Monday, March 30, 2020

Towers in Seville - continuing my personal project

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I am progressing with my personal project, albeit slowly! This is the first completed layout, the original rough, plus each of the individual drawings .

La Giralda
A decorative building at the end of one of the streets

One of the Towers at Plaza de Espana

Torre del Oro

Monday, March 9, 2020

A winter break in Versailles

I love visiting France so when Versailles was suggested for a short winter break, it seemed a good idea. Of course, the chateau and gardens are on everyone’s ‘to do’ list when visiting Paris but I was interested to find out what the rest of the town is like.  

We travelled on a Monday morning by Eurostar from St. Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord, then took the metro to Gare Austerlitz where we caught a RER train to Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche.

The hotel I’d booked - L’hotel Angleterre - was at the budget end of places to stay and although the room was small it was clean, the staff were very welcoming and it was a great location being only a short five minute walk to the gates of the palace.

After settling in, we went for a walk around the palace gardens (The chateau is closed on a Monday) and had something to eat in La Flottille, by the Grand Canal.

I’d bought two-day passports (25euros per person in winter) to the Chateau online prior to travelling and we arrived early on the Tuesday and Wednesday where a small but not off-putting queue had already formed.

As well as going inside the chateau and seeing the exhibition being held there, we also did lots and lots of walking in the grounds and looking at trees. Wondering how everything had been constructed at that time in history. Pondering about the logistics, and cost, of all the construction.

Opposite the entrance of the palace grounds there is a museum housing the historic coaches (free entry) and further into the town, the king’s veggie patch, the ‘Potager du roi’ (6 euros per person). Of course, it wasn’t the best time to visit the vegetable garden as it was almost completely bare of produce with just a few hardy greens growing. Still, it was interesting to see the skeletons of the fruit trees lined up neatly in rows ready for their work later in the year.

The town is split into two halves by the palace and there are two self-guided walking trails you can follow to discover more about the history of the rest of the area. We picked up a map from the Tourist Office and searched out the history boards which have English as one of the featured languages. It was nice to explore the quiet parts of the town.

Returning home on the Friday, we took some time to walk around the Marais area of Paris, following a map in a guidebook I’d taken with me. Then a whistle-stop tour of the famous sights – the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame, currently shielded by hoardings as the fire repairs get underway, before heading back to Gare du Nord for the Eurostar home.

It was a really nice trip, quite relaxing and not too expensive. Lots of inspiration from the palace grounds and all things French. Wrought iron, decoration, fabrics and over the top grandeur.

Monday, March 2, 2020

My illustration process - Making a promotional mailer

One of the perennial problems of being an illustrator is how to let art directors, designers and publishers know about you and your work. I have my own website and a portfolio page on the AOI website to showcase previous projects and use Instagram and Twitter to highlight sketches and work in progress. Still, trying to get seen by commissioners is always a challenge. I have sent out postcards in the past but thought it was time to up my game.

I’d seen other illustrators like Owen Mathers and Willa Gebbie make their own promotional brochures to send out and I thought it might be good to try something new myself. I decided to work with a designer to produce a promotional piece as I thought they could offer a fresh insight.

I chose to work with Julia Woollams from the design agency 31% Wool. Julia is one of the founders of ‘Croydonist’ and I always love seeing her work. We had a meeting to discuss what type of mailer I could send and she went away to create some concepts. I really liked one of the ideas she came up with which was for a small notebook, with my illustrations throughout but leaving enough room for the recipient to write notes in too.

I made a selection of some of my drawings and Julia produced a layout for the notebook, which after a couple of revisions, was ready to go to the printers. Julia also suggested sending it in an interesting envelope so I researched a few different samples and decided on my favourite. Here are some of the spreads:

I sent about half of the notebooks out just before Christmas to existing and former clients. They seemed to well received and I had some lovely thank you emails. With the rest, I am researching a few new possible commissioners each week and posting a notebook to them.

Be good to know if you have any experience of sending out mailers or any advice about contacting creative commissioners. Or if you are a commissioner, let me know and I'll put a notebook in the post!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Update on my personal project

Some experiments with different media for my personal project which I talked about a couple of weeks ago.

With these pieces, I painted some pieces of cartridge paper with watercolour, let them dry, then painted and drew on top.

I particularly like how this one turned out.

I did some straightforward watercolour.

Also some very loose watercolour pieces on Fabriano paper.

Even tried a little collage although my cutting skills are pretty poor!

Some sketch book ideas, focussing on little details. 

That's all for now!

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