Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Breakfast of Illustrators

You might not be too surprised to hear that my flat is brimming with illustrated goodies. Even aside from the books, you'll find my closet stacked with unusual prints and patterns, framed pieces from my favourite illustrators on the walls, and a cupboard full of cute illustrated homeware.This morning I treated myself to a rare, relaxed breakfast before settling in to work - sat with the sun streaming through the window, with tea, orange juice, and a croissant on one of my favourite plates. Yes, even my breakfasts are illustrated.This lovely plate is part of the fauna set by Magpie and Nicholas John Frith (a present from my friend Luisa!), the mug is part of a set from Cath Kidston* and the glass was a charity shop treasure (I think it was about 30p for two!).

Friday, 16 September 2016

My Best Friend's Wedding!

So, last month my best friend got married to the love of her life, Andrew. It was a gorgeous day and I worked my very hardest to be an A+ Maid of Honour! 

There were wildflowers, fairy lights, a tasty homemade wedding cake and a lot of brilliant dancing. Sticking with the home-made theme, I wanted to give Hannah and Andrew a really special extra wedding gift; so as a surprise, I illustrated this portrait of them!

I've known Hannah for years and years, so we've often drawn silly pictures of each other; but it felt lovely to sit down and properly illustrate a portrait of her and Andrew to commemorate their wedding day. The background colours are very 'classic Hannah', and I had to sneak in some conversations with her family to make sure I had the outfits illustrated perfectly! 

I had the illustration giclee printed at Yeti (probably favourite printers, review here!) as I could trust them to print the colours exactly as I wanted them and on really gorgeous paper stock. 

The whole day was incredibly emotional in the best way, and it meant so much that they both loved the illustration. Hannah and Andrew are two of the very best people in the world, and I know they're going to have an amazing life together 

Friday, 26 August 2016

Adventures in Orkney

This Summer I headed up on a bit of a road trip with my family, from Lancashire all the way through Scotland to the very tip top archipelago of Orkney. It was a long and beautiful drive (although only half as long as my parents' who had driven up from Cornwall!) through glens and past lochs, with a stop off in literally the most stereotypically Scottish hotel I could ever imagine (think whiskey on arrival, tartan covered lifts and stag's heads on the walls) and then a jump on the ferry near John O' Groats.

We stayed in beautiful Stromness, a sweet little arty seaside town on the main island (I say little, but it was infact the second biggest town in Orkney). Driving between the islands the landscapes are ridiculously striking - absolutely no trees, just rolling hills, ancient standing stones, shipwrecks, turquoise sea, and cows, lots and lots of cows!

The history of Orkney is so vivid: from crawling into 3000 year old cairn tombs on my hands and knees; jotting down Viking graffiti runes; and learning about its important location in the world wars - you can barely move for historical sites. One of my very favourites was the 5000 year old neolithic village (complete with shelving units!): Skara Brae. I'll write a bit more about Skara Brae in the coming weeks as I'm basing my new illustration for Light Grey Art Lab's 'Tiny Homes' exhibition on the settlement, but I have a few sneak peeks on Instagram.

Orkney is so so full of wildlife, it's pretty unbeliveable. In one day I saw more puffins, grey seals, dolphins and even killer whales than I could ever have hoped to see in a zoo (and they looked far happier!). The killer whales in particular made the trip incredible - I won't pretend that I wasn't checking twitter for updates on where they'd been spotted and dragging my family around the islands to track them Twister-style (they all agree it was worth it haha!). 

The islands have always been a place of inspiration to artists and creatives (notably Stanley Cursiter from Stromness!), so I made sure that I made the most of my time by grabbing every chance I could to take in the landscape through sketching. You'll always find me with a sketchbook when I travel - a lot of the time I find it gives my memory of the place a bit more sticking power than a quick snap - and I have to say that sitting on the clifftops in the sunshine, with my sketchbook and a big sandwich was pretty heavenly. I won't stay away for long!

Friday, 5 August 2016

Exploring Liverpool Biennial with Cass Art

Renowned art suppliers Cass Art got in touch with me recently, asking if I'd like to pop over and explore the Liverpool Biennial with them. After some snacks, art goodies and printmaking with the other talented journalists, bloggers and artists; we set off on our tour around some of the highlights.

There was an amazing variety of venues to explore, some completely unexpected like Ian Cheng’s Something Thinking of You nestled between the security monitor and packets of food at the Hondo Chinese supermarket (definitely one of my favourites) and others like The Oratory that are only open to the public for the Biennial.

The 2016 Biennial is organised as a story throughout Liverpool's landscape, focusing on the themes (episodes) of Ancient Greece, Chinatown, software, children, flashback and monuments from the future. More about the episodes here.

It was brilliant to get together with the rest of our group and engage with some of the interactive pieces like Audrey Cottin's Lift Me. We had to team up to haul poles from the ground to form a gigantic cube structure! It's always great to break down those 'look don't touch' barriers that so many people can feel with art, and just really enjoy it.

The Biennial is on until 16th October, so grab the chance to go if you can - it's such a great opportunity to explore parts of Liverpool you might never have known existed and to see such a huge variety of creative work. 

Hopefully if I'm in Liverpool again before the end date I'll be able to take in even more of the show - I'm sure we only scratched the surface! Huge thank you to Cass Art and our guides for a lovely day of art, exploration and fun! 

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Instagram Latest

After finally joining Instagram at the start of the year, I've been using it to share some sneak peeks at my new work, behind the scenes sketches, secret projects, adventures and personal snapshots! 

I'll admit this month I had to refrain from posting a million snaps of my trip to Orkney (it was so incredible!), but head over to my Instagram for a bucketload of July's inspiration and sketch updates!

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Stranger Things Fan Art - Joyce Byers Animated Illustration

So, amidst all the Pok√©mon Go talk lately (ah yeayuh), you've probably heard people talking about the new Netflix show 'Stranger Things'... or maybe...like me, you've guzzled down the entire series in a matter of days. 

I'm a big fan of tv shows like this. Think: Twin Peaks, X-Files and Fringe mixed with films like Super 8 or The Goonies. Mystery, yup! 80s nostalgia, yup! Brilliant characters, yup! Just..yes. 

So after I'd finished the series, I couldn't help but sketch some of the characters. I'm not kidding when I say I sketched pretty much the entire main cast, and hopefully I'll be able to show you those at some point, but in a first things first kind of way I was struck with the idea of taking Winona Ryder's character: Joyce Byers into a final illustration and then on into gif format.

If you've followed my work you'll know that I love to dip into working with simple animation when I can, and the flashing light theme in Stranger Things lends itself perfectly to that. This was a quick one, so it is simple, but it's had such a brilliant response across social media. That's what I love about getting the chance to work on fan art, the mass of connection and the "Hey! You like that show too!"s that grow from it - it makes you feel like you just met a whole team of people on your wavelength.

So - hopefully I'll put up a few more of the illustrations in the coming days/weeks and animated them if they lend themselves to that. In the meantime, I'm going to get some lunch and wish I had eggos.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Bridgeman Studio Award Shortlist

I'm really pleased to say a selection of my work was shortlisted in the Bridgeman Studio Award this year!

With such a rise in competitions asking for brand new work to be created (more info here on why that's so unhealthy for the industry), I thought it was brilliant that the Bridgeman Studio Award were looking to judge the competition based on pre-existing work and portfolios. 

The awards had almost a thousand entries, with each illustrator entering pieces from their portfolio which fit with the theme 'night' (I had a fair few to choose from, including this ink sketch I'd made for Inktober a few years ago). 

The awards are partnered with The Borough Press, Harper Collins, CultureLabel.com and Creative Review. 

Thursday, 7 July 2016

IPSE Magazine Cover Illustration

Heyo! I made the cover of IPSE magazine! 

This one's extra special as I was commissioned to create an illustrated self-portrait (always tricky!) to celebrate my Freelancer of the Year award in June. So. Exciting.

It's a great alternative to the usual winner's photo as it lets me show exactly what my work is like (rather than trying to describe it, which is always a little complicated), and, well, it sidesteps a little bit of an Emmeline blush seeing giant pictures of my real-life face in print.

If you were at the Freelancer of the Year event you may have seen the original photo-cover pop up on the screen as the awards were announced (I didn't notice until later on!). I thought it would be good to stick to that basic design, although obviously hair down is more fun to draw, and there's always some artistic license in a style switch. I also grabbed a bit of inspiration from my own 'Small Stories' comic cover to create the illustrated version. 

I think it's always good to share a little bit of process, so as you can see I started with quick digital sketches, moved on to ink linework and then used Photoshop for the digital colouring (which follows my usual process at the moment) and sent the illustration and name in my handwriting to IPSE to design the cover.

If you can get hold of a copy of the magazine, it's well worth a read, with lots of articles on freelancing, business advice, IPSE's new 'Be free to create' campaign, the low-down on the other finalists and a great 'A Picture of Happiness' write up on me and my career by Jim Cassidy. You can also take a look at the magazine online here!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

I won Freelancer of the Year!

It's been a full week, but I have to say I still haven't come down from the IPSE-QA Awards last Thursday. It feels like a dream, but I'm so happy to say I was crowned 'Freelancer of the Year 2016'!

I'd been really impressed with IPSE's hard work to support freelancers since finding out about them in 2013 - and it was my fantastic experience as a finalist of their '15 for 15' awards two years ago that prompted me to give the Freelancer of the Year 2016 awards a shot.

I hope it doesn't sound faux-humble, but I'd honestly talked myself out of the idea that I would win - I suppose as a sort of defence mechanism to not let myself fall too hard if I didn't get it. There were definitely a few moments (and tech issues) in the judging presentation where I was thinking 'nooope! I've fudged it'. Sure, there's always that streak that pops up "but what if I do win!" (which would give me an excited look, probably making the people on the train think I was kind of odd), but as the runners-up were being announced (the wonderful Richard Jeffs and Lowri Roberts), I was thinking 'ah well, it's been a really great experience but I haven't got it'.

It's quite tricky to describe the feeling as the awards host, lovely comedian Tom Rosenthal, announced me as the winner. Mostly like the celebration version of that last second on a water slide, where you start flying through the air and then crash with confusion in to the water. The water being...emotion? Who knows. All I can say is it was a lovely shock.

Pure joy face

I don't know who came up with the plan to ask the winner questions after the announcement, but I got asked something along the lines of "why do you think you won?", which is tricky to answer any time, let alone on the spot in front of nearly 200 people and after news like that. I spoke honestly and fully engaged my from-the-heart thrusters, and said something along the lines of "I guess it's because I'm so passionate... and that *voice accidentally trembles wildly* I couldn't be happier in any other job *almost bursts out in tears*". 

I mean it, I really do. Despite the seriously low points, ridiculous situations and mountainous challenges, I just...live it, I'm a freelance illustrator and it's everything I ever wanted.

In a flurry of congratulations and "You made the audience cry!"s I reminded myself to hold on to that feeling. It was overwhelming, beautiful, and felt a little bit like accidentally turning your phone screen up to full brightness in a dark room, but, y'know, in a good way.

Photos by IPSE, Prima Media and finalist Steve Folland

I met so many incredible people, and it was such an honour to be surrounded by so many others who are as passionate about freelancing and business-lonewolfing as I am. There's 1.9 million freelancers in the UK and I'm thrilled to be able to stand up as Freelancer of the Year and (despite the many "get a real job", "art degrees don't count" and "so you just draw teddy bears?"s I've had) say that creative freelancing is a bloomin' brilliant career choice. More of that please.

What happened to Alice?!

A lot of people have asked what I'm going do with the £5000 prize money, and my main plan is to allow it to give me the self-permission and mental space to dedicate my time to working on projects I feel truly passionate about. As with all self-employed people there’s that constant pressure to push your business, pay the bills and grow, grow, grow whilst maintaining every role of a company as one person - and it can be exhausting. There's only so much time in a week you can dedicate to working on self-penned projects, and now I feel like I can really delve in to the ideas for graphic novels, picture books, workshops and new skills that I've wanted to work on for years. I'm beyond excited and I can't wait to show you what I create!

With finalists Steve Folland and Mercy Obi (photo taken by Steve)

A huge thank you to IPSE and QA; a massive high-five to all the other incredible finalists (an extra big one to Lauren Razavi who won the young Freelancer of the Year award); a casual fist-bump to Tom Rosenthal who was an awesome hosty-chap; and a gigantic cheer for everyone who celebrated National Freelancers Day with us!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Use Your Vote

Just a little reminder that in the UK today is the last day to register to vote in the upcoming EU Referendum. Really important to allow yourself to be heard, and registering only takes a minute. www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Friday, 1 April 2016

Texture Sketching

Yesterday I wanted to break loose a little bit and experiment with some really textured character sketches. This was just a quick five-minute sketch, and it was great fun to leave behind any worry of being precise and just play with mark making! I really recommend it if you're feeling a bit stuck (or bored, or need a bit of inspiration, or just want to try something new!).

Friday, 18 March 2016

Exhibitions, Bowie and Inspiration

Last weekend I was so thrilled to be involved in two incredible exhibitions right here in the North West. 

Earlier this year, like so many of us were, I was deeply saddened to hear the news of the loss of David Bowie. I have so many great memories of listening to Bowie songs, and it has always been so encouraging as an artist to see someone express themselves creatively without holding back or bowing to trends. So, when Jamie, James and Kirsten from Draw North West got in touch with an idea to put on the 'Sound and Vision' exhibition inspired by David Bowie tracks, with all money raised going to Cancer Research, I couldn't wait to be involved.

The exhibition featured 36 illustrators, each choosing a David Bowie track to inspire an illustration, which was then printed 12 x 12 inch (LP size) and displayed together at Texture in Manchester. It was one of those exhibitions where there are so many brilliant artists involved, it really goes to show how much talent there is around Manchester and the North West.

I chose to base my illustration on the track 'Slow Burn'. It's not one of his best-known tracks, coming from Bowie's 2002 album 'Heathen', but I absolutely love the feel of it and from the second I heard about the exhibition I knew which track I wanted to illustrate.

I chose ‘Slow Burn’ for its deep sense of atmosphere, narrative and poignancy.  The themes of the song: fear, surveillance, a feeling of helplessness and a simmering indignation, can be interpreted as being incredibly reflective of today’s society, even fourteen years after the release of the song.

I wanted to suggest a narrative inspired by the song; pinpointing key elements of the lyrics and creating an emotive character to subtly convey an imagined plot centred on anger, sadness and determination in a dystopian-esque environment.

The exhibition was only on for one night, but the venue was packed and there was a huge list of print orders.  I'll get back to you with the exact figures, but it's looking like we raised an awful lot of money for Cancer Research - and I'm very glad to have been involved.

Coincidentally, that same week I was asked by the Creative Lancashire team if I could use my illustration to include in a David Bowie tribute exhibition in the Derwent Gallery section of the Best of Britannia show in Preston. It seems so many creative people were affected by Bowie's death, and it's not surprising to see the wealth of tributes and artistic dedications that have sprung up since -  I'm always keen to support those, like these two events, that start conversations about sharing inspiration and raise money for charity.

I also had a number of my other illustrations featured in a separate section of the Derwent Pencils-sponsored gallery section of the BOB show. The Best of Britannia weekend featured artists, makers and independent businesses from across the North scattered throughout the spectacular rustic old post office building in Preston. There were tie-makers, lampshade creators, artists, potters, writers and vodka brewers all exhibiting in the same building, and it was fantastic to meet so many of them.

It was a brilliant and busy weekend. One of those that reminds you to take the leap out of your studio more often, grab the chance to grow some inspiration and forge new friendships.

These sorts of events, where there are so many people brought together through common inspiration and passion for creativity, are some of the most exciting, humbling and meaningful. It's always good to be reminded that from loss; be it personal or cultural; there's so often that seed for something new to grow, and the heightened drive to embrace that which brings us together.