Friday, 20 February 2015

Holiday Wrap Up...

 We are home after a pretty amazing time up at the beach
 there is something pretty cool about no longer needing to go on our family holidays
 during school holidays... yet another advantage of Phants being at university
 I swear there were times when we had the whole beach to ourselves
and while I have to say it was decidedly odd and a bit sad 
to go on a holiday without the wonder mutt, we still had a fabulous time

 So fabulous that I did bugger all drawing and painting
there was some of the normal shenanigans
mad conversations involving what we should name our new furbaby 
when we are eventually ready for one
I am favouring Graham or Barry, but am getting hailed down like crazy
of course I also liked Wally because of course you then get to ask Where's Wally
I mean that is a no brainer in my book but Sinus and Phantom Steve
have been oddly resistant to those names
which is a shame as I believe they are genius names

I did sketch up the view that I looked at as I had my cuppa every morning
the beach is just the other side of the tea trees
and I do love the dappled light and sounds of the waves
it is instant relaxation

I also painted up some tomatoes
no clue why, they just happened to be sitting on the kitchen bench
and if truth be told I was in that state of barely being bothered to move
so it was probably more about laziness than anything else
but on holidays that is a good thing

Laziness also led to me not coming to the aid of my darling daughter in the pool
Phantom Steve managed to beach herself like a whale getting out of the pool
I swear her body was out and those skinny little legs were going like crazy
but she was stuck half in and half out and making a decidedly odd noise
she eventually got herself sorted but it was quite something to see the contortions required
she did manage to work out a system by the end of the 11 days
but really I can't quite get my head around why you wouldn't just swim over to the steps
but I long ago gave up understanding what goes on in her brain
and if she wanted to half beach herself multiple times a day then that is fine by me
it was endlessly amusing

I also attempted some sketching of the house across the road
and it has more than a small case of the wonks
there is a decided lean in my sketch that isn't there in the real thing obviously
but hey, I was low on chocolate at the time so I may blame that
plus I had managed to win a card game the night before
I was still a bit shaky as it almost turned into a blood sport
and involved much cheating, throwing of lolly snakes
and heckling that would make the English cricket team proud
so my nerves were shot for days after that and it showed in my drawings I believe

Sketching took a back seat to trying to capture just how awesome the beach was
and it was amazing
sunrise over the water is truly one of the most magical things about our break
and Sinus managed the photo of the trip with his capturing of a blue bottle on the beach
cool photo right
And like all great holidays we have all come home refreshed and relaxed and raring to go
which meant I managed to update the process post from last week as my refreshed brain
managed to find some progress photos
happy painting all... xx

My Creative Process Part 2...

On Friday I finished up part 1 having just finished painting up the first tea tin for the header commissisoned by The Tea Spot... I was bravely saying that I was ready to dive in, and I sort of did, but I dove in with pencil first. I sometimes like to draw in ink immediately, but other times I use a few quick pencil marks to make sure I have the proportions right, and other times I will draw it all in in pencil as I have done with this one. One of my pet peeves is the idea that using pen and only pen is the sign of superior skill... that is a big old crock of rubbish... sometimes it is more suitable to use pencil, and others you might use ink... who cares... anyway... I used some of the ephemera that The Tea Spot had sent and pasted it down on the paper first, taking are that you don't go right out to the edges with the glue,because one little bit squeezing out onto the paper is kind of diabolical watercolour wise. I also used a Tea Spot sticker for the logo so it would be really neat, though I painted a little gouache onto it so it would accept paint and pen down the track.

 I extended the drawings beyond the border at the top and sides as I want the flexibility of moving the dimensions a bit. There is nothing worse than painting in a bit that looks fabulous and then you have to cut the bloody thing off... so I like to give myself options which means the next step was to remove the lines for the border and just check it is all where I want it. I have found the more time spent at this stage making sure I am happy saves a lot of heartache down the track. I was mostly happy, though I was a bit concerned with the white space between the steeping mug and the logo, but I figured I could sort that as I went along. I had purposely put the logo off centre to create a bit more interest and I knew the mug was going to be dark blue, so I needed to leave a bit of space to balance it all with the extra weight the dark blue would bring and it looked ok on the roughly painted sketch on my planning sheet so I decided to just trust it and go with the flow. 

The final step before painting is always to take a photo of it. I find that when I see it on the computer I always spot the mistakes more clearly. Something about it being up on the screen makes problem areas more obvious. I also often go and look at it in a mirror if I want a quick check... anything to get fresh eyes on it. I also make sure I have jotted the colours directly on the piece so I don't mix them up. I work in very light pencil and only erase them as I paint in each. I really am that easily distracted that I would happily pick up the purple lid and do it again unless I keep on top of myself.... seriously ... I have done it too many times to not give myself the extra reminder. These aren't always set in stone, and I can adjust it after I paint some in if it feels a bit heavy colour wise in one area, but better to have the reminder than make a mistake and have to start again.

The big downside of working with watercolor is that it isn't forgiving. I used acrylic paint on the handmade paper, and also for the Steeping Mug, after the initial layer of watercolour just to block it all in, as I wanted really strong colours there, but the rest was done in watercolour. I lightly drew in some ink outlines and then started painting. now I would like to show you progress photos, but at this stage I work very quickly and I tend to just get into it.

I am editing this post because I found a progress shot... a small miracle as I spent about twenty minutes looking for this when I originally wrote this post, but in typical fashion i didn't even think to check the bloody ipad... and there it was... so you do get to see that first layer of colour and just how patchy and messy it looks at this stage. It really doesn't bother me that it looks so rough in the beginning as I try to work over the whole thing rather than finish off an area at a time. If I work on one area at a time then i find it just ends up being harder to pull it together at the end. because I sort of rely on feel i need to do a whole layer at a time, otherwise it won't all look unified, as some might be a bit more uptight than others if you know what I mean. 

 The mug and Tuffy steeper were painted in first as they are focal points, and then I checked how it was looking in the mirror again before I added in the last of the tea tins, and the little fresh leaves logo, and the cancer wellness charity logo. Once all of these are in place I start laying in the beginning of the background.

I actually strengthen up some of the ink lines before I start laying in the background so that the objects have a bit more definition. I'm not trying to finish them off, but more a case of making sure I have found the edges then I use the colour quite strongly in the background as I go over this layer with white acrylic paint, or gouache. If you are too light with the background colours to start then you don't get the chance to make them stronger, as they can't be added over the acrylics or gouache, so it is time for putting on your big girl britches and slap that colour on nice and strongly. I lay down the white quite thickly and with texture and speed, being careful not to get precious and try to paint bits in. I embrace slapping it on and the shoddiness. I am trying to create texture and interest and I work over the whole background at once so it stays consistent. At this stage I am bringing it all together and blending in the ephemera and things so it isn't something that I can stop and start. I love this stage and I find that time does tend to disappear in a mad rush when I am at this point... I am always a bit scarily excited to get to this bit, and according to Phants I have crazy eyes and shades of a maniacal smile on my face while working on backgrounds, but I just know that it is close to my favourite bit because you see it starting to come together.

The last stage is adding in the pen and I have to say this is where it can all go terribly wrong. I always get that slight quickening of my heartbeat because it is usually looking pretty good as it is, and uncapping the pen feels a bit high stakes, but I love that... I am like a gladiator with a pen as a weapon and I have learned to just dive in. It is not a time to be timid and the energy in your lines will transfer to the page. From the close ups you can see that they aren't smooth lines, or neat or really careful... I am trying to create energy while using the overlapping of the lines to connect the different parts to each other. I also use some shapes like the circle above to reflect the circle in the logo and things like that. It takes a while to do this part and I do stop a lot to check it in the mirror and have a good old squint to see if it is hanging together... and I just keep going until I feel like I am at the point where it is getting to risky to continue... I have tipped over the edge and ruined work at this stage more times than I can tell you, and I am beyond awful to live with for a time after, but I don't think I am any easier if I haven't pushed it. I would rather have to start again than be left with something insipid... that is just bloody awful... 

I then have to do all the scanning and cropping and all that stuff, and I ended up using quite a bit from the top that I had originally not planned on using, so as always I was happy I had worked bigger than I had thought... of course one of my favourite bits ended up on the chopping block. I loved the way the paint was on this little health benefits bit, and the lines felt great, but it just didn't fit in the final banners so it ended up cropped. It just works like that sometimes, and it doesn't really bother me too much because at the end of the day I always remind myself this isn't the last painting I will do... there are always others around the corner, so does this have to be the pinnacle of my work?... nope... it is all a progression and so  I'm not going to waste energy making myself feel bad, or picking apart bits that I don't love... there are always going to be parts I don't love.... and parts that I am really happy with so it all sorts out in the long run...

I hope you enjoyed hearing  a bit more about how I worked and a huge congratulations on making it to the end of two hugely long posts!!!
So here are the finished products... happy painting all...xx

Friday, 13 February 2015

Instagram Inspiration ...

I am a fan of  instagram for all sorts of reasons
 I love that it is just a visual overload of colours and images
I love that I can scroll through even when I have my dodgy glasses on 
I love that you get a great sense of people with a quick scan of their visual world
plus that is so chock full to the brim with inspiring photos
 Now my life is pretty full of colour and magic
but next to Aimee from Artsyville I am living in monochrome baby
just a quick squizz at her feed is like having colour injected into your body via your eyes
and she lets me paint her photos from time to time which is a bonus of course
these tins were a recent purchase from Ikea and they are very cool aren't they
I am chomping at the bit to get my butt down there to grab some of these beauties...

Another constant source of inspiration is Debbie Baier
we are talking about a feed overflowing with tea and tea related wonderfulness
plus adorable twin granddaughters
I swear seeing those two little girls makes my ovaries backflip
I have this whole stack of tea photos that Debbie has sent me, and I swear I could fill a sketchbook with them alone... fabulous
There is nothing better than inspiring friends is there ... happy painting all...xx

Friday, 6 February 2015

My Creative Process Part 1...

I was recently commissioned to create a header for The Tea Spot
 Some of you will remember them from providing a fabulous prize
 for the giveaway I ran to relaunch the Cuppa With Friends Project late last year
and they were a joy to work with, so when they approached me about creating a header for both their facebook page and twitter feed, I jumped at the chance.
I loved how it came together in the end and it was great to revisit a more complex style of work again, as I haven't worked in this style for quite some time.
So as I get quite a few emails asking me about how I paint in the style of my blog header
I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share a bit of process with you...
of course once I started writing it took on epic proportions as I got the chatters a bit so I am spreading it across two posts with the second part going up next Tuesday...

So... the whole process started with me going back and revisiting some of the paintings I had done for The Tea Spot previously. I had created a couple of different versions, and was pretty familiar with the stepping mug that was to be included in the design as well as the logo, which for me is always challenging as my handwriting resembles something created by a chicken on acid, so anything font related leads to mild hyperventilation. But I felt pretty comfortable with the shapes after the previous practice so it was a pretty good start. I was sent a list of inclusions of what they would like to see in there, and that they would like it in the style of the header I use here on the blog, but outside of that I had free reign, which is pretty awesome, but at the same time was mildly nausea inducing as there aren't the parameters and things, and my problem is never finding a single idea, but rather culling the five squillion that bombard my brain. Added in there was the teas themselves as they had generously sent me a heap to try, plus lots of ephemera from around the office, so at the beginning I was facing complete overload when it came to inspiration.

The only way to settle the riot of flitting images in my head is to get a few quick sketches down, and while I didn't feel I needed to resketch the Steeping Mug, I did, however need to do at least a quick sketch of the Tuffy steeper, and this little collapsible sucker was a bit of a mind bender with all its rings and levels, and the little holder thing has a bit of a duck face happening, but at this stage I am just getting a sense of the shapes and lines. I also like to list some words that I think will capture the style and mood of it all, and yes this sounds a bit hippy dippy, but it helps to focus my brain. I knew I wanted to highlight the freshness and clean flavours of the teas, the energy of the company, and staff, and to ensure that I reflected their generosity, commitment and support for cancer charities, which of course is very important to me after the last 18 months. 

From this starting point I worked on creating a single page which would be the master for the design on an A2 size piece of paper. I like to have quite a large sheet so that I have room to have all the notes in one place, because I know myself well enough to know that multiple pieces of paper in my studio have a way of disappearing quicker than a mob informer into a witness protection program, so a single master sheet is the best solution. At the top of the page I usually make notes of any inclusions that have to be there, and then I worked out which tea tins I wanted to include, so they would reflect the range but still work together and reflect the mood I was going for. I actually love one of the teas called Meditative Mind, but its dusky pink lid wouldn't have sat as well with the mood, so I stuck with the blues, purples, and green tins, and added the pop of orange from the Mango Tango to add a counterpoint and a bit of interest, and I do love a blue and orange combo more than any other colour combination... blorange just makes me happy....

Once the inclusions and things are sorted at the top of the page, I usually go to the bottom and work across with some thumbnails of some placements and composition. I know what I want to put in there, so it is a matter of working out how they can fit together in a pleasing way without creating a star of the show if you know what I mean. I also needed to consider that both headers have different dimensions, so I needed the final piece to be able to be cropped and still look complete, while the full one needed to not look like it had a bit tacked on. I also gave a bit of a try to including some pinks, but it was pretty clear that colour wise it didn't look as fresh, so I went back to the blues, greens and orange. Making compositional decisions via thumbnails at this stage makes a big difference. Varying directions, shapes, sizes and  colours can be challenging, and you can't always rely on a background to bring it together, and the varying sizes of the two headers made it impossible to run a frame inside it to pull things together, so overlapping is the best solution as it means unity and creates a rhythm to the whole thing... on a good day... on a bad day it looks like someone threw up a whole heap of ideas onto the page... but I had a direction and it was time to dive in. 

I drew up the dimensions across another A3 piece of paper and made sure it was all centred on the page as I was going to paint beyond the edges and then crop it back later, but I was then completely frozen. It looked pretty large and I hadn't exactly hammered down the composition, so I chickened out and painted up this purple tin first. I had decided I wanted to use varied textures so this was the perfect way to dip my toes in before stuffing up the final piece. I find it quite hard to draw onto handmade paper with pencil as my dodgy eyesight makes it hard to see, so it has to be pen and I didn't want to start badly and was feeling uncharacteristically nervous about the whole thing, so I actually pulled out and dusted off the lightbox. Once the sneezing and wheezing bought on from the dust cloud that emerged from the poor thing settled, I drew up the outline of the tin and quite frankly I spent way too long using different pens and colours, not to mention I even pulled out a magnifying glass to attempt to create the font and things, and in the end I just gave up on trying to make it too perfect and got some paint on it. It really does help to get the perfectionist bit out of the way early, and by working on something that will bleed and splodge a bit like you find with handmade paper, even when you are using using acrylic paint like I did with this one, it gets me into the mind set of letting things happen and to be loose and more accepting... to let my natural style come through
So the hardest part, which is the narrowing focus, planning and first painting was behind me, and the first tin had turned out well once I got a bit of paint on there covering up some of the stiffness of the initial drawing, so I was feeling ready to dive in... which I will cover in Tuesday's post... I think you all deserve the chance to go and have a bit of a break and a cuppa if you have made it to the end of such a long post ...
happy painting all... xx

Tuesday, 3 February 2015


I have to say I have had better weeks than the one that has just passed
 The glorious Mushu the Wonder Mutt died suddenly last Tuesday
 he had been responding to his heart medication, but his giant heart was just too damaged
 and before we knew it, his fabulousness was taken from us
to say it has devastated us all is an understatement
as regular readers will know, the little furbag was beyond treasured
and so it is quite the thing to not have him around after 11 years
Sinus, Phants and I are grateful that he passed quickly and without any suffering
and we know we have an incredible number of memories and he brought us such joy
but for now it just plain sux... I miss him

So there hasn't been a lot of creating in the last week
The flip flops above were painted early last week to celebrate Australia Day
Flip flops are called thongs here in Australia
which is not to be confused with the arse floss that this term denotes in the US
which is none the less endlessly hilarious to us here in Australia
and I quickly sketched and painted it before joining the rest of the family in the pool
to escape the relentless heat of high Summer
we had a great afternoon as a family, and Mushu was right amongst it as always
scamming treats, running around and generally causing maximum mayhem and laughter
he really was a magnificent mutt

This little breakfast table sketch was done the other morning
and I was pleased to be painting at the kitchen table
as it is very odd being in the studio without my furball
Mushu was my studio companion and was either lying up on the table watching me
and trying to sneak slurps from my teacup or paint water when I wasn't looking
or he was flat out on the floor snoring like a walrus with sinus issues
and occasionally gracing me with truly eye watering bottom burps
so it has taken me a few days to get back into the studio without him
but this morning I ventured back and finished the Hermes perfume bottle
which was a welcome distraction and blast of prettiness and colour to soothe my heart
 it still feels a bit wrong to be in here without him
but it does feel therapeutic to be creative and get in and do some painting 
and blogging of course
when things are tough I have found blogging is always a good thing
it is like having cups of tea and chats with a whole crowd of your favourite people all at once

So I am going to keep myself distracted and get busy preparing and writing a post for Friday
I did this awesomely fun illustration job recently
and really want to do a post about my process
and then I think I may just need a bit more paint to calm my brain
so happy painting all...xx