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!

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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.

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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!

Rosalind, Bertie and Lucille

Here are a few more portraits. The first is an ink drawing on a collage of vintage and found paper, and the other two are graphite pencil and watercolour. Deciding on their names is so tricky. I wait until I'm finished and then look into their eyes and think, "Hmm, what's your name?" I hope I got them right!

Some New Drawings

Hi! Here's a preview of some new originals that I'll be listing in the shop in a few weeks' time - some ink and graphite drawings, collages, watercolours and mixed media pictures. My friends Mark and Stevie bought me a beautiful set of Sennelier watercolours in a gorgeous wooden chest for Christmas and I love them so much! I've been feeling very inspired lately, and thought perhaps I'd do a blog post this week that's shameless art supply porn. I love taking a peek at other people's tools and materials, so thought I'd share some of my favourites. By the way, I discovered the best pencil sharpener in the whole world (do pencil sharpeners excite you as much as they do me?) that sharpens white charcoal pencils without breaking - I will share the details.

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I've been doing some quirky portraits - I like faces with character. I also decided to do some portraits of toys because there's not a time in your life when you love a lump of plastic with as much passion, or imbue it with as much personality as when you're a kid and have a favourite toy. Expect more creepy dollies and chubby-cheeked animals!

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Capturing a Likeness

I made this sketch of a young Jessica Mitford for my sister Cass's partner Dave who had a birthday recently - Jessica Mitford is a hero of his. Overall I'm happy with the way it turned out (especially the frame) but she does look a little like Nicole Kidman in my portrait, which was not deliberate!  I recently scrapped a sketch of F Scott Fitzgerald I was doing because he looked way too much like Dick Van Dyke for my liking! I think it's important to do your best to capture a likeness when you're drawing a specific person, but for me, I also like to stylise my subject somewhat - I guess it's all about achieving that balance.

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I'm totally hooked on white charcoal and tinted paper at the moment. Speaking of white charcoal...does anyone know how to sharpen the General's pencils to a nice point without them breaking? If so, please let me know! At the moment I just sharpen them to a dull point and use a sandpaper block, but you can never get a really fine point that way. This paper's made from recycled sugar cane pulp and I really love it; lots of colours and beautiful textures. I wanted to decorate the frame and echo the design in the collaged part of the drawing. I'm really happy with the way it turned out and would like to do some more of these to sell in my shop before the year's out.

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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?

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Catching Up

Hello! It's been a while, hasn't it? Have you been keeping well? Staying busy? I have a few things going on at the moment keeping me out of trouble, such as designing a range of greeting cards. I thought it was about time I jumped back into the card-making business, since I've always had such a positive response to my cards in the shops, as well as selling them online myself. My aim is always to try and make something unique, because I think as an independent artist it's important to provide an alternative to the mainstream market. Perhaps something a little bit edgier than your standard greeting card design? As well as an emphasis on originality and craftsmanship, making sure the printing, paper and envelope choices are eco-friendly and beautiful quality. Well, that's my aim anyway! One of the types of card I'm working on has a big emphasis on pattern design - I hope they'll be really beautiful when they're done! I'm really excited about them, so I'll be sure to post some photos!

More excitement...my work is featured in a new book coming out in October, published by Laurence King in the UK - they do such gorgeous art and design books, I'm so happy to be in one of them, amongst such incredibly talented artists. The book is called Low-Tech Print: Contemporary Hand-Made Printing, you can take a look at it here. Above is the cover and a sample page featuring my prints. From the write-up on their site:

Featuring a global showcase of 100 of the craft’s most exciting and influential practitioners, Low-Tech Print is an exploration of hand-made printmaking techniques and how they are used in contemporary design and illustration. It examines the huge recent resurgence in the popularity of printmaking, with chapters on screenprinting, letterpress, relief printing and other printing methods.

Speaking of printmaking, a little while ago I was interviewed for an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about Riso ceasing production of the Gocco and its consumables. They're still available in limited supply, but it's still such a shame... You can take a look at that article here if you like.

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A couple of weeks ago I visited the art shop and bought a new sketchbook because the lovely, textured, brown krafty paper really appealed to me, and I got some white charcoal pencils as well. I spent a couple of hours one evening, watching The Walking Dead and drawing this portrait of Django Reinhardt on the first page. This gave me the idea to fill the book with portraits, and so a little project was born: Fifty Pages, Fifty People. Whenever I have some free time, I intend to work on filling this sketchbook with more portraits. I'm hoping you might have some suggestions for potential subjects? If there's anyone interesting you think I should draw in my book, please leave your suggestions in the comments!

And one more thing before I go... You might like to take a look at this site that features a fabulous collection of vintage stereo logos and typography from old records.

Making for Money

Last night, I watched with great interest, the documentary Making it Handmade, by Australian indie film maker Anna Brownfield that screened on ABC2 (if you're in Aus, it's available to watch on iView for the next couple of weeks). It was great to see such inspiring crafty ladies, such as the super-talented artist Gemma Jones, as well as uber-crafty Pip Lincolne of Meet Me at Mikes. Overall I thought it was an interesting little documentary which offered lots of food for thought. Which is just what I found myself doing whilst munching my morning toast...

Images in this post adapted from various editions of Woman and Home magazine, 1940s (my personal collection).

There was one aspect to the film that bugged me - a discussion about the commercialisation of craft. In fairness, there was a distinction made between independent crafters (good) & the big corporations who adopt the indie aesthetic, sneakily pretend to be the little guys, or outright steal designs from indie makers (bad), but there was still some discussion that making stuff for money is somehow not in the true spirit of craft - that making a living by making doesn't have the integrity of making things solely for fun.

I'm an artist rather than a crafter (although the lines can be quite blurry, which I think is great!), but I have been an independent maker for quite a long time now, & have made a living doing just that since 2006, so I think this entitles me to an opinion (despite not knowing one end of a knitting needle from the other). I don't think motivations of love or money are mutually exclusive, or that making a profession from creativity cheapens it.

I come from a working class background. My first home was a modest little pastel green fibro house in the 'burbs, & the schools I went to didn't have a great deal of resources or instill a sense of ambition in their pupils. The most anyone hoped for us was that we would at least get some kind of a job & not end up on the dole. Since there was not a lot of dialogue about tertiary education or career options (let alone career satisfaction), the fact that I have ended up self-employed, independent, & doing something I absolutely love is quite an achievement. It's hard work, & I'm not quite a millionaire just yet, but I still feel so lucky! So any suggestion that I am mercenary or somehow not as genuine as a hobbyist really bothers me, because I feel there's a great deal of meaning & integrity to what I do, & I am proud of that. Plus, I don't have the luxury of making purely for enjoyment, because I have to pay the bills!

Being independent, eking out a small, satisfying career competing against the big corporations, is incredibly empowering & also beneficial to society because it helps keep diversity in the marketplace alive, & in a modest way keeps the multinationals at bay from having a total monopoly. Independent artists & artisans are incredibly important to the economy - they're small enough to fit in those tiny niches that the big corps can't squeeze into, & nimble enough to adapt quickly to change, not only keeping up with market trends, but setting them. How great is that?!

I found it disappointing that the documentary celebrated craft on one hand, but lamented the commercialisation of it on the other. There were comments discouraging people from buying handmade (?!) or giving a career as an independent creative a shot. Faythe Levine's comments about production work & getting burned out were perfectly valid - I've suffered burn out myself meeting demand for my work, & this time around plan to approach things differently - & I'm not suggesting anyone take a rose-coloured view & fail to prepare or research their options. But overall, I am fully supportive of people adopting an enterprising spirit & giving independence a go.

No matter whether you're a professional, a hobbyist, sell your work or give it away, have an alternate income or not - all creativity is empowering (& fun!). And if you're an appreciator & shopper rather than a maker, thank you for supporting people like me. Handmade might cost a little more, but you're getting something truly unique & made with love. Let's fill the world with arty & crafty expressions of who we are & what we believe in!

*Steps down from soapbox & puts the kettle on*

Gocco Exhibition

Some of my work is going to be featured in this fabulous exhibition of Gocco artists, Even Dwarves Started Small, being held at the Here Gallery in the UK (& look, one of my pics is on the flyer!). It's shaping up to be a great show (I wish I could attend!) - here's the list of artists...

Arctic Circles | Jill Bliss | Simon Dovar | Rob Flowers | Imakethings | Yellena James |Xtina Lamb | Magic Jelly (that's me!) | Mark Pawson | Nigel Peake | Peskimo | Aaron Sewards |Lucie Sheridan | Julie West | Jazmin Velasco

From the press release:

For over 25 years, the Print Gocco screen-printing system has been used in Japan. The small plastic device is a self-contained screen printing set-up, consisting of an exposure unit, pre-coated screens and inks. Originally marketed for making greeting cards and sold in toy stores, appreciation for the Gocco system has grown amongst artists who cannot afford, or don't have the space for a traditional screen-printing equipment.

We feel that the accessibility of Print Gocco reflects our own DIY ethos in running a gallery, and so have chosen to celebrate our Fifth anniversary with a group show of Gocco based artwork. To accompany the exhibition, we will be releasing a portfolio of Gocco prints, produced in a signed and numbered edition of 50, collected in a custom made presentation box.

We've selected artists who look beyond the limitations of the device, to show that it can also be used to produce fine art works. Those involved are from a range of disciplines; textile design, fine art, illustration, graphic design, and animation.

I Haven't Been Swindling Your Paper - Honest!

EDIT: The Paper Chase Project has now closed.

Can you believe it? It was in July that I started the Paper Chase! Some of you may have been wondering if I was ever going to make & send the promised collages, or that maybe I'd skipped town with all that paper. Well, fear not, I'm still here & I'm busily collaging.

I've received 36 packages of paper so far, & although I'm still more than happy to accept people's parcels, I just want to let you all know that it might take me a while before I can post back the collages - I've had a much bigger response than I expected.

Thanks to everyone who's participated so far - I hope you can be patient with me! Hopefully I'll finish updating everything this afternoon.

Here are the first six collages (and the finished stamp that I put on the back of each collage) - I hope the recipients like them! I'll be popping them in the post on Thursday!

I made Collage No.1 for artist Rosa Murillo. I love Rosa's work & I hope she likes my little collage! The square of paper with the masked woman stamped on it is from a legal document from the 1880s that Rosa sent. The paper has a beautiful crinkly texture that I didn't want to lose by gluing it down, so I cut a little window in the backing card. When you hold it up to the light, that section is kind of luminous - it reminds me of a watermark on a dollar bill.

Collage No.2 was made for Smoobage who sent a big pile of amazing vintage 7" record sleeves. I really love the muted, drab colours.

Caroline of Peaseblossom Studio sent me some beautifully aged pages from a French dictionary. Collage No.3 reminds me of an 18th century entomological expedition to an exotic island somewhere.

Collage No.4 was made for High Desert Diva who sent me a lovely collection of vintage stamps & labels & things. I made a green & purple collage for her!

Moving on to Collage No. 5...Mandy sent me a really nice letter with her parcel of paper. She thinks the lining of envelopes are really beautiful (I agree with her!) & sent a little collection to me - I wanted to make her a collage that somehow incorporated their intricate patterns. I think this collage has something to do with the migratory habits of a big brown moth - he flies to Dublin each summer to stay with relatives apparently.

Lastly, one that I just finished this morning - Collage No.6 that now belongs to Joanne, aka Shaving Kit, who sent me a really colourful collection of paper. I wanted to give her collage a storybook feel...

So that's it for now! I may not be able to get started on the next batch of collages for a week or so, since I'm finishing up on some gocco prints that I need to post off to the UK for an exhibition, but I'll keep you posted on any further Paper Chase developments!