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.

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?

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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!

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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!

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.

Penrose Annual 1958

This is one of my favourite secondhand book finds this year - Volume 52 of the Penrose Graphic Art Annual from 1958. I bought it from the same market as the King Penguins I posted about a few months ago, & it's in nearly perfect condition! I can't quite remember how much I paid for it, but it was something like $28 - a super-duper bargain. I would love to collect more of these, particularly the late 1930s through to 1960, but they can be a little pricey. One of the best things about this book is that it's stamped on the front endpapers with "Hardwicke Knight Collection". Upon doing a little Googling, I found out that Frederick Hardwicke-Knight was a New Zealand author, photographer & collector who died in 2008 leaving behind a lifetime's treasure trove of amazing stuff. I feel honoured to own one of his books! You can see the man himself & some of his incredible collection here. How interesting!

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!

Finders Keepers

I've just finished working on a poster & postcard design for The Finders Keepers' Melbourne Art & Design Market being held in April. As sometimes happens, the direction I initially took was shelved, in this case it was in favour of a collage-based design. I'm rather fond of my first attempt. As I was working on it, I realised that it reminded me of the spine & endpapers of a Little Golden Book, which inspired me to write a post about them a few weeks ago. In other news, I'd like to thank all the lovely people who've been emailing me via my new contact page lately. Firstly, thank you for helping me test the contact form, but also, thank you so much for writing such nice emails - they've been so encouraging & inspiring!

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One more thing before I go... I'm working on a new project called 2by4 to get the creative juices flowing. Every day (or maybe most days - no pressure!) I'm going to make at least one little image on paper measuring 2x4 inches. I want to be totally free in terms of the kind of paper I use, as well as the subject matter, media, style & technique. Sometimes it can be rather daunting to start work on a big blank page or wood panel or canvas, but a little 2x4" snippet is a much friendlier prospect. Then, when I have a whole stack of them, I'll make collages from them - it should be fun! I'll make sure to post some of my little 2by4 piccies on my blog as I go along.

Top: Poster design. Bottom Left: Postcard design. Bottom right: First version of poster.

From the Archives: Art & Industry

I couldn't find much information about Art & Industry, but I can tell you it was a British commercial art magazine that was in circulation pre-WW2, at least until the 1950s. I own twenty-one issues spanning from 1937 through to 1941. With the onset of war, the magazine shrunk from 8x11.5"(20.3x29.2cm) to a slim 5.5x8" (14x20.3cm), but the publishers displayed exceptional tenacity by not only surviving paper rationing, but the bombing of their offices during The Blitz. In the November 1940 issue, they report:

"We apologise to our subscribers for the late appearance of this issue owing to air raid damage in which we lost much valuable property and suffered great dislocation of our organisation. This is not our first loss from the raid, but it merely adds to our determination."

In the December 1940 issue they show photographs of the total destruction of their building & relocation from Leicester Square to Covent Garden.

Unfortunately there are no colour plates in the wartime issues (although fabulously colourful covers, as you can see). The two images below are from September & August 1937 respectively. On the left we have Hungarian wrapping papers, & right, a selection of book jackets by Barnett Freedman (top), Edward Bawden (centre), Eric Fraser (bottom left) & Rex Whistler (bottom right).

Some of My Favourite Script Fonts

Some of you might already know about my sister Josella's wonderful site Tack-O-Rama, but for those who don't, it's a treasure trove of retro fonts, design & clipart, & you must visit it at once! She not only has free samples of her clipart for y'all, she also sells large-format & scaleable images individually & a collection of all 714 images.

Jo & I were talking typography the other day, & I was looking at the new additions to her font archive including some lovely, lovely new script fonts. I'm about as fanatical about script fonts as I am about circus fonts, so I felt it was time to post some of my old favourites, & some of my new favourites courtesy of Tack-O-Rama.

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Script fonts bring bags of vintage charm & glamour to your design projects. I've used a few of them right here as part of my blog design (which is not particularly glamorous, but I hope it's a little charming!). Some of them will come in handy for the holidays, don't you think - for very festive cards, tags, labels & invitations? I hope you love them as much as I do!

Please note: The fonts marked with an asterisk in the list below are for personal use only, but the rest are free to use in commercial projects; but just to be sure, please read each individual designer’s licensing agreement.