A New Focus for my Work

Art, Creative life, eindhoven, expat life, product development

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.

Onwards!

Laura

Watercolour Workshop at the Blokhut~ Winter Botanicals edition

Art, Creative life, eindhoven, events, expat life, indie business, Markets and events, product development

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.

Come join us on the 10th for a watercolor workshop in Eindhoven!

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~

Tutorial video for watercolor painting workshop in Eindhoven, December

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!

Hope to see you there!

Laura

Watercolour Painting Workshop in Eindhoven

Art, Creative life, eindhoven, events, expat life

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.

Painting lesson Eindhoven 24th September

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 ❤

Our painting session is back on request!

Hope to see you there!
Laura

Art Process: From Watercolour illustrations to Garden Journal

Art, Creative life, illustration, Sustainable design

Hi all,

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
Scribbly first ideas in my notebook, with teeny tiny thumbnai ideas
  • Watercolour spot illustrations, then scanned and digitally cleaned up
Cleaned up bird-feeder spot illo
  • Each page made up and imported into a digital page template
  • Mini thumbnails of all finished pages, placed in a layout overview document
Mini layout of thumbnails for an easy overview, to check it all works together
  • 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!

L

Migrating artist

Art, Creative life, eindhoven, expat life, fibromyalgia

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,

Laura

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 😉

P.P.S If you’re an expat, creative or otherwise, and struggling to connect around Eindhoven, I’d definitely look in to some local groups. I can recommend the C.L.O. https://www.cloeindhoven.nl/ Center for Latin-Americans (friendly not just to Latinos!), International Creative Women https://www.internationalcreativewomen.nl/, and Hub2- the successor to the original Hub for expats in Eindhoven https://www.facebook.com/groups/hub2eindhoven

International Women’s Day 2020

Art, Creative life, illustration, Markets and events, Sustainable design, Uncategorized

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-

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!

Eco paper + Print Sale!

Art, Creative life, illustration, Sustainable design

I’ve always been committed to running my business and making art in the most ‘eco-friendly’ way possible (read more here). ‘Eco-friendly’ is a bit of a blanket term, but I think it’s important for all makers to take in to consideration, no matter what your budget-limitations or what products you make. It’s a tough and on-going challenge, but I beleive even small improvements to processes or materials will help.

One of the recent changes I’ve made is to my paper choice for my prints.

First I tried switching over to recycled, uncoated paper. Still on my beautiful ‘photolitho’ printer the prints were subpar, muted and undefined. Such a disappointment! I had desperately wanted this to be the solution, but I am also committed to producing reproductions that do the originals justice. Another aspect of sustainability that I value is ‘quality’. Better to buy one beautiful, archival print and have it hang for decades, rather than chucking it in the bin after a month. At least in my book.

Biotop v regular fineart print paper

Look at how vibrant the left-hand prints are, on my usual paper! I wouldn’t have been happy selling the prints on the recycled paper, seen on the right. It might have worked for a different style of illustration, or something where a warm muted look was required, but certainly not for these.

After that disappointment I spent ages trying to research quality paper for prints that have at least a nod to decent environmental standards. Let me tell you, that’s very difficult.

At last I settled on Hahnemuhle fine art paper. I was a bit reckless and didn’t even try a sample, just went straight out and bought a whole pack (hello €€€). I’m so glad I did!

The results are gorgeous, vibrant and of decent giclee quality with a watercolour paper texture.

 

Hahnemuhle were one of the few companies that I came across that have a fairly transparent breakdown of their efforts to be ‘eco-friendly’. You can read more here.

// SALE! //

To mark my success with another step in my ongoing ‘sustainability’ journey I’m running a sale on all prints in my Etsy shop! All prints will have 20% off (discount already applied) running today till 3rd December, yay! I’m making way for all prints going forward to be on the Hahnemuhle paper. My existing prints in the sale are also vibrant and on beautiful heavyweight paper, don’t worry!

I’ve also added my Christmas section goodies into the sale, as I’d like them to find new homes so I can make some more :*

 

 

 

 

Yksi Expo EHV- Sustainable Design

Art, Creative life, illustration, Sustainable design, Uncategorized

Me and the fam took a little trip to Yksi Expo, situated in Strijp, Eindhoven. It focuses on circular and sustainable design.

Seeing as sustainable design is a passion of mine in my daily life, and an aim in my business one, I’ve been interested in seeing this space. It’s worth a visit if you’re down in Strijp S.

There is also a lovely little shop (full of sustainable and zero-waste products of course), and a little cafe called Tea Stories. BTW they sell really good gluten-free (and I noticed also vegan) chocolate cake!

We stocked up on lentils in our re-usable organza bag. You can bulk-buy pasta and other dried goods here.

If you want to get involved in the circular design/zero waste scene in Eindhoven, they are holding an end-of-summer party on Aug 31st. You can contact them here to find out more and get tickets.

Strijp itself is a good location for sketching, though I don’t get out there as often as I’d like to do that. Managed to do a quick little one, with my little one, baby Q, in tow.

I’m planning some more products with upcycled fabrics, which is a good way to cut waste. I’ll keep you updated!

Laura

Custom wedding illustrations

Art, custom illustration, illustration

Sometimes custom projects come along that are so satisfying to work on from start to finish. Lauren and Stephen very kindly asked me for some illustrated North American animals for their wedding, which they then worked into their table names and seating plans.

The results were a mix of brush pen and ink, plus watercolours. Simple, quick and loose (read: fun to do!) but still cohesive as a set. This was the first time I’d done a series in a while, but I think it gelled well.

Illustrations printed and ready to ship

I was happy with my drawings once I’d passed them on, but boy did they come together with the gorgeous styling of the wedding! The photography by Georgi Mabee also showcased the event to stunning effect, so thank you to her for letting show off my illustrations with her photos.

Laura Carter IllustrationLaura Carter IllustrationIllustratorlaura on Etsy

Illustratorlaura on Etsy

Congratulations once again to Lauren and Stephen!

Laura

My Choice to use an Earthy Palette

Art, Creative life, Uncategorized

You may notice when you look at my art that it is often quite muted and earthy in colours, and that is a by-product of the materials I choose to use. I love bright colours in my personal life, but for my work I’ve chosen to go with a more muted colour palette, as it’s often better for myself, others and the environment. I prefer to keep my sustainable footprint as small as possible by working with found, recycled/rescued or upcycled materials where I can, and in particular ones that were made with as few harmful dyes as possible.

Of course, sometimes nature provides a way of working that gives spectularly pure colours (I’m looking at you, indigo), and some of the materials I’ve used happen to have been bright pops of colour, such as the off-cuts of industrial faux-leather I’ve used in my bags in the past.  More often though the less harmful dyes are of course, more earthy. I have used un-bleached cotton  and linen in things like my zipped pouches (I’m working on a new range!), which instead of bright white gives a lovely warm beige. Paper from recycled pulp is also often of mixed fibres, resulting in natural melange of soft colours.  I also love working with recycled paper for my lino prints and the handmade cards.

ACS_0007

Unbleached cotton for one of my hand-painted zip pouches

My pregnancy this year spurred me to make a change to my watercolour paint palette too. After a bit of research I am happy to have found what seems to be quite a varied palette with some rich colours, which is still less toxic to Baby Q and myself. Out went the obvious Cadmium hues and a few of the ‘older’ pigments (they’ve developed safer ones now). You can see a few changes I made in my swatch below. Scribbles look super professional, I know.

baby changes post 1.JPG

My adjusted palette swatches.

It’s not perfectly safe, but at least I’ve chucked out some of the scarier ones. No Vermilion-induced birth defects for us (it contains mercury)! I’d love to hear from you if you know any good resources for checking what are ‘safe’, or relatively safe pigments.

Here’s a recent painting I did for this year’s Christmas cards (the robin one was a very limited run… it’s sold out!)-

laura carter illustration robin

My biggest bug-bear is that I miss a bright red. The other hues in my core palette are very lovely, as is Indian Red (or Light Red, as named by some brands), which is the red I’m currently using. You can see the swatch tucked under where I’ve crossed out ‘Cadmium Red’, which I’ve stopped using. Light Red just misses that… pizazz that Cadmium has, and tends to muddy other colours when mixed. Light/Indian Red also varies from brand to brand. So again if anyone knows of any brighter, relatively safe reds, please let me know!