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

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.

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?

New Promo Postcard!

So this is my new promotional postcard...what do you think? I kind of like postcards more than regular business cards, they're just more fun, and I think people are more inclined to keep them instead of hurling them in the bin. I'm really happy with the way they turned out!

Boy, did I struggle with writing the spiel on the back. I wanted to say something that captured the essence of my work, but didn't read like an artist's statement, and wasn't written in the third person (everyone knows you wrote it yourself, so why do that?). I wanted it to be clear and concise and not pretentious or boastful, but still positive (after all, I am trying to promote myself!). Urgh, I wrote about a thousand drafts and over-analysed every single word back to front and inside out until none of it seemed to make any sense anymore. *Sigh* I had to get it right since I was having 1,000 cards printed - it's hard to sum yourself up in a couple of sentences!

In case it's difficult to read in the pic, this is what I wrote (some of it I stole from my about page, which is due for a rewrite I think): "I find inspiration in the ghosts of our past; memory, nostalgia, and the things we collect that record our personal stories. Both newfangled and old school, blending digital and traditional media, my work is a bittersweet mix of levity and melancholy. Above all, I hope it is friendly, accessible, and brings people some of the happiness it gives me to make it.  ~ Karena"

GIVEAWAY TIME! I thought it would be fun to give a few cards away. Would you like one? Just email me and let me know if you'd like a postcard, and I'll post one out with a little handwritten message on the back to the first 5 people who respond (no need to email me your name and address just yet - I'll let you know if you were one of the 5 and get your details then). Doesn't that sound like fun? Come on, it's better than the usual stuff that shows up in your letterbox, eg. bank statements and electricity bills.

PS. I'm having trouble with my blog feed. I realised that people were only getting a text preview with no images showing up, so I've tinkered with the settings, but I'm still not sure it's working. It's always disappointing to follow someone's blog and find you don't get any enticing photos in your feed! So if you happen to be subscribed to my blog and do get my pics appearing in your reader or emails, please let me know, I'll be so happy if it's finally working properly!

EDIT: Well that was fun! The five postcards have gone, but I think I'll do another postcard giveaway down the track a little. Sorry if you missed out this 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.