Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Things That Stir My Imagination

Image source.

1. These artist studios in Barrons Court (I think?!). I pass them on my coach journey's into London, and every time they take my breath away. How amazing would it be to have studio windows like those? I can only imagine how stunning the interior must look. I adore the strange window placement, the dark lead and the red brick work. Magical buildings.

Image source.
2. Botanical tattoos. 

3. Japan. This is largely due to the fact I am currently absorbed in 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. 

4. Interior Gardens. They remind me of the tiny moss gardens I used to make as a child inside bakewell tart tins!

5. Allison Schulnik. After showing my sister the Grizzly Bear video she directed, I was reminded of how much Allison Schulnik's work inspires me. I am always bowled over by an artist who can cross disciplines and carry a distinctive visual identity with them. Her paintings, pottery and film work is all so inextricably hers.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

A Portrait of the Queen | Watercolour Illustrations

I have a brand new print in conjunction with the Jubilee celebrations taking place next week. As always, this print is professionally executed, on watercolour paper, and is of the highest quality. Each print comes signed by the artist (me!) and I'm offering them at a special price of just £10!

If you love English royalty, or know someone who does, this print is a great gift. It works well hung with patriotic bunting for some Jubilee themed decoration - just a little suggestion from me!

I'm even offering a framing service, which can be requested through my shop.

To see my etsy listing, simply click the button below. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Sunshine & the Rabbit

Pictures from a sunny day, of my rabbit Hergè enjoying her first proper sun of the year.

In love with her fluffy ears!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The History Of Watercolour | Botanical Illustration

As a watercolour artist, I've always been aware that my chosen medium is considered quite "traditional" and even old-fashioned. For me, I take pride in the fact that what I use to paint with has been used throughout history, and without much adaptation.

 I thought it would be interesting to find out a little bit more about it's origins, both in fine art and in illustration, in the hope that I'll better understand how I've come to rely on it to produce my work.

Albrecht Dürer

As it turns out, watercolours go a long way back.

Cave paintings can technically be considered the very first watercolours, as pre-historic man mixed pigment with a 'binder' (such as natural oil or a waxy substance) and then water to paint onto cave walls. In the Renaissance, watercolours began to make their first real mark within the art world. Typically a medium used for sketching and planning by most artists, only a few were using watercolour for final artworks.

An important figure in the establishment of watercolour was Albrecht Dürer, who is generally considered one of the earliest exponents of the medium, painting botanical, wildlife and landscape paintings.

The Renaissance saw the the popularity and importance of botanical painting soar. Watercolour was used as a way to depict minute detail and in every colour imaginable, to get as close to nature as possible.

Georg Dionysius 
Ferdinand Bauer

There was great demand for information about natural history in Europe in the early 1800s, and so the use of watercolour as a medium was on the increase. Scientists and naturalists were keen to find out about undiscovered species, traders were interested in making a profit and wealthy private gardens were looking to increase their collection.

Often this involved lengthy ocean voyages, and ingenious (but somewhat experimental) ways to preserve the plants - including building a green house onboard the ship! This makes me think of Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic, and all the ridiculous rooms onboard their boat.

Anyway, due to the unreliable nature of sea travel paintings and illustrations were often far better at surviving the journey. Naturalists would often commission artists to travel with them to exotic destinations and paint during the journey and on location.

For me, what I really enjoy about these illustrations, is their exacting ties with science. Often, as well as painting a whole plant on a white background, the artist would dissect parts of the specimen such as the fruit or flower and add details of these to the same painting. These paintings proved to be invaluable in recording information about a species - and look like diagrams and artwork in equal measure.

One of Franz Bauer's famous orchid paintings

I've alway's loved botanical illustrations, even before I knew I wanted to be an illustrator. I remember my nanny having lots of dusty books in her conservatory, containing beautiful paintings of plants and birds, and thinking how lovely they were. I love that their purpose is to record and that they must replicate reality; sometimes its refreshing and wonderful that art can be so practical.

I find it fascinating that the very earliest forms of illustration were created using the medium I choose today. Watercolour's tie with the most traditional form of illustration is so appealing to me, as a traditional kind of girl. To use watercolour in a modern context, to me, is to keep the medium alive - and I'm glad to help in any small way I can.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Two House Paintings | Watercolour Illustrations

I painted two house commissions last month, which was a bit of a surprise as I've never really painted buildings before! I must admit I found it a little bit of a challenge, but with the help of some new tools (a ruler, pencil and rubber never usually feature in my work) I think I finally got there. I'm really happy with how they turned out actually, especially the lovely London town house above, with the addition of some hand rendered type.

If you'd like to commission me, you can always email me at mail(at)hollyexley.com and I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have, and create a personal painting just for you!

Monday, 21 May 2012

A Birthday and a Rainbow Cake

Seven bowls of cake mixture.
White chocolate icing.
The look of concentration.
"Is it just me or have party rings shrunk?"
Double veggie burger with cheese and caramelised onions.
My broccoli salad.

This Sunday was my sister's 22nd birthday, and we held a BBQ in her honour. I spent most of my Saturday mixing bowls of coloured cake batter and erecting sponge layers (which left me exhausted for work that evening!).

And here is the fruit of my labour, in the form of a very dense, very colourful, seven tiered cake.

If you'd like to try making a rainbow cake, I recommend this recipe by food blogger Kerstin Rodgers aka MsMarmitelover. I'd certainly heed her advice regarding colouring though - powdered or gel colours are worth buying as they are formulated for baking. The standard liquid colours I used aren't really suitable for cake mixtures - something I'd avoid the next time I try this!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Painting in the Garden | Watercolour Illustrations

Just some snaps from a rather pleasant morning doing a spot of painting in the garden. Hurry up summer!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Ode to the Internet | Things I've Found

Image source.

I spend an awful lot of time online. Checking emails, Facebook and Twitter has become part of my morning routine, and I'd go as far to say I treat my Instagram and blogger feeds as bedtime reading.

I am constantly amazed by the internet. Yes, there are many things to hate - porn being a good example, trolling being another - but it is also such a hub of creative energy, documentation and community based activity that the positive out-weighs the negative.

I'd decided to make this a feature on my blog every now and again, when the internet decides to bowl me over, and I just have to share. And so I present to you some of my favourite recent discoveries.


An explanation. Blogs are arguably my favourite internet outlet, probably because there is an endless wealth of blogs focussed on what I love to read about: illustration, painting, artistic lifestyle, travel, crafting, vintage, handmade, cooking etc.

Although there are some issues within the blogging world I have a problem with (namely, WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE SO PERFECT?! ) my reading list is ever growing.

Blogs by other illustrators are what I'm most likely to follow, as they inspire me to create.

I've raved about the creative internet community countless times - but it really is like a substitute for the creative environment you encounter during university or college. It's a chance to see your peers at work, celebrate their successes and experience panic when you realise how good they are (!).

My favourite blog of the moment: a recent discovery, and fairly new blog: A Future Present 

Run by illustrator and textile designer Leah Reena Goren, it's a truly dreamy blog following the set up of her new apartment, and equally dreamy life with creative boyfriend and a new kitten, no less.


An explanation: For me Youtube is like my TV. And I don't mean that I watch television programs from it, because I rarely do. I mean that I have "programs" that I "tune into" every week, and it's my source of entertainment whilst I'm working from home. Also, a lot of what television has to offer just doesn't interest me at all, I'd much rather be watching homemade programs by real people on Youtube, talking and filming real things.

I'm a big fan of 'vlogs' (video diaries) which I know is kind of nerdy - but I enjoy watching people's every day lives from around the world, and I think theres a lot to learn from that. I love listening to individuals put forward their opinion on something and how the rest of the Youtube community responds to that. There are a lot of pretty intelligent people on Youtube, saying pretty thoughtful things.

This is one lady that I really like, because she's a bit crazy and has bleached hair. Not at all like me. No.


Yes, it gets a lot of stick. Because adding a fake vintage-y filter to your photos is a little pointless, and no one needs to see your lunch, but I quite like having a browse. It's like a photo album from around the world, refreshed every day.

Plus. Some people have seriously cute pets. Like this lady:



An explanation: Before we go any further, I should tell you: Pinterest is dangerous. Setting up an account is like signing away hours of your working day. Pinning is addictive, it's like making a virtual mood board of endless possibilities. Even if you don't pin that much as soon as you're on the site, the war against time wasting begins - and you're going to lose. It's a battlefield of cute outfits and amazing artists and delicious recipes and ingenious craft ideas and breathtaking design and gorgeous interiors and...

You see? Even describing it is a time drainer.

Some things I've found recently:

Animal drawers.
Peanut butter, chocolate and banana milkshake. My dream.
Hand drawn shirt.
Hankies as art!

Have you found anything recently that you'd like to share? Please leave interesting links in the comments section - I need more distraction in my life!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Watercolours, waitressing and other work.

Hello! Lots of progression has been made in the past couple of months. I've started two new jobs, which now makes me the proud owner/juggler of THREE occupations.

First and foremost, I am still an illustrator. I assume this is pretty obvious, seeing as this makes up 99% of my blogging material. Since moving back to Bristol in January, I've had a surprisingly steady stream of work which has been very encouraging.

Every time I am assigned a new commission it's the most wonderful feeling. I feel so useful! It's taken a good two years to realise how much of a struggle it is to find work in the creative industry, and so when I am paid for painting, and when I know that painting will then go on to have a purpose, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. 

This feeling is what makes me certain I will never stop painting.

Secondly, I've started working for Made In Bristol, a wonderful company supporting local artists and makers, and organisers of exciting home grown pop up shops and exhibitions around Bristol.

Paper Scissors Stone, a Made In Bristol pop up shop.

Illustrated cards at Paper Scissors Stone.

I've been using my experience working in social media, to do some online marketing work for Made In Bristol, as well as writing lots of arty content for the blog. If you like discovering new artists and makers, are interested in the city of Bristol or love supporting independent ventures, you really must follow the blog.

Lastly, I've started waitressing again! I've never really written about my day jobs before, as I've always been kind of ashamed that I have to have them to support myself (plus, some of them have been downright awful!) . But these two newly acquired jobs feel different. They make sense, they fit with the type of lifestyle I want to have.

Waitress - funnily enough one of my favourite films!

I've started a part time position at a lovely restaurant called Flinty Red which I love for the following reasons:

1. It's literally TWO MINUTES from my house.
2. It has truly lovely customers, who have been very understanding throughout my wobbly/ nervous/ clueless first few weeks!
3. The staff are equally lovely.
4. The menu is exciting and although decidedly meaty (I'm a pescetarian myself) they source only the best and locally sourced ingredients, and promote eating every part of the animal, so nothing goes to waste.
5.  The salted caramel mousse. Seriously.

I work 4 shifts a week there which is great for me. Personally, I think bar/restaurant work compliments illustration work quite well - as it gets you out of the house, forces us shy illustrator types to be social, and gets the blood pumping after long hours sitting in the studio.

Do you have any positive 'day job' experiences that have complimented your creative work? I'd be really interested to know.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Bangstyle Art Book | Watercolour Illustrations

Last week I received a rather mystifying package in the mail, which turned out to be this gorgeous book from Bangstyle. Bangstyle is a "hair and culture" website celebrating the latest fashion in hair and beauty - almost like Vogue for hairdressers.

I was contacted by the W.P.A a few months ago. They're an agency based in L.A which aims to promote artists of all mediums to more mainstream clients. This book is being distributed in partnership with Bangstyle in over 15k hair salons worldwide, which gives huge scope for exposure- and I felt very privileged to be asked to contribute.