This year I’m excited to be using the journal I designed for recording and planning my own tiny balcony garden, so I thought I’d review how well it works and share my thinking for further product development. I had a display copy sitting around so I thought I might as well put it to use. They’re almost all sold out ( one left in the shop, along with a couple of the plastic-free kits) and I’ve had great feed-back so far. Time to see if there’s room for improvement before I order another small batch! Sit tight for a glimpse of my actual gardening attempts for this year too, for a space approximately 2x3m.
I find the format very handy, it would slip nicely in a small bag if you have an allotment or need to carry it if you have a large gardening space, for example. I don’t have to carry mine far though, and I enjoy it sitting pretty on my desk.
I’m happy that a lot of the pages are versatile and adaptable to your own way of gardening. This timeline could be a blooming timetable, sowing schedule, or ‘to do’ list for example. The paper is smooth and thick, and I was able to erase my graphite notes when I changed my mind after trying to crowd too much in to April!
I would love to make a hardback book with replaceable pages, perhaps a clip-in folder style so you could use it year after year, but it wasn’t financially viable and also this version is more portable. If you only have a small space, as lots of Urban Gardeners do, this smaller style fits better. A small collection will still be slimline and showcase your efforts over the years.
I’ll put photos in when things start growing, but it’ll make a cute little photo album. There’s a rough seasonal progression to the images and colours from front to back, Spring to Winter, which I’m very happy I went with.
This page above I particularly love, and realise it would be handy to include more of, for example for a planting schedule for each season. At the moment this single copy is very handy.
If anyone has any suggestions for version two, I’d love to hear them, whether you have a copy or just have an idea. I would love suggestions on products to add to my plastic-free gardening range as well, as gardening is such a big passion of mine and I love it when people buy these as gifts for other gardeners. I’m hoping I’m bringing a bit more fun and satisfaction to any garden-lovers. I’m happy I’m managing to keep it locally printed, sustainable and lovingly designed and packaged too.
This journal started as a way for me to still live out my gardening passion, one story up and in the middle of a city. I hope I can encourage people others to keep at it and make the most of any space they’ve got even if it’s just a windowsill.
Here are a couple of snap shots of my balcony right now, with most things still dormant but a few signs of Spring.
I can’t wait for it all to wake up, and I hope to share my gardening (and illustration progress with you later in the season!
I say new, it isn’t really, I have just had the mental space to sit down and really consider the why’s and the where to’s of my artwork, and what the connecting thread is. Obvious, once you see it.
Anyhow, the botanical touches in this calendar series are a reminder that the beauty and seasons of nature can still touch us in our daily lives. Completing the series is a continuation of my study of ‘the cycles of nature and our connection to it’.
How Did It All Become Clear?
One evening in October I sat quietly on my son’s bed, his head in my lap, stroking his hair in the dark. We do this every night and it’s often the first chance we get to slow down after a busy day. This particular evening I sat and reflected on where I was with my art, where this year had taken me and where I wanted to go with it next year. I was taking a breather after assembling my exhibition for Dutch Design Week, and had already checked off most of my ‘to do’ list for this year.
I realised the chosen theme for our joint exhibition, a sort of ‘catch-all’ each of us was already using as a creative, was a thread I have always had running through my artwork for a long time. The theme ‘Nature Human Nature; exploring the state of our connection to nature as the organic beings we are’ is not exceptionally unusual but one I’m sure many creatives can relate to.
Nature is Magical, but…
Why would anyone want to hear that coming from me? Everyone knows the natural world is wondrous and important, so how am I sharing it in a meaningful way with people? What in particular about the natural world draws me in so I can draw it out?
My connection to nature was so obvious once I looked again at my work, and the theme for the exhibition.
It’s the cycles! The renewal of the seasons and cycles of nature that return and plough on even when shaken and disrupted by us. Just look at some of the works I’ve made in the last couple of years that physically use a ‘cycles/circles of nature’ theme~
My work is a celebration of how grounded the rhythms of nature keep me, even when I’m living in a box apartment that vibrates with the superficial airco of the supermarket below. The symbols in my images are often widely acknowledged cultural representations of the seasons, a testament to the unity with nature many of us rejoice in throughout the years of our lives. The hopeful fresh tones of Spring, the bountiful blooms of Summer, the chilling angularities of Winter: I want to capture and honour it all. I want to portray the marks it makes on our psyches.
My brain has clearly been crying out for me to connect to nature in my current urban setting. I love people but I’m a nature lover and country girl at heart. I miss walks in the woods and fields, and will rekindle that feeling every way I can. What better way than capturing that magical awe and sharing it with others through my artwork? I hope you can feel the energy and feeling of ‘completeness’ that being able to portray it gives me. I just needed to slow down and pause to catch up with myself again.
Folklore, semiotics and cultural references to nature have long been a part of my work, but now I know I need to delve even deeper to grasp hold of that golden connecting thread running through my artmaking journey. If I’m lucky that thread will pass on beyond my reach to be grasped by others who feel the same connection. Others who find my artwork celebrates their own grounding connection to the natural world, that honours their own seasons.
Come join us Saturday 10th Dec at the Blokhut for a ‘Winter Botanicals’ watercolor workshop! All abilities welcome, I can give tips for those who ask, or just come along and do your thing. Botanics are one of my passions and a much-covered subject in my work. I’d love to share my process with you!
We’ll have some lovely botanical materials on the table to paint and draw from (donation jar will be on the table, much appreciated!), or bring your own ‘wintery’ reference photos.
We speak both Dutch and English. Everyone is welcome!
Use our watercolour materials (10 sets available, first come first served) to make a couple of paintings, or bring your own painting equipment. Materials for tonal sketching will also be available.
This will be inside, so no worries about the weather. This will be our third edition, and the first two were really fun, with some good chats with fellow creatives.
PLEASE NOTE~ Please sign up to the Facebook event or send me a message to say you plan on coming if possible, so that I can make sure we have a decent amount of reference material laid out for everyone. It helps me out greatly with planning!
Here are some examples of the type of botanical illustrations I can show the process for in the workshop, if you want to follow along~
For the second image I used my painting as the background for a mini desk calendar, which is available to my peeps on Patreon (hence the smaller image size: it’s exclusively for the use of my Patrons).
Here’s a peek into my process~
Creating little spot images like these are a great way to make art for yourself, for journaling, to stick on your wall or to turn in to your Christmas cards this year. You’ll come away with something you love!
We’re back for another painting workshop at the Blokhut in Eindhoven, after the success of the first one! Saturday 24th September 10.00-12.00 with the theme ‘Late-Summer Botanicals’.
This one will be an actual lesson with tips and guidance on how I paint my botanical sketches in watercolours. Again suitable for both beginners and advanced watercolourists (in which case, feel free to do your own technique and just enjoy the company and creativity), all are welcome. We speak both English and Dutch.
We have 10 sets of materials available for use, so get there quick to grab one. First come, first served. Coffee and tea available. Come on down for a casual creative morning.
It’s a free session, but donations for materials will be greatly appreciated. I’ll bring a tip jar ❤
I’m pleased to announce that you can join me for a watercolor painting event in Eindhoven! Myself and a couple of folks thought it a lovely idea to get together for a casual painting session, on location inspired by the lovely Blokhut garden, in the Irisbuurt.
Come join us for a fun painting session in the Irisbuurt Blokhut!
Open for beginners and experienced artists. This will be a casual session with no set instructions to follow, but tips and guidance will be available for beginners and anyone who asks. I speak both Dutch and English. Everyone is welcome!
Use our watercolour materials (10 sets available, first come first served) to make a couple of paintings of the lovely garden, or bring your own painting equipment and inspiration pictures. Materials for tonal sketching will also be available.
We’ll go ahead even if it’s raining, we can sit further under cover and arrange for botanical material on the tables to paint.
Having missed painting in person with people over the last few years, I’m very much looking forward to this get together!
If you’d like to RSVP to the Facebook event, you can do that here.
I’m going to be sharing more of my art-making and design process here, as well as my tips for anyone who’s interested.
My Patrons get full details on the process as it happens, as well as invitations for their input, and my newsletter gives a monthly run-down of the best bits as well as a heads-up on when things will be available to purchase in my shop.
I’ll be using this space to curate the processes of my most interesting and juiciest projects, and sharing any experience that I think may come in handy to anyone else. I know I’m always eager to see the design process of other illustrators, out of curiosity and to see if I can pick up any useful tips.
I’ll start with my pocket Garden Journal. This was a self-initiated project that I made basically because I wanted to use it myself!
Run-down of Development Steps
Pencil thumbnails and brainstorming ideas
Watercolour spot illustrations, then scanned and digitally cleaned up
Each page made up and imported into a digital page template
Mini thumbnails of all finished pages, placed in a layout overview document
All pages assembled in a multi-page PDF template, then sent to the printers
Tips / Notes to Self
// A thumbnail overview is useful~ Even a ‘blank’ journal has a sequential layout that requires pacing. A zoomed-out overview lets you check out that colour-schemes and page layouts all have room to breath and are varied enough to be interesting. Especially with so many pages (mine has 44); that’s a lot of room for error!
// Leave lots of time for a multi-page project~ Give yourself a roomy deadline. I knew what I wanted for the finished journal from the start, as gardening is also my hobby, but if it had been an unfamiliar subject I’d have needed a way longer planning and research stage. I’m also naturally bad at time-management so I had to have a lot of patience when things took longer than I initially anticipated. On top of that it was also a new document format, being so many pages, in a publishing program that I have barely used. Patience!
// Ask for a proof version if you have time~I DID actually go for a proof this time, and in the end it wasn’t needed. I ended up making no changes. I think this was down to luck though, and the fact I was making up a booklet to my own requirements. If it had been a commission, or anything with any word count at all (I think this journal has maybe 60 words in it, mostly on the back), then I’d definitely double check before approving the full run. These things cost money, especially with the cost of paper these days, and it’s just not worth throwing your money away. Enquire with your printers, if your print run is large enough then they may be willing to throw in a physical proof print for free.
This journal was certainly a challenge, and if you’re thinking of making up your first illustrated book I’d definitely recommend starting with a familiar subject matter as an anchor to grow your skills around.
If you have any questions, or there’s an aspect you’d like further explanation of, then feel free to comment below!
I’m crossing my fingers and toes that this year is a steadier ride for everyone than the last.
My business couldn’t have made it through 2020 without the amazing support and encouragement from you, so a big thanks to everyone who bought anything, pledged to my Patreon (Patrons are superstars: without them I’d have thrown in the towel last year for certain), and those who shared, simply ‘liked’ or commented on my stuff on social media. All very important support, thank you. I was able to launch a Patreon page, invest and test new products, invest in a new graphics programme (Affinity Designer) to streamline my work, and even take a bit of time to dabble in some personal sketches. I feel like I could get my business affairs a bit more in order, finally!
I’m also here to mention that I also have plans for this year. How fast I can roll them out depends on what happens with the latest lockdown, and when my son can go back to childcare, and also my therapy schedule. I think we’ve all learnt to be a bit more flexible over the last year though, so I’m sure I can re-jig and fit most of my plans in if needs be.
I have a few new products sat here waiting to be assembled, photographed and listed, which I’m already proud of even if no-one else is interested in them. I already plan to use some of them myself.
On the ‘sustainability’ front I’m also dipping my toes in with a local supplier who hold themselves accountable when it comes to the environment. I’ll be trying new cards and textile products this month, actually.
Recently I conquered the seemingly over-complicated task that is setting up Instagram Shopping. I say ‘seemingly’ because I think the complications were mostly down to my ineptitude with tech, and me misunderstanding what the instructions exactly were telling me to do. It’s probably not that difficult if you just follow, and most importantly, understand all the instructions to the letter.
I was determined to set up Instagram Shopping because a surprising amount of direct sales and traffic comes from my Instagram profile. Still a very small amount, but hey I’m working on it, and this is a step to making it even easier to buy from me.
It doesn’t help that, as I’m selling via Etsy, I needed to set up a Facebook catalogue first, THEN integrate that with Insta, get everything verified, etc. I wasn’t even on a full Facebook Business profile before this, which is the very least of what is required.
Also, I tend to lose the ‘help’ articles amidst my million tabs open in my browser… anyway, I did get there in the end.
For those interested (totally not leaving this here for my own reference when I lose the tabs again), here is the Etsy help article you need to follow to verify your Etsy shop account with Facebook and Insta. You’ll also need to have set up a Facebook business page, and also have a ‘business’ profile for Instagram first. Clicking on ‘settings’ in your Instagram will take you through to your profile type, and if you have a business one set up, you can click through to ‘set up Instagram shopping’. Then Instagram admin will review your Facebook Business profile, which takes about a week. I didn’t expect this very frustrating week’s wait, but I just wanted to get this all done an dusted, after already going through so many different steps. Finally though, Instagram will notify you in app and you can ask it to email you, asking you to finish and verify your linked (Etsy) domain over on your Facebook Business page.
Follow the Etsy set up guide to the letter ESPECIALLY when entering the URL format for products in your catalogue (otherwise you get all sorts of security warnings), and you can finally create a Facebook catalogue and then tag your items over on Instagram. Phew. I hope you find it easier than I did.
Let me know if you have any questions and think I can help!
I want to talk about being an immigrant artist with a chronic illness, and how that has shaped my life and work over the last ten years that I’ve lived here in NL. I just touch on my own experience, and it feels like a good time to talk about it now. I’ve just finished jumping through the hoops (I hope!) of applying for my first residency document as a newly non-EU national, and have also finally had my doctor give an official diagnosis of fibromyalgia, after ten years of living with the symptoms. I’m in a good place for a bit of self-reflection!
I’m an immigrant, and proud of it. Call me an expat if you like, I fit that bill too. But I will never shy away from describing myself as an immigrant, because I think a lot of people are too quick to view that term in a negative light, when in fact expats and immigrants are exactly the same thing.
People emmigrate for all sorts of reasons. I’m incredibly lucky that I moved for relatively minor reasons, and it was not an absolute last resort, as is the unfortunate case for many people (hello upcoming global warming-induced mass migration). I was at a low point with my health, moved from England to the Netherlands for love, settled, then we broke up. It was amicable, don’t worry! And I’m now settled in N.L. with my man and my little son Q, so all’s well.
In terms of my career, well, being an immigrant adds its complications. When I moved here I was quite ill. It turns out I’d just had a burnout and developed fibromyalgia, neither of which I’d put a name to until a few years later. Bad health meant I struggled to find paying work (hello, I have an art degree. Talk about awkward!), get out to make friends or generally ‘fit in’. For years I struggled, when actually I should’ve been focusing on recovering and making myself better, not trying to please everyone else and The System. Don’t get me wrong, I think I’ve landed in one of the most diplomatic and open-minded countries in the world, and know that other people haven’t been so lucky if they’ve chosen, or been forced, to move countries. Just, being an artist AND an immigrant made things doubly hard. Not exactly condusive to a ‘steady income’ situation, and when you throw in chronic illness… I could barely get out of bed at one point, for goodness sake. But the point is, I tried. I worked very hard. I made several short-lived but very determined attempts at jobs that I was ‘allowed’ to do, mostly physically. Each one ended in exhaustion, or just a flat-lining of my health at rock bottom. I just wasn’t healing, mentally or physically.
These last few years have put me on good footing, both in my art career and personal life. Still, Eindhoven has never really felt very ‘me’, and the three of us are still looking for a place to settle in to a forever- home, which will take a few years to save for. Meanwhile, I’m trying harder to appreciate what postives Eindhoven has to offer me as a city. As a bumbling traditional artist from rural England, it is feeling more accessible and vibrant and less stiff and pretentious than it did in the past. Perhaps it’s me who’s reaching out and connecting more (ok, social-distancing aside). It has a huge expat community, but I’ve always felt they were in a different world to me. A lot come from ‘tech’ backgrounds, and I’m a complete technophobe. Part of being an immigrant is adapting though, and maybe I’m just finally overcoming my resilience to change, and to my belief in myself, that I can and am indeed ALLOWED to fit in. Isn’t imposter syndrome great? I also finally reached out, asked for and received an official diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which was a big step. It has been so influential in my ability to work and fit in here. Perhaps I’m ready to face the idea that having a chronic illness doesn’t define me, but is key in how I adapt to living my life. Anyway, things are steadying out, and I’m finding more ways to show the world (including Eindhoven) that I’m here and that I’m creating work. I hope anyone else in a similar situation, immigrant or creative or with a chronic illness, or a hybrid of all of those as I am, can see their own strengths and value and is not afraid to face anyone who talks them down. I’m here if you want to talk about it!
It has been people and their attitudes that have really made the difference between the first difficult years here and now. The other lovely immigrants at the naturalisation course, the friends I made around Eindhoven, my ex and his family who were kind enough to take me in, and lastly my now-husband and his wonderful family. My own British family and friends, who are all so positive and just plodding along doing their thing, and are there for me when I need to connect with a bit of home, no matter what is going on in their own lives. Britain and the British will always be my origins, my history. Immigrating never meant forgetting or trying to replace that slightly shambolic, eccentric and diverse rock and root of all of me. It forms the basis of my understanding of others, here, there and everywhere, and feeds in to my growing knowledge of human beings, my creative response to the world at large, and what being an immigrant can mean and provide society in these turbulent times. I’ve weathered xenophobic discrimination (only mild; I know lots aren’t so lucky) and will continue to reach out to connect and absorb the culture around me, whilst keeping my heritage in my heart. I will always be English, and I will always, always, take milk in my (Yorkshire) tea.
Big love to everyone,
P.S. If you’re a creative around Eindhoven, do drop me a line, tell me your story or just say hi! I’m up for connecting more locally. See above 😉
We celebrated women of all kinds yesterday, with another successful and fun International Women’s Day fair!
Organised by the C.L.O Eindhoven and held at the Parktheater Eindhoven, it was a lovely and vibrant event as always.
Full of interesting conversation and women entrepreneurs (plus their families who are always welcome), it is a celebration of women, and promoting gender equality. I definitely recommend coming down next year, whether you’re a woman or not!
Here’s a selection of what was to see and do-
Dressed for Success Eindhoven
Resin and Wood Arts and CereMin
International Women’s Day 2020
Anklet bought from CereMin
Plus if you’re a female entrepreneur, it’s a great chance to meet with other like-minded women. Thanks for all who came down, and for your kind words and support for my own small business!