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 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 😉
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.
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.
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.
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!)-
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!
It’s been very quiet around here, but I’ve been busy. We welcomed our little baby boy, Baby Q, in July!
A common scene at my desk
Over a few months of adjustment I’ve managed to sneak in some illustration work time, and you can see what I’ve been up to over on my Instagram @illustratorlaura.
It’s been tough, having to work around the schedule of a completely new human, who has no clue what a schedule even is. I’m constantly tired, and you can throw any expectation of plans right out the window. Any work is nibbled at in tiny ten minute bites, mostly with an ear out whilst I hold my breath and hope the wee man doesn’t wake up. Luckily there are a couple of hours of babysitting time a week, which is heaven. And yeah: mini human. Super cute.
Having so little ‘me’ time has made me realise that illustrating is such a necessary part of my life, and it’s renewed my drive to fit it in, no matter how drained I feel. I’ve been working on a new series, which you can get a peak at over on Instagram (and I’ll share here shortly).
I’m also a bit nervous about this but I’m doing it anyway: another market! It’s been a couple of years since I was doing them regularly, and it’s a bit of pressure to prepare for it at such a busy time. Markets are always fun though, great to get yourself and your work out there, and I do love a challenge.
If you’re in the Eindhoven area on the weekend 24/25th November (I’ll only be there Sunday 25th) get yourself down to Etsy Made in Eindhoven pop-up market and show some love for local makers and sellers!