Tuesday, 23 December 2014

December Magic

So what have I been up to for the rest of December? Mostly drawing dogs, like this guy here, who is called Magic. Commissioned by the owner's niece, I really enjoyed capturing his ruffly neck and loyal face, with my pencil dancing happily around the page for the duration of the process. Despite not being a pet portrait aficionado, being approached to knock out a few in the run up to Chrismukkah has been a lovely way to connect with people and make them something they consider to be special (aww). Gush, happy holidays everyone, have a magic time.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Collective Happiness

Photograph by Unfinished Business

Now in it's third year, the Cannon Hill Collective at mac birmingham has been part of my Tuesday night life for some time now; from being a member myself back in 2012-13, to now helping make it all happen for new cohorts in my current job. A lively programme to say this least, this week it went up a notch with the group working on a series of exercises as part of Change My Mind: a project by London-based performance company Unfinished Business. This involved taking over mac's main gallery for the duration of the week, with UB transforming it's colossal frame into something strangely intimate and even cozy. With decks, food, colourful lighting and somewhere to get comfortable, it had all the makings of, well a pretty great party, but in reality what manifested worked on more levels than that, with Leo Kay & Anna Smith making all the artists in the room come over all introspective through meditation, philosophy, collective decision-making, trust exercises, free writing and music.

Watching this story unfold throughout the week was wonderful, and to be touched by its ideas and teachings was very liberating, as the people around me were trying things they'd never tried before with open minds, showing how easy it can be to just give it a go if you break down new territory collectively. We were like a strange little tribe dwelling at the heart of the busy building, yet in a world entirely of our own design.

Beyond it all, getting to hang out with the group was a real joy, and weirdly I didn't even miss the gallery having static art inside it.

Here are what some of the team had to say about it:

Going on Camera - Jess May Davies
Cannon Hill Collective 2014-15 - Murdock Ramone

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Illustrated Brum In The House

It's been a hectic fortnight donning my Illustrated Brum cap and getting to work with Sarah Isaacs to deliver our first ever exhibition install together, ready to showcase our latest project One Hundred Thousand Welcomes. The opportunity to take over a linear corridor space at mac birmingham was both exciting and challenging, and we've decided to fill it with creative 'welcomes' ie. introductions, invitations, instigations and reflections on the City of Birmingham forming a collection of engagements. Currently existing as a blog online and within us as a creative partnership, we are excited to break Illustrated Brum out into a physical space and allow other people to become a part of it: artists, students, passers by; making mac the perfect location to tap into.

Opting for a colourful graphic approach to the base design, we allowed ourselves to be led by a process in the space rather than realising a prefabricated idea, yet sought to reflect some of Birmingham's architectural shapes, including forms inspired by Central Library, The Mailbox and mac's very own Hexagon Theatre. The colours are linked to the categories on our blog, anchoring the exhibition in a series of signs and visual signifiers centred around reading meaning and creating understanding. Currently structured to receive welcomes and generate initial interest, in January we will build on the space by showcasing specially commissioned prints by local artists alongside all submissions we have received.

The fluidity of the project at this stage makes it both wonderful and terrifying, but above all it has already begun to connect us with new people and organisations through a concept that means something to us; one centred on openness, generosity and (re)discovery. It has also shown me that it's very special to have someone to work alongside jovially and cohesively, even when things get stressful.

Papped by the one and only Kate Andrews.
For more information on the installation process, such as where we washed our brushes, head over to Illustrated Brum to read our joint blog post. Also, we ask that you submit a welcome to our project, as without you guys we don't have an exhibition. For more information on how to get involved visit our One Hundred Thousand Welcomes Campaign page or email us at welcomes@illustratedbrum.co.uk

Friday, 21 November 2014

Glug Birmingham

As showcased proudly in my previous post (like a child's best drawing put up on a fridge) me and Laurie Ramsell submitted a design to glug birmingham's poster design competition, and after breathing a sigh of relief at making the deadline it was quickly revealed that we had, infact, got the gig. Yes, we only went and bloody won.

This was very exciting news, but meant speaking at the Midlands Masters event that we were already due to attend on a casual basis, no longer destined to simply be a chilled out attendee with a hot dog in one hand and a beer in the other (at least not until later), but instead ones who had to get onto the stage and say words at the crowd and try not to get said refreshments thrown at them.

Echoing the speedy nature in which our design came together, we created a short presentation detailing the idea behind the image and how we got to the final stage. As we had explored the concept fully together during the design process it wasn't too taxing to put this information into slides, but I was uncharacteristically nervous, and due to the quick turnaround wondered if we could pull it off, without boring people, talking over each other, or one of us vomiting through fear.

Photograph by Jack Spicer Adams.

It wasn't so bad though, at all, and not only did someone cheer when Laurie mentioned his local town of Stourbridge (represent) but we also felt the support of both Lisa & Kerry, and the rest of the glug team. It was an amazing chance for us to be listened to by the creative public; by everyone from industry insiders to starry-eyed students, with us lying very much somewhere in between the two - with lots to learn but still, irrevocably, something to say.

Coverage of the competition can be found over on Inkygoodness, where you can see the other lovely designs selected for exhibition, and we would like to thank glug for this opportunity over and over again.


"We received some fantastic entries, but Louise and Laurie’s design was unlike anything else! Their clever interpretation of the theme makes great use of the limited colour palette, whilst combining hand made and digital image-making to produce a fun and playful design that really stands out."

- Lisa Hassell, Director of Inkygoodness

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Bit Forward

Embarking on a short-term collaborative project with artist Laurie Ramsell, above you can see our physical recreation the City of Birmingham crest, dedicating its representation of the arts and trade industries to the creative sector. It depicts creativity as a personal expression and philosophy (a way to explore the world more deeply) but also a trade and a craft, something that we think resonates with Birmingham's industrious values and history as a city, as well as us both as individual artists. 

This particular creation was all in aid of designing a poster for 
glug birmingham, and whilst the crest was something that had interested us since returning to the city, in this instance the research and the brief just fit together in harmony making it the right time to realise and share the idea. We built the crest out of cardboard at 'life size' and assembled it for a tableau-style photograph at our old college in Stourbridge, putting ourselves in the picture. Thanks to the supportive staff and our own lack of fear for paper cuts or splinters, this image was born a few hours later, applying a colour palette specific to the brief digitally to tie the whole thing together, a mock-up for which can seen on the original crest here:

 I would urge you all to play around with your craft and let other people shape it, because through this little project I've learned that as well as being a delicate balance between multiple viewpoints, it can be very very fun, and it will feed back into your own ideas in a positive way if you let it.

To close, here is a picture of us larking about on set.

Precious Flower Feathers

As many of you will know Amelia's Magazine is currently going full pelt to make a magical special edition book laced with gold, centred around the theme of That Which We Do Not Understand.

Forming my submission to her open call out, this image is my take on Xochiquetzel, a goddess in Aztec mythology associated with concepts of fertility, beauty, and female sexual power. Serving as a protector of young mothers and a patroness of pregnancy and childbirth, the name 
Xochiquetzal is a compound of xochiti (“flower”) and quetzalli (“precious feather”) and she is always depicted as a youthful woman, richly attired and symbolically associated with vegetation and in particular flowers. Upon reading about this character I became interested in the parallels she holds with ideals of modern womanhood, and the mystery that continues to surround what it means to be feminine and how beauty & female sexuality is perceived. I love the fact she is engulfed by nature and surrounded by so much wondrous flora, and I see this as a exemplifying the natural beauty of womankind; radiant and sweet-swelling, with an effortless allure and grace.

It's been something very different for me that I've really enjoyed making, retaining a roughness of pencil but working harder to create intense detail and depth of colour alongside looser marks.

Thursday, 2 October 2014


Upon first hearing about Inktober I didn't know if it was for me. I don't own any of the fancy pens listed as Tools, plus my tentative approach to drawing can feel closed in by the permanence and strength of ink, more comfortable with a stubby smudgy 5B.

Yet part of me wanted to become a part of it anyway. Inspired by the inky artists posting drawings made of smooth lines and yummy shading, I dug under my bed for a pot of black ink and an old paintbrush and had a go at using ink in my own way. It was loads of fun to shake up my practice, and make a ruddy mess that no eraser could fix. Any community that encourages creative people to keep on creating and share their work is okay by me, as this creates a momentum that working in isolation simply can't always maintain.

Whilst my own efforts will not be sustained throughout the month, I wish everyone a very happy & productive Inktober indeed. To check out featured ink as part of the project visit www.facebook.com/inktober

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Spring Greens

I was asked by Birmingham-based chum Meghan Allbright to contribute to her forthcoming zine Dovetail. This illustration was lovingly crafted in the middle of the night, based on an image from an old cookbook, and is to accompany a reworked recipe by a local artist, annotating text about food to comment on art and ideas.

The zesty colours may be more suited to seasons gone and to come, but I'm looking forward to seeing the whole thing come together this Autumn, bringing many players in Birmingham's art crowd together in one printed volume. Watch out for it in midlands-based fun places and spaces where people gather and art happens - and in a future post, naturally.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Let's Talk About Tax.

This week I tuned in for an IdeasTap webinar about the mysterious "Big T", aka the tax man. Listening avidly from the bus on the way home from work, Tax Talk For Freelancers was delivered by Alistair of Bambridge Accountants and was packed with useful nuggets of golden info for independent creative business folk.

All this bookkeeping financial stuff is definitely a topic which makes more sense to me when somebody vocalises it, as letting myself pour over guidelines and terms can create more questions that answers. After just over a year as a sole-trader and having submitted one fairly straightforward initial tax return, things had naturally gone up a notch and I wanted to get more savvy about record keeping and good financial practice; something that can be hard to come by as a free resource and even harder to digest.

The session was incredibly useful, and tied up some loose ends for me in terms of things that may or may not be expenses, how really to calculate the use of your bedroom as an office, and whether some of the more enjoyable parts of the illustration lifestyle can be considered work.

Here are the top 5 things that I learned:

- Postgraduate Study Is Business Training. As a sole trader, training counts as a business expense as long as it is within your existing field, and this includes studying for a masters. For limited companies this goes even further, and you can offset against broadening your company's offering through training ie. a course of study to give you brand new additional skills rather than just furthering ones you already have.

- Eating & Drinking Not Wining & Dining. You can claim for your own train, bus, air and taxi fares; hotel room costs and meals on trips to meet clients, but you cannot claim for "entertaining". I also found making the following distinction useful: expenses can only be claimed if the intention for the visit is to make money from it along the way, and so excludes meeting friends / collaborators for a creative catch-up.

- Bedroom As Business Premises. Discount your bathroom and hallway when counting how many rooms your house has. Divide all costs on your property by the number of rooms, including mortgage or rent, council tax, insurance, utility bills. Then work out what percentage of your time in that room (ie. bedroom) is used for your business, and divide the room total accordingly to give your self-employed working-from-home claim total. For example if you work 8 hours a day from your room divide by 3. Et voilà! You can also divide up personal / business use for things like your mobile phone bill and laptop.

- International Clients. If you have received payments in different currencies, you can retroactively find out the conversion rate on the day it was paid and accurately convert it to £ using a cheeky little site called Oanda.

- Research Is Fun. Subscription to trade journals or relevant magazines are an allowable expense. This also applies to researching your industry and keeping up to date in other ways i.e. film-makers can claim for visits to the cinema and even netflicks.

For more info on expenses and allowances check out the fact sheet from HMRC, and to register for future IdeasTap spa events visit: www.ideastap.com/opportunities/spa

Friday, 18 July 2014

We Are The Loft.

The lovely Loft Bham, hosts of my previous life drawing post, are having a wee party to celebrate everything they have started, stimulated, and orchestrated over the last 6 month as Birmingham's pop-up creative haven. Bringing together visual artists, performers and all manner of creative party people, they are leaving their current space at Priory Walk for pastures new. The future for them may not be certain, but one thing's for sure, their final event We Are The Loft is not to be missed. I drew up some jazzy typography for them as a fond farewell. You've gotta pick your pencils up to get down.