Monday, 1 August 2016

Top 5 illustration books

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Following on from my top 5 art books post, I thought I’d also share some more of my favourite art books focus more on illustration rather than design and typography. All these books contain art by some of my favourite illustrators and I could happily sit down with any of these of an afternoon and devour each and every page.




Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life
Todd Oldham

The first book I’m sharing has been in my collection the longest, and I knew I had to buy this book when I discovered his work. Charley Harper is an amazing illustrator and I’m sure you’ll recognise his style if you don’t recognise his name. I adore his use of colour and texture – he painted primarily in gouache and often used dry brush strokes to add dimension to his work. With a prolific 60-year career, he illustrated various books, posters and for magazine, as well as school textbooks (The Giant Golden Book of Biology would definitely have helped my interest in science). I can’t remember how I came across his work but it’s definitely something I take inspiration from, particularly his use of colour and shape. I love the movement he creates in his pictures, and there is a lovely interview in the book with Todd Oldham in which he sounds like a really lovely, kind man.




This is Rome
M Sasek

The second book I actually picked up in it’s name sake when I visited Rome in 2014. You’ll probably recognise his work too – Miroslav Sasek was a Czech illustrator who created several titles in the ‘This is’ series, including New York, Paris and London. His style is very bright and clean, with blocks of colour and details that add a lot of movement and life to his illustrations. Though quite simple in terms of detail, Sasek’s work is so full of character and humour I can see why his books have, and continue to be, adored by all ages. It has quite an old-fashioned style to it – possible the colour palette, but either way it feels very nostalgic and comforting.


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Jane, the Fox and Me
Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

This, and the following book, are recent purchases and a discovery of an extremely talented illustrator. I saw Fran (Frannerd) talking about this book on YouTube and thought it sounded like just my thing. It’s hard to get a feel of a book through video and it’s absolutely mesmerising when I actually have it in my hands. I can pour over the illustrations for hours – the facial expressions Isabelle Arsenault manages are wonderful, the gorgeous handwritten text, the use of colour and sketchy pencil lines for texture – everything about this is perfect. In ‘Jane, the fox and me’, Arsenault uses colour in a fascinating way – the story (written by Fanny Britt) is about a girl who is struggling with loneliness and a lack of friendship, and so immerses herself in the book Jane Eyre. There are two narratives in the story, with the pages depicting scenes from Jane Eyre painted in colour – a huge contrast to the other narration of Hélène’s life, which is illustrated in greyscale. I love the idea and communication behind this simple decision – that Hélène sees her world without colour, but when she is reading, she’s transported to another world and everything is different, vibrant and alive. I can totally relate to that, and it’s one of the main reasons I love reading – I adore the escapism. Though it sounds like a gloomy book, it has positive ending and is a really sweet tale – beautifully executed and absolutely stunning in its delivery.




Cloth Lullaby
Amy Novesky, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Cloth Lullaby is Arsenault’s most recent offering and is an illustrated story written by Amy Novesky. In contrast to the previous book, this one is full of colour and vibrancy but still the same loose, sketchy style that is so clearly Arsenault’s. It is less like a graphic novel in comparison, with no comic book style grid layouts, but more full page images with text dotted here and there. Again, the hand drawn text adds a sensitive, personal feel to the story, which tells the life of Louise Bourgeois – an artist I ashamedly knew nothing about! The matte stock and cloth bound spine is just another reason as to why this is a valued addition to my collection.


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Home
Carson Ellis

Carson Ellis has been on my illustration radar for a very long time. I discovered The Decemberists through her work (fronted by her husband, Colin Meloy) as she has created all their gorgeous album art, as well as illustrating countless books including many of her own. Using watercolour, Ellis has a simple style in terms of shadow and form but the details she paints are what really inspire me. I love her use of colour and the thin lines and patterns she adds on top of her base shapes. She has an excellent understanding of colour and uses a muted colour palette in a perfect way, I love seeing both her greyscale and coloured pieces. ‘House’ is a gorgeous children’s book that reminds me of a fairy tale – though there is no story as such, it documents various different abodes in a sweet rhyme. The artwork is immersive and the detail is incredible – I love her portrayal of people and plants, there is a real sense of depth in her illustrations and I am enthralled by the whole word she creates in a single painting.



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Sunday, 17 July 2016

Stone bug DIY

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My sister saw an idea on Pinterest for some little bug ornaments for the garden using painted golf balls. I loved the idea and her garden looks so sweet dotted with little ladybirds hiding in her planters. They have started to show signs of wear though, with the paint coming off and chipping. As we just had our birthday, I thought I’d make her some more using a slightly different technique and glaze them so they last for her all year, as well as sharing the DIY with you guys.

Now you could use golf balls, air dry clay or go with the idea I’m using, which involves a little trip to the beach (though I think I’d wait for slightly better weather here in the UK if I were you!). I picked up a few different sized pebbles, but make sure the ones you choose have round edges, are smooth and not too small. The smaller and bumpier they are, the harder they’ll be to paint but don’t worry about finding a perfect sphere.

All you’ll need, along with your stones, is some bright acrylic paints, some different sized paintbrushes and a glazing medium (I used ModPodge – you can find this in places like Hobbycraft or buy it on Amazon).




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Step one
Base layer

I definitely recommend giving your stones a ‘base coat’. Like a primer, it not only adds durability but also allows the colours you paint to stand out and look brighter. I used white gesso for my base layer, and gave each stone two coats.




Step two
Paint

I didn’t use a template because the designs are really simple – definitely something that children can get involved with too (though it might be worth using larger stones in that case!) I created three designs of each, a bumblebee, a ladybird and. well… an unidentifiable but rather fun purple bug thing. The options are pretty endless with a craft like this but I stuck to three designs that are nice and easy, but still look really cute. Use a small to medium size paintbrush to paint your first coat of main colour, (I did two coats for the yellow but only needed one for the red.) The great thing about acrylic paint is that once you’ve finished painting your first coat on all your stones, you can go back to the first one you did and it will be dry already!

Use a smaller paintbrush for the finer details – any stripes, dots, wings, antennas etc. you’d like to add. I simply used black or white dots for the eyes and small pink dots for blushed cheeks.




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Step three
Glaze

To add durability to your little bugs, the final step is glazing. This’ll mean that they won’t weather or get damaged so easily when they’re decorating your planters in the garden. I did one coat using ModPodge and a sponge brush. Not only does it protect your bugs, but it also adds a shine to them and makes them look finished and professional.




This really is a three step tutorial – so easy and I think they look great! That’s all there is to it, and if you add them into a gift box on top of some tissue paper they make a great gift. I love seeing them peeking out of the pots when I'm sat on our patio and I'll definitely need to make some more!

If you make these yourself, I’d love to see so please tag me on Twitter or Instagram with your creations :)




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Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Desk Tour

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Step in to my office...

Before we moved into our house, our previous flat was a one bed, which meant our ‘study’ was in the lounge. Our desks were at either end of the room and though it worked in the space we had, it meant any clutter or work would be on show to visitors. We’ve been in our ‘new’ house for a year and 9 months now and I can’t really imagine how we managed before! The room is full to the brim with bookcases, printers, screens and all the other stuff that comes with a home office. I’m not quite sure where we placed it all in the flat or whether I’ve slowly just been buying more and more things ever since we moved!

I’ve been meaning to do a post on my desk space for a while now but actually decided to change things round a few months back. When we moved we brought everything with us from where we lived as students – so they didn’t match. I’d never been a fan of Graham’s desk (it was big, dark and industrial looking) whereas I had a patterned glass top with the art easel legs. This worked great for me and meant I had a big space to work on, though I found myself cluttering it up far too often. So, we decided to ditch these desks and go for matching ones – they suit the space a lot better and really makes the room feel more finished and complete. We bought two ‘Linnmon’s from IKEA – they are corner desks and the curved edges mean our desk chairs (‘Malkom’s, also from IKEA) tuck in neatly and shows a lot more floor space in the office than it did before.

The main reason for updating our desks was for Graham’s need to have three monitors, and my need to just have more space! The idea with my new desk it that I have my monitors and computer bits on the left, and space for drawing on the right. I built a little ‘Lack’ shelf and have that on the top to maximize space and store my countless pots of paintbrushes, pens and pencils. The white dotty cup is from Tiger, the large pencil and pens holders are either cutlery holders or plant pots from IKEA and the little pink cup with a face on is by House of Rym. The white drawer tidy is from TK Maxx though I’ve not totally utilized this in a way I’m happy with yet. Under the shelf is my turquoise basket that holds my punches and all my glues (glue sticks, double-sided tape and tape runners), and the turquoise dotty boxes (from IKEA) hold my large stamps and die-cuts. To the right is my tape dispenser, pencil sharpener and a couple of bowls from Tiger that holds lots of little odds and ends. I've also got my little memo holders that I shared a DIY on last year. On the wall above my monitors is a white frame filled with a collage of photos that my sister made me for Christmas, and the wall above the shelf has a print from Lizzy Stewart and OhNoRachio. The floral cup on my desk is a recent purchase from Matalan and the wire basket full of my washi is from TK Maxx. I've also got my glass square cutting mat in front of my keyboard where I do my scrapbooking. Underneath my desk is a little wooden shelf unit (originally a shoe tidy from Argos) that holds my larger paper pads, scrapbook wallets and scrapbook album. I've also got a computer tower, printer, graphics tablet and scanner hiding under there!

To the right are some mustard-coloured boxes that are also from IKEA, and a jam-packed Billy bookcase next to that. The top shelf holds some decorative boxes which are full of paper scraps, letter stickers and 6x6 paper pads, along with other bits like a few odd notebooks and list pads. Underneath are all our creative books (my reading books live somewhere else). This is pretty full too, with sketchbooks and drawing pads, sewing books, art and design books and portfolio bits crammed on here to the brim. I keep trying to organize this but I can never find anything I want to part with! The top of the bookcase has another little drawer set which is from Homesense and holds my small scrapbooking bits – like ink pads, small paper scraps, wood veneer, sequins and stamps. There's another photo frame on there and a vase with some fake flowers, plus a little cupcake I crocheted years ago!

I’m toying with the idea of adding a larger shelving unit to the desk instead of the single shelf – I think it will definitely help me organise my bits and add space but I’m worried it will look too busy and ‘close in’ the work area. Let me know what you think of my workspace, and if you’ve done your own little desk tour then I’d love to see!




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Thursday, 30 June 2016

My top 5 art books

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There are plenty of art books on my shelves and I wanted to share a few of my favourites. Some of them are based on individual artists, and the others are a mix of many, but they’re all full of inspiration and perfect if you’re looking for something that will spark some ideas – for both new and experience creatives.




Hand Job
Michael Perry

I was that person in the student library that hogged this books for weeks on end and kept renewing the loan – I loved this book at university so I bought it for myself as a graduate. I found it during a typography brief in my first year and this book is the whole reason why I fell in love with type – before this, I hated it because all it meant to me was fonts. Hand-drawn type wasn’t even on my radar so this was a totally new world for me and one I’m still in love with today. This book is full of loose playful and experimental alphabets as well as finished typography pieces from a wide range of different artists, full of colour and fun.




Typography Sketchbooks
Steven Heller & Lita Talarico

This was my first ‘investment’ art book straight out of university. I remember being on a trip to Poole with Graham and finding this in Waterstones, then sitting crossed legged in front of the bookshelf and devouring each and every page. At that point, being fresh graduates, £30 seemed a lot of money to spend on one book, but we couldn’t pass this up and split the cost between us. I love seeing inside people’s sketchbooks and the selling point for me with this one is that it not only shows the finished pieces, but also the blueprints of type, the thumbnails and doodles and the pages full of ideas. It has a whole range of typography in here, varying from pretty watercolour quotes to blocky, 80s inspired alphabets. A must for any type enthusiast, that’s for sure.




Common Interest: Documents
Emmi Salonen

Though these things aren’t the biggest factor in your hand lettering, they can make a difference. Everyone is different and we all have our own preferences, so I’d definitely recommend trying out a few paper stocks and different drawing tools to find your favourites. Though cheap printer paper with a low gsm is good for loose sketches, for final pieces I prefer paper of a much heavier weight. If you’re tracing rough lineart, using a lightbox will help massively in order for you to see through the paper, otherwise it’s easier to use light-weight paper. Generally, for lettering, it’s easier to use smooth paper, particularly for line art. Textured paper can be used if you’re using ink or watercolour, though my preference is always smooth as you can be more precise with your lines.

A lot of creatives use mechanical pencils for sketching as they keep a nice sharp point, though personally I am more inclined to go with a soft pencil, like a 2B, and then sharpen it out later on. If you’re inking your final piece, the pen you use will largely depend on the style you’re going for. A dip pen and ink is great for a traditional look, though it takes some practice. A brush pen helps create varying strokes with ease, or a fineliner can be used for outlines and you can fill it in as you wish.




In Progress
Jessica Hische

A recent acquisition. I’ve loved Jessica Hische’s work for a very long time so I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to invest! I also took her ‘Lettering for designers’ class on Skillshare and adored it, which prompted me to finally purchase this one. The book is excellent, very thorough in not only explaining typographic elements and layout, but also her career path and how she got to being a full time ‘letterer’. The book also talks about tools and processes, with the main part of the book showing various pieces and projects from her portfolio. You can clearly see the differences from her early work which is more illustrative to the pure type projects she creates today – her Penguin drop cap series being my favourite project of hers so far.




Barnbrook Bible
Jonathan Barnbrook

This one was a very recent purchase but not a recent find. It’s another book I remember finding in my university library and keeping for weeks – a huge inspiration for my first few design projects in the first year of my degree. Jonathan Barnbrook is a graphic designer who’s work include designing the art for Bowie’s albums, as well as creating his own typefaces.
His work is so interesting to me – in university I simply used it to reference and flick through but since I bought this new copy, I’ve been reading about his ideas and philosophy and am fascinated by his process. Often, as designers, we’ll pick a font if it looks good, but Barnbrook’s view has really changed my perceptions on type – in that the font designer had different ideas and meanings behind what they’ve created and should be used as such. An example would be his ‘Bastard’ font, which wouldn’t be used for a modern gig poster for example, because the inspiration behind the font was blackletter and monasticism. He uses typography as communication and art in itself, which is something that is so easy to forget when creating design – often we use type simply as a way to display information rather than communicate it.


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