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.

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:

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.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Life Lessons

Life drawing at The Loft this week was just the excuse I needed to get my pencils out. My first trip to the fledgling space tucked in Birmingham's city centre, it was a very creative, welcoming environment from the moment I entered. Already full of lovely people on my arrival (some studio holders and others newbies like myself) I was offered fruit juice and sweets and took a seat ready to get set up.

Well-organised and fast-paced, the session flew by, with the experienced life model's seemingly endless plait capturing my interest in every drawing. Unlike sessions I have attended elsewhere, there was a supportive and open sensibility amongst attending artists, everybody bravely bringing their favourite drawings together to share before the session came to a close.

Yinka and The Loft team have created something really special here; a simple but important vessel by which to bring together local artists to work - and potentially exhibit - together who may otherwise work alone. In-so-doing this creates a safe zone for creative people to do what they do best whilst contributing to the working of the city; a self-led creative nucleus. It's always nice to feel a part of something, and I can guarantee that to make contact with The Loft is to be part of something good.

Friday, 30 May 2014

High Five for My5

This month saw the launch of my5, a project I've been working on with Youthspace to promote dialogue surrounding mental wellbeing. Driven by Youthspace Youth Board - a amazing group of young people passionate about raising awareness of youth mental health and wellbeing issues - the operative word here is definitely with rather than for as they were keen to discuss their project, the 5 key steps they had come up with, and how we were going to turn them into something to share with others. Postcards for people to keep close and refer back to; colour was important, something that would make young people want to pick them up in the first place; symbols for ease of use and to make the steps memorable; clear communication of the message held within each step.

I loved the concept right away and found the campaign incredibly well laid out. Discover - Recognise - Energise - Socialise - Share. Simple. My visual ideas centred around different parts of the body, considering the attention we tend to give their physical health in order to convey the importance of doing the same with our minds. The descriptions of each step were also incredibly sensory, take time to listen, look around you, share a smile; all of these things are at our fingertips each day and don't require anything more from us than what we already have. It was this idea of connections between thinking and doing that fed into the illustration process, seeking to prompt action as well as self-reflection.

It was not only rewarding to work with the youthboard to realise their creative aspirations for the campaign, but also very inspiring personally to be around young people with such a clear vision and a universally empowering message. This is just the beginning for my5 but you can keep up to date with the project, including reading about the launch party in full, over on the Youthspace blog.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Agenda Bender

I've been working with mac birmingham's Cannon Hill Collective since October and it's almost time to showcase what they've been up to! Investigating when art becomes a political act and united by a desire to impart positive social change, this wonderful bunch have put together What's The Agenda; an eclectic festival of creative activity which asks the audience to engage as well as committing to some form of pledge for change; big or small; private or public.

Lord knows I'm already planning my launch party outfit, but for now check out the flyer I created for 'em. After much shredder fun what I've created seems suspiciously like Girls HBO combined with Klimt's The Kiss...

No? Just me then.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Something Fishy Going On

After a bit of an undesirable creative hiatus, waving goodbye to January felt ruddy marvelous and has brought with it a startling wave of productivity. Much has happened in the last few weeks leading to the launch of a new collaborative venture with artist chum SJI. That venture is Illustrated Brum; a platform for us to document the creative, cultural and social goings on we encounter to create an illustrated guide to Birmingham life. It's all very exciting, and if you want to find out the significance of this fish then have a root around:

Monday, 27 January 2014

#1 HOW TO: Begin

One of my biggest creative hang-ups is an inability to begin.

Starting a new drawing, a new article, a new relationship or even just picking up the goddamn telephone; taking the first step on any endeavour can fill me with so much excitement and dread simultaneously that absolutely nothing happens. In fact the very irony of struggling throughout January to begin a blog post about How to Begin is not lost on me, but rather validates the quandary we face so often; how to get past the starting blocks with an idea we believe in.