Shanghai Lil and the Scarlet Fez

I've just finished the packaging for my friend Mark's new lip balms and I'm quite happy with how they turned out (and I have one to give away - see below)! I love all the beautiful flavours, they're just so unique and irresistible, which gave me lots of inspiration for colour choices for the labelling. Mark's soap, perfume and skincare business, Shanghai Lil and the Scarlet Fez, specialises in all-natural, vegan formulations, so the lip balms are made without beeswax, palm oil, petroleum based products, or synthetic flavours. What you'll find instead, is lots of nourishing natural plant-based ingredients like cocoa butter, macadamia wax and raspberry seed oil (a natural sunscreen).

It's hard for me to pick a favourite, but I'm using Raspberry Royale at the moment, which is a delicious blend of black raspberry and violet; such an unusual and evocative combination - I love it! Mark has an online shop (the lip balms will be making an appearance there soon), and if you happen to be in South Australia, you can visit him at various markets through out the year, the next one is the Pure Veg Food and Wine Fair (a vegan event) coming up on Saturday September 12th, where I'm sure these beautiful lip balms will sell like hot cakes! By the way, there's always a small range of Magic Jelly goods available at Shanghai Lil market stalls.

I design all of Shanghai Lil and the Scarlet Fez's branding and packaging in collaboration with Mark, who has a strong vision for his lovely brand, and I'm just redesigning and freshening up some of the earlier stuff I did for him, including the soap labelling which you can see here too. It's been such a pleasure working with my oldest friend to help him with his business.

IT'S GIVEAWAY TIME!

I have one of Shanghai Lil and the Scarlet Fez's beautiful lip balms to give away so if you'd like me to throw your name into the hat to win it, just leave a comment (make sure to input your email address so I can contact you if you win). This giveaway is open to overseas peeps as well as Australians and I will randomly draw a name in a week's time.

A New Drawing

Here's a new drawing I've just finished and framed, and it will be for sale in my online shop when I open (hopefully!) next week. I've been drawing with technical pencils lately. I just love the super-fine, delicate lines. They're not easy to shade and blend with the eraser, so I use a regular 1H pencil too.

I've made a few collaged picture frames for some new drawings. I've been experimenting with different finishes for a long time because I like paper to retain as much of its patina as possible when I seal it; I'm not a fan of glossy sealants like Mod Podge. These frames have a really lovely, tactile finish that is smooth and waxy. I really love making them! The paper I used to collage the collar is one of the patterns I've designed, and it's also on the back of the frame, so it's all matchy-matchy! I think her name is Milly, she looks like a Milly doesn't she?

Pennants!

Here are some pics of my new pennant range, which will be in my shop when I open it very soon. I'm just taking the last of my product photos, which is tricky in this gloomy wintery weather, I need more sun. As for the pennants, they're made of lovely custom printed organic cotton, with a wooden rod and twisted cotton cord, and I sew them all up myself. Each pennant is double-sided, so you can flip it over whenever the mood takes you; I've matched each design with a complementary repeat pattern. What I love about them, is that unlike your regular digital print on paper, they're ready to hang without framing, they're nice and light, so can be hung almost anywhere (which is great if you happen to be renting and can't drill hooks in the walls), and it's just nice to have a tangible, tactile object rather than just a print, don't you think?  Which is your favourite? I think mine is the Death's-head Moth, I really like how the masked lady pattern on the reverse turned out (I'm even thinking about making a blouse out of that fabric - would I wear it? I'm not sure...).

The pennants are $55.00AU each, so put aside your pocket money for when the shop opens! ;)

PS. I made a looong image showing all of them together on Pinterest.

Playing Shop

I used to own a little plastic cash register that had real dockets, and I loved playing shop. Dolly and Teddy were total shopaholics, I can tell you! Well, for the next month (until Friday the 5th of June) I do have a little shop that I'm sharing with my friend Mark, and this is our window! We're not finished setting up yet, so the shop's looking a little bare, but as soon as it's done I'll share some more pics! This is part of a new complex at the back of the Norwood Town Hall, called Brick+Mortar Creative Hub that houses a cafe and little pop-up shops downstairs, and larger capsule stores upstairs (where we are), plus a space to hold workshops, and wall space for exhibiting artwork. If you happen to be in South Australia, please drop by!

My friend Mark makes beautiful natural soaps, perfumes, etc as Shanghai Lil and the Scarlet Fez (don't you just love that name?) and all his products also happen to be entirely vegan! I've designed all of his branding and packaging, in close collaboration with Mark himself, who has a very strong creative vision and aesthetic drawing inspiration from influences ranging from the familiar and nostalgic, through to the richly exotic and romantic. Like me, Mark loves the early to mid-20th century, so if you're also a lover of the culture of that time, you'll appreciate the diverse influences drawn together into his range of deeply romantic and evocative products, and of course, it's the extracts and oils from fruits, woods and flowers that are the stars of the show!

I know I'm biased here, since we've been friends for over thirty years, but knowing him so well, I can tell you that Mark has approached his business with so much thought and integrity, and has committed to only using natural ingredients in his formulations, that are not only free from artificial fragrances, etc, but also free from palm oil and other unsustainable ingredients, such as oils from threatened plant species. You can follow Shanghai Lil and the Scarlet Fez on Facebook, where very shortly Mark will be announcing the launch of his brand new website (designed by Yours Truly), and (so exciting!) a range of natural lip balms! It is so difficult to get hold of really nice natural lip balm that is also vegan (ie. free from lanolin and beeswax), so I am totally thrilled by his new lip balms and have been a willing and happy guinea pig as he's developed the range. I hope he doesn't mind if I reveal these ahead of time, but a couple of examples of the delicious and unusual lip balm varieties are Caramelised Fig, and Rose Creme (which is rose and white chocolate). YUM!

I thought I'd show you one of the shop displays for the beautiful Shanghai Lil face mists. I use this every day as a toner; it's so gentle and refreshing. The varieties are Rose and Cucumber, and the other is Rose and Watermelon; they smell gorgeous and are perfect for sensitive skin (like mine).

As for me... I have branched out into textiles and am starting with a series of pennant-style wall hangings which will be in the B+M shop some time next week, and in my online shop when I open in June. Next to come are cushions! I thought I'd also show you the finished drawing I posted a progress shot of a little while ago. It's framed in a collaged frame that I still need to take a decent pic of (duh!). Her name is Peggy, and I think I must have been sub-consciously influenced by Mad Men lately, because I named one of my other recent portraits Sally! I've added Peggy to my gallery and will be posting some more new pieces as I complete them.

Hutchings and the Provensens

My introduction to Alice and Martin Provensen was via my sister Jo's Milton Bradley Memory Game (which she still owns!), that I loved so much as a kid. We played it so often I knew every image like the back of my hand, including the lovely little illustrations by the Provensens.

I posted a while ago some scans from a favourite book of mine I've had since I was little, Nurseryland Annual 1970 (doesn't that age me?!), that's illustrated by an artist called Hutchings, who was clearly influenced by the Provensens when you start to compare their textures, fine, sketchy linework, and even the forms of some of their stylised people, animals and architecture. Just who the mysterious Hutchings is has been a topic of conversation on a couple of other blogs here and here, but there's not a lot of information out there. I thought a side by side comparison between the Provensens and Hutchings might be interesting.

Illustration by Hutchings from Nurseryland Annual 1970.

Illustration by Hutchings from Nurseryland Annual 1970.

I don't like to suggest that Hutchings was nothing more than a copycat, because he is clearly a very talented, inventive artist, but there is definitely a relationship between his style and the Provensens'.

Yet you might also say there are resemblances between the Provensens and Mary Blair, and so on it goes; no one lives in a cultural vacuum, and there's nothing wrong with being influenced by your contemporaries as long as your work is still your own. Perhaps though, this might explain why Hutchings is not better known as an illustrator, because his work is derivative of an earlier style compared to Mary Blair and the Provensens, whose trail-blazing work influenced illustrators for many decades to come.

My own work very much references the past, it's deliberate, and I don't disguise it, but I hope there is enough of myself in it to make it unique and relevant. I think one of the keys is to draw influences from a variety of sources, rather than just a few (and not just other artists!), and to go back to the original sources rather than take your influences from someone else whose been influenced by a particular style. That's rather like a game of telephone where the message loses its meaning and integrity as it hops from one to another, and another.

I'm not here to dismiss Hutchings, since his beautiful, magical illustrations had such a huge impact on my childhood. In his defense, here is one of his most glorious pieces from Nurseryland Annual 1970, which beautifully references the textures and linework of the mid-20th century, whilst also using the bright, contemporary colour palette and style of the late-1960s that extended well into the 1970s. Groovy!

Illustration by Hutchings from Nurseryland Annual 1970.

Sorry Folks!

Whoops! Because I had to transfer my blog feed when I relaunched my site, Feedburner sent my email subscribers a big email update with a squillion posts in it, rather than just the latest one. So sorry - that was a one-off technical hiccup and it won't happen in future!

Have a lovely weekend! :)

A random image of my Sewing Basket pattern because I don't like blog posts without pictures!

Notice Anything?

I have a new site! It was a little sad parting ways with my old blog, I did love it, but it was time for a change. This is still a work in progress. The home page design is temporary, I'll be adding new work to the gallery soon, and my shop is closed for now, while I work on some new products, new packaging for existing products, and new product photos. When I put it like that, it sounds like a lot of work...I might just go and take a lie down...

Something else that's new is that I now have two blogs. I always felt a bit funny about posting too many food-related articles, since most of my subscribers are here for the art and design side of things, so I decided to create a blog entirely dedicated to my cooking experiments, and keep my main blog focused on arty pursuits. So if you're interested in vegan cooking, you might like to take a look at Vegan Jamboree (there's also a link in the sidebar). I rummaged through all my folders of photos the other day and uploaded a whole bunch of food pics, and I'll be posting new recipes as I come up with them. It's actually really time consuming to develop a recipe with accurate measurements, take the photos, etc. I can't even imagine how much work goes into a cookbook!

Here's a portrait that I'm working on. I"m still not sure about what I'll do with her dress; I kind of like the rough linework as it is. If a strong likeness isn't crucial, I like to exaggerate my subjects' features. I did wonder if I'd gone overboard with her chipmunky cheeks, but people assure me there's no such thing as too chipmunky! I just love faces with character. And I don't think I ever posted my finished stop-motion animation experiment, so here it is. It's, um, not very good... My favourite bit is when the bird accidentally knocks the Victorian lady in the back of the head as it flies by - ha!

Violet and Gracie

I've already posted these drawings on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, but why have I neglected my blog?! Reading this article provides yet another wake up call about which baskets to put your eggs in, and makes me feel renewed appreciation for my own little corner of the internet here on magicjelly.com.au, as well as eternal gratitude to the people who still read my blog and newsletter. I think one of the reasons I don't post on my blog as often as I should is because I always want everything to be perfect, which takes time, where as posting on Facebook or Instagram is just so quick and easy. But I think it's important that new content is posted here first, as well as posting content that isn't featured elsewhere. Happily, I finally sorted out my blog feed woes too, so now, whether you subscribe in a reader or by email, all of my graphics appear (in living technicolour!). Hooray!

Gracie.jpg

So anyway, here are two of my drawings you might not have seen before. The pink lady is called Gracie (once my new shop is open, she'll be for sale, along with other mixed media drawings in a similar vein, and assorted new drawings, collages and gocco prints). I just love drawing on tinted papers using white charcoal for highlights. The other is a drawing called Violet. I thought I'd show you a close up detail too. Some people like to shade using the edge of the pencil, and blend by rubbing, and achieve some lovely effects too, especially on textured papers. I prefer to draw on relatively smooth papers and just use the point of a sharpened pencil, which is basically a build up of tiny lines creating a blended effect. That way you get a fairly fine looking drawing. It means I tend to stay down the hard end of the pencil spectrum, favouring 2b-2h, with only touches of the softer, darker pencils like 6b. Drawing like this is very time-consuming, but it suits the way I like to work, which is quite finicky and fuss-budgety.

Violet.jpg

When doing portraits, I try to hit a spot somewhere between lifelike and stylised, so that I'm bringing something of myself to each drawing, and I try to imbue each subject with a unique character and to convey emotion. That's what I try to do anyway! It's amazing how tiny changes can totally change the expression and attitude on your subject's face. I also really love drawing hair, as you might be able to tell. :)

I've pretty much finished my new site, which includes a new shop and gallery, but have a few little technical issues to work out. I'm lucky to have my old friend Julian working on it for me (who built my blog for me), so it shouldn't be too long before everything's up and running. Next I'd like to spruce up my blog a little - perhaps a new header?

Art Paraphernalia

Where ever your interests lie; whether you like to cook, sew, build models, or take photos, or tumble rocks (or climb them!), don't you find that looking at all of your equipment and supplies just makes you so happy? I admit it, I am a total art supply hoarder. I love looking at other people's stuff, so I thought I'd show you some of mine!

So there you are; a little wrap up of some of my art stuff. I hope some of you fellow art supply hoarders found it interesting!

Postcards Sent!

So I had a little giveaway of some of my new postcards and got a fantastic response. Sometimes I wonder if there's anyone out there, still reading my blog. Facebook has taken so much traffic away from independent blogs, which is a real shame, so this is a perfect opportunity to thank you for still being there, reading and commenting and emailing - it means a lot!

Off the little postcards go (I posted them Thursday), some within Australia (all in Victoria, isn't that odd?), as well as the US and South Africa. I've blurred out people's names so they don't know which they're getting, but I thought I'd still post a photo. I wanted to write something different for each one; so someone's getting a list of girls' names that were popular 100 years ago, another is some fascinating facts about moths, another is a snippet of a poem I read recently, a little witticism from Oscar Wilde, an interesting fact about chairs, and my recipe for Green Tea Citrus Syrup - all with a few little drawings. Some of the lovely postcard recipients have beautiful blogs of their own... Rebecca has a gorgeous blog called Needle & Spindle which is dedicated to knitting and sewing and other creative pursuits. I am obsessed with sewing blogs at the moment, so it's lovely to see Rebecca's inspiring posts pop up in my Feedly feed! Natasha's blog, Bamboo Blossom, is also a wonderful record of her creative life, with cooking, sewing, travel, etc, and I think Natasha's made my vegan cheesecake recipe more times than I have! It's really amazing to think that here's someone on the other side of the world making my cheesecake (and doing such a great job of it)! Last but definitely not least is Cadry's blog, Cadry's Kitchen, which is a vibrant celebration of vegan cooking with recipes, cookbook reviews, etc, and everything is so beautifully presented. Another one of my faves! Isn't the blogging community great? I learn so much from the things people generously share on their blogs - always so much inspiration!

This giveaway was a lot of fun, so I will do it again soon. Next time, rather than the first five responses, I'll draw the names randomly so that different timezones won't be an issue. Sorry to the people who didn't get a postcard, but please try again next time!