Sunday 16 February 2014

'Mistakes are the portals of discovery' - James Joyce

It’s a luxury to sit down today and update my blog, with a cup of tea to hand! Having worked all morning on a book project, then chopped some whopping logs (always satisfying after standing at my desk working. Yes I stand and work, it keeps the line fluid and the painting from becoming too tight). Alexis Deacon, one of our tutors encourages us to do this. Here's an illustration I recently finished for my Red Riding Hood project.

These days my life seems to be  spent working pretty  much 6 or even 7 days a week preparing for the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in March plus work for the MA at Cambridge School of Art. Today was no different, here is a painting in its early stages.

I have yet to work into it with texture and pattern, all done by hand.  I love the process of physically working on the rice paper and seeing the luminous colours build up slowly. Rice paper when wet is not the easiest medium to use but it seems to have chosen me and I am hooked!

So, what I have learned these last few weeks apart from how to drive in floods! Is that instead of feeling the need to control the  painting - let go and allow it to unfold. To relax and keep the fun and inspiration alive by pretending it’s a rough.  Whenever  I start to dread working on a illustration, particularly a section of it,  I have realised that actually it is because it is not working, either compositionally or the characters are not integrated into the composition. I now realise this is a flag to say , come on Pol, redo it! You know in your heart, it’s not right! Sometimes it really is good to  sit back, take a break and start again. Learn from the mistake!
Right best chop more logs – unlike Red riding Hood and her Granny this Forest dweller is a match for any wolf! Then I best start work again but before I go here is a link to the MA Children's Book web site, showing all the beautiful work off to Bologna on our stand, my work is on page 3.

Saturday 21 December 2013

If you go down to the woods today....

 I have finally finished this semester at Cambridge School of Art, where I have been busy creating two book projects to take to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy March 2014. Here are some sketches and not terribly good photos of the work in progress (the colours are washed out!).  The projects are very different from each other –  ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and  a picture book story I have written  myself featuring a girl, her dog Boris and a line.
It seems yet again, many of my ideas are inspired from living in the New Forest. I love walking in all weathers - first thing in the morning or dusk when the bats and owls make their presence felt. And like Red Riding Hood I am not scared and will vere off the tracks to gather bits and pieces, meeting donkeys, cows, horses and deer - no big bad wolf yet!

Red Riding Hood

A detail from the wood
Rough sketch from the dummy book

                                                                'The Line' project

Character sketch.

Work in progress.

Rough sketch from the dummy book

Sunday 8 September 2013

'From a little spark may burst a flame'

I love September; it’s a month where I feel energised and full of ideas after the lethargy of August. I have spent it so far writing up story ideas for my next project on the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art.

Here are my essential tools for organising my ideas! Coffee, a small note book and a squiggly line that means nothing to anyone else; but to me it is the beginning of  a story. This squiggle is the result of a chat with my brother in-law months ago. From this  interaction a tiny idea  became ignited  and  it feels full of potential.

My little notebook goes everywhere with me because  I will see or hear something that will trigger an idea, and I know I won’t remember it. This can happen anywhere.  But if I sit down  to  ‘come up ’with a concept  nothing happens except panic and the need to browse Face Book! So I have learnt to relax, be open and receptive and when I am least expecting it I might have  a light bulb moment.

At a concert last year Joan Armatrading  said her lyrics were often inspired by snippets of conversations she overheard  on the bus and I really understood her process. So my little notebook is full of random words, interesting names, facts, doodles – little sparks that have nothing to light yet, but eventually  they will,  perhaps in 5 years time,  who knows! Like a library to delve  into for information.
My first published picture book was conceived and  hastily written on a paper bag whilst I worked in a posh cake shop in the 1980’s after a customer left an umbrella and someone else took it.  That paper bag, with its scribbles and doodles  was  reluctantly shown to the publisher and she took me on, there and then. She could 'see' my idea and story even on a tatty paper bag.

When I feel really stuck a trip to a bookshop  never fails to inspire – so  this month I  also want to share two great books I bought. 'Reinventing Lettering' by Emily Gregory  (to take away my fear of all things lettering!)- It really helped as many pages take an illustrative  approach, showcasing various artists work.

 And  'The Storm Whale' by Benji Davies – a beautifully illustrated picture book with real charm, wonderful layouts and a gorgeous colour palette. I thoroughly recommend them both.

Sunday 28 July 2013


I  walk every morning and use these times to amass feathers, leaves, twigs  and all sorts of things to use for future projects where I need texture.  My ‘find’ this morning was plastic foliage used to disguise a phone mast. Might come in handy...

 I also use my walks as thinking time, it is when I get my ideas for stories, characters or light bulb moments.  It sets me up for the day and I order my thoughts but more importantly it keeps me centred and literally helps to keep me on my ‘path’. When I worked as an illustrator in the 90’s I eventually  lost my vision and creative spark to the point my work didn’t fulfil me. I was busy but I illustrated to order and soon enough my work reflected it, my heart and soul wasn’t in it. Returning to illustration via the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art has put me back on my path, my work feels authentic to myself and I hope it shows! Everyone should walk, town or country – and without our mobiles to distract us.

         John Muir  "In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." 

So apart from walking and I do walk alot!  I have been working on some new illustrations with my continued experiments  combining mono printing, textured rubbings and inks for a story about hide and seek in the woods. Hope you like them! (click on the images to enlarge).

Monday 24 June 2013

Down on the farm...

During the summer break from the MA in Children’s Book Illustration I have been busy sketching on a farm for my next project. I spent  four wonderful hours drawing and observing these lovely ladies - Tamworth sows plus geese and goats on a hot – yes hot, day here in Wiltshire! By spending time on the farm, ideas for stories are coming fast and furious. The more I visit,  I see the distinct ways of each animal, their hierarchies and peculiar habits and this all goes towards the story line. I return home in such a good mood too. Sitting with these animals is a real tonic to modern life!

Wednesday 15 May 2013