15 November 2013

The case of the exploding onions...

Onions and a pressure cooker explosion - the brief to illustrate a piece about the complexity of the Syrian situation, in a recent commission for Diplomat magazine. It was a fun surprise to see that the art director had added an escaped onion to the final layout. 

05 November 2013

My bi-weekly screen break - helping out at St Mary's Secret Garden

When I first moved to Hackney five years ago, one of the first things I did was to look up a community gardening project so that I could keep a connection to flowers and plants and the changing seasons. I found the delightful St Mary's Secret Garden and have been volunteering there ever since. 

Sometimes, I ask if I can take some flowers home to paint. These ones almost painted themselves onto the page, I was so inspired by the mad flaming floppiness of the Rudbeckias and the general late autumn messiness of everything. Flowers from a florist are just not the same.

Besides the flowers, I get so much out of volunteering at St Mary's, where I work with adults with learning difficulties and mental health issues. 

Last week I planted onions with G, who suffers from debilitating bouts of depression in between stretches of great joviality. It took us two hours and we planted three rows, but it isn't all about hurrying to get things done in horticultural therapy. 

The white fly settling like teeny snowflakes on the cabbages, the  soil cold and wintry, bursts of exuberant song courtesy of P, a client with a great love of dancing with his rake rather than actually gathering up leaves, and G taking great care with each tiny onion - we had a good time out in the garden. 

Much as I love to be painting in my studio, I treasure my day at St Mary's.

25 September 2013

work in progress - sneak share of a new series

I've been drawing up a storm lately - it's been so much fun visiting London attractions in pursuit of groups of people for work on a new series. After a day out drawing, I do a day at home in my studio, scanning the drawings and colouring them digitally. 

Here, a drawing of a visitor viewing a Mayan fertility figure at the British Museum. 

It's work in progress mind you, but I thought I'd drop in and say hi along the way.

06 August 2013

How to keep bees happy - Gardeners' World illustration

This was for Gardeners' World magazine recently, in the July issue which featured gardening for bees. It was a lovely commission, so many of my favourite plants and flowers to paint all in one go, and in enough detail that they are identifiable. 

Pretty intense to work on - watercolour drawings of plants flew onto the page, then to the scanner and then whiz bang wheeee into layers in Photoshop. After that, more tweaks, a couple of add-ins and some changes here and there and many cups of rooibos tea in between.

Still, now I have some idea of what makes a bee's heart happy, and a new appreciation for these furry guys and their patrols of the among the flowers in our back garden, sometimes until late into the summer evenings. 

And a new appreciation, too, for my wacom tablet...

29 July 2013

nasturtiums snaking through the garden

I'm so happy with all the surprise seedlings that came up in our garden this year. Nasturtiums, feverfew, lemon balm and poppies all germinated from the lovely compost we got from St Mary's Secret Garden.

There's definitely something to be said for buying compost from an organic garden tended with love - if wildness and weeds are your thing. 

Plenty inspiring to draw, for one thing. I couldn't not draw these guys, I so love the leaf shape and the snaky thing they do.

There were huge drifts of nasturtiums in the garden of my childhood in Cape Town, and I loved hunting for the special ones - the dark reds or wildly flame patterned oranges - to add to the bunches my mum would pick and arrange in a tangle in a glass vase.  

Funny that we never thought to save the seeds, but I guess to us they were just weeds growing on the edge of our sprawling garden, not so much ornamental flowers in specific colours. 

Marker pen on paper plus digital drawing.

17 July 2013

illustration friday: travel

The most memorable birthday coffee and cake ever on that Istanbul visit - a plate of honey-crumbly, crispy light pistachio baklava and a full force, proper coffee, in an aircon, tiled  pastry shop on the newer side of the river amongst the office buildings. 

That's the thing about exploring in a city like Istanbul - you can never say what will surprise you best.  

I did this illustration a good few years ago, as a competition entry for a textile magazine. (Back then, I didn't think twice about including the  printed bits, heh heh. Oops - copyright.)

I'm not sure it's really where I'm at these days, style-wise, but no matter. I'm much more into keeping it easy breezier. Progress!

Still. I thought it might be fun to give it some more mileage, see what happens. Open up the travel illustration possibilities in my work and all.

06 June 2013

Evenings in the garden, painting...

Super excited to be teaching a series of workshops in St Mary's Secret Garden over in my 'hood in Haggerston, East London. I spent a day putting up posters and talking to folks out and about, turned out to be a surprisingly fun thing to do. The sun is out, which majorly helps. 

I hope my poster adds a bit of flowery softness to the riot of very cool poster designs out there, which are in a league of their own over here in hipster central. Apart from making people want to sign on up, of course!

So if you live nearby or know anyone else who might be keen, spread the word. Registration and more details are over here on the eventbrite page.

20 May 2013

fledgling sweet peas

Soon, if those stealthy slugs don't win and our cat the badass doesn't dig all of them up, there will be sweet peas winding their way up twigs in our teeny garden. Even a few straggly sweet pea flowers  smell so very fab, so much like proper summer. For now, I get to draw the shoots while they are still tame and safe. 

Marker pen and pen and ink.

18 April 2013

illustration friday - wild

Playing around with my new drawing tablet and pen and ink a bit, tons more I could do here but a person has design work to do too. I do so love a tiger and a jungle. And a Henri Rosseau painting, distantly remembered too of course comes into play.

28 March 2013

happy easter!

Sometimes as a child, I used to paint watercolour directly onto blown out eggs and I remember being very taken with the results indeed. Not sure how my mum felt about the dwindling egg supply...

This time, I figured watercolour on paper would work just fine too and we wouldn't have to eat scrambled eggs for days. Easter decorations are not a major thing in our house anyway - chocolate eggs and a vase of daffodils and we're pretty much good to go.

Have a lovely weekend, and may spring and the sun hurry along in these parts. We're ready for you, you know. 

20 March 2013

Happiness on a stem

The sun has been a stranger around these parts again. Damnation!

But the daffodils are out. 

Cheap as chips in the shops, and slowly, sleepily beginning to flower in the parks and the churchyard near where I live. 

Happiness on a stem, said a woman also considering the flower stand in Tesco's. 

Yep. That's about right. Might as well buy a couple of bunches at a time.

08 March 2013

afternoon tea delights

I'm not really that much into sweet things, but working on this has given me sugar lust.

I'd go for the jam tart maybe, if the pastry is nice and buttery and the jam home made, or else the madelaine, just fresh out of the oven. 

In the end though, the custard tart with an espresso wins. When we were in Cape Town for our wedding, a Portuguese friend of my dad's brought a whole box fresh from the bakery while the marquee was going up, and we had coffee and the tarts out on the shady verandah to take a break from being stressed erics. 

Love how food and memories intertwine.

Which is your favourite for tea?

28 February 2013

goodbye, february

The sun has been a stranger this February, maybe we'll see more of it in March. I'd like that. Though I do like a good misty morning walk, even if it is freezy cold. This was taken a few days ago along the Lee Navigation canal in Hackney, my breathing space fifteen minutes walk away.

At our meeting earlier in the month, my illustrator friends could barely contain their mirth when I said I was painting cabbage leaves. Rude companions one and all!

Sprout tops not cabbage leaves, to be precise but still. To practice my greens you see. Laugh if you will, yes yes.

I learned a lot, not sure I totally love any of these, but it's nice to see development and progression from 1 - 4. I painted slowly, building up layers of translucent washes for precision. I do find it pretty damn tedious, this way of working, really, having to wait for each layer to dry properly and planning the colours. At least the greens and I are on speaking terms now - mixing them from scratch and adding a bit of cadmium red is the thing.

And just as well I got cosy with greens, since I was asked if I do planting plans recently. Well, I do now.

From that happy result to... a more um, digital looking sketch on my new drawing tablet below. Obviously still a long way to go, but I'm looking to integrating all of my working methods by experimenting, having fun and keeping an open mind.

Goodbye February, I'm a bit glad to see the back of you.

07 February 2013

pottery fragments

I seldom leave anywhere remotely historic without scratching around in the dirt, hoping for a shard of pottery of glass to add to my collection.

I love how these are tiny clues to stories of dinners and teas, arguments and celebrations. I wonder who washed them and who filled them with tea or hot food, lovingly cooked or otherwise. 

Did anyone take comfort and delight in the finely painted leaves embellishing their saucer as much as I loved discovering the remaining piece? 

I found the green leaf shard half buried under a thorn tree near a modest old farm ruin, once very remote, in what is now a rest camp in the Karoo National Park.

What thoughts did the bearer of the red feathery painted cup have over early morning tea in the Welsh mining village situated meters away from a blast furnace and a stinking ironworks? Did the delicacy of the porcelain offend them, or was it a relief to have something pretty in the hand?

I'll never know, but I love finding these fragments and wondering.