balancing and lots of hot pans in the same vicinity! 
I find it very therapeutic for my mind, body and soul and it is a great pick me up during the day if I find myself scrunched up over my artwork or macbook! A few sun salutations are a great stress buster in all stressful situations as you are too busy concentrating on the present and your breathing and nine times out of ten when your thighs or arms are burning you haven't time to feel anxious :-)
My great passions are illustrating and now yoga or should I say "Doga!" as my little pooch Paul has to join in!  We must look a site when I'm in the middle of a chaturanga with Paul stood on my back!

I have now been blessed with a couple of commissions linked to yoga (I will blog about these very soon!) and also written my own picture book story called "Hello Sun!" I think I may be a little obsessed!  I just have to complete the sketches and a few illustrations and then I will make a mock -up book.  Then the hard work will begin looking for a publisher who would be willing to take it on :-)