20 December 2012

Illustration Friday - snow

Mice should enjoy Christmas too you know.

Finding my way around Photoshop, still early days but I love how it makes new ways of working possible. And fast.

17 December 2012

in the christmas spirit

I love the long stemmed boxes of half-asleep Amaryllis that appear in flower shops here around Christmas time. 

They aren't a feature of Christmas in South Africa, where I'd be more likely to raid some lipstick red flowering gums along the road(on a hot Summer's day of course) for a table centrepiece at Christmas. 

Still, proper Christmas is of course a winter thing to most people. These guys are made to flower in the winter months, and I can see how the exquisite red brings warmth and cheer indoors.

04 December 2012


Here's one that got away before we left for South Africa. Thought I'd post it anyway,  and it'd be a pity to let that go to waste as a lost little jpeg icon on my desktop. So, in celebration of experiments and tentative sketches, here she is. Belatedly for Illustration Friday 'shy'.

30 November 2012

Longing is good too

Back in Hackney this week, where the mercury dipped below zero this morning and the windows are streaked with fat droplets of  condensation as they slide down the panes. 

This was painted somewhere in the Karoo outside Laingsburg. Wonderfully hot and dry and vast and ancient, those scenes unfolding along the road. 

It all seems more than a million miles away, though I painted this last Wednesday. In the car, heading home after a trip to the Baviaanskloof and little Karoo via the Breede River.

Oh, places of my heart.

28 October 2012

autumn fire

Winter arrived yesterday, before I could find my mittens. How rude. 

I collected this handful of fiery leaves last week. They looked even more incredible on the white of the drawing table. Roast pumpkin for lunch on the same day - perfect autumfest.

Perhaps it's just that I grew up in the Southern Hemisphere, where autumn colours are less of a big deal, but I can't believe that anyone could not go absolutely wild for fallen leaves.

Which are crunchy when raked into piles in the park, deliciously earthy smelling yes yes I know. I can't resist kicking around in them.

But the best bit, the bit I can't get over, is how each one is a such a miraculous jewel of startling, extraordinary colour.

15 October 2012

Wild rose hips

I picked these on Hackney marshes a few weeks ago and brought a few tangled, hairy sprays into my studio. 

Who knew rose hips smelled so good, they have a kind of orangey apple freshness going on. Partly explains why they are used dried in tea, I guess. And jelly, and, in Sweden so I read, in soup. 

And as a treat for pet chinchillas. It says so in Wikipedia, it must be true folks.

Still working on leaf painting, but for now, this is how my leaves look. 

I looked through a most worrying selection of how-to books online on greens and leaves, books on botanical illustration and the like, and there certainly are some authoritative publications around. Do this, don't do that, never mix these and so on. Like I said, worrying!

Might be better to keep looking at flower painters I love, like Elizabeth Blackadder's work. 

Still, in the end, the only way to improve leaf painting is most likely to um, keep painting leaves. What say you, any ideas?

03 October 2012

A quick drawing done at the kitchen table while I was waiting for lemon and millet muffins to bake. The recipe is super quick, with ingredients that are usually around already. Which means something warm, a bit healthy and lemony crunchy can be ready for tea in half an hour to cheer up a drizzly Monday afternoon. 

Hey, you have to make working from home fun sometimes too, right?

Colourwise,I thought that was deep blue I was stroking out into the shadow areas, but it was Windsor Purple pretending to be French Ultramarine. Heh. It needs replacing!

17 September 2012

Monday blues...with red and green and yellow bits.

Sometimes it's good to play with a theme. Stripes.

This time in watercolour and cut paper strips, inspired by an Ikat robe from Uzbekistan that I saw at an exhibition at the V&A ages ago (more of my experiments with stripes live here). I do love an Ikat weave a lot, always the subtle blending of colours and the mystery of the rhythms in the warp and weft.

I have been sorting out my portfolio and getting work further out to the world, which is all very well, but there still has to be time to have fun with colour and brushes, right? In fact, it's essential.

30 August 2012

illustration friday - tall

A quick one to stretch my newly acquired Photoshop skills - I guess the 'Limpicks seeped into my consciousness after all! The setting was inspired by Clare Mallison's lovely  illustration for a Young Times story, Garden Olympics.

23 August 2012

nasturtiums and cosmos

Aargh...am I turning into a flower painter? Is that a Bad Thing?

Well, the fact is my friends, I enjoy painting flowers, a lot. And have been since I was about 8 years old. So somewhere, somehow, it's my thing.

Is it my only thing? This is the question. 

For now, I see some flowers, I paint 'em, I enjoy the looking(and it's like shooting fish in a barrel too I might add). 

Then I share them with you. That's cool with me. 

This is teeny, postcard sized. The vase was a present from my lovely sis, who is always so thoughtful with gifts.

14 August 2012


The peas, beans and lettuce in our tiny back garden all got razed by slugs this Summer, but the poppies escaped. I was especially pleased to be able to paint these poppies in situ as they don't transport well at all. As you can see, the never ending quest to find the right green mix was a struggle. Oxide of chromium, I'm still not sure about you.

26 July 2012

illustration friday - carry

One for my children's book illustration portfolio, which I've been working on this week. I've been out drawing in the play area near home, so I had plenty of sketchbook material to turn into something fun. 

Clearly, drawing some dogs while I was at it would be helpful too, eeeek. Does anyone else find it tricky to integrate animals in the same style as people? 

Guess it's really a question of more practice, like all drawing wobbles.

23 July 2012

out of the woods in photoshop

This was coursework - I've just finished seven weeks of a Photoshop course at City Lit.  My first ever image done entirely digitally, though incorporating scanned paper bits and pieces and hand drawn outlines for the shapes. 

It's a pretty big thrill to feel confident using the software at last. As opposed to stumbling around the layers palette, stuck, or taking endless time on getting at things that I now know might take a simple click of the magic wand tool.

The course was geared towards designers and illustrators, so not too much of that retouching malarkey. OK in its place, but not so much for my kind of work.

I'm looking forward to finding natural, playful ways of introducing Photoshop into illustrations, particularly the collage images I sometimes do.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

04 July 2012

more wildflowers

The poppies and nigella in the top watercolour are perhaps not really so much wildflowers, not here in Hackney, at least not without the help of a pack of wildflower meadow mix.

I did the painting outside, on Midsummer's Day at the wonderful St Mary's Secret Garden in Haggerston. 

It's a community gardening project that is my midweek break from studio life. The new ecominds garden there is full of lovely flowers at the moment, so much so that its hard to stick to just wild flowers, but a narrowed focus is probably no bad thing for productivity and concentration. 

Do you have a favourite Summer flower?

20 June 2012

midsummer wildflowers

I picked these in Hackney Marsh on Monday, almost in the shadow of the barrier around the Olympics/Radio 1 concert venue which is all fenced up and ready for weekend. Urban pastoral perhaps, but I love the wildness of the marshes, so close to where we live in Hackney, East London. Long may they stay that way. I had to paint quickly - these guys wilt, or the petals drop off, in no time at all. Happy midsummer!

07 June 2012

Some afternoons...

 ...the sun shines for a bit, I have time, the itunes random works just right and some magic happens. One hour becomes two, colours and textures lead one to the next to the next. From my World Famous Razor Clam Collection. More stripey themed warm ups and other bits on flickr.

01 June 2012

Illustration Friday - faded

Not sure about this one, it was pretty last minute and late night, but it was fun to make it happen anyway. Lovely to look through a pile of old World of Interiors magazines for references.

24 May 2012

Illustration Friday - sight

I had in mind a line from The Famished Road by Ben Okri, which has lived in my notebook for years. In this image, the line has a completely new context.
Constellations were visible in the sky, each star a different colour, luminous and pulsing.
The waves are inspired by an illustration by Dorry Spikes, one of my favourite illustrators.


17 May 2012

new card design

My sis asked me to paint a card for a friend, who is a lover of, amongst many other wonderful things, flowers and fynbos, the indigenous vegetation of the Western Cape, in South Africa.

14 May 2012

2012 Serco Prize submission

Entry for the London Transport Museum's annual illustration competition, run in collaboration with the AOI. The 2012 theme was 'Secret London'. I had a lot of fun thinking about the unexpected surprises you very often come across wandering the neighbourhood streets, far away from the main tourist attractions. This way of working, I'm finding, is a great way to be expressive and graphic. Painted acrylic collage paper on watercolour paper.

16 April 2012

10 days away

Away for a while, to do a ten day Vipassana sit, ten days enjoying the gift of silence and mindfulness in the peaceful surrounds of Dhamma Dipa in Herefordshire. The daffodils and narcissus will be well and truly over when I'm back in early May, I'm sure the world will be full of other beautiful things to paint anyway. Be happy, as they say on the meditation courses, be happy!

08 April 2012

happy easter

It's been a lovely, quiet Easter with plenty of time to tinker around the house, as my friend Barbs would say. 

This was a warm up painting to get back into watercolour drawing mode after such a long break. Bit ambitious really, the white flower and the sunlight through the petals and then also the shards of glass that I found back in CT on a tiny beach. Which look more like petals at this stage.

I was tempted by the frilly yellow centre of the daffodil, and the poppy motif on the cup (a wedding gift from the lovely ladies at St Mary's Secret Garden)and didn't give the medium much thought. That's the point of a warm up though right?

20 March 2012

snatches of the karoo, south africa

These were made on the road back from the Kalahari in South Africa, done in the car on the long, beautiful road between Brandvlei and Calvinia on the R27. I've always wondered how it would be to paint those huge landscapes, at least now I have made a start. Such a great way to really see, to notice more of the changing colours and forms and textures of the countryside. The textures out there are something special - the small, dry karoo bushes, the ironstone koppies, the smoothness of mountain ranges far, far in the distance and the fenceposts marching forever towards the horizon. I'm a fan.

01 February 2012

away for a while

Here's the front of the card I designed for our wedding invitation. 

The pomegranates were inspired by the garden outside our cottage in Ibiza where we got engaged last autumn. I ate ripe figs and pomegranates every day - how could I not when they were hanging on the trees in the garden all around us? 


I'm off to Cape Town today, to get married in a few weeks. Back mid March, five whole weeks of sun and celebration.

17 January 2012

colour study

Sometimes I start a small warm up painting without knowing where I'm going, just colour, line and sometimes a pattern if something emerges. This small study on lovely thick paper has been knocking around the studio for a bit, and I've grown to love aspects of it. I hope something similar shows up in my more formal, structured illustration work sometime.