Saturday, August 10, 2019

5 cafes with great views of Amsterdam

On my recent trip to Amsterdam, the weather was extremely hot, meaning I searched out cool places to sit and draw! Here are five cafes and restaurants, all reasonably priced which have great views of the city.

Third floor
Kalverpassage Shopping Centre

The Bar/Restaurant at the EYE Film Museum
1031 KT Amsterdam
*Get there by taking one of the free ferries from the back of Centraal Station

Roof Top Restaurant at the Nemo Science Museum
Oosterdok 2
1011 VX Amsterdam
1000 AK Amsterdam

Babel Restaurant on the 7th Floor at the OBA Library
Oosterdokskade 143
1011 DL Amsterdam

Zuid Roof terrace
Weesperstraat 105
1018 VN

*No drawing from here but well worth a visit.

Monday, July 8, 2019

All things Pinterest

I’m using the ‘Dream Plan Do’ planner again this year and my 90-day challenge in the second quarter of the year was to find out more about Pinterest and how I could use it to help me develop and market my illustration business. I’ve had a Pinterest account for ages but mainly used it as a visual scrapbook, collecting inspiration and reference images.

After spending time reading helpful articles and podcasts, I’ve had a big sort out of my boards, renaming them and focussing on the specific areas of illustration that I am interested in. I went through all the images (there were a lot!) and edited them down. I’ve started to add some of my own work to the relevant boards now too. Still a long way to go and lots more to learn, but it’s a start!

I’m listing below the people and places where I have found lots of useful information so far:

This ‘Simple and Season’ podcast from Kayte Ferris features tips from the team at Curly Carrot -

In this blog post from watercolour illustrator Ohn Mar Win, she talks about how she uses the platform to promote her work -

A clear and concise article about Pinterest by Creative Bloq -

In this ‘Hashtag Authentic’ podcast, Sara Tasker talks to the Pinterest UK team -

Lauren Hooker from Elle & Co talks about her surprising but successful Pinterest Strategy -

There is a huge amount of free information on the ‘Simple Pin Media’ website -

And of course, there is a huge amount of useful information on Pinterest itself!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Summer sketching dates with London USk

Hungerford Bridge drawn on June's evening sketchcrawl with London USk

As you may know if you have followed this blog for a while, I’m a very keen urban sketcher. I help organise the calendar for the London chapter and they have quite a few sketching opportunities lined up over the summer:

Friday 12th July 6-8pm ‘Drink and Draw’ at the Royal Festival Hall.
Wednesday 17th July 6-8pm Evening sketching at Victoria Embankment Gardens.
Saturday 20th July 11–3.30pm Regent’s Park Sketchcrawl
Wednesday 7th August 6-8pm Evening sketching at Hay’s Galleria
Saturday 17th August 11-3.30pm Greenwich Sketchcrawl

Full details of all the meet ups are on the London USk blog and their Facebook group

Whether you are an experienced professional or a complete beginner, all are welcome. 

The events are free, just turn up with your sketching materials.

Monday, June 24, 2019

My illustration process - Creating Visuals

I’m often creating visuals for clients but because of ‘Non disclosure agreements’ (NDA) I’m usually not able to share the results. This piece is an exception. I drew it for a ‘Spacehive’ crowdfunding campaign by Park Hill Friends, as they try and raise money for new pathways in their Walled Garden to enable better disabled access. 

B&W rough

The first stage is getting the brief from the client. In this case I visited the Walled Garden and spoke to the Friends group, confirming the requirements later by email. I then drew up a black and white ‘rough’ which was sent to the client for feedback. At this stage it is possible to make changes before moving on to the colour artwork. 

Colour Artwork

In the final piece, I needed to make sure that the emphasis of the illustration was on the proposed new paths and the people that would be able to use them. The client also wanted to show the diversity of people living in the area that used the park. The colour artwork was drawn with a fine liner and watercolour at A2, scanned in sections into Photoshop where final adjustments were made before supplying a high-resolution digital copy to the client. With pieces like this there is always a certain amount of invention balanced with giving a realistic idea of what the proposed plans might look like when complete.

The campaign is currently live and can be seen here. Please get in touch if you think that I may be able to help with a project by supplying watercolour visuals!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Topping up my watercolours - step by step

Collecting together the almost empty pans and half pans

Using washing-up liquid to clean the empty boxes
Using tubes of professional watercolours to top up the cleaned pans
Carefully squeeze the paint into the half pan.

I tried to fill two of each colour so as to have identical palettes both for the studio and on location.
I then left them to dry out for five days.
After drying, the colours sank slightly so will remember to top up a bit more next time.
I took the opportunity to redo the Blutac layer in my smaller tin which means that I can keep 24 colours in there.
It's a tip from USk instructor Liz Steel.

Cut the Blutac (or similar) to roughly the correct size.

Spread out to fill the bottom of the tin

Start adding the half pans, pressing down slightly so they stick in the Blutac

I was inspired by Suhita Shirodkar and Teoh Yi Chie to try out this method. It's only the second time I've tried it - the first time I didn't let the paint dry enough and you can imagine the result!

I think it's a cheaper way of buying paint and relatively easy to do.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Searching for the perfect sketchbook...

The saying goes that the best sketchbook is the one you have with you and, of course, that is true. A simple pencil used on cheap paper can capture scenes and thoughts in the hands of a master. For the rest of us however, finding the ‘perfect’ one that suits your style and material preferences can become a bit like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Too big, too small, not the right paper...

Here’s my journey through sketchbookland with accompanying images:

College ones – I’m not sure who makes these ones and I couldn’t track them down online. I bought them (quite a while ago) from supply stores when studying at art college. Good general quality, good for collage.

Daler Rowney spiral ones - Good for drawing and inks

Daler Rowney A5 cream paper - Good for pen line and collage

Bushey large cartridge paper ones – Good for drawing. Took some light watercolour washes. They came in really large sizes and I don’t think they are made any more.

Square Goldline ones from stationers – okay for pen line and some watercolour. The paper quality seemed to change a few years ago for the worst.

Moleskine small A5 watercolour sketchbook - Good for watercolour. Can use both sides. Folds out flat for scanning.

Moleskine A4 landscape watercolour - One of my favourites! Takes pen line and good for watercolour. Able to use both sides for watercolour. Not so good for coloured pencil because of the texture. Folds out flat for scanning. Only problem is that the landscape book tends to dictate the composition. If only they made it in an A4 portrait size...

Seawhite of Brighton Eco and Black A4 soft cover - Good for line, light washes and collage. Lightweight so handy to pop in a bag and not be weighed down. Not so good for scanning because of the gutter.

Stillman and Birn Beta soft cover 8 x 10 inches - Great for watercolour, pen line, coloured pencil and collage. Paper is thick, a bit like card but takes watercolour on both sides. The gutter sometimes gets in the way as although the books are sewn, they also have used a glue which can leave uneven marks on the gutter area when you lay the books flat.

Cromede Art - I was sent two of their sample sketchbooks last year. Good quality paper but the spiral binding is not my favourite.

Leuchtturm1917 - I received one of these in my ‘Goody Bag’ at the USK Symposium. The A5 size is handy but doesn’t take watercolour well. Nice for drawing on though.

Hahnemuhle pocket soft backed sketchbook - great for carrying around in a small bag or pocket.

STOP PRESS! I’ve seen that Liz Steel USk instructor and illustrator Ohn Mar Win are using Moleskine A4 Portrait Watercolour Sketchbooks! I will track one down and see if that will be just right!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Portfolio Showcase at IRIS London

It was lovely to be invited to participate in a Portfolio Showcase last month at the offices of IRIS Worldwide. The event was arranged by The Association of Illustrators (AOI) and the Association of Photographers, who had selected 15 illustrators and 15 photographers to take part. The open plan offices were on the north side of the Thames, with a fantastic view of London including Tate Modern, The Globe and the river. 

A large area had been set aside, with each of us having a designated space to show our work. I took my portfolio along on my iPad, plus some business cards, postcards and maps. It was only the second time in eight years that I’d shown my work like this so it was a very useful experience! 

The AOI had suggested we have a question or two ready to ask the creatives looking at the folders and I was interested to know where a design and marketing agency, such as themselves, looked for illustration and illustrators. Apart from the AOI site and Illustration Agencies, the one place that surprised me was Pinterest. I knew from looking at my Etsy shop data that a lot of traffic for that came from Pinterest, but I hadn’t really thought about the fact that design professionals would use it just as much as individual buyers.

Useful feedback I received included:
  • Limit your portfolio to about 15 pieces. (I had about twice that amount on the evening)
  • Viewers need to come away with one strong impression of your style
  • Keep the 'wonky lines' and lose the 'neater' work. Emphasis the hand-drawn qualities.
  • End with a favourite piece

I managed to do a few quick sketches of some of the IRIS team between showing my work, which you can see above. It was also great to talk to some of the other illustrators and photographers on the evening. I’m very grateful for the AOI for inviting me and to the IRIS team for hosting the event.