Thursday, March 28, 2013

Illustrious Illustration!

I've been really focused on 'Wise at Any Age' lately. Mostly because I solved a design problem I was having regarding the layout. Now that that's all taken care of I'm moving through chapter by chapter, sorting things out rapidly and getting it closer and closer to being ready for publication.

Most recently I finished a bunch more illustrations for it. Because this is a handbook for cultivating wisdom I want it to appeal to all sorts of learning styles. As a visual person I appreciate how well an image can communicate an idea or concept. As a designer it's fun to play with words and images to get something across effectively and aesthetically.

One of the chapters of 'Wise at Any Age' looks at universal wisdom - wisdom based on a deep knowledge of what really is. While there are thousands of examples of wonderful teachers who have embraced and taught with universal wisdom, I selected just a few to illustrate the point:
'Be the change you want to see in the world'
- Gandhi

'Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all'
- Helen Keller

'Know the rules well so you can break them effectively'
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama

'Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies'
- Nelson Mandela

Monday, March 25, 2013

London Journal - Street Art

Last week I mentioned that Shoreditch is the best place in London for Street Art or graffiti. I really like wandering around the area - preferably when the weather is warm - snapping shots of the incredible stuff I come across. 

I have found a few Banksy installations in the time I've lived here, but he is just one of hundreds of incredibly talented artists that make their mark on what are often run down and decrepit buildings. 

A few weeks back I decided to walk part of the way to King's Cross for my now finished Design course at Saint Martins. I'm really glad I did because I came across several new-to-me installations. 
Spotted this from across the road. If you look carefully
you'll see a grey shape above the tail of the weasel. 
Up close, the 'spot' is in fact and incredibly
detailed little owl. 

This is the work of Stik. I first saw a Stik installation
in Bethnal Green. It was on the way to the studio I
took my tarot card paintings to for imaging.
I would have to say that Stik is my favourite London Street Artist.

Also, notice the sausages in the background. 

I do like the ones that use colour. 

This one is actually in King's Cross.
I love that this is a Barclay's bank. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ready-Made logos just keep on coming!

Since completing my advanced Illustrator course the time it takes me to draw a vector graphic has reduced considerably. This is most reflected in my Ready-Made logo store, which does what it says on the box!

These are some of my latest additions of which I am very pleased. I love how ideas for logos come to me and enjoy the process of developing them from sketch to finished vector image.
Puzzle block
Gleeful Monster 
Inverse Fox

Communicate and Share
You can buy any of these designs through my online shop for only £75 OR, if you fancy it, you can order a customised logo for £150 - designed with your business in mind.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

London Journal - From London Bridge to Clapham Common

I've never done one of those 'Wordless Wednesday' blog entries - mostly because I take to publishing my blog on a Monday and a Thursday - but I thought I'd have a vague go. I'll call this a Musing Monday. It's a series of photos I took from the top deck of a bus that goes from London Bridge to Clapham Common. 

I love jumping on the top deck and getting the seat right at the front. The view is incredible and on the day I took these it was sunny but cold, so I was able to enjoy the warmth of the sun out of the chill of the wind. 

Riding on the top deck of a bus is one of my favourite things about London. It gives me time to think and I'm often inspired by the things I see along the way. The change in perspective means I take notice of stuff I might not have spotted if I were walking. And it's obviously a better view than anything you get on the Underground.
The Shard - Officially the tallest building in London.
Apparently it costs £25 to go to the top. Seems a bit steep -
*Pause for eye roll at terrible pun*
- But I do fancy going up there one day. 
Elephant & Castle - London actually has quite
a few Elephants & Castles, in the form of pubs and
as sculptures in various areas. There are a few in
Vauxhall, on the building 'The Big Issue' operates from.
But this is the 'official' one. 

I love how many buildings in London have carvings of
faces or animals on them. Central London is the best for
these but I keep my eyes peeled everywhere I go.
I really, really like this one and it makes me want to sculpt. 

The best place in London for street art/graffiti is Shoreditch,
but occasionally I'll find some pretty neat stuff elsewhere.
Not the prettiest but not the simple tags that unfortunately
blight so many places in London. This is an improvement
on otherwise depressing block of flats which are obviously
slotted for demolition. 

Pubs have some of the most interesting sculptures.

Brixton - The original artwork was obviously done
by schoolchildren. I like the mix of graffiti over top.
It epitomises the area. 

No idea what this was about. It was one of many little signs
along the wall of the police station in Brixton. I can only
assume 'Jesus Police' is a band and the accompanying
text to each sign is the name of a track. 

Bovril is one of those really uniquely English things.
If I didn't live here I'd have no idea what it meant.
If you've not spotted it the words are on the brick
building behind the monument in the foreground.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Farewell to Central Saint Martins...

Book Cover Design
Ten weeks ago I began my Intermediate Graphic Design course at Central Saint Martins. It has been an absolutely incredible experience, not least because of the institution I've been able to attend.

The breadth and variety in the briefs given to us have really helped me flex my creative muscles - as well as reinforcing the essential skills I already have. Setting out as a freelance graphic designer has meant exploring what sort of work is out there and what sort of work interests me. Graphic design is an ever changing beast. Web, print, advertising, marketing, fashion, branding, architecture, typography - Design has a grand selection of specialties.

In todays day in age the versatile designer is highest in demand. To be able to design for packaging one day and a television commercial the next (Or more likely, to be able to work on both project simultaneously) makes this a truly a grand industry for a polymath to be in.

In addition to the practical skills this course, I've also learned that to get bored in graphic design is to be bored of life. There are so many ideas, so many different ways of doing things, and so much evolution in the tools used, that the possibilities are endless.

Turning a name into a brand
I've also learned the importance of collaboration. In design, collaboration is almost a necessity if you want to keep your ideas fresh and different. Another perspective on an idea can turn it into the next iconic brand or unforgettable package.

I've had a lot of fun. The projects I've created aren't going to win any awards, but they've gotten me to think about the multiple ways to approach a design problem. I've enjoyed creating a bottle for rowers, turning a person's name into a brand, and coming up with a cover that captures the story on the pages inside.

I'm not sure which was my favourite brief because I enjoyed so many of them for different reasons. This course not only reinforced that I have a solid foundation as a Creative Specialist, it allowed me to have fun by presenting new ideas and ways of looking at things.

I'm going to miss the weekly brief, the critique and access to the Saint Martin's library. Handing in m student card when the class finished yesterday was extremely difficult. But then, I'm a self taught sort of gal and as much fun as it would be to attend Saint Martin's full time, I know it's just not for me. I've had a taste and that's all I needed. I'm plunging into this industry feet first, with great enthusiasm and all my imagination and creativity to fuel me. This course was a taste of all the possibilities for me as a designer.

Two mock ups of a theoretical Google rebrand

Concept sketches for a water bottle rowers could use

Rowers Water Brand concept

Album Cover Design

Monday, March 11, 2013

Wise At Any Age - An Update

I know I've gone a bit quiet about my book.

I set myself the goal of having it published by the end of March. At the time I had months laid ahead of me and even with the chaos of the Christmas holidays I felt my plan was solid enough that it would definitely be ready by the 31st at the very latest.

You may ask why I decided to take on this incredibly huge task of writing, illustrating, laying out and printing a book myself. You may wonder what possessed me to set a deadline for something I'd never done before and then publicise it right away. You may even question my reasoning for choosing to create and market a book on my own.

Let me tell you a few things about me:

1. I learn by doing. I figured this out at a pretty early age. If you let me touch something, play with it, get my hands dirty, try and fail and try again until I succeed - it will stick.

If you show me something and make me take notes on it I will end up with a bunch of paper with dreadful writing on it and absolutely no retention of what I was 'taught'.

So I decided I wanted to learn how to design a book. It's a useful skill to have, especially when you're a writer with five unpublished manuscripts. May as well learn how to do it myself.

2. Deadlines help me commit. I set a deadline and stick to it. Even if it's just my own personal deadline and even if I could change it and nothing terrible would happen, I have this mental switch that gets flicked when I set a deadline. I will work my butt off to get something completed. It helps me organise my time and ensures I accomplish something.

An illustration for Wise At Any Age
3. Waiting for life to happen is a great way to waste your life. Time keeps on ticking along whether you're using it wisely or not. I once spent two years not using my time very wisely at all. I neglected my creative needs and ignored my desire to travel. I became stagnant and it turned me into a miserable person that not many people enjoyed being around. In fact, I didn't even enjoy my own company, which is never good.

I'm now in the business of making things happen. I'm sending off manuscripts to agents and I'm still editing my work and jotting down ideas for new novels to write as they come to me. But nothing is stopping me from getting a book published on my own and given that I already do all my own marketing for my design work, I might as well do my own marketing for my book.

So that's why I took on this incredible task and I promise, I am still working to my end of March deadline. However, I also want to make sure that the book is the best it possibly can be when I make it available to the world. This is where another thing comes in handy:

4. Let it go. 

I'm not always good at letting things go. My stubbornness is what gets things done or defines my character as reliable and steadfast. But then again, being stubborn can mean being a bit unreasonable. I might not have my book ready by my March 31st deadline. I appreciate that and I can live with it.

Illustration for Chapter 2: 'Curiosity'
It's more important that 'Wise At Any Age' is the best it can be when I make it available. I want the illustrations to be right, the content to really matter and the value of it to be unquestionable. It's not something that I've just slapped together. It's been three years in the making just to get it written. A few weeks or even months longer to get the layout right - well, that's okay. Because when it is ready it will be a Great Book and one which you will be proud to have on your shelf.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


I've completed Advanced Illustrator training! It was a super fun course and my skills have improved so vastly in such a short period of time that I'm already seeing the benefits. For example, this logo concept I did a few days ago took me half the time it would have done before I did the course.

Of course it's helped that I have also been following the incredibly helpful advice of Von Glitschka, my illustration hero. Seriously - his stuff is genius and he's kind enough to share a lot of super helpful tips and tricks that even the most seasoned designer is likely to benefit from. I could sing his praises all day!

Anyhoo, the short of it is, my new skill development is already showing in my work. I also appreciate how unfortunate my current version of Illustrator is. I'm using CS5 and the version I've got never quite worked. Something went awry in the installation and I didn't bother to sort it out. It means that every time I close Illustrator I am greeted with an error telling me that the program shut down unexpectedly, despite this not being the case at all. The pop up isn't such a big deal, but it means that I can't save my workspace preferences.
I love badgers.
I figured that was a good
enough reason to illustrate one. 

Setting up my workspace each time I open a new document takes up a lot of valuable design time. Something I'm now acutely aware of having worked on a version of Illustrator that was installed properly and automatically saves your preferences - such as the colour palettes you work with or which windows open up with each new document.

Everything is on schedule for me to upgrade to CS6 and a far more powerful computer come April. I'm quite excited for this but April is still a long way off so in the mean time I'm getting on with developing all my new skills on the older version I've got to work with.

That being said, if you're looking for a custom logo design or perhaps you want a neat-o illustration for your Facebook Timeline or Twitter Header, I'm always on the look out for fun new projects. Feel free to contact me about any ideas you may have and you too could benefit from the skills I've gained from my Advanced Illustrator Training.

Monday, March 4, 2013

London Journal - Classy, classy Dames

London's West End is the largest theatre district in the world. From Leicester Square through China town and into Soho, the theatres are feet apart, tucked around corners and featured with massive three dimensional signs advertising the latest incredible musical or drama or comic performance. It's an area of London which I normally avoid, given the high density of tourists and, especially on a Friday, drunken loons out for a good time with friends.

The only time I venture there is when I am going to see a performance, and the only time I usually see a performance is if the pull is particularly strong due to the cast. At upwards of £60 a ticket, I'm very particular about what I'll go see - but there have been some shows which required no question.

When Whoopi Goldberg was in the stage production of Sister Act my partner and I snapped up tickets as quickly as we could, and truly, Whoopi made the show. It wasn't the sort of thing I'd have gone to see but the twinkle in Whoopi's eye made the entire thing fully worth it, especially considering she was playing the mother superior.

Since then I have also seen Patrick Stewart and Kevin Spacey performing on stage and both performances were absolutely incredible. It's an entirely different way to watch such well known actors and really shows the strength of their talent when they are just as powerful and convincing in the flesh as they are on screen.

Living in London has taught me to keep my eyes open to these opportunities so, last year, when 'The Audience' started selling tickets, my partner and I agreed that we had to go. Here was a calibre of performer who, in my opinion at least, outshines even the magnificent Spacey and Stewart. Returning to her role as the Queen of England, only this time on the stage, was Dame Helen Mirren.

Having bought the tickets in the autumn of last year, the general excitement of what was to come had died down somewhat. It wasn't until the Dame herself walked on stage at the March 1st performance that I felt the familiar thrill of seeing a performer, an artist I so admire, in the traditional setting of their craft.

Every Tuesday the Queen meets with the Prime Minister to discuss the occurrences of the last week and coming week in the House of Commons. 'The Audience' shares a snapshot of what the playwright imagines these meetings to be like. Alongside Helen Mirren's outstanding performance were a collection of incredible character actors portraying the likes of Churchill, Thatcher and Blair, to name just a small selection. My personal favourite was Richard McCabe in the role of Harold Wilson - not least because of how much the scenes involving him made me laugh.

These sorts of experiences are a large part of the reason I do love living in London, despite the noise and the crowds and the aimless tourists. Before I moved here I would say that it would be amazing to see certain actors perform on stage. I included these speculative experiences in my list of Everything To Do In My Life - but I don't believe I ever thought they would come to pass.

Well, I've now seen yet another person I hadn't ever expected to see and come April I will be ticking off the final actress I've wanted to see live. Another incredibly powerful performer who I have admired since the first time I saw her as 'M'. Yes, in April I will be seeing Dame Judi Dench perform in 'Peter & Alice'.

I shall have to revisit my list and see if there is anyone else I can add to it now, since I've completed it so beautifully in the last three years.