Wednesday, 23 November 2011

occupying (my kitchen)

Been on Facebook lately? Then you won't have failed to notice the internet's latest meme - “Casually Pepper Spray Everything Cop” - famous works of art photoshopped to include the image of the pepper spray-wielding UC Davis police officer. His presence in these iconic paintings is absurdly incongruous and profoundly disturbing. And for that reason they're brilliant, because that's exactly how I felt when I watched the video footage. I'd say a degree of outrage is being expressed in these images. They're the visual, viral equivalent of the protest song.
More on the American (based in Edinburgh apparently) artist who started it here and here.
P.S. I'm also quite taken with this poster, created by sympathetic graphic designers after the OWS Zuccotti Park eviction. As someone texted me recently, 'mon the 99%.
P.P.S. Nonplussed by the current crisis of capitalism? (I know I am). Then here's a theory, complete with cartoons...

Thursday, 13 October 2011


The indecipherable scrawl above is a teeny section of my latest illustration for the winter edition of Juno (I have promised the editor I won't show the whole image until the magazine has hit the stands, so you'll have to take my word for it - it is actually very zen-like-ish). Ok, so it probably didn't warrant a whole new post but the fact is this tiny flurry of illustrative activity gives me an excuse to pop back here after a sizable absence - um, drinking lovely coffee from lovely cups is very lovely, but let's face it, doesn't really make for a very interesting blog post, and aside from that I really haven't been doing very much of late...

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

up close and observational

It's been lovely to have my evenings back for a while but I miss the creativity now and, more especially, the drawing. It keeps me sane. I have a fabulous botanical illustration book and stretched paper drying but meanwhile, for the purpose of this post, I raked out these old chestnuts (well ok, they're actually apples), done way back in college. Not quite good enough nor detailed enough for professional botanical illustration (I need to get me a magnifying glass for that apparently) but sometimes it's good to have a point of reference. I want to see how much (if any) I have improved in 20 years...

Saturday, 13 August 2011

nice surprises

The world of full time work has left little time for blogging recently and anyway, unless you want the lowdown on what a drawing of an oil rig sea deck looks like, there's been nothing much to report. Until today that is.

As a contrast to the computer rendering I've been doing all day, I'm getting the paints out to try my hand at some botanical illustration, partly because it's something I've been toying with the idea of for ages but I figure it'll be super useful for the Growing Boy too. It'll be therapeutic to take my time and focus purely on composition and the painting process for a bit instead of always rushing to an end result (usually to meet a deadline I've left until the last minute). This time there's no deadline, give or take the risk of shrivelling... The bad boys above are chilling in my fridge (for freshness!) as I type.

But what are the surprises? You may remember some of my work has been at the Hung gallery in Inverness for a while now. I hadn't, it's been so long in fact I'd forgotten it was there. But yesterday I got a surprise email from owner Kevin to tell me he's sold a Highland Cow print and the original Black Dog illustration "Both of which went to customers who instantly fell in love with them and have been given pride of place in their homes" Which is very cool.

But even cooler still is my new shiny sunshiny yellow FrancisFrancis! coffee machine - a fabulous [birthday] surprise which I'll be using to make my coffeecoffee! of a morning.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

wake up you sleepy head

Maybe I've not had much time to blog of late, but now comes the reward for all the technical illustrator hours I've been working - payday, whoop! And given my new v early starts, I reckon making my bleary-eyed mornings chirpier is a totally sound and worthwhile investment no? I could do the obvious here and add a link to Pretty Things, but what the hell, I'm listening to King Creosote on a loop at the mo and on a mission to spread the word.

Monday, 18 July 2011

going global

If you've noticed I've been a bit thin on the ground lately, that's because it's week two of full time work. These days it's mostly taking all my energy to get up in the morning and that's despite not even working a full week last week! Hard to believe I did this before for almost 15 years - I must have had way more energy in my youth...

Anyway, I've gone global how exactly? Um, truth be told, and obviously not counting my one night of inexplicable and since unrepeated popularity in France, I guess it's actually more Italian American. Having (somewhat alarmingly) found myself regularly video conferencing with Houston courtesy of the day job (who knew I could do corporate?!), in addition to dispatching another Blessings print to Pittsburgh I'm also planning what will be a well-earned trip to Venice in the autumn and mulling my submission for the upcoming Italian exhibition.

There's nothing quite like a deadline to get me moving (let's face it, it's practically the only thing that does), so it was fabulous to get an invite for the 2011 I Colori del Sacro exhibition, remember Beltane, above (oh, and the Jumis Tree almost ran)?. For 2011 the theme is air and I have until September to submit so plenty of time to start thinking about the illustration (I must, absolutely must not leave this until the end of August to put pencil to paper).

Friday, 8 July 2011

what is not but could be if

Some sneaky previews of the latest illustrations for Juno, hot off the drawing board. I have promised the editor I will hold fire and not post them in their entirety (alongside the versions that nearly were but now are not) until the upcoming issue has hit the stands. If they look a teensy bit familiar, I guess sometimes when I'm in certain frame of mind it's safer not to stray too far from the path.

(When I was mulling on a title for this post, this was the song on repeat in my head).


Ooh, getting quite excited now but eek! trying to juggle my last few precious days before I start my full time job on Monday. As well as frantically trying to finish my current freelance work, I figured I'd try and give myself a head start on the mess created by my resident house trolls (if I'm messy now, things can only get worse once I have less free time). The plan was to do a room a day but, as usual, things haven't gone quite to plan... Still, I did manage the kitchen, and I'm super chuffed with my sprouting aubergine plant (mmm, aubergines). I also have one whole strawberry! Go green fingered me.

In between times I hit fabulous Edinburgh with J. He was totally taken with the Scottish parliament building, especially when I was compelled to ask a handy policeman the way to Our Dynamic Earth (it's through that gap in the wall behind him if you're ever trying to find it!).

Weirdly, the freelance work seems to have picked up again which means I may have a busy summer in store, but just off the phone with my new boss and apparently my first task on Monday morning is a coffee with her. I think I'll be able to handle that...

[Weekend edit: Bizarre... Il semble que je me suis du jour au lendemain une sensation en France!? Je voudrais bien savoir pourquoi? Encore, je l'aime... Un très agréable week-end! (and excuse my horrible French).]

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

the moon's a balloon

Has my current illustration project been influenced in any way, shape or form by the fact I've just read American Gods? You betcha. Go impressionable me.

This is a section of the pencil rough, which I'm currently working over in more pencil and pastel.

Monday, 27 June 2011

shutting shop

You might notice the link to my prints for sale takes you to a closed shop - I just have too many other things to focus on right now, so have decided to take a wee break from Etsy selling. I still have giclees and a few linocuts available, anyone interested in my work can get in touch directly and I'll be happy to help!

Friday, 24 June 2011

baby snakes

It's not a hat. An elephant inside a boa constrictor (from Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
So apart from drinking endless cups of tea, far too little wine and enjoying (*ahem*) the glorious Scottish summer of too much rain and not nearly enough sunshine on interminable repeat? This month I have been in an alternately decadent/distracted cocoon (and deeply immersed in American Gods, so don't want it to end and I never, well hardly ever, recommend a book) but have finally emerged on the other side of June with a new career in the offing and some interesting commissions.

The next two Juno illustrations are underway and ooh, some illustrated snakes (in the style of the Little Prince) have been requested. It's good to be drawing again.

Friday, 3 June 2011


My goodness, I've moved so fast I'm still waiting for myself to catch up with myself... if you see what I mean... No? Me neither. Anyway, after making my grand announcement on 11th May to go back to full time work, I've managed to reinvent myself as a Technical Illustrator working in the... dun dun duh.... oil industry!?! So by day I'll be drawing oil rig platforms, by night I'll be working on my illustrations (assuming I can fight off the urge to veg all evening a full time job usually brings with it). Go super me.

But it's a scary world out there, and getting scarier by the day I reckon, so all in all it's a good move for me and my boys. And I'm a Technical Illustrator, so really I'm still an illustrator right? Technically.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

catching up

My week in a day... There really are lots of things I should be doing instead right now but, as I've been neglecting this blog lately, first here's a quick catch up. The old chairs I picked up in the charity shop are finally re-covered, one in red, one in green. The red one is pleasingly throne-like I think!

 And, in the post today, the booklet using my first linocut as its cover...

I have been moving furniture around and have found a place for my precious owls. These belonged to my Nana (who always referred to herself as a 'wise old owl' - usually when giving me advice on some hair-brained scheme I was planning!) and I have started adding to the collection I inherited (the lovely little red glass owl is one new addition). This was also the inspiration behind my wise old owl postcard - and if you look closely you might spot the actual owl he's based on...

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

word in pictures

The Word Festival Marquee and the Crown Tower of King's College Chapel

Elphinstone Hall

I spent Saturday strolling around Old Aberdeen - visiting the Word festival, browsing bookshops, nosying at the Alasdair Gray exhibition in the Old Town House and being inspired by the very shy but super funny Tim Dowling. Strolling round Old Aberdeen feels a bit like stepping back in time; it's a small university town surrounded on all sides by an oil obsessed city and has a vibe all its own. Totally separate and the better for it. Perhaps I'm biased because King's College Chapel also the place where my parents got married.

The Old Town House

And at the end of the day (and quickly donning my day job hat), I hijacked the members of all girl ceilidh band Danse McCabre after their performance in the festival cafe and forced them to pose in our organisation's tshirts for the front cover of the newsletter I'm currently working on! So all in all a very productive day.

Sunday, 15 May 2011


I spent yesterday at Aberdeen's Word festival. There's way more to come on this, as soon as I get around to downloading pics, but one thing I came away with (apart from far too many books) was a new enthusiasm for my own little book. Combine this with my earlier revelations, and I think it's safe to say the focus will be switching away from here for a while and over to here instead...

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

near and far

“Originally about me leaving behind the cut throat world of corporate design and becoming a freelance illustrator”

So says the spiel down the side of this blog. The process began in 2005 while I was still working full time as senior designer, now six years on I have a part time job I love with a music education organisation and, until the end of last year, a growing freelance business.

I’ve been incredibly lucky with the projects I’ve worked on and met many wonderfully committed and creative people but, with the funding for so many arts organisations (including my own) increasingly uncertain, it’s doubtful whether the myriad cultural festivals and arts events I‘ve had the pleasure of working with in the past will now happen at all. If they do, it will almost certainly be with a vastly reduced budget for design and illustration.

With this in mind (and combined with an irritatingly inconvenient need to eat, darn it!), I guess for now the spiel is changing… wheels have been set in motion to leave the world of freelance illustration and rejoin the world of corporate design.

More positively, the time spent promoting my work and sourcing new freelance clients can now be used to work on the much neglected growing boy.

Monday, 2 May 2011

and testing a hairy cow

The first print of McNair
Testing my latest linocut - a Highland coo I've christened McNair. I've been experimenting with my new baren but to be honest I'm quite taken with the results (above) I got using a good old wooden spoon. With both of my fox linocuts now sold, hairy McNair will be making his debut over on Etsy very soon...

in pictures

 A combination of work, holidays and glorious sunshine have kept me away from blogworld recently. It's very easy to take where you live granted and I guess I'm guilty of forgetting I have this fabulous landscape on my doorstep. With the Highland cow lino block finished and ready to print, for the second time in recent weeks I headed for the cliffs and this time took my camera, partly in search of inspiration for my next linocut (I found lots).


Monday, 18 April 2011

space to work

Having turned my tiny studio into a tiny bedroom when J was born, I've spent the last six years working on freelance projects haphazard style in various places around the house (the computer desk in the living room, the kitchen table, the worktop in the utility room). As a result, not only do I have bits and pieces scattered all over the place, it requires superhuman motivation to actually do anything, given I've to clear a space, find what I need and then clear up after myself (you don't want to leave a wet watercolour painting anywhere a cat might walk!). Superhuman motivation is not my strong point, so I'm totally excited that I've finally got round to setting up my own studio space in my bedroom. Right now I'm herding paints, pastels, ink, drawing boards, sketchbooks and other paraphernalia from all four corners of the house and organising them all in one place! I told you it was exciting. I'm also finding mucho inspirado in the Wednesday Workspace posts over here (where I found the photo above).

As well getting my mitts on a lovely new workspace table, I'll also be able to ditch my gruelling stool in favour of comfy seating - I picked up two fabulous chairs (for £10!) on a recent rummage through a Borders charity shop, which I plan to reupholster in lovely fabric procured for mucho cheapness on ebay... will post the transformation when I'm done (then all I'll have to do is actually sit down and get on with some work... maybe, just maybe, even this!).

Friday, 15 April 2011

making plans

The last Juno illustration is finished (hopefully) and my fox linocut has sold after only 8 hours and 7 views... Only one left over on Etsy - the remaining two will be attending the opening of a new gallery in Inverness today (Saturday). I'm pleased for foxy, I like him. Next up, a dancing peacock - linocut style.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

inking foxes

I've been working late, late at night on my nocturnal padding fox, getting to grips with the process and experimenting with different papers.

The incredibly delicate Japanese Hosho paper wins hands down for crisp, clean prints (and ease of printing too) but I'm quite taken too with the mottled 'happy accident' effect of the watercolour paper. There will only be four Japanese paper fox prints in total - two are winging their way to a gallery in Inverness, two will be coming to my Etsy shop v soon... Just to see how it would look, I plan to hand tint the watercolour version. I'll post it here when I'm done.

Meanwhile, people never cease to amaze me; check out the picturesque wall spotted on my recent travels to the Scottish Borders... nothing mars picturesque quite like lethally lovely six inch shards of embedded glass glinting in the sun.

I guess there's not liking cats and there's really not liking cats, although there's always the hideous alternative that it's aimed at wayward kids rather than furry intruders. BIG pff (and I'm sure it can't be legal).

[Edit: apparently it is. Go figure.]

Friday, 1 April 2011

slow black fox

I should really be working on my next illustration commission but instead (feeling inspired by the linocuts of Ian Phillips and the fact it's so addictive) I'm sneaking in this linocut based on my quick brown fox just for the fun of it. 

I reversed my original fox sketch (so that he prints the right way round) and drew him out roughly on the lino block, then added highlights in white pastel pencil to help me see which areas need to be cut away and which stay (the bits that will be inked up).

For various reasons I'm quite taken with foxes these days - but not least is because the fox appears in numerous folk tales in countless cultures and is such an ambiguous character. I guess that's why I can't decide if this one is going to be paddy or prowly...

Anyway, I want to try printing a few in black ink only on Japanese hosho paper and some more on heavyweight watercolour paper which, depending on how the printing goes, I may or may not hand tint with colour washes...