Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Barn Owl Inspiration and Inking Process

Over the weekend we had fairly windy and rainy weather so I decided to have a 'Hibernation Day' indoors and re-watch my favourite film: Labyrinth. As I've previously mentioned, I love everything about this film.

If you've never seen it (Why?!), David Bowie's Goblin King is able to turn into a barn owl. As you do.  According to IMDB, this was actually the first attempt at including a CGI creature in a film.

Re-watching the film reminded me of how much I love barn owls. In English folklore they have been seen as quite menacing creatures and have even been linked to death. I think they were just misunderstood because they look so beautifully other-worldly. If you want to read more about them, I found a really interesting website here.

So, inspired by my favourite film, I decided to create my own barn owl illustration today. 

I often get asked what I use in my illustrations, as well as how long each one takes me. The short answer to this is that it varies from piece to piece, and I'm often enjoying myself so much that I don't actually know how much time I've spent on something by the time I've finished. A large scale piece, like the one I started today, usually takes at least 3 days of actual painting and drawing time.

I thought I would share the first few stages of a piece with you today. 

All of my work begins with mapping out a very rough sketch in pencil. I try to do this very quickly and not over-think it, but just try to capture a bit of life in what I'm drawing. I then do my main sketching with an old fashioned dip pen and Chinese black ink.

Dip pen and ink sketch detail

The next stage is my favourite. It's really important to me that I capture the feel of something rather than perfect details, so I like to make a mess here. I work over my dip pen and ink sketch with washes of water and different sized paint brushes to begin adding shading and some details. I usually chuck a bit of water on the paper and let it run down (I work on an easel). You can see this in the picture below, as well as where I've flicked the paintbrush on the wing. By this point I have permanent ink all over my clothes and face!

Adding wash details

I keep working over what I've done using water, ink and brushes until I'm happy with the first layer. It was getting quite dark by the time I'd reached this stage (below), so my spotlight was adding a touch of spooky lighting, which I actually really like!

Current stage. First layer of ink complete.

It'll be another 6 or 7 layers of different colours and materials before I add the final details to the illustration.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

It's Live!

I'm very excited today because I've been hanging on to an Etsy username since 2010, with every intention of opening my own shop, but I've never quite got round to it. Today, after a very long time, my shop is finally live!

My first products are these Christmas cards:

Full body stag Christmas card

Stag head Christmas card

Set of 6 Stag Christmas cards

I will be popping some extra goodies into my first few orders to celebrate the launch of the shop!

You can find me at

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Warner Brothers Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

Last weekend I went to visit my brother, Harvey, in Amersham. Harv was an excellent brother and took me to the Harry Potter Studio Tour

We had an absolutely amazing time. I'm really gullible when it comes to films so my mind was blown by all of the behind the scenes magic. I was also very excited the whole way round, as can be seen from the cheesy grin in most of the photos!

The Great Hall!

No. 4 Privet Drive

Harv actually works in special effects himself, and did a few days work experience on the final film, so had seen a lot of it as it was still being used. We also enjoyed looking for his work friends in the wand room.

Wand shopping

I loved every part of the tour, but a few of the highlights for me were The Great Hall, the Creature Effects section, Diagon Alley and the stunning model of Hogwarts.



Hagrid's motorbike

Thanks for an amazing day Harv!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Canadian Adventure: Victoria and Whistler

During the last two days of our trip we visited Victoria for some whale watching, and drove Route 99 to Whistler.

Unfortunately, the weather had turned by then, so we had a rather soggy sea plane ride from Vancouver to Victoria. If you know me, you will know that I am a terrible traveller (I'm a fainter and get travel sick) so I'm not really the top of anyone's travelling companion list. I must admit, I've never felt so travel sick in my life and don't have any desire to go on a sea plane again. Judging by the look on Dad's face as he was sitting next to me, I don't think he wants to take me on one either!

But we made it and had a cooked breakfast before our whale watching boat trip. The weather was very wet by this point so most people stayed under cover in the boat, but all of the Brits decided to be very stubborn and stick it out on the top of the boat until the bitter end! We saw two humpback whales, which were very impressive, but then the sea became very rough so we had to head back early. Whiter shade of pale is an understatement!

After a little respite on land, it was back to the dreaded sea plane for our return journey to Vancouver (made it!). We then drove in a hire car to Whistler in the evening.

The following morning we visited The Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre. This one was a bit more of a living history museum and we had an amazing tour guide who was a real character, telling us all about how the First Nations people are continuing their traditions today. We even had a go at making cedar bark rope!

It was then time for us to drive to the airport, so we drove back along Route 99, this time in daylight so that we could take in all of the breathtaking views. A great way to end an amazing trip!

Canadian Adventure: Final Day in Vancouver and Grouse Mountain

On our last day in Vancouver, I went to the Anthropology Museum which was absolutely fascinating. I've included a few pictures of the beautiful totem poles and artefacts on display there. They have also built a replica longhouse at the back of the museum.

'The  Raven and The First Men' by Bill Reid

Longhouse replica

After the museum, I met up with Dad and we re-visited The Urban Tea Merchant. They were so friendly there earlier in the week and recommended an amazing creme caramel tea, that we decided to go for tea and a pudding. I tried 'An Afternoon in Venice' (what a great name!) and had a delicious panna cotta.

tea + pudding = happy

We then went back to the hotel for what we thought was a leisurely afternoon of getting ready for the final dinner up Grouse Mountain. Luckily, I had decided to get ready and then make a start on my packing so I was almost ready when a frantic knock on the door and some colourful language from Dad informed me that he'd got the wrong hour for dinner. We had to leave right away. Fortunately for us we caught the final coach to the cable car!

Stressed? Us?!

The cable car was the only journey on the trip where I didn't feel travel sick at all, so I was quite proud of myself! I thought we were just going to a restaurant at the top of the mountain, but we got to have a walk around and see some rescue bears too! It looked very dramatic with the clouds level with the trees, but once we'd gone inside and started our lovely dinner, the sky cleared so we could appreciate the amazing views.

Misty Mountain

Beautiful bear

Our lovely table at dinner

Top of the Mountain

Dad and I then danced the night away with our best disco moves, and even attracted our own crowd and backing dancers! Thankfully no photographic evidence of this one!!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Canadian Adventure: Granville Island

Another place we visited in Vancouver was the amazing Granville Island. It used to be an industrial estate. However, after the decline of the area, it was redeveloped in the 1970s to become a centre for the arts and independent shops. There is an amazing covered food market there, and lots of designers and makers. There is even an art and design university there, with an excellent art supply shop attached!

We went there as a group one evening and had supper at the Granville Island Hotel, but most of the shops were closed at the time, so I decided to revisit the following morning. It's arty and foodie heaven. Here are a few pictures to show you what it was like:

Here's Dad eying up the woodcarving workshop.

The food market was a labyrinth of deliciousness so it's impossible to show it all in one picture, but here is a selection of the fresh produce available. Such a shame we couldn't take loads away with us!

Kate Barazzoul makes beautiful jewellery under the name 'Quench Designs'. I fell in love with everything on her gorgeously presented stall and could have bought it all! Dad ordered one of her pieces which Kate very kindly delivered to the hotel for us on our final day in Vancouver. In fact, it's featured on her facebook page!

Granville Island Hotel, where we ate our dinner.

Here is the band playing just as the sun was beginning to set.

When I came back the following morning, I sampled a delicious vegetable curry for lunch. I was sitting at one of the diner style tables and got chatting to the girl next to me. She was really nice and was on her way to Seattle as part of her travels.

In one of the shops, called Dragonspace (amazing name!), I discovered a Canadian illustrator I'd not heard of before called Charles Van Sandwyk. I don't think he has his own website, but that is a link to examples of his work and a little bit about him. There was a beautiful display of his handmade books in the shop. I fell in love with them, and decided I had to get one. If you know me well, you will know it's no surprise that I went for the Christmas one! The style of his work reminds me of a mixture of my two favourites- Beatrix Potter and Arthur Rackham.