Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas, in a nutshell.

No Christmas is complete without a last minute helping of work and on Sunday I had a few illustrations printed in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was for their 2009 Geography Quiz, and never have I learned so much from a project. Did you know that duelling is legal in Paraguay? You must be a blood donor however. That is a fact. It was a wonderfully pleasant assignment, if a little hectic with the many many family members whose arrival for the holidays coincided with the deadline!

It certainly has been a whirlwind. This Christmas has been a whole new experience indeed, and as if to confirm that conclusion the weather has put it's own uncommon twist on things. Day upon day of ice and hail and sleet and whistling winds turned the usually mild village of Saundersfoot into a giant ice rink. The hills were like glaciers and we've all been shuffling around like penguins in a bid not to hit the deck every few steps. 

There was also sunshine- fleeting but magnificent. We enjoyed it while it lasted.
Now 2010 is peeking across the last stretch of day, and I can't even believe it. Happy New Year everybody- I hope yours is a fun-filled and happy one!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree....

Fully aware that this could be my last Christmas in England for a little while, I embarked on the task of decorating this year with extra enthusiasm. Anybody who is familiar with my usual levels of Christmas-time exuberance would realise this is no small achievement.
The tree is a fragrant individual with much character. I am nothing if not infatuated with it. My goodness, it smells like heaven.
There have also been frosty walks and paper bags of roasted chestnuts and songs of the season creeping merrily into my consciousness. Looking around at the lights and the shops and the general abundance of seems everybody is fully submerged in the magic of Christmas. Penelope Dullaghan says it better than I do, right here.
The German ornaments are out in force, complete with the customary tug of nostalgia for all of my Christmases past. Next year I should be back in the States, starting new traditions of my own with the Boy Pickle, but for now it's hard not to revel in the familiar traditions of my own family Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In my little corner of the world (things are rather exciting).

A big new illustration job has compelled me to rearrange my work space/ sleeping quarters. Now everything is backwards and I've tried to climb out of the wrong side of the bed twice in a row. But finally my desk is under the window, and that's worth walking into the wall and stubbing my toes for. 

I write this with a smile on my face as I think about sensible things like hand lettering, and characters and layouts and pacing and deadlines. The smile transforms into a look of terror when I think about the deadline, actually.

So armed with a brand new teacup (thanks Kate) and a pen collection that seems to be breeding, it's time for action stations. I'm ready. Infact, I've already begun....

Thursday, November 19, 2009

the Middle Lands.

Firstly, a thank you to those of you who left such generous comments on my previous post. What a treat it was!

Now, I've been away a little while, spending the last two weeks in't North, like.
It was a fortnight of firsts, up there in middle England.
The first frost of the season.
The first firework display (followed by many millions more).
The first flu of about a decade (and hopefully the last for the next decade...)
The first inclination felt in a while to learn a foreign language. Oui. Le sigh.

So, on the scent of work, I moseyed on up to the place where my Auntie Mary calls home. My Auntie is one of those clever people who knows lots of long words and amusing anecdotes and lives at a leisurely pace. 
She resides in the heart of the 'black country'- named for the coal mining (etc) of yore. Apparently it's imported from Poland these days. Oh well, I'm sure it does favours for the air quality...
The houses are visions from rural fairytales- cobbled bricks and smoking chimneys, squeezed between fields full of horses. In my head I can hear Forrest saying 'Orses', in his 'English' accent inadvisably based on Black Adder and Monty Python. 'Ooorses!'. Yes dear.

By the end of my stay, it was hard to bid farewell to all the good wine, open fires, paint pots and Bella the pigmy goat. Still, with my lonely desk a-calling, and Ellie the dog was wondering where her mid-morning cups of tea had was time to come on home. Hello again! 

Sunday, November 1, 2009

When work feels more like play (it's a good day!).

In a bit of a departure from my usual marker-pen adventures, most of my week has been spent painting the adorable 'Smudge'. Talk about therapy. How relaxing it has been to do away with my usually fidgety self, and surrender to the organic nature of creating a painting that comes to life only after stage upon stage and multiple layers of paint. Who knew I had so much patience?
I've spent so many hours in it's company that I've reached the point of zero objectivity, with equal levels of love and dissatisfaction. Give me a year and I might have developed a useful opinion on it. Until then as with all commissions, I just have to cross my fingers and hope it is well received!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Eye of newt, and toe of frog. (Happy Halloween!)

The pumpkin is a splendid one this year. After being elbow-deep in acrylic paints all week, I couldn't resist being reunited with the marker pens for a quick drawing before the carving began. Toasted pumpkin seeds are a welcome bonus. Yes please.

Time is dissolving at an unimaginable rate. It's November in just a day? mmm I've always liked November. I suppose everybody harbours a fondness for their birthday month, until the passing of another year seems more horrifying than a thing to celebrate. Oh well, 25 isn't something to feel too worried about I spose. I just regard it with a similar level of distaste as I would, say.. the spongy part of a jaffa cake, that is; viewed with mild concern...
I'm currently preoccupied with pumpkins and chestnuts and the treasures of Autumn. Beach walks with Ellie, papery leaves fluttering through the forest and rediscovering a long lost fondness for honest-to-God painting. Brushes and everything...
More on the painting shortly though. First things first, Ellie is giving me a meaningful look suggesting I'd better find some boots that are made for walking (Wales = wellies). Alrighty then.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Brain Pain.

My head is somewhere beyond overload with putting together promo booklets. I've printed a million little pages, and layed them out in 5000 permutations and combinations. I've rearranged them 500 more times. I've stuck them on my wall, I've arranged them on the floor, Ellie the dog has walked on them (twice) and I've even dreamt about them. The unfortunate thing is- I'm more confused than I was when I started. I'm going for a 12-page mini-booklet- which seemed like such an easy task when I first thunk it. Not so.

As if I didn't have more than enough pictures already I keep thinking of better, cleverer, irresistible (and totally unnecessary) ideas. Illustrations that would help so much (not in the least). Perfectionism is such a saboteur...
Plus, I need a more objective critic than the biased and uncooperative duo that is my left and right brain. Always arguing, y'know? 
I've also drawn a Chinese dragon for a little side project I'm working on. At this point it can go right ahead and swallow me up....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rainy days and Fun days.

When I was out running this morning, a firework whizzed over my head. It was 6.30am and very dark and I wondered to myself about the unlikeliness of seeing a firework right then. I guess it's coming around to that time of year again. How lovely :)
Before that, it has been a grey sort of week, making it more essential to get outside, even whilst it feels conversely less enticing to do so. Daylight appears rationed so I'm doing my best to get a share. I have an unfortunate knack for getting caught in rainstorms, streaking through town with my hair a slick wet helmet around my ears... Still, nothing beats returning home from such an outing for a steaming cup of tea and a cuddle with the dog. Oh, she's a cuddler :)
Mostly I adore the chilly days, but I become the Human Temperature Project when Autumn really sets in. I'm a changeable mixture of hot cheeks, cold nose, chattering teeth, hot ears, cold ears, wrapped up and toasty with knee-length socks and woolly boots, or shivering in a poorly planned nightshirt.
My fingers are a law unto themselves; white and uncooperative- freezing even if the rest of me is warm. Does anybody else have this problem in the cold weather? It plagues me annually, with my fingertips becoming swollen and tender- a particular nuisance for drawing. Happily, I have the best, most thoughtful Mum of them all. She returned home yesterday beaming- laden with this fleecy monk-like cape (er, a 'snug rug'?) and vowing that I will never be cold again. Looking at the thing, I will never be fashionable again, either. But if it's a trade for warmth, then I'll give up the style points!

In conclusion to gloomy-weather rant, and I'll finish with some cheerier thoughts- and a celebration of the hour or so that the sun took centre stage a few days ago. Our little family jumped for joy and dashed out for some dog-walking. Sensing our enthusiasm, Ellie took off for some mischief, like she really really meant it. Guess she knows when she can get away with it. At least there was no Badger Poop Rolling (her sport of choice), but she was under a fence and halfway across the field before we could blink. Squirrel?
Sometimes, nothing provides more happiness than the dog. Heres a toast to my future dachshund who- if he takes after me will have to be clothed in tights and capes of his very own next Winter.

Perhaps though, he will take after Cousin Arnold- a whirlwind of activity who hops through the snow drifts of Tahoe like he thinks he's a husky-dog. That's my boy. Here's hoping :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

YES, I can see my breath! (I love you, cold mornings)

Along with the elaborate task of compiling promo pieces, I have completed a new commission. Briefs don't get any better than 'Please draw a Highland Cow'. And I shall, with pleasure! Isn't it fitting for the season? It is the bovine embodiment of Autumn for me :)
Oh, and it's a noteworthy day on my Countdown Calendar, with exactly two months until I am reunited with Monsieur Pickle (he isn't French) for Christmas. Since those two weeks are sure to fly by once they finally arrive, I don't want to build up to it too much. Oh well, today I'll allow myself just a small helping of excitement. I realise I am only person on the planet already looking forward to Christmas. But I've got to go against public opinion this year. December being is eagerly awaited in this little corner of England!

Friday, October 16, 2009

That Friday feeling...

Had I known Blogger would be such an easy transition from my cumbersome Doodle Diary of yore, I certainly would have arrived here a long time ago. Better late than never, so the old saying has it. True enough, I suppose.
It's something like a relief to have so much to do at the moment. I stave off boredom with the stab of a pencil, and I'm fully immersed in that time consuming task of getting together some promo material to send off to various corners of the   publishing industry. I'm really only at the beginning, and will be tucked neatly behind my desk for a good while longer. The business of creating cards and booklets always leaves my mind in a bit of a spin,when I find myself unable to make a decision and stick with it. I've printed out mock-up postcards, argued with fonts and type, perused 5000 varieties of glossy cardstock and drawn a multitude of tea cups. There is a plan of sorts, but a day spent drawing teacups and cupcakes,feels difficult to justify, somehow. Is this really 'work'?It seems too much like fun...and I can't even complain about the calories. Life feels good today.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Beginnings.

As a first ever post, I should probably get straight to the point. I am an illustrator. A compulsive drawer and documenter of all things that spark my interest.Those who know my website may be familiar with my 'doodle diary' (an illustrated daily diary- as the name suggests) which I battled on with for a year and a half before finding myself in html purgatory, unable to keep up with the daily demand of my time, yet too attached to the process to discard it altogether. Life- as it will- had it's own ideas for making a point, and a few weeks ago things came crashing down around my ears like a message from above; positively screaming at me to get my priorities sorted out. It has been the necessary catalyst for me to wave a fond farewell to the doodle diary, and stumble blindly into Blogger; where I shall continue to document my days with similar enthusiasm- but by lazier means. Perfect!
Life, as I was saying, set off in temporary a tailspin a few weeks ago, when all my plans  fell on their head. Theoretically I should now be living in the United States of Awesomeness with my better half (Mr. Pickle) and ideally a Miniature Dachshund. Occasionally however, life throws you lemons or- in my case- presents you with obnoxious immigration officials at Atlanta airport. Sorry, I'm a little bitter. But never fear, it was high time for a shake-up of my intentions anyway. Now, with my sparkly new perspective on life, I will be enjoying the next eight(ish) months in my beloved SW-England hometown while I throw myself into furthering my career in Illustration; determined to make something of this new and unexpected circumstance.
Everybody goes through things and when in a years time I find myself setting up home with Forrest and the aforementioned puppy, I know it will all be worth it. For now, I shall relish the extra time with my family and my friends, and goodness knows there are worse places to find oneself than small-town England.  It's just the first page of a book I wasn't expecting to open. New won't be a bad thing.
Speaking of new beginnings, the Horse Chestnut tree is all about it. Conkers are falling everywhere, and it's quite lovely. I feel like a magpie, as I study my collection. They are ever so shiny!