Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Character Factory

This weekend I led my first ever workshop. a little drop-in number for kids following Flatpack Film Festival's Cartoon Rock screening. I was crazy nervous in the run up, partly because I haven't conducted workshops of my own design before and didn't know what to expect, but also due to imagining kids swallowing small parts or getting paper cuts - I mean, nobody likes a boo-boo. Armed with safety scissors, pritt sticks & a variety of coloured paper shapes (lovingly hand cut, like posh chips) I descended on the Birmingham & Midland Institute and got set up.

Fresh out of a morning film session and armed with bowls of cereal, lots of children filled the tables and began working with the shapes in front of them. Circulating and chatting to the families taking part, it was nice to see both parties regarding the creations as characters with personalities and traits, with one little girl making a rather abstract fellow called "plap-plap" who enjoyed drinking wine, with another youngster declaring their creature's favourite food was "vegetarian fruit". The shapes began to come alive with the imagination of their maker.

As we were tidying up a lady who had been working feverishly on her laptop throughout the session said the kids on her table looked like they were having so much fun, both quashing my workshop fears and aptly summarising the day by adding, "Sometimes the simplest ideas work the best".

Special thanks to Laurie & John Ramsell for testing out The Character Factory format and making the impressive array of creatures at the top of this post, and to everyone for coming along and not swallowing the apparatus.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

It Only Takes A Minute, Girl

What started off as a whimsical idea at the gym (upon hearing a Blue song for the first time in years) turned quickly into a moderate-sized mission. Deciding to design some 90s / 00s boyband cards ready for Valentine's Day seemed like a laugh, and I spent lots of time researching cheesy lyrics and discussing the final selection with friends, but I had not anticipated the hours spent perfecting facial hair and pouts that this series would involve. Finding the band members incredibly difficult to draw on first attempts, I identified that this was not only because I was rushing them, but also due to the fact that I was trying to achieve the portraits as part of group shots at a smaller scale, with the designs only really coming together once I super-sized each character's face separately before reassembling them (with some poor buggers like Duncan, Spike and Nick Carter still looking pretty fruity).

Managing to realise a capsule collection of 4 designs in time for V-Day, I selected hit songs Rule The World, As Long As You Love Me, Private Number and Guilty as the inspirationsadly having to abandon my other chart toppers for time's sake (never has the number of members in Blazing Squad looked so daunting).

My original remit for the cards was that they should be appealing to both lovers and friends, encouraging people to express different forms of love on 14th February beyond the traditional romantic kind. Bromances, palentines, you name it; the nineties taught me everything I know about love, i.e. that friendship is absolutely as important as being part of a couple. Created with my besties in mind, it felt nice to send them a little something as a reminder of how much I love them, as well as pleasing my Take That-loving colleagues at work no end.

Far from my best drawings, this series has been quite a turning point for me because it has been a great exercise in creating products, working desperately to make turnaround times and finding the strength to see ideas through, pushing past when I really started to doubt whether it was worth it. It's also been handy to try out the small run on a new supplier, falling hook line and sinker for their gesso stock cards and kraft envelopes, so I will have an added confidence through this finish if producing more designs in future.

In fact, if this bunch is anything to go by, I should probably get started on Christmas.
(I won't).

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Bread Cat

Dogs were so last year. (Sorry, Magic).

Easing myself into 2015 gently, this little commission for The World of Internet Cats event as part of Flatpack Film Festival couldn't have come at a better time.

After declaring it a dream brief and diving straight into hours of rigorous research (watching countless cat videos on youtube) I chose to focus on the phenomena of cat breading. Keeping the image square was a conscious decision to make it an ideal instagram-sharing shape, whilst also neatly framing the slice of bread (which is neatly framing the cat). The kitty in question is Snoopybabe, an instagram star, and the heartbreaking filling to this fluffy illustration sandwich. Just look at that face.

The event is in conjunction with F A M A L A M, exploring parenting and play in the 21st Centry, and after being carefully curated by nippers under 5 years the screening will take place on Saturday 21st March. To find out more click here, where you can also recommend cat videos for inclusion.

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 is 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

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