Monday, 27 April 2015

My Trip to Sri Lanka (HD Video) | April 2015



In the first two weeks of April we travelled to Sri Lanka.

On our first night, after a long-haul flight and 8 hours on a bumpy train, we reached the base of the sacred mountain of Adams Peak, at 2am. The climb was tortuous to say the least, but seeing the locals undefeated by a lack of shoes, old age or babies in tow, we were ashamed of our exhaustion and pushed on to the top. We watched the sun rise on shaking legs and in awe of our surroundings.

Next we visited the city of Kandy, where we rested our tired muscles and watched thunderstorms and fruit bats zig-zag over the lake. Kandy was our base from which we visited the hot, hot plains of Dambulla and Sigiriya, to see ancient cave temples and the ruins of a civilisation on top of a giant rock formation. Our english skins did not do well in the heat - heat rash and mosquito bites ran riot on our bodies as we packed into crowded local buses to get around. Friendly Sri Lankans quickly offered up their seats, the first of many acts of kindness we experienced on the island.

From Kandy we took the train to the hill country where the climate was like that of a perfect, English summer - my skin breathed a sigh of relief!  In Ella we woke to amazing views of the hills, and the mews of a two week old puppy living beside our room. We  took a tour of the nearby tea factory, for the first time seeing the source of the drink we consume every day. The smell of freshly picked tea leaves was intoxicating!

From the hills, we travelled down to Tissa , and stayed beside the huge lake - filled , we were later told, by giant crocodiles! We borrowed bikes from our guesthouse and explored the remote dirt roads, through rice fields and tropical fruit plantations. At night we feasted on crab curry and local rum.

Early one morning we hired a jeep and drove to Yala National Park for a meeting with the wild and elusive Mr leopard, which we spotted eventually before he slunk off to hide from the rain. And on to Tangalle, to our beach accommodation - bungalows by the sea. The beach was like a film set, bowing palm trees and sunsets more saturated than any filter could produce. We ate some amazing prawns and baked fish, looking out at the ocean they'd been caught from that very morning. One night we watched a sea turtle haul herself out of the sea to dig a nest. She was huge and beautiful.

Our last stops were Unawatuna, and finally, Galle. We spent a few days under the scorching sun exploring the colonial streets and eating egg hoppers.

Lastly we visited a protected beach in Kosgoda. A 3000 LKR donation to the Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project meant we could release our very own bucket of 20 feisty sea turtle hatchlings into the sea. We watched them make their first journey, just as ours was ending.

I hope you enjoyed this video! If you ever get the opportunity - visit Sri Lanka! It was a beautiful island, bursting at the seams with wildlife, and the people were some of the most friendly we've ever met. I miss it so much already.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Illustrator's Advice | Video on Finding Inspiration

Hello! Just a quick update for you today to alert you to a number of new videos I've posted over on my Youtube channel.

I recently put together a video about finding motivation and inspiration through the darkest of days (namely January and February!) and some tips I find helpful for generating ideas and producing self-initiated work when paid work slows down.

Hope you find it useful and enjoyable to watch! Please subscribe if you're new and, as always, leave any suggestions on future videos in the comments section as I really appreciate the feedback.


Monday, 16 February 2015

A Pair of Denim Jeans in Watercolour

I actually started this painting about a year ago but hadn't had time to finish it up until a couple of weeks ago. It felt good to complete it - and even better when I was able to sell the painting to a lovely customer!

I'm also selling lots of other original paintings in my etsy shop at the moment. I have a cupboard that is bursting at the seams with watercolours and it is' in need of a clear out so if you'd like to buy some original pieces please do take a look!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

On Doing What You Love & Being Brave

So this morning I woke up in an incredibly chirpy mood. I'm not a morning person in the slightest, and any time before 11am I can most certainly be classified as 'not of this world'. But this morning I am chipper. I am awake, I feel energised and most of all, I feel grateful.

Recently I have had a lot more people than usual reach out to me and tell me about their lives, and mostly about their struggles trying to break into the illustration industry. And the surreal thing is that I feel like I'm reading an email from myself. I relate to the struggle so completely and when I read about their confusion, their worries, and their determination to reach their goals I feel like I'm reading a page in my own diary.

Don't get me wrong, these are not pathetic, whiny emails I am receiving, and before you assume I pity their authors - I do not. I admire them, and I guess that means I have some admiration in myself too. Am I a narcissist then? Perhaps. But really this sense of pride comes from knowing how challenging this industry can be - and that we all have the guts to try and make it within it's highly competitive walls, regardless of this fact.

Having a passion that you want to base your life around is hard. On the one hand, it's a great gift, to have this focus that drives you forward and gives purpose to your days. But on the other hand it's a burden, something that will disappoint you greatly, and drag you down with the sense that you're "failing" if you've not been making your living from it. You will compare yourself to others constantly, you will have very low days where creative block, rejection or exhaustion will swamp you and you'll wonder if this passion is even worth acknowledging.

But here is where the pride comes in. Because did we give up then? In our lowest moment? Surrounded by paintings ripped in half in frustration and our portfolio (my portfolio) spread over the entire bedroom searching in desperation for a piece of work we (I) didn't hate with a passion? No. Something pushes us on. And if you have an ambition, if you have an ambition to be an illustrator, you will grow strong again and keep on fighting.

Aside from all this war talk, I do believe illustrators to be some of the most determined folk out there because it really does take a lot of work to make money from this career path, and you will have a long and gruelling task to make it into freelancing. Amid all the angst you've still got to perform, there's no hiding away. An illustrator's job description requires you to produce good work, of a high standard, that's interesting, eye-catching, current and new - and that necessitates a lot of bravery in the face of failure. You're putting a little bit of yourself out there for everyone to see and make a judgement on - it's got to be authentically yours, but it's got to be authentically the client's too. Everyone knows this fact by now, and yet their are so many people out there creating new work and hoping for the future because, like me, it is the only occupation they can imagine undertaking.

So, if you are questioning if you are working hard enough/are good enough/are relevant enough to be an illustrator, I say: YOU ARE! Be narcissist like me and feel proud that you're still trying and you haven't given up like thousands before you. Not everyone chooses to face so much turmoil in their field of work, and perhaps I am dramatising it slightly, but when you're in the midst of a creative block, or under pressure from a challenging commission - the struggle is REAL!

When I have bad days, where I wonder where my skill in watercolour has disappeared to and I find myself comparing my small successes to other peoples monumental ones, I tell myself to "keep on trucking". It's a ridiculous phrase and I'm not sure where I acquired it from but it reminds me that I've been "trucking" for about 6 years now and I don't intend to stop. Yes I will face more failures in the future and more low points spent ripping paintings in two, but I will always try again because it's the only thing I want to do.

It takes a whole lot of bravery to pursue what you love in life, and bravery trumps it all.


My Art Supplies | Reccomendations on Watercolour & My Favourite Art Shop

This week I'm talking about my tried and tested art materials - and they're all amazing value for money! As always, I SO appreciate suggestions on future videos, as I'm just starting out on Youtube and trying to gauge what my audience might like to see!



Please do click the "thumbs up" button if you found this video helpful and please subscribe if you are a fellow Youtube watcher such as myself. Whilst I'm asking for things - who do you subscribe to on Youtube? Can you recommend any interesting channels?

Thanks for watching! See more illustration and pug related videos on my channel.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Painting a Greyhound | Watercolour Illustrations

January was a month of movie-making (well, youtube video making...) and I must admit I've had a surprising amount of fun learning how. It's something that I've wanted to try out for a long time but I've never really had the time - so I'm completely relishing the opportunity now, and hope to be able to make it a regular part of my year.

I started thinking seriously about it when I first got Quentin, as every moment with him as a young puppy was worth filming (in my eyes anyway!) But as anyone who's ever had an 8 week puppy will know, there was no time between the toilet training, the waking through the night and the watching over him with beady eyes, to buy a camera, yet alone edit and upload videos.

But now he's older and (slightly) less of a hand-full, I'm enjoying capturing moments with and without him. I have a few exciting travel plans this year that I will be documenting this way, and I'd like to make some more illustration based videos too, showing paintings being created and offering advice when I can - much like I try to do here!

I hope you enjoy watching my latest upload - featuring Quentin the pug as per usual, and more painting as requested!



Please do let me know what you think - any requests for future videos?!

Subscribe to my channel.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Lets Get To Know Each Other



I was appointed by one of my lovely blog readers Rachel Wright (along with Heart Handmade , Work Play , Travel Write Draw and Carly Watts ) to answer these questions and follow the chain by tagging more bloggers to answer my 11 questions (and so on and so forth and so on). I sometimes find these chains a fun thing to do, to discover new bloggers and read something a little different. I hope you do too!

1. How did you come up with your blog name?

Not very interesting answer to start with - it's just my name!

2.When and why did you start blogging?

I just had to check - but my first ever blog post was created in 2009! Six years ago! I was a first or second year student at uni, and I wanted somewhere to record my progression into illustration. 


3. What are your goals for 2015?



See more. Work more. Grow vegetables.

4. Who is your biggest inspiration?

I don't think I have a definitive answer - I would like to have someone, an idol, who I can turn to when things get tough or confusing and ask "what would such-and-such do?". But sadly there's not one person I am consistently inspired by. In general though, I'd say it's female artists throughout history. Frida Khalo, Beatrix Potter, Paula Rego being my top ladies!


5. What’s your favourite thing to wear in your closet?


I have a love/hate relationship with the contents of my wardrobe as I can never quite trust my clothes not to make me feel fat and frumpy whenever they choose to.


6.What's your favorite possession?

My dog, Quentin. He's not my possession, in fact he probably owns me, but he's the best thing I've ever parted with money for.

7. If you could choose, what decade would you have grown up in?


This is probably a very common response - the 1960's. The clothes, the interiors, the music, the peace and love.


8. What's your party trick?


Being socially awkward and befriending the pets instead.


9. What is your earliest childhood memory?


My next door neighbour (who I was convinced I was going to marry one day) making faces at me through the dining room window whilst I ate dinner.

 

10. If you had one extra hour of free time a day, how would you use it?

Outside. Walking the dog, exploring new parts of Epping Forest, probably filming said dog for my youtube channel.


11. What is the most played song on your ipod?

Silence. I don't have an ipod and my music taste has disintegrated. I much prefer radio in my old age.




Thank you once again to Rachel for nominating me! I think this is a great way of getting to know fellow bloggers, finding new blogs and giving your own blog a bit of a boost! It was nice to write a little bit topic from what I normally blog about - a little more personal, a little less illustration.

Hope you enjoyed reading! I'd like to nominate these lovely, creative people, who's blogs I follow avidly! (creeper):

Fran from frannerdsblog.blogspot.co.uk

Harriet from helloharriet.com/blog

Ella from ellamasters.co.uk

Hannah from raisinheart.com

Ron from Dresses On a Clothes Line

And the questions are:

1.  Would you rather never have internet access again or never be able to travel outside your home country again?
2. What's your naughtiest habit during your working day?
3. Where do you do most of your people-watching?
4. On average, what time of day are you most happy and content?
5. What are some of your strangest pet peeves?
6. If you could choose, which decade would you have grown up in?
7.  Would you rather be Penny Crayon or have Bernards Watch? (apologies if this is a bit obscure - google it!)
8. Where can you be found at a big house party?
9. Which talent do you most envy in others?
10. When and why did you start your blog?
11. What are your goals for 2015?

Friday, 23 January 2015

A Day in The Life of an Illustrator

Another video was made this week. A day in the life video, in which I paint a basket of dandelions,  try and fail to do yoga without being attacked, and cook a vegetarian feast!

I hope you enjoy watching - it was a bit nerve-wracking to look directly into a camera and speak coherently, but I hope you appreciate my efforts!

Please do like (thumbs up!) and subscribe to my channel, as I'm hoping to make this a more regular thing.




I'd love to know your thoughts on what I should film next! What would you like to see more of? I'm thinking of making a few more instructional videos on how to use watercolour, my tips, and my favourite art materials. Might anyone be interested in this?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Food Illustrations for Esquire Magazine



A Spread at Russ & Daughters, New York

Crazy Bloody Mary
Ramen Burger - yay or nay?
Protein Pyramid!
Last year I was approached by Esquire Magazine to produce some illustrations for a Food and Drinks Awards feature in the US edition of the magazine.

As you can see I got to paint an interesting selection of subjects. I loved painting the bloody mary - which I couldn't believe actually existed - but apparently 2014 was the year of the obscenely stacked bloody mary, complete with hot dog, asparagus and prawn kebab. My mouth is kind of watering?

As well as the bloody mary illustration, I also painted a ramen burger (I must meet someone who's tried one!) and a table top spread from the infamous New York restaurant Russ & Daughters.

Lastly their was an article about protein - and a complaint of its recent use across restaurant menus - apparently "unappetizing". I chose to paint a pyramid of farm animals, an array of protein, as I wanted the illustration to be light-hearted and silly.

Hope you like this set of food illustrations!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The No Spend Challenge

Early this year I set myself the challenge of not shopping for two whole months. The rules, I decided, would dictate that I can spend money on the essentials - food, bills, gin - and money on activities - going out for coffee, gallery visits, seeing friends - but nothing on unessential, unimportant things that had no real correlation to my ability to function as a human being.

I've bought a lot of "things" lately. I moved into a new flat to live with a boy for the first time in my life, and we wanted to make our new place feel special and ours. Then followed hours and hours of online shopping, bidding on ebay and sourcing beautiful, sometimes purely decorative, objects that we felt in some way reflected us as a couple. This is normal behaviour I imagine, and something I hadn't done before, and it felt exciting and extravagant to buy these adult objects - a leather sofa from MADE, a double wardrobe instead of just a rail, a four slice toaster...

But when New Year arrived, and I looked around my lovely 1 bedroom flat, I realised that I had enough. More than enough. What would really make me happy would be to pause and appreciate all of my existing possessions, and rid myself of this incessant desire to buy more.

I have to say though, that I'm finding it hard. I have to remind myself on a daily basis of the challenge, and I think the internet with all of its juicy retail promises has a lot to do with it. But, so far, no more "things" have crept into my flat, and I'm hoping I can hold out until March.

Below is probably a contradiction to the above, but who doesn't like shopping lists and wish lists? Perhaps it might be therapeutic to display my current yearnings here, all of the beautiful things I am currently resisting, and yet appreciate them in all their inanimate beauty.

I must not buy. I must not buy. I must not buy. I must not buy. I must not buy....



1. Tom Dixon Candle from Heals
2. Fish Print by Katie Scott
3. Ikonic Tray from the SOMA gallery sal
4. Marbled Planter from Etsy
5. Vintage Boucherouite Rug from Etsy
6. Cable Knit Dog Jumper from NOTH (Quentin would look so handsome!)
7. Donna Wilson Flower Socks from SOMA

Am I only adding to the temptation?! Are any of you trying to cut down on shopping too?

Friday, 16 January 2015

A Video Diary | My New Year 2014

This week I was able to tick something off of my to-do list that I've wanted to try for a while, but which has never quite been 'important' enough to justify. I'm sure many freelancers feel the same - that after working on commissions, communicating with clients, invoicing, organising accounts and managing a shop, there's often not much time left in the day - time, that is, that isn't needed to complete other activities necessary for life, such as cooking, eating, laundry etc.

But praise be to January, the sleepy month. The month I'm imagining all art directors are snoozing at their desks, recovering from Christmas and planning all the ways they're going to commission me later in the year (....) This down time has meant I've finally had the chance to start a Youtube channel, after being an avid Youtube fan for about 5 years now. I've made my first video, a little video diary of my New Year trip to the coast, and I had a surprising amount of fun making it. It was refreshing to work with new software and learn some basics, and a whole lot of fun to piece together the footage I'd taken. It's like telling a story, moment by moment, and in a completely different medium to what I'm used to.

 Please do have a watch (bump it up to HD!) and leave me a comment on my youtube channel if you so fancy.




I've got a few more videos planned in the near future, some that will be more illustration related, and some where I *might* even speak to the camera, so please do subscribe to my channel, if you are also a Youtube fan.

Thanks for reading (and watching!).

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Why I Left My Agent | Advice on Illustration Agencies & Being Represented


In June of 2014 I announced on social media that I was very happy to be represented by a well known London based illustration agency. I wont mention the name, as this post isn't directed at them specifically. This is in no way an attack on specific people I dealt with, nor is it an attack on illustration agencies in general, it's more of a summary of my experience of being represented. I know that whilst I was considering my options on this matter, I very much gained from other illustrators advice and experiences, so hopefully this post will help others decide the right path for them too!

I was represented for just two short months, the quietest two months of my working year, and so I hoped my agent might be able to boast my workload and introduce me to new clients. I was excited about this prospect, and excited by the very complimentary meeting I had with the agency; they really seemed to understand my practice and I hoped they would be able to push my work into areas I might not have been able to tap on my own.

That was one of the main reasons I decided to join, actually. To work with bigger clients I felt I was unable to reach.  I had the notion that larger companies would either a) feel more secure using an agency rather than a single person or b) not have the time to search for and contact independent artists such as myself.

Now, I'm not so sure this is true. If you take a look at my client list here , you can see that both pre and post representation I have been very lucky to work with some quite large names, none of whom minded that I was an independent freelancer working from her bedroom! In hindsight I think I had started questioning my ability to run my own business, question going it alone, and thought an agent would solve this.

I know that for some people, being represented works for them. And perhaps I just didn't sign with the right agency for me. But for me in particular, I found the process of talking to my agent, who then spoke to my client, who then spoke to my agent, who then spoke to me, frustrating! I felt out of the loop - the loop being my business, which I had been building on my own for years. It just didn't feel right to have someone talking for me, regardless of the fact they were working in my interest. I missed the one-to-one contact with a client - I feel you can learn so much from them - not to mention gauge their expectations and attitude to the project. Without that contact I felt in the dark.

I don't know whether my opinions would be different, or even if I'd still be represented, had the agency managed to secure me a decent amount of work. But the fact was that they didn't. A lot of the work I did whilst represented, I sent to my agents from my own inbox. This was another issue I had, that if a client contacted me, I was contractually obliged to forward this email on to the agent who handled it from there. On the one hand I understand why this has to happen - perhaps, for example, the client wants to be naughty and bypass agency fees, after having been pitched my work by the agent - but to have to do this from the moment I signed up seemed unfair. The clients coming to me then hadn't discovered me through the agency, it was too soon for that.

These are some of the main issues I had, but there were a lot of other little niggly things that I begun to realise weren't for me. Instead of trying to explain all of them, I thought perhaps a little pro's and con's list might be in order! This list is based on my own experience and views. Con's to some might seem like pro's to others - it's for you to decide how you want your business to be run!

I hope you find it useful in making your own decision.

The Pro's & Con's of Having an Illustration Agent

Pro's

Security - in terms of being paid, and in terms of having a job 'secured' once contracts are signed. I feel a client might be less inclined to mess you around if you've got a team of people behind you!

Promotion - it's part of an agent's job to promote the illustrators on their books, and they may have a wider audience, range of contacts and resources than you will on your own.

Authority - as a lone freelancer, you may not have the confidence to barter a higher fee - an agency can be more successful in doing this, although this is debatable.

Advice - having someone to talk to who knows your business and can advise on issues, the future, your portfolio etc.

A Point of Contact For Clients - if you are someone who hates discussing fees, contracts, conditions of license - then the load is off your mind with an agent.


Con's

The 'Middleman' Feeling - you're no longer working directly with a client, you may feel out of the loop, you aren't 100% on what is being said on your behalf. You run the risk of information getting lost/distorted when the agent relays it to you.

Lack of Control/ Uncertainty Over Promotion - you're not the only artist on their books - are you getting put forward for enough jobs, are you being presented in the right way? You'll never know for sure.

Contacts Are Harder to Make - if an agent is speaking for you, you can't build a relationship with a client. You could be just another artist from such-and-such agency.

Agency Fees - I do believe it's typically 30% of the commissioning price. So on the one hand, the rep has the experience and persuasion to secure a higher fee, but 30% of whatever the client agrees, isn't yours. Also, there's the fact you are more expensive as a signed illustrator, if you go it alone you can offer a fee minus the middleman.

Art Directors Find Agents Unnecessary- some art directors find this. I have been told by a long term client of mine that he finds illustration agencies an 'unnecessary middleman' and would much rather work one on one with an artist. I do imagine its refreshing for clients, working in an often corporate world, to work directly with an independent artist - and that perhaps going through another corporative entity such as an agency, would be off-putting.

Job Satisfaction - I take huge pride in my business and exceeding a clients expectation. I didn't like sharing that feeling with an agency.


And so I left, and continued on as an independent artist. And honestly, I haven't looked back! For me it was a really useful experience having a rep for those two months, because it confirmed what I love most about my occupation, and in what circumstances I work best.

I'd love to read your experiences with illustration agencies - good and bad - and whether any of the above is useful to you (or complete trollop!)

Thanks so much for reading!

Birds for a Monastery in China! | Watercolour Illustrations

Asian Barred Owlet

Grey Chinned Minivet

Little Egret

Oriental Magpie

Sea Eagle

Red Whiskered Bulbul

These birds were painted for the newly-opened-to-the-public Tsz Shan Monastery, for use in their guidebook. The brief dictated that the birds be as realistic as possible whilst maintaining my illustration style - it was wonderful to be able to concentrate on capturing the lines and colours of the birds in detail.

I was pretty flattered when the art director for this particular project asked to purchase a few of the originals from this series. An added bonus! I will be adding the remaining four birds to my etsy shop for sale soon.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Summary of 2014 | Watercolour Illustrations


If I could summarise 2014 in two words they would be "arm ache". My painting hand has been working itself pretty hard, with an estimated 350 paintings painted this year (I tried to count!) It's all been a bit of a blur, it's been busy, but it's also been enjoyable. A nice ache.

It's also been my second year as a full time illustrator and if you take a look at 2013's summary, I was concerned that I wasn't going to be so busy and that it was all a bit of a fluke - a rather unnecessary fear Holly! Instead I'm very relieved to conclude that it's been another successful, work-filled year. Once again I've been extremely lucky to work on some really exciting projects and I've met some really lovely new clients. My only regret is that I didn't manage to "do" very much - my plans for 2015 involve many more adventures and more time away from my desk!

January

Bird nest illustrations for Pets At Home magazine - JANUARY

I was eased into 2014 with a lovely brief from VIP magazine to produce a double page pull-out spread on identifying birds nests.

20 monkey key-rings in watercolour for United Arrows - JANUARY




February

Grey scale illustrations for a book! - FEBRUARY

At the start of the month I rejoiced in being able to hand in 39 finished illustrations for a book about preserving food at home.

March & April
Mozart portrait for Composed - MARCH



During February, I began work for a VERY exciting project. I remember going to the meeting about it in Islington, and afterwards sitting in Starbucks, surrounded by smartly dressed people on their lunch breaks, just feeling on top of the world. In a state of disbelief, but also of complete relief, that an opportunity so wonderful could come my way and impact my career in such a positive manner.

The work has now gone live, but I'm not really supposed to shout about it until I'm given the all clear from the clients, so for now I'll just *whisper* about it on my blog. I worked on an app. A music app. A music app from Classic FM and Universial Music. Eek!

Aside from the exciting name drops, it's also a thing of beauty, and I am just brimming with pride to have been a part of it.

You can find it in the app store. My work is in the app store! Eek! Also, the website is here: https://www.composed.com/

Five bats for Aquila Magazine - APRIL
A front cover for Lionheart Magazine - APRIL
June

In June I became represented by Folio Illustration Agency for two short months, a move that was an interesting learning experience, but something I don't think I'd repeat. I'm going to be talking about this more in the coming months, so stay tuned if you'd like to have more information on joining an illustration agency, and my views and experience on it.

World Cup food illustrations for Tesco Magazine online - JUNE

Space for Lonely Planet book (more on this later) - JUNE
My biscuit tin design for Marks & Spencers hit the shops! JUNE
July
Another delightful commission with Japan based United Arrows - JULY
See more illustrations I completed for United Arrows here.

Six martini illustrations for Stylist Magzine - JULY

Five watercolour illustrations for the Metro Newspaper - JULY
August

An illustrated map of Venice - AUGUST
I worked on a map with Hardie Grant publishing, for the end papers of a gorgeous Venetian cooking book - you can buy it here.

Colour-coded food , red mullet fish illustration - AUGUST
Thirty unusual ingredients were painted for a undisclosed client for undisclosed means. I'm annoyed I can't show the full set or explain further, but hopefully I'll be able to some time in the future!

September

Bloody mary illustration for Esquire Magazine - SEPTEMBER
Tearing myself away from the Portuguese sun,  I worked on a commission I couldn't possibly turn down even though I had booked a holiday (work-a-holic). This and other illustrations were for Esquire Magazine in the US. I think I'll put the full set of illustrations in an up coming blog post - so stay tuned!

Literary Listography hit the shops & I spotted it in Paris! - SEPTEMBER
 Towards the end of 2013 I was busy working on a book with Chronicle Publishing, which hit stores mid 2014. I was very excited to discover it whilst shopping in Paris - a whole book? Illustrated by me? It's still a bit surreal.

October

Part of an infographic for Westfields, see it in full here - OCTOBER
























Christmas illustrations for Tesco Magazine - OCTOBER
18 baking based illustrations for a baking journal - OCTOBER
18 food illustrations for a food journal book cover - OCTOBER
October was a busy, busy month of flat out work. I produced two book covers for two Laurence King publications, out this year, one a Food Journal the other a Baking Journal. I also worked on three full pages of Christmasy watercolours for Tesco Magazine, and a large-scale infographic for Westfield's shopping centres - find that one here.

November

How to make éclairs - for Wall Street Journal - NOVEMBER
In November I was very excited to hear from The Wall Street Journal, who commissioned me to produce two sets of how-to illustrations. One set was illustrating the process of making éclairs, the other was a step by step of carving a turkey. Ah yes, yet another commission I intend to blog about - hopefully soon!
An Asian Owl for the Tsz Shan Monastery guidebook in China, one bird of six - NOVEMBER
December





December was a crazy month too. I was (and still am) painting for a book project due very soon. As well as this I secured a rather last minute commission painting lots and lots of seaside objects for a property development project in Dawlish, Devon. It was a lot of work in not a lot of time, but I really enjoyed painting all the details, and the end results should be great - more to come on this too!

Thank you for making it to the end of another year with me! Hope you enjoyed 2014 as much as I did?

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Illustrations for United Arrows Japan | Watercolour Illustrations



I was so pleased when United Arrows got in touch with me again to ask me if I would like to produce some more illustrations for their new catalogue. Of course, I said yes (YES PLEASE!) and above are the fruits of my labour.

I was asked to paint 11 Johnston of Elgin scarves plus the iconic printed label, plus a "handbag grid" (new terminology for me) and a rather mysterious monkey keyring dressed in costume. Lastly I painted a pair of shiny boots, which reminded me very much of a since lost ink painting I produced on my art foundation course.

You can find previous work for United Arrows here.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Post Holiday Resolutions! Number One



It's the customary activity in a new year, to start making resolutions. However, I've always found this a little forced. It's cold outside, and it's hard to feel rejuvenated, plus all that Christmas feasting is clouding my vision. I recently decided that perhaps it's more logical to reflect on life resolutions after some distance from said life.
I've just come back from a two week holiday and it's given me some time to contemplate on the way I was working back home and on the changes I'd like to make - and to my personal life as well. I thought it would be helpful to share them here, one day at a time, for one month. Below is just the start.

1. Take better care of the body you work with. 

I recently learnt the hard way that working long hours without taking the proper precautions to protect yourself from injury leads to a very broken body indeed.

Late last year I was sitting on a hard, plastic chair with no back support and painting for long periods of time - typically 10 to 12 hours a day. I was working on my first proper book project, tasked with producing 80 full colour illustrations & a cover design. I was so focused on the challenge that I didn't think for one second of the implications it would have on my body. Add to this a lack of sleep and an unhealthy diet of cheesy snacks and caffeine, no regular breaks, and minimal exercise - and this heady concoction resulted in a painful lower back injury, which is still with me today. 
 
If I could go back in time I would do things differently but sometimes lessons really do have to be learnt the hard way, and on a hard surface. Now I know my body must work in order for me to work.

The future of Holly Exley illustration? Regular breaks. Fresh air. Dog walking. Leafy greens. I've also invested in a good chair - it's ugly & bulky & belongs in a corporate office but I'm learning to put my vanity to one side. Feeling like an old lady at 26 is alarming to say the least and it frustrates me that I can't work in the same way I used to. 

However, I am resolved to remember I am not an illustration machine. No career, no matter how dreamy, is worth risking one's health for.

Do you have any tips for working long hours at a desk? How do you look after your body? Any ergonomic advice? Do YOU own an exotic stand-up desk?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

One Month with Quentin | My new Pug Puppy

If you aren't following me on Instagram or Twitter, there might be the slight chance that you've missed the storm of photographic updates about the new love in my life. So he's making his official debut here on my blog.

Blog readers, meet Quentin.


Quentin was born on the 11th of May 2014, into a family of 7 pugs, including his three sweet sisters, his mother Abby and step uncles and aunties. Meeting him for the first time was like a dream - it was probably the most realistic example of love-at-first-sight that's ever been recorded. He was tiny, very wiggly, and had chubby little back rolls. He played for a little bit on my lap, softly mouthing my hand, before falling asleep. My first encounter with a pug snore.

Meeting Quentin
7 weeks old

The following week I got to take him home. The drive home was interesting. I cried a little, feeling a) guilty for taking Abby's only son away from her and b) like this was a dream coming true. (Quentin weed on me twice in the car, but I didn't care one bit.)

I've wanted a dog for the longest time. Some people fantasise about getting married and having kids, all I've ever wanted was to paint, and have a dog for company. The idea of an animal as a companion, one with which such a strong bond can be made, is just my dream. People stress me out, social situations stress me out. With a dog, it's not about your topics of conversation, or your opinions, it's about your ability to love. As cheesy as that sounds...

The first night at home
8 weeks old

Bat dog, 10 weeks.

Having said all that, I have to be honest and say that my first month with Quentin hasn't been quite the dream I envisioned. It's involved setting my alarm for every 2 hours through the night to take him outside. It's involved excrement, on my hands, as I reached into his bed in the middle of the night. It's involved washing the entire contents of his crate at 2 in the morning. I could go on, but I fear this would just be a paragraph about poo, and nobody wants that.

However, since turning 12 weeks this Sunday, things have got easier and I feel I'm finally enjoying having a puppy in the house. Yes, he still chews everything in sight, but he's calmer now he can explore outside, and now that he's used to the other members of the house, including my rabbit Hergé.

12 weeks

The idea of "a Quentin" has existed for about a year. Every time I saw a black pug (a Quentin) in the street, I would squeal behind my hands. He's just the dog for me, and I'm so happy he's finally here.