Posted on August 20, 2016

Psychedelic Forest

I’ve been working a lot on digital pattern design recently, and part of that has meant manipulating my watercolour and acrylic art digitally.

It’s something I had never really thought of doing before, beyond the usual cropping and touching up of an image to post online.

But then…the patterns.

I present: ‘Psychedelic Forest’

Psychedelic Forest: a digital collageI painted the watercolour forest while chatting on the phone, pencilled over it and added a bit of collage. A bit of fun on a sunny evening. (It was a long conversation!)

Then I was working on some new patterns for the Make it in Design Summer School 2016, and accidentally filled the background of the scanned image. Well, that’s changed everything.

I’d buy it from myself if I could. I know you’re not meant to say that about your own work but I love the drama and the colour, the vibrant, vivid colour, and the naive, hand-drawn elements.

It’s the art print of my mind right now.

Psychedelic: “hallucinations and apparent expansion of consciousness” – exactly.

If it was a real place I’d go. I wonder what adventures I’d find in the ‘Psychedelic Forest‘?

Happy (inspirational) Saturday!

Posted on August 10, 2016

Designing the French Riviera S/S 2017

For the last week I’ve been obsessively designing patterns for the Make it in Design ‘Beginner’ Summer School. It’s been so much fun!

The brief was for simple, stylised designs for multiple applications across fashion and home.

The colour palette was provided as Pantone colour samples and I used these by colour matching them in Photoshop/Illustrator using the eyedropper tool (I haven’t worked out how to load Pantone palettes yet).

My first thoughts were of palm trees, ship’s wheels, sunsets and prawns. A heady mix for the French Riviera jetset!?

Palm Tree Line Drawing

I’d forgotten how tricksy Illustrator is. Why can’t you move between artboards and still have the colour selected? #firstworldissues

I managed to learn a few new Illustrator skills in the process. Like adding gradients (a key element in the design brief), and isolating different elements of an image-traced live-paint group to change colours.

After playing about with the below design for a while, I couldn’t decide which version I liked best – thoughts?


Then I had to remind myself: gradients don’t repeat, but they still look nice for a single placement.

I can see this design on a beach towel, face cloth, napkins, plates (especially picnic plates!), t-shirts, a beach bag. Loads of possibilities.

The limited palette really helped me to focus on the designs, and re-use colours where I would normally have gone for more of an obvious impact. I think it’s proven to me how much cohesion it creates too. That’s particularly true with the pink ship’s wheel design below. I created it in another colour way (not shown here), and had fun playing with scale.

Here’s a few of my other favourite designs for this brief:

French Riviera SS17 'Graph Prawn' surface pattern designFrench Riviera SS17 'Leaping Prawn - with Gradient' surface pattern designFrench Riviera SS17 'Pink Ship's Wheel' surface pattern designPrintFrench Riviera SS17 'Leaping Prawn' surface pattern designFrench Riviera SS17 'Sunset Palm' surface pattern design

Most of the designs are simple grid repeat vector patterns, but the ‘Graph Prawn’ is a single ‘placement’ design. He’s cheeky isn’t he?

Which one is your favourite? I’d love to know.

***Update, Update 15.08.16***

So excited to find out that I WON one of the ’20 ways to draw…‘ books for sharing my pattern-progress on Instagram. Taking this as a sign to focus more on my patterns and design work!

Posted on July 26, 2016


My last collage was for the theme of ‘YELLOW‘, then I missed a few. July’s theme is ‘STRIPES‘.

Geometrics are definite, daring and inspiring.

When I think ‘stripes’ the image in my head is of a stereotypical French person in a long-sleeved Breton top. With onions. I also think of zebras.

Keeping it strictly fashion, the centrepiece of this collage is an illustration by René Gruau. J’adore.

COLLAGE CLUB 'Stripes' collage, July 2016I think she’s chic, sophisticated and up to date on the latest trends, stripes or otherwise. And she’s a jet-setter, oh yeah.

Beirut, Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Hollywood in Cambodia…

Everything else is just, you know? BLAH.

COLLAGE CLUB 'Stripes' collage, July 2016There’s another page to this month’s collage too.

I was going to create the male counterpart to René‘s exotic, striped lady. But I never got that far.

I’m including him anyway because…striped shirt and shades.

COLLAGE CLUB 'Stripes' collage, July 2016Find out more and join The Collage Club – creative prizes are up for grabs every month.

PS. Vertical City – does that exist? I think I’d like to visit, being tall and all.

Posted on July 15, 2016

Reflections on a Boutique Eco Pod Retreat

Two weeks ago the husband and I headed North to a tiny place called Appin, near Oban in Scotland. We were going to an Eco Pod.

It felt cool, adventurous and loaded with anticipation; the trip had been booked for months and it was a place I’d wanted to stay for a while.

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandThe sun came out briefly as we drove over the narrow bridge, in awe at the sight of Loch Awe.

It soon started pouring again as we arrived at the Castle Stalker View CafeI was glad I’d brought wellies and a rain mac.

A winding path led through the woods like a mystical fairy trail. The leaves seemed more green, the rustle of nature amplified; more noticeable, the air laden with purity and relaxation. We’d arrived. The door was unlocked.

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandThe Eco Pod was much bigger than we’d imagined, but looked just as luxurious as the pictures on the website promised (we stayed in Pod 1).

Except it was cold. The weather didn’t help, but even looking back over the pictures now, a shiver goes down my spine. (Did I mention it was cold?)

The hot tub was wonderful – the second time.

The pod features a Japanese cedar-wood affair, and for hygiene it requires to be run fresh each time. So far, so good. But on our first attempt the gas ran out resulting in less than luke-warm water, followed by a freezing shower.

The situation was quickly rectified after a desperate voicemail, text, and a hot breakfast in the cafe. (Thanks Jim.) I felt warmth for an hour, and then it was back to the Eco Pod. It was raining and we could see our breath in the air. (Did I mention it was cold?)

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandEventually the hot tub came into its own. The view was unadulterated tranquility. The view is the reason to visit. The view is worth every penny.

We took our own champagne and a basket of goodies left in the fridge meant we didn’t go hungry (eggs, smoked salmon, cheese, chocolate…)

Eco Pod Boutique Retreat, Appin, ScotlandOne thing the Eco Pod does guarantee is privacy and isolation, but when you want it, there’s an Apple TV, iPod dock and Wi-Fi. And a hairdryer. (If you need that kind of thing in the rain-strewn wilderness.)

On the Saturday we headed into Oban. Read more

Posted on July 13, 2016

Love Hasn’t Even Got Started Yet: Rob Ryan

Rob Ryan! In Scotland! In Falkirk! Accessible! Free!

When I read about Rob Ryan’s exhibitionLove Hasn’t Even Got Started Yet‘, I couldn’t wait to visit. I’ve admired his work for a long time, so the opportunity to see the original paper-cuts in real life was unmissable.

Rob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, Falkirk

Rob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, FalkirkEach word – each letter –  has been intricately carved in paper and card.

Black and white and primary colours. Hypnotic, emotional words. Aspirational ideals about life, love, relationships, the planet, the stars. Cities, towns, forests and secret spaces mapped out in paper.

The houses are crookedly cute, the birds ‘tweet’ and ‘cheep’ and every cut of the knife reveals and encloses the space beneath it in intricate relief.

Rob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, Falkirk

The Pearl’s Story‘ was one of my favourites: evocative, detailed, true, bittersweet and personifying the treasure of the ocean.

There was a lot of monochrome, which chimes with me, and it was obvious a lot of the work was very personal.

Rob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, FalkirkRob Ryan 'Love Hasn't Even Got Started Yet', Park Gallery, FalkirkSomeone had written in the comments book that the pieces were ‘too expensive’, but I don’t think you can ever truly put a price on someone’s creative vision, ability and time.

(You can buy Rob Ryan original artwork, prints and more here. I think they are priceless, and I’m saving up for this).

What I love particularly about Rob’s work is the sense that what you see is just a snapshot of a moment, like in absorbing the details of the scenes he creates we’re privy to a tiny moment in the great big universe of time and motion and that, well, love hasn’t even got started yet. Read more

Posted on July 2, 2016

Fairy Tale Fashion: ‘Alice Day’ down the rabbit hole

One golden afternoon on 4 July 1862, Charles Dodgson, an Oxford don, took the 10-year-old Alice Liddell and her sisters on a boating picnic up the River Thames from Folly Bridge in Oxford. To amuse the children he told them a story about a little girl, sitting bored by a riverbank, who finds herself tumbling down a rabbit hole into a topsy-turvy world called Wonderland…

Fairy Tale Fashion, Fashion Institute of Technology Museum, New York

To celebrate ‘Alice Day’ (today, 2nd July) I’m sharing photos from the Fairy Tale Fashion exhibition that ran at the Fashion Institute of Technology Museum, New York, at the start of the year.

It was my first visit to New York in February, and I discovered the exhibition by accident, Alice-like, when I wasn’t looking for it. Immediately falling down the rabbit hole, I spent over an hour marvelling at the clever fashion interpretations of everyone’s favourite fairy tales.

Beginning in the thick velvety drapes of a prickly ‘forest’ with Little Red Riding Hood, the exhibition lured me through a magical realm of to-die-for couture and the fantastical machinations of childhood fairy tale viewed through an adult lens.

I thought the paper mask for the face of the wolf was a clever, contemporary take on the theme. The jewelled velvet gown was sumptuous (Dolce & Gabbana), and the padded, vinyl-hooded cape was by one of my favourite designers, Comme des Garçons.

Next: Beauty & the Beast. The paper mask again denotes the beast (without relying on ugliness or the grotesque). In fact, he looks rather like a lion?

The detailing of the floral layers really caught my attention here, having been a ‘corsage queen’ in my day. These shoes in the form of furry ‘beast’ claws were a real wonder:

Fairy Tale Fashion, Fashion Institute of Technology Museum, New York

Christian Louboutin’s ‘Alex’ pumps embody the dynamic of beauty and beastliness. Taking the form of a lion’s foot, their craftsmanship is extraordinary: the fur-like texture is created using dense embroidery, and the ‘claws’ are made from glittering rhinestones. Wow.

‘I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!’

This Manish Arora dress (2008) was displayed in true fairy tale style with fabric playing cards, bunny mask and checkerboard tights.

I’m sure the real Alice would have been delighted and proud with this nod to Wonderland. Meanwhile… Read more

Posted on June 27, 2016

For the love of badgers!

National Badger Week is here – who knew this was even a thing?

National Badger Week is a celebration of one of the UK’s most favourite and unique mammals. The Badger Trust

I love badgers – their distinctive markings, their nocturnal foraging, their cute but vicious reputation, the secretive social burrow of ‘the sett’, and the verb-isation of their kin.

How do I like ‘to badger‘ people with my chatter? Oh let me count the ways…

Badgers for National Badger Week 2016And a few badger-facts:

  • This nocturnal mammal has distinctive black and white stripes on its face, and can be seen in various areas across the UK.
  • Badgers are large mammals, growing up to one metre long, with a short body and tail. They are related to weasels and stoats.
  • Badger footprints are very distinctive, with five toe pads and visible claw marks.
  • The name badger is thought to have derived from the French ‘bêcheur’, meaning ‘digger’. Its strong, muscular body, short legs and long claws reflect its burrowing habits.
  • Scientific name: Meles meles

A handsome badger for National Badger Week 2016I don’t personally make anything in the representation of a badger, but loads of people do so I’ve made a Pinterest board of finds that I love in celebration of my favourite black and white foragers.

Two of these plates are by Jimboart and I love them! The pink plate was a gift.

Badger plates in celebration of National Badger Week 2016And finally, in case you spot a wild badger, here’s a tip on feeding from the Woodland Trust:

Piling food in a heap on your patio does make life easier for badgers, but you may find it more interesting to scatter food across the lawn.


There’s even a video of Bill Oddie talking about badgers. (Weirdly, I have his autograph…)

Let me know if you’re doing anything badger-related this week :)

Posted on June 20, 2016

Glasgow School of Art: Degree Show 2016

I was lucky enough to attend the preview of the Glasgow School of Art Degree Show last week, leaving with my head full of ideas and inspiration (wishing I was back at university myself with access to all that TIME and resource to freely CREATE and EXPERIMENT…)

My favourite part? The textiles, of course.

I was really struck by Rosie Noon’s collection; the sheer embroidery words that look like they’ve been scraped into skin. The details are texturally intricate with so many elements to draw the eye.

I wanted to know more about the themes surrounding this work, and luckily, Rosie details her starting point and inspiration:

My graduate embroidery collection was instigated by the discovery of a photograph album documenting the mysterious life of ‘Silvia’. Inspired by the repetition of women in mid-century dresses standing against blurred, floral backgrounds, contrasted by handwritten annotation of places and dates, I looked to re-appropriate these qualities in creating a new story through collage aesthetic in drawing and textile processes.

This connection to the past through a single photograph is catnip to a writer, textile lover and diarist like myself! Gorgeous work.

Degree Show - Textiles - GSANext I was enthralled by the beautiful tactile surface elements in Penny Hewitt’s work. She describes her collection:

Capturing the repetition and structures within organic form, closely exploring irregular repeat patterns.

The colours made me think of the fashion collection in my fictional novel, and I wanted to take these samples home and pin them to my wall!

Degree Show - Textiles - GSA

Degree Show - Textiles - GSAI couldn’t help but see a buoyant jellyfish suspended here in Niamh Brannan’s display, the clash of colours so riotous, playful, fun and daring.

Her collection puts me in mind of Mary Katrantzou prints in tactile form. Or a statement window display in a European capital? KaDeWe in Berlin springs to mind; a slew of designer handbags in matching jellyfish attire.

Degree Show - Textiles - GSA Degree Show - Textiles - GSAThese sponge-fronds attached to plastic tubing put me in mind of medical textiles and the innovations in that area. They would certainly make for ‘fashionable arteries’!

Degree Show - Textiles - GSAThe crisp geometric folds and stitches in paper, fabric, leather and digitally cut vinyl designed by Rochelle McGuinness really caught my eye, their application mocked up in lampshades and reminding me of some of the Cubist ceramics for sale at the Kubista museum in Prague. Read more

Posted on June 15, 2016

Perseverance, hope & reinvention

I’ve been single-focusing on a passion-project of late which hasn’t left much time for creative play.

I’ve been in the ‘dark forest’; lost in the details of my debut novel. That’s how my new fav creative guru Jessica Abel might describe it, anyway – ‘the dark forest’ – (I’ve spent the last few days ingesting her podcast).

But all the while a little miracle has been unfolding right outside my window.

Reinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to be

His name is Bob. Don’t ask me why. It just is.

I’m a personifier. I’m a bit crazy (a lot crazy). It brings me comfort to name things (and to know/admit I’m crazy).

Last Christmas was Bob’s second year with us, and until then he flourished, but a few months back I noticed he was constrained by his pot. It was like I could hear his desperate, silent screams.

I decided to move him. It was a struggle. He scratched and clawed. There was blood.

I made a new bed for him; a bigger pot, half a whisky barrel in fact.

I tucked him into rich, earthy folds of fresh compost and lovingly fed and watered him. I felt like I’d rescued him from the brink. But instead he began a steep decline, shrinking into himself and turning brown.

I tried talking to him. Nothing.

I tried prodding at him. His needles began to shed even faster, the ground literally littered with his skeleton, the spindly broken bones of his body.

I felt bad. I left him alone. I kept watering him. Still nothing.

I realised the move had finished him off (similar to my transgression with the seedlings, but I can’t even think about that just now).

I realised it was time to get rid of Bob.

He was taking up valuable real estate in the whiskey barrel. I had other fish to fry. I would drop him into the depths of the garden recycling bin and we would talk of him no more. My tools were at the ready, gardening gauntlets primed for the fight.

Reinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to be

But then.

I noticed signs of life. Little green shoots sprouting from the centre of his uppermost branches: Bob was alive.

I kept on watering him, caring for him, waiting to see what would happen, wondering if I was imagining this stunning reinvention.

Almost daily more green needles appeared: bushy and smooth and strong and healthy. Bob flourished. Bob is flourishing.

Reinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to beReinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to be

He’s reinvented himself from the inside out. He’s shed the ghosts of Christmas past, he’s shed the memory of his time trapped in the too-small pot. And now he’s king of the whisky barrel; king of the whole garden!

It feels like a message of hope to us all but to me especially.

Just keep on doing what you’re doing. Don’t give up. The seeds you’ve sown are growing, growing stronger and more visible. Your time is yet to come.

Reinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to beReinvention, Perseverance & Hope: Bob the Christmas miracle to be

I’d like to thank Bob for this little lesson. He’s going to be this year’s Christmas miracle!

Posted on May 13, 2016

Striving for Love: Jump, don’t jump

I’ve had a chaotic week.

I’ve lost all the photographs from my phone.

I’ve missed having creative time.

I’ve dedicated my afternoon to art journaling, aka ‘getting messy‘.

Some pages are finished, some aren’t. Friday is a good day to get creative isn’t it?

Getting Messy Art Journal Pages

There’s a lot of mess on the floor. I’m owning it. It inspires me.

Getting Messy Art Journal PagesThings that I love? That’s easy:

Tea, teapots, pretty soap, Geisha-faces (read what I wrote about my love for Japan), fashion, stripes, the colour red (though I’m not saying it’s my favourite colour or anything), flowers, stamping (with wooden stamps and ink as well as with feet. Sometimes.)

And I’m always ‘Striving for Love’. Love for life, self-love, romantic love.

Getting Messy Art Journal PagesThis is the second ‘Striving for Love’ page and I continued the theme with a girl in red, heart-centred jammy dodgers and the words, my hand-written words.

‘Jump, don’t jump’ came into my head when I found this image, and I like the idea of there being a gap, a ravine, a chasm to finding love, to finding yourself, to getting what you want, and there’s a decision to be made as to whether to cross that gap, ravine or crevice, or not. Jump, don’t jump.

Because… striving for love.

Something I love: yakking on the phoneSay it! Say it! Say it!

That’s the thing. I just can’t stop saying it. Everything. I love talking, chatting, communicating, yakking on the phone. About anything. About everything.

Talking is my poison.

Communication is king.

(hysterical laughter) – imitating the additional subtitles you can activate sometimes on films that strive to communicate every nuance of sound, every rush of traffic noise, every laugh, every cough (inserts random background chatter).

I LOVE vintage telephones. My phones at home are actually very modern. One is a crystal encrusted skull, the other is a red stiletto.

Unfinished art journal page: green, floral, woolOne last page. This one is a mash-up of themes and ideas, and it’s not especially seasonal with the knitted jumper, but I like it.

I think my message here is about constructing outfits like we construct our life.

“This outfit is tried and tested. It’s OK. It’s ‘safe to use’. PASSED.”

And I like the bright shade of green that matches perfectly between the jumper and the stickers.

The florals on the dark background remind me of period dramas and burgeoning gardens and sitting on the grass with a picnic (or maybe the biscuit tin). Random pages, random associations. Or flowers posed (poised?) in a vase for a still-life art class.

Maybe I’ll journal these words onto the pages? They’re transient, a bit like life, because the wool won’t let itself be glued down in one place (but then, neither will I).

Art journaling frees my creativity and expands my mind. Or maybe it frees my mind and expands my creativity?

Join the Get Messy Art Journal community.

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