Monday, February 17, 2020

Giving a talk to the Society of Graphic Fine Artists

I was recently invited by Lyndsey Smith and Les Williams to give a short talk at the Society of Graphic Fine Artists (SGFA) AGM. The venue was the Conway Hall, situated in the corner of Red Lion Square and my topic was Urban Sketchers (USk).

I showed a PowerPoint presentation which featured some of my sketches and work by some of the international USk community. There was also a short video showing Gabi Campanario, the USk founder, at work on the streets of Seattle. I took along some of my own sketchbooks too, plus artists books which I have collected over the past few years.

The SGFA have been going for over one hundred years and value drawing, so it was an honour to be asked to come along and speak. It seemed to go well, with interesting questions and discussion at the end.

The SGFA hold regular exhibitions and drawing events and you can find out more on their website -

I had a chance to peek into some of the SGFA members sketchbooks too!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Making and using recycled paper sketchbooks

Last year I started collecting paper bags and carriers with the view to recycle them into sketchbooks. This is the first attempt. Very rough round the edges! Also will need to think more about the materials I use to draw on the paper as it is quite rough where I have stuck bits together. I'm hoping it will be an interesting project. See the photos below for how I went about making the first one and some of the initial drawings in it.

I've been collecting paper bags and carriers for a year or so.

I choose to use a few with a similar colour palette.

Cutting down to the right size.

Some glueing.

Top view of the finished accordion book.

Showing some of the pages.

First outing of the book in 'Italo' in Bonnington Square.

One of the views from the roof garden at 120 Fenchurch Street

Leadenhall Market

Leadenhall Market

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Making and selling prints online

I started my Etsy online shop in 2014, almost almost 6 years ago now. It was in response to requests about my sketchbook drawings which I was sharing on my blog and Twitter. As I like to keep all my sketchbooks, making digital prints (also known as giclee prints) from them seemed a good idea.

I chose to have the prints made professionally and found a great printers nearby in Crystal Palace who I’ve used ever since. They are called ‘Just Giclee’ and I’ll leave their contact details at the end. They print on Hahnemuhle paper and the results are of such good quality that they almost look like the original watercolour piece. The company are really accommodating you have a tight deadline too.

Detail from print of the Green Man pub.

To go from sketchbook to print, first I scan the image, into Photoshop. The scanner I use is an Epson A3 Workforce WF-7610. Then I clean up and resize the image before sending it to the printers via ‘We transfer’, the file sharing software. Once collected, I sign it and put it in a cellophane sleeve, backed with card. I add another sheet of card to help protect it, before sending through the post. I have had one incident where I had to resend the package that got damaged but generally it has been okay.

It’s lovely to get feedback from customers. Here are some of the reviews I’ve had:

"Thank you for such a gorgeous print. It arrived very carefully packaged (and beautifully!) in a timely manner. Thank you for the personalisation - I am sure it will be always be a treasured momento of a very special day."

"A beautiful picture, just what I wanted. Writing a personal message on it was extremely kind. Quick, careful delivery too. It is wonderful."

"Gorgeous print and wonderful service. Love it!"

"Excellent in all respects! Highly recommended."

As well as prints, I’ve also sold postcards, guide books, map guides and offered commissions for house, pet and car portraits via the online shop.

The Etsy platform is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to set up an online shop and I’ve enjoyed the experience of using it. It’s great to know that the customer has paid before you send something off! The fee structure has changed in recent years but I still think it is a good option for small creative to begin selling online. It’s been lovely to be able to send prints to various parts of the world. My own little shop is having a sale at the moment as I prepare to shut it for a while to re-evaluate what to offer customers online in the future.

Just Giclee
8 Stony Lane
Upper Norwood
SE19 3BD

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

My illustration process - Starting a personal project

I’ve visited the travel sketchbook festival in Clermont-Ferrand a couple of times and thought it would be nice to apply to exhibit there. So I’m going to attempt to create a book about the Spanish trip I took last year. It was my first visit to the country and was such a visual treat. The first few days were spent on a drawing course and then the rest of the time travelling to a few different cities. I drew on the course and took a LOT of photographs but didn’t make many personal sketches. Only five in fact and two of those were on the ‘plane. The applications for the sketchbook festival must be made by 1st May, so I will check in here once a month to show how the project is progressing. Hopefully it will help with accountability and I will finish. The first aim of the project which is to produce 20 drawings by 31st March.

Below are my first rough layout ideas for possible page spreads. 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

My illustration process - Creating watercolour illustrations for a travel magazine spread

One of the new techniques I tried out last year was to draw in sketchbooks that I’d previously added background colour to. I started at the Barbican Conservatory then continued in other locations in London. It was something I really enjoyed doing and gave interesting results.

Later in the year when I started working on an illustration project for a travel magazine, I used a similar technique to create the illustrations. The drawings were to be of historic architectural sites in Cambodia and I started by drawing the basic shape in pencil. Then I filled in the shape with watercolour in a very freestyle way, similar to the sketchbook backgrounds.

The client supplied some reference material and I also did some research online to get a feel for the structures. 

I left these colour shapes to completely dry before adding more definition to the structures. 

 The final touches were added with pen line, black and white.

I was quite pleased with the results and hope to develop the technique further. It was nice to know that something I started as a fun, playful way of working could have a knock-on effect in my illustration work.