I've been busy lately...
I'll post another pic once it's framed!
I've listed my new cards in the shop - go take a look! I'm going to add new designs every few months, and the first ones I'm doing are Christmas cards (I've been looking forward to doing some of those!). It might seem a little early, but really, it's not!
I have a question for you... Do you know of any shops that you think would be a good fit for my greeting cards? I'd love to stock them in more shops here in Australia and overseas, so if you have any suggestions, I'd love to know!
I love seeing them all together!
Whilst rummaging through some old books and magazines today, I found an annual I bought a few months ago from a secondhand book market (and promptly forgot about). It has the rather unpromising title, Commonwealth and Empire Annual 1955, and is one of those educational children's books that isn't very exciting, apart from these staggeringly beautiful colour plates below, that are the sole reason I bought the book. The illustrator is Neave Parker, who I'd never heard of, but it looks like he specialised in dinosaurs, and sadly died of a heart attack at the cinema. What a talented artist! I love these depictions of the four seasons. Bonus image down the bottom from another book, the School Friend Annual 1962, that I love to bits too.
I was just about to give the usual apology for not posting for a few months when I realised it's been almost a year! Do you know why I don't blog more? It's because I always think blog posts need to be perfect - no typos, no blurry photos - unlike social media, which is much more quick and dirty. Why do I save my blog for Sunday best? I'm really going to push myself to blog more, even just casual work in progress shots and a few quick words. Actually, I should have loads of WiP photos to share, since I'm spending the next four or five weeks making new artwork for an August exhibition (details on that one to come).
Meanwhile, here is my new greeting card range, Pictograph, back from the printers. These cards were a long time coming because I just couldn't decide on the final three designs! Finally, here they are! They're not in the shop yet, but will be as soon as I have a few moments to do the listings. I'm really hoping I can find time to design some Christmas cards for this holiday season - I'd love to do that.
To help make Pictograph cards distinctive, I've given them a decorative spine, like a little book. Can you guess my influence?* They have little complementary spot illustrations on the backs as well, which were really fun to do (there'll be pics of the card backs in the shop). Like my other card range, Jamboree, they're eco-friendly too. I hope you like them! Do you have a favourite? I have a favourite...oh wait a minute, I can't decide...
I'll be back soon with more blog posts - promise!
* Little Golden Books
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.
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?
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.
It's funny how two of my very favourite quotes (from two of my favourite novels) are both comments on the past, and both the first and last lines of their respective books. The opening line to The Go-Between by L P Hartley; "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." And F Scott Fitzgerald's final line in The Great Gatsby; "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
I've been reluctant to write this blog post. I almost wrote something like it last September, and I've thought about it ever since. Firstly, I like to keep things light on my blog, and not mire it in negativity or talk about anything too personal. Secondly, I try (unsuccessfully!) not to dwell, I've been doing a halfway decent job of distracting myself with feel-good movies and happy music and spring cleaning and new schemes (I even resorted to Father of the Bride 2 the other day!). Thirdly, writing words isn't my thing, I'm much happier trying to unravel my thoughts into a picture, and I'd hate to express myself so badly that I come across as corny or melodramatic or mawkish. Then again, it's just one little blog post on one little blog that barely anyone will read, there's no point getting precious about it!
My Mum died last September, and then, almost eight months to the day, my Dad died; that was just over a month ago. My Mum was sick a long time, so we were as prepared as it's possible to be, which isn't very much. My Dad lived a long and healthy life (although would never admit to being old!), but died suddenly and unexpectedly. He was diagnosed in early-May, and given maybe two months to live. I was still trying to break through the residual numbness from losing Mum, to get a grip on this new development, when he died, just over two week's later. It still feels surreal. It's weird not having them here. They filled a huge space with all their quirks and foibles, opinions, stories and habits; all the things that amused and enraged me, and that I love and miss. Heaven knows, to say they weren't quite perfect is an understatement, but there was a lot of good in them too. Anyway, I don't mean to write them a eulogy here, we've done that already.
I don't know how many of you reading this have lost a parent, or parent-like person in your life, or someone you've known and loved a very long time, but it really pounds you with the realisation that time whizzes by with scary swiftness - and I thought I already knew that, but I didn't. One minute I was riding home on my green dragster (with the glitter seat) to watch Bewitched while Mum made cupcakes (there were always cupcakes), and next minute the internet's been invented, and I'm sitting at my computer trying to write something impossible to articulate about my parents dying, and I'm in my forties now, and couldn't possibly ride a three gear bike uphill, and I don't have any cupcakes. I do own the complete box set of Bewitched though. And I have a nice cup of tea and a digestive (and a 15 gear mountain bike in the shed, covered in cobwebs).
These two people, for better or worse, were the bedrock of my childhood, and now they're gone. They were an integral link to my past, where I was formed - the things we experienced together, the things I was too young to remember, the things from before I was born, and the things from before they were born, that they were told, and so on - that link is gone, and the chain is broken. It's sad to think that when my generation is gone, no one will remember the Yardley English Lavender-scented old ladies going to the shops in white gloves and floral hats, and men in braces wearing trilbys with feathers in the band, and bread wrapped in waxed paper, and big leather car seats (with no seatbelts!), and pocket money spent on Japanese tin toys in brown kraft boxes with brightly coloured labels pasted on them that always promised that the contents would be much more thrilling than they actually were.
Some of the younguns amongst you might be rolling your eyes at the "When I was a girl..." stories, but when I was a girl (ha!), I loved hearing about the weird and colourful people from my Mum's childhood, and stories about how, in a pre-fridge age, the ice man would bring blocks of ice by horse and cart, and how you'd buy all of your groceries by weight at the corner shop, even things like biscuits and tea were scooped out of big jars into plain paper bags. The second-to-last time I saw my Dad, we talked about the time he escaped a pub brawl by jumping from a first floor balcony into the back of a truck. He always had stories, every time you'd see him, there would be stories.
I like to collect old things. Not only is the past a foreign country, but it's like a grown up's version of Fairyland, mysterious, magical and elusive, so it's a thrill to own physical souvenirs from this mystical place. I collect mid-twentieth century magazines, and have a collection of old postcards, and various other knick-knacks. I love to trawl flea markets for hidden treasure, especially old photographs and ephemera for my collages. It was during a flea market excursion a few years ago that I came to a little epiphany that has influenced my artwork ever since. There were rows of beaten up, dusty old cardboard boxes full of the tatty remnants of estate sales; envelopes, receipts, tickets, photos, postcards, along with tins of buttons, badges, and other trinkets. Normally this would make the collagist in me hyperventilate with joy, but I also felt sad thinking of the people who collected these objects for reasons that had gone with them to their graves. The people in the photographs, once loved enough that these little portraits were kept and treasured, but whose names and identities were now lost, or at least disconnected, from these dusty relics. I remarked to my friend how one day it would be us in those flea market boxes, and he told me to shut up and stop being so morbid, and that it was time to get brunch. But the thought stuck with me, and ever since, I've loved to use vintage ephemera in my work, and draw from vintage portraits. On some level, it's like a little affirmation that these people were once here, that they were important, and in turn, when I'm gone, I was here too for a while.
Looking through the cupboards in my Dad's study, wondering what to do with all his stuff (he was an avid collector too), has been, naturally, really sad. He invested so much time in his various collections and interests, things that were so important and all-consuming to him, but that, albiet involuntarily, he has now let go, and so much of their significance has gone with him. It's sad, but also somewhat liberating to remember that you can't take it with you. What's the use in having a conniption when the cat vomits on your new rug? I don't mean to suggest that it's pointless keeping Christmas cards because one day they'll be heaped in boxes in a flea market, but sometimes, if you don't keep it in perspective, stuff can weigh you down. Losing my parents has made me feel a little adrift, as though my anchor's gone, but along with sometimes feeling lost, I find my way forward to feeling free, not because they're gone, but because losing them has helped me sift out the things that are important from the things that really aren't, and the important, intangible things don't end up in flea market boxes - you carry them around with you, and although you take them with you when you go, the people you love inherit some of them too.
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.
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.
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!
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! :)