Mid-Year Update 2018

So much for regular blog posts! I have no idea where the first half of the year went, but I certainly didn't spend it updating this blog! I don't want to send anyone to sleep with almost seven months worth of details so I'll just hit you up with a couple of highlights! Firstly, the site has had a bit of a work update, there are now new sketchbook collages to see, as well as a new section featuring an ongoing project where I illustrate heads. 

Secondly, one of the projects I've worked on this year is writing and illustrating my own story, "Miriam Makes A Difference".

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This was actually a birthday gift for Lewis, my friend's son. It was inspired by a day out we had together at Longleat, where we saw a variety of Mantis. Miriam is a Praying Mantis and the story revolves around her saving herself and fellow buggy creatures from a horde of hungry bats (to keep it simple we politely ignore Miriam's eating habits). 

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I gave myself four weeks to complete the project, from coming up with the story, right through to tying all the painted pages together with ribbon...but it took me eight, (sorry Lewis!), even though I rushed a fair bit and kind of cheated. I say 'cheated' as I took full advantage of the qualities of a Praying Mantis when illustrating. Usually if I wanted to illustrate something sequential I would be thinking about flow, points of view, scale... but the thing about the Praying Mantis is that they spend lots of time being very, very still, so I kept her in exactly the same spot, at exactly the same size on many of the pages - even when she does move it is only one arm! So while I played on the static nature of my main character, I tried to make up for the lack of movement by changing small details, so sometimes Miriam might have an umbrella, or sunglasses, or a hat, and on each page, each little buggy friend has moved to a different spot and is doing something different. I think it is a project that could definitely be developed and improved upon, but the most important thing is that Lewis liked it and didn't mind that it was late! 

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Finally, I recently spent a week Gishing! (Gishing - not fishing). Gish is the Great International Scavenger Hunt that takes place for one week each year. It is hosted by actor Misha Collins (who some people might know from Supernatural) and has been running since 2011. I've only recently started watching Supernatural, so needless to say I've only just started snooping on the instagram accounts of actors, and I've only just discovered Gish. I was a bit apprehensive at first (so much so that instead of signing up, I first bought a t-shirt and then donated a Gisholarship, so someone else who couldn't afford it, could take part), seeing pictures of past items, such as "VIDEO. Find someone you love and butter them up; literally, cover them in butter and then give them a big hug." made me nervous. However, I had a week before registration closed to decide and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I liked the idea of doing good, raising money for charity (via registration fee and t-shirt sales), having fun and breaking away from my usual routine. So I registered and set about, via the Gish app, finding a team to play with. I ended up joining team Smelly Friends (A F.R.I.E.N.D.S reference - we don't actually stink), thanks to a lovely friendly invite from our Captain Natasha. There were 15 of us spread throughout the UK, Ireland, the U.S and Australia. It has been such great fun being able to chat with complete strangers, of varying ages, from around the world, all working towards the same goal! The hunt involves a list of over 200 items that teams can attempt, some teams know each other physically so can take part in challenges that need several team members to complete, but we each chose items that could be done either alone or with the help of family members. Each item is worth points, the team with the most points wins ( it was a trip to New Zealand this year), although we were a 'just for fun' team, so aren't holding out any hopes of winning - some teams really appear to be, 'life-on-hold-in-it-to-win-it!' Naturally I veered away from the challenges that involved causing myself too much embarrassment (maybe next year) and opted for the creative challenges, so I thought I'd share some here. 

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Item 31: You are never too old to...
So this is the most 'outgoing' I get, plastering myself in make-up in a childlike manner, but only because it also gave me a good excuse to build a fort. Unexpectedly, this may have been my favourite item to complete - I was really fond of my simple little fort. 

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Item 155: Using only the contents of your spice cabinet, create a portrait of one (or all) of the Spice Girls
I knew I wanted this item as soon as I saw it, then once I had assigned myself to it I wondered what the hell I had let myself in for! I enjoyed this because, although it wasn't easy, using the spices turned out to be less challenging than I had thought - as long as you resist the urge to blow tiny particles out of the way and sneezing. My magic tools turned out to be a mini skewer with a paddle on one end, and a teaspoon, but you only ever put the tiniest amount of spice on the spoon at one time, no matter how impatient you are getting, if a tiny bit falls in the wrong place you can nudge it, or cover it with a different spice, if loads of spice falls in the wrong place you may as well grab the hoover and start again! I'm not the most patient person in the world so I was pretty impressed with the focus I had doing this, I also really liked how her hair turned out. 

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Item 118: You know Winnie the Pooh. But have you met his cousin Vinnie da Pooh? Show us a page from the book about Pooh Bear’s mob-boss cousin.
This was another item that I knew I wanted to complete. In hindsight, having seen submissions from other teams I realise I could have saved myself a lot of time by doing one large image and a single line of text... but when have I ever made things easy for myself? (The answer is never - if there is a longer and harder way of doing something I'll inadvertently do it). Naturally, I decided to not only create two illustrations but to also start writing a whole story - I guess it is just what I do! I really enjoyed trying to capture the style of the original, non-Disney, Winnie the Pooh. I suppose it isn't too far away from what I do with outlines and watercolour, but I really had to concentrate on the detail in the line work, and keeping the colour delicate and not too heavy.  

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Item 162: A painting of Castiel alive in the time of dinosaurs. (You may do this with traditional media or digitally).
I didn't have a full week of Gish as I was off on my holibobs, so decided to take this item on, on my last full day at home. It went okay. I was annoyed that I couldn't get a good likeness of Cas, but I didn't have time to sit and worry about it, or try and keep redrawing it if I wanted to get it completed by the end of the day - I just had to get it done. For anyone familiar with Supernatural, Cas is telling the dinosaurs what he learned from the pizza man... and they seem to be pretty interested! It was the first time I had approached drawing characters by firelight, again I'm not sure why I decided to make it harder for myself, but by the time I came to paint it and actually started considering colour use, the sketch was all done and ready to go, so I just rolled with it. I'm quite pleased, I think I've managed to get a fairly good contrast between the light and the shadow, and although there is room for improvement, it isn't bad considering I knocked an A3 illustration - concept to finish - out in a day.

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Item 201: It's recently been discovered that there's a lake on Mars. Show us a summer alien "Beach Day" at the lake, complete with picnicking, fishing, and swimming aliens. (You may create this as a photo, a drawing, or a digital painting).
So in my infinite wisdom I decided that I could maybe squeeze in one more final item the night before my holiday... although the fact that I chose to do it digitally suggests that I wasn't that confident in completing it before leaving and would maybe have to take it with me. It was nowhere near completed by the end of the night so I ended up continuing with it in the car while driving up to the Peak District (obviously I wasn't the one doing driving, I mean I can multitask okay but I can't actually drive, so I certainly wasn't multitasking on this occasion). I then finished it off that evening while sitting with my family and drinking wine. Again, it was a bit of a rush, I did have another day to do it before the Gish deadline, but I wanted to spend that time with my family, so I only gave myself that night to complete it. Originally I wanted to create my own aliens, but knowing that I was on quite a tight deadline I decided that not having to think up entirely new characters would probably be easier (maybe I did learn something from the previous items about not doing the hardest-most-time-consuming-thing after all). 

So that's pretty much everything for now. Hopefully I'll be quicker at posting next time, and with a bit of luck it will also be a bit shorter! 

January 2018 To-Do List

My New Year mostly begins with finishing things off from 2017. The only brand new thing to start at the minute is my website, so although that will be constantly evolving, if you are reading this, then I've clearly made some progress. The first thing I need to finish off is the series of christmas elf collages that I began in December - I always intended it to to be a series of five. As always when you are doing something just-for-fun on the run up to christmas, I ran out of time. I have the idea in my head, I just need to execute it - I'll be using slightly different proportions to the previous four pieces so I'm hoping it will still work with the others as a series (if not I might create a sixth). 

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The second project I need to start/finish is a book cover for a crime fiction novel that I'm creating for my friend and a rising new author, Karen Pomerantz. It is a bit of a throwback to my work as a graphic designer and much removed from the children's illustration that I'm predominantly working on, but it gives me the opportunity to practise some of my rusty photoshop skills. Although we have started discussing ideas and making sketches, we haven't quite landed on anything concrete. I feel pretty confident everything will click into place soon. I've worked with Karen previously on covers for a couple of short stories (see below), so I know roughly where we are headed, but pinning down a final image for this one is taking slightly longer just because there is more content to consider. 

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If you would like to read either of these short stories (for adults) by Karen, you can find links below, the first is a thriller, the second is a horror that was released for Halloween 2017.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Trapping-Honey-Karen-Pomerantz-ebook/dp/B00OETCFE2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1515435594&sr=8-2&keywords=karen+pomerantz

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cost-Living-Karen-Pomerantz-ebook/dp/B0762XBR6V/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515435594&sr=8-1&keywords=karen+pomerantz

I also have several other ongoing projects, but I think I'll save those for another time when I have more visuals to share.