Secondhand Treasure

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.

New Cards!

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

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.

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.

Adventures in Surface Design

I thought I'd let you know I've opened a Spoonflower shop and have some of my designs available as fabric. I have a little collection called Lilium, which you can see below, as well as an assortment of some of my other patterns, and I have a few more I'll be listing for sale in a few weeks. (See what I did there? I made the layouts look like plates from The Grammar of Ornament!) Anyway, you can visit my Spoonflower shop right here. I really love designing patterns and have other pattern-related projects simmering away that I'll tell you about later. Patterns! Patterns!! Patterns!!! How are you? I'm so happy about the lovely autumn weather and that daylight savings is over and I finally got that hour back I'd been missing all summer - pity about it getting dark so early though!

Back to the Playground

I've just taken part in an illustration challenge held by Lilla Rogers, and here's my entry! The brief was to create a journal cover with a playground theme, and I really had a lot of fun drawing this. It brought back fond memories of risking life and limb doing crazy stunts on the monkey bars, and tightly gripping onto the roundabout to stop myself being propelled into the stratosphere by centrifugal force from being spun way too fast by my sister - so much fun! You're never too old to have a go on the swings though, are you?

Playground-Journal.jpg

Picking Colours

I read this interesting article on Digital Arts yesterday: 10 Colour Secrets from Leading Illustrators. It's great getting some insight into how other illustrators work with colour. I might not be a "leading illustrator" myself, but I thought I'd share my own thoughts on choosing colours  - maybe you'll find it helpful!

picking-colours.jpg

A limited palette I pretty much always work with a limited colour palette - anywhere from one to six colours. That Photoshop colour picker, loaded with squillions of options (or that huge tin of pencils, plethora of ink bottles, etc) is very tempting, but too much choice can be a pitfall. I think that limiting your palette helps with the logic, rhythm and flow, so the important elements stand out and the secondary elements recede and work to create depth and texture (or whatever they're there to do!). Limiting your colours also calls on your ingenuity to create something that's still dynamic or rich with  detail and variation. I like to use halftones, pattern and negative space, rather than introduce more colour.  I also love the charm of vintage illustrations where a limited palette was a practicality. I remember in some of my favourite picture books when I was little, you'd have the lovely glossy full-colour pages alternating with the pulpy, uncoated pages featuring one or two colour illustrations. I think I used to prefer those to the shiny colourfest! I think there's something really intriguing about what an artist does with line and tone when a full colour palette isn't an option.

Nothing's black and white Black isn't always black. I very rarely use pure black, preferring softer blacks, such as a desaturated dark blue, a warm brown-black from a yellow palette, or a dull, dark red. For something more subtle and muted, I also like to use less intense colours in place of black. As long as there's enough contrast, it can still work. White might mean 0% ink, but it's still a useful addition to your palette - especially if you're only working with one or two other colours. There are some really amazing illustrations around that use negative space and let the colour and texture of the paper/background do the talking.

Tonal values I usually try to work out my colour palette before I begin, but there are often changes as I go along. In trying to pick the right combo, I like to desaturate my palette and check the percentage of black for each colour. You can make lovely, muted illustrations using colours with a similar tonal value, but most times I prefer to have a range across the greyscale spectrum, to create enough contrast. I'm mindful of the saturation of each colour for the same reason.

Anyway, that's my five cents' worth!

I Made a Flip Book

Hi! How are you all? Christmas is getting a little close for comfort, isn't it? No matter how prepared I think I am, it always manages to creep up on me. My shop's been open almost three weeks, and so far I've shipped packages to so many different destinations - much more geographically diverse than what I recall selling on Etsy. I couldn't have wished for a better shop launch. Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far! I just finished this little flip book. I would love to design an entire book, from cover to cover. Maybe one day... Meanwhile, this was really fun to make. I thought it would be a more interesting way to show my work than just a regular ol' pdf. What do you think?

Next on my to do list is to send out a newsletter to my lovely subscribers. If you're not on my mailing list, you can sign up here. I'll be announcing a special offer, so you might like to join if you were thinking of doing some holiday shopping in the Magic Jelly Emporium!

Sneak Peek: Packaging

I hope you're all having a nice, relaxing Easter weekend. It's a windy ol' Good Friday 'round these parts; I pity anyone attempting a picnic! A quiet day at home for me. I've been working on my jewellery packaging (as you can see from the pics) & now I'm done with that for now, it's time to go & bake some cinnamon scrolls with pecans & cranberries (in lieu of hot cross buns - vegan ones are tricky to come by) & perhaps get in a little sofa time & watch some DVDs. I've been thinking of re-watching Atonement because I saw another Ian McEwan adaptation on the teev the other day, Enduring Love, which I really enjoyed. The beginning was so haunting, it's still stuck in my head! Has anyone seen it? I do love Atonement, but you've got to be in a buoyant mood because it's so terribly sad!

Anyway, here are some sneak peeks at my jewellery packaging. I'm rather happy with it! I've posted so many photos because none of them really do these enticing little boxes justice - there's something very tactile & pick-up-able about them. The designs are influenced a little by vintage matchboxes & mid-20th century Chinese apothecary labels, as well as 1930s-40s beauty products. The boxes have a genuinely vintage look, in part due to my paper choice, which is made to emulate old, faded butcher paper. It has a lovely sheen & feel. For once, I could make my designs unashamedly girly because the products are solely for we gals. Sorry chaps, I might do some tiepins & cufflinks in future!