Thursday, 22 February 2018

3 Things I've Learnt In 30 Years

1. Perseverance is the most important quality needed to reach your goals.

Social media has a habit of only showing us the end result - the book deal, the famous blogger, the shop launch, the music video. The virality of the internet would have us believe that we just need one thing to be picked up by the media, and then we can relax as we bask in successes and opportunities. And for a small group this might be true, but when look back at my years of struggling to become an illustrator, I can appreciate that it was my perseverance that paved the way for me. It was the the small everyday action of showing up at my desk and painting, it was the planning and learning and experimenting on a daily basis. For most, there wont be one pinnacle moment or action that led to their success but rather a succession of small actions, which can span across years and even decades in order to reach a goal.

If this seems tedious, then you might be stuck on the idea of a quick fix. I admit that for a while I was trapped in this mindset too. Every video I made, I hoped would lead to thousands of new subscribers, but when it only generated a trickle I was disappointed. I started to get discouraged, and yet there was something that told me to keep going. It's the same with painting. Now I'm at peace knowing that my success wont come suddenly. It's always been slow, maybe it's meant to be so.

For me, learning that I can rely on perseverance has been a weight off my shoulders. It takes the pressure off needing to create a masterpiece every time I paint, and instead I see it as an opportunity for growth. It's putting one foot in front of the other to reach a goal, but remembering to look around you as you do.

2. Know the difference between pushing and punishing yourself.

I spent a few years after graduating sleeping badly, eating poorly, exercising rarely and sitting hunched on a ridiculous see-through plastic chair whilst I painted long into the night. The repercussions were a coccyx injury that took a year to heal and the probability of a lot of teeth cavities (of which I am still too scared to investigate). I was suffering for my art, and the only reason that I didn't cause more harm to myself was the fact I was in my early twenties and my body had the semi-indestructible quality of youth.

However, the most serious damage I did to myself during this time (and before this too) was to my mental health. I've always been someone who has struggled with low self esteem. Less so now, but since I was a teenager I have always put myself down. My old diaries are actually pretty upsetting - I was forever calling myself stupid and uncool and worthless and ugly. Before I knew it, I was transferring this inner monologue to my work ethic too.

If I painted something badly, I would be angry at myself for wasting time. I would see it as proof that I was never going to make it. And in turn I would punish my body for this failing, by not taking a break, by working until the early hours to try to prove to myself that I could produce something decent.

Now I see how damaging my behaviour was, but at the time I thought I was simply pushing myself to reach my goal. But the difference is one's attitude. I'm not perfect at this, but I try to treat myself kindly, even when I'm working really hard on something. I try to notice when I'm putting myself down, when I'm spiralling into negativity, and I don't let it consume me. This doesn't work every day, and if I'm unable to beat the self doubt, I stop working for a while.

I don't let self-deprecation become a part of the process, because it doesn't have to be.

3. Patience is peaceful.

As I get older I am noticing more and more that what I am searching for is peace. After a decade of intense mental noise during my twenties , dealing with anxiety and self esteem issues and worries about my career, I am rather exhausted. I'm hoping to explore more of this in my thirties, and a great starting point for me has been dealing with my impatience.

Impatience is the annoying offshoot of ambition. You have a goal in your head, and it is so tempting and wonderful that you start wondering how much longer you'll be able to wait for it.

Luckily, impatience is quite easy to quell. As cheesy as it's sounds, it's all about enjoying the present, and the journey too.

It's easy for me to say this with hindsight; I've reached the only real goal I've set myself so far in life, to become a freelance illustrator. I now know, with hindsight, that the goal comes with it's downsides, as with most things in life. Nothing is perfect, not your career, not your home, not your relationships.

Once we stop idealising the goal, and simply accept it as something that will happen eventually, we give ourselves a chance to enjoy the present and all of the tiny steps it takes to reach the destination.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Friday, 23 September 2016

Watercolour Food Illustrations For Bakery - Norway

Apple Cake

Ham & Cheese Baguette in Wrapper

Takeaway Coffee with Coffee Beans

Focaccia Sandwich with Salami, Mozzarella and Rocket

Raspberry Saft Drink with Raspberries
A series of food illustrations for W B Samson, a bakery and restaurant chain in Norway. These illustrations will be used for instore posters, menus and branding.

Thank you to Work for commissioning me.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

A Fresh Start in the North

If you don't follow me on other social media outlets, you may not know that I have recently moved house. And not just any house, a house I have bought with my boyfriend, in the middle of the Peak District. It was a big move for us, not least because we've never owned a house before. We are more accustomed to dwelling in cramped flats we don't own, on noisy London streets, hiding our pets from the landlords and giving most of our earnings as rent.

We decided to make a big change in our lives, and move our southern arses to the north of the country. The affordable house prices were a huge factor in this decision, quality of life was another one. Our new town is high in the peaks and is surrounded by beautiful rolling hills I hope I never get used to seeing, whilst also being an hour away from central Manchester, where my boyfriend works. It really is the best of both worlds. I have the Derbyshire moors on my doorstep, and cities like Manchester and Sheffield to explore on days when I need a bit more "life".

I posted a video about my new studio, the attic room. I hope you enjoy having a look around!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Illustrations for Darling Magazine Issue 15 | Watercolour

A recent commission from Darling Magazine to illustrate an article about home economics and homemade cleaning products. They were kind enough to send me a copy of the issue all the way from the US and it's a beautifully produced magazine - more like a coffee table book than a fashion mag. Very pleased to have been involved! Read more about the issue here.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Women Who Own It | Beatrix Potter


Women Who Own It is an ongoing project exploring how personal possessions tell the story of the pioneering women who owned them.

Personal projects are precious things. I've wanted to start a project of my own for over two years now but life is busy and running your own business is even busier. I've been striving so hard to build my portfolio and work on as many varied projects as possible; I haven't had the time to produce art for the sole reason I started in the first place: because I love it.

I decided that 2016 would be the year I put aside the excuses and began a self initiated project, no matter how busy I was, and no matter how scary the prospect. Personal projects are precious because they can breathe new life into a creative practice; just as I was beginning to feel smothered by strict briefs and deadlines. I hoped to explore a theme I was truly passionate about and create work not restricted by page layouts and client identities, and this is the outcome.

I've felt close to Beatrix Potter from an early age. Not only did she undertake a similar profession to mine but she was also a passionate watercolourist with an undying love for painting and recording the wildlife of the English countryside; I sometimes feel as if we would've been friends. But beyond her worldwide celebrity status as an author and illustrator, her personal life has always intrigued me. She was strong-willed and independent - putting her work before finding the husband society expected of her. She was determined to pursue her vision, both in her work and in her personal life - buying Hilltop Farm despite being advised against it and keeping book production costs low with the aim of them being more accessible to children.

Beatrix’s relationship with the natural world was consistent, running throughout her lifetime like a clear water stream. I imagine her as a strong, confident woman without vanity, rambling over the peaks of Cumbria to observe the natural landscape and searching for fungi to take home to study. She was very interested in mycology, and studied fungi from a scientific perspective as well as an artistic one. Her fascination with the mushroom world resulted in paintings that are praised for their scientific accuracy and consulted by mycologists in identifying mushroom species, even to this day. Her focused pursuit towards a better understanding of her subject matter and also the world around her, is a trait I greatly admire and hope to emulate.

She wrote about nature at a time when it had little value in society - when the destruction of land and wildlife was more popular than the preservation. Beatrix left over 4000 acres of land to the National Trust upon her death. It takes patience but also courage to block out the distracting opinions and actions of those around you; she had the strength to focus on her own path and because of this her uninfluenced way of life made her both happy and prosperous.

Beatrix Potter was an author, illustrator, conservationist and natural scientist. She was also a land-owner who collected unusual chinaware, bred prize-winning sheep and studied the cross-sections of mushrooms under her microscope. She was, and continues to be, a huge inspiration to many.

 Objects in the Beatrix Collection: 

Bird skull, ink bottle, pen nib, dolls house bird cage, dissected mushroom. 
Dolls house food from The Tale of Two Bad Mice.

Cumbrian fern.

Key to Hilltop Farm.


Staffordshire porcelain sheep figurine with hollow tree trunk, owned by Beatrix.

China cup owned by Beatrix.

These original paintings are for sale in my online shop, as well as a very special run of Beatrix Collection prints. There will only ever be 20 of these so if you'd like one, order sharpish!


I also made a video to explore some of the themes behind the artwork. Watch it below and do let me know what you think.

I am open to suggestions of women who you think "own it" to study for the next instalment of this project. Please do leave requests and suggestions in the comments. Thank you!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Watercolour Birds for Tsz Shan Monastery | Bird Paintings

Common Tailorbird
Great Egret
White-Breasted Waterhen
Common Emerald Dove
Common Kingfisher
Scarlet Minivet
Chestnut Bulbul
Black-throated Laughing Thrush
Chinese Hwamei
Yellow Bellied Prinia
Scarlet-backed Flower Pecker
Fork-tailed Sunbird
Japanese White-Eye
Collared Crow
Large Billed Crow

One of my bigger projects of last year, and also one of my favourites! Over 60 birds painted for the Tsz Shan Monastery in Hong Kong, for an exclusive calendar given to special guests.

Want to see how I painted these? Watch the video here:

Thursday, 21 January 2016

A New Book Project | A Wilder Life

Hello. It is I, the owner of this very neglected blog. I have returned to share a very exciting project that I started working on in August of 2014. As of today, I hold the finished product in my hands and it's beautiful.

This is Wilder Quarterly's first book, A Wilder Life, and it's a seasonal guide to "getting in touch with nature" which includes chapters on seasonal recipes, apothecary, DIY, foraging, and self-reliance among many other topics. It's a project that I'm proud to have been a part of, not least because the book is a thing of beauty and my illustrations share pages with work by photographers Krysta Jabczenski and Claire Cottrell.

Autumnal produce

I was asked to create watercolour illustrations to accompany many of the themes around nature, including seasonal produce to grow in your garden, medicinal plants to collect for tinctures, teas and homemade beauty products and wildlife to spot throughout the year.
Healing gemstones
These spot sized illustrations can be found in list from throughout the book - the crystals illustrate a chapter on beauty and healing. 
"Different cultures use crystals and gemstones differently - some complementary therapies encourage placing the stones on the body to connect to the body's energy fields or chakras, while others prefer the use of wands or pendulums. As nature lovers, we prefer to appreciate the stones for what they are: marvels of nature."
A Seasonal Apothecary 
The book contains a wealth of information on using foraged plants as well as spices and herbs to treat illness, soothe anxiety, boost the immune system and treat the skin along with many other uses. A recipe I'm excited to try is for a 'Calendula Salve' which uses the orange flower pictured above in a balm to soothe dry and cracked skin.
Colourful American birds

I also painted a series of still life watercolours that didn't quite make it into the final publication but that I thought I'd share below, because I quite like them (and waste not want not!).

An At-Home Herbalist Pharmacy

 Tasks to Do Around the Home

And there you have it. A big project that took up many months last year, which has cumulated in a book I'm extremely excited to take some time out with, with a cup of tea and a cosy corner. It's always a pleasure to work with independent and interesting clients, and Wilder Quarterly publish content that's "for people enthralled by the natural and growing worlds....‘a life through the lens of the growing world’— indoors and out, culture, travel, food and design." Which sounds just about perfect to me.

Buy the book here.

(P.S Many more botanical illustrations to share - but I'll include them in an up-coming post!)