Saturday, 30 August 2014

Moving on....for now...

So, you're probably wondering why I've been so quiet over the last three months. Well, the truth is that around about the time of my last post I also set up a new blog with my sister to document the progress of a project we're working on together. We're writing and illustrating a novella which we hope to get published and this is a way of keeping us motivated. As pretty much all of my weekends have been going into the continuation of this project in one form or another, The Blackbird and the Lemon Curd has become sadly neglected. I can foresee much more neglect to come so if you're interested in what we're doing, please follow our progress through any one of these means :

Any continued support would mean the world. I hope you enjoy perusing our work so far and the delights to come. 

Saturday, 24 May 2014

This is how my brain works.

So, this is what happened in my brain: 
I was looking at this picture of Gaudi's cathedral.

And I was thinking how much I'd like my watercolour illustrations to glow as beautifuly as the stained glass.
I saw this image by Emma Harrison:

The colours in this illustration glow because of the contrast not only in tone but also vibrancy. I thought this would be good to try myself.
I'm also loving the work of Kate Baylay at the moment whose fabulously stylised work reminds me of Kay Nielsen.

And when I put it all together, it looked like this:

Saturday, 17 May 2014


You may have gathered from my last post that I went to Barcelona! It's been a dream of mine for....well, a very long time and so stepping outside the airport into the enveloping warmth and sunshine with a veiw of palm trees and the Pyrenees in the hazy-blue-purple distance was a little surreal. However ordering my first glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in barely formed Spanish on the pavement outside a little cafe brought me back down to earth. The rest was a blur of dusty streets, cerulean skys, mountain cable-cars, midnight tapas, Picasso and dancing in our apartment with the shutters flung wide. For me the most awesome moment was entering La Sagrada Familia; Gaudi's imaginarium. Seeing the completed inside was like realising that the universe, in theory, never ends (like, never, ever, ends!)'s just mind-blowing!!! I cannot attempt to describe it here because words won't do it, or my feelings, adequate justice so here are a few pictures.

Do you know the feeling when you experience something so incredible that every molecule of your being starts to buzz and your heart over-spills? That's something like what I felt as I soaked up the light and colours and scale and atmosphere. I nearly cried for the aching beauty of it.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

I made a skirt and wore it around Barcelona!

It's been a whole month since I last posted!! so here's a picture of me in a skirt I made and then took to Barcelona with me to wear in the SUNSHINE! Eeerrrrryesssss, I am definitely showing off that I made myself a skirt (hemhem, without a pattern....just saying) and most decidedly putting my illustration skills to good use ;)

Saturday, 12 April 2014

100th post!!!

For some reason reaching this significant milestone in my blogging..... life? Career? Journey? Why not supernatural adventure? Alice-in-wonderland romp? feels like an almighty achievement that should be acknowledged (if not by a party, cakes,teeeaaaa! and much singing and dancing, (Alice in Wonderland, definitely Alice in Wonderland! and, I realise, yes I have just managed brackets within brackets?!?!) then at least by a joyous WAAYHHHOOOOOO!!!! from me and maybe a slightly bewildered glance from you!). So, WAAAAAHOOOOOO!!!! HOOORAAAY for me! There it is, it had to be done! Now down to business.
As it happens the post I had planned to write (before getting marginally sidetracked by the realisiation of it being my 100th post! 100th POST!!! That's 100 things I've said and shared!) was quite appropriately celebratory. For I have actuallly etched my first copper plate in the studio and it did not, as I had feared, turn into a complete disaster! Another cheer!
Of course, printing will prove it's real success but it has come out better then I could have hoped on the plate. As we have yet to experiment with aquatint I wanted to create an image that would stand alone just as a line print without the opportunity of creating large areas of tone. I think this is achieved. Celebrations all round. And...with an image of a rabbit/hare as my parting shot, this is most decidedly the 100th post of my Alice-inWonderland-romp!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

It's hard drawing food!

I've been illustrating some recipes for a project undertaken by Merton and Wandsworth Asylum Welcome. It's been fab to work on something that I feel can make a difference. But drawing food is hard! Here are my efforts. Enjoy the visual feast!

Saturday, 8 March 2014


Here is my best attempt at kitchen litho so far. I'm hoping repeated practice will make, if not completely perfect, at least close enough. I would stress that this image was printed from tin foil which had been etched by coca cola! Bear that in mind and it looks a whole lot more impressive!

Printmaking again.

I have found a place to do printing closer to home with a local (very talented) artist who is in the process of devoting a part of her studio into a print space (with a little help from myself). We've been waiting for the arrival of a press (sooo exciting!! it should be arriving in the next few weeks!!!) and so in-between gathering up the many and various materials needed for etching, we've been experimenting with Kitchen Lithography (check out the video below....all I'll say is tin foil and Coka Cola!) and I've been re-introduced to Monoprinting.

After falling in love with etching, which is all about the process, the very long, slow and multi-layered process, I'd always thought the simplicity of monoprinting relegated it to more of a sketchbook partypiece. A cheaty way of printmaking really when you took into account the skill needed for most other forms of printing. However, after struggling with the temperamental and down right contrary nature of kitchen litho, it was exactly it's very ease that made me see it in a new light. Dare I even say (such an infuriating term as) the quality of line you can achieve from monoprinting, also recommended it to me when it hadn't before. The pieces below were really just experimental for me but I loved the results. 

I was going to enter a film poster competition for films directed by women, however, I struggled to draw a good likeness of Holly Hunter from The Piano and then subsequently ran out of time. I got some nice sketches for it to work out composition and shading though and I'd like to point out that the writing was done free hand and back-to-front while holding the pen strangely so as to prevent wresting my hand on the paper and in so doing transferring unwanted ink. Pretty good going I'd say!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Golden Age of Female Illustrators

Who would have thought that my recent foray into the realm of the virtual pin-board would have yielded such exquisite finds? Who would have thought that more then the opportunity of promoting my own work, it is the wealth of related images that fill my inbox from other pinteresters that's got me excited? Certainly not me! And I found myself asking the question, as I did a quick reccy on google of several names I'd come across on other pin-boards, how did I not know of these illustrators before now? How had I gone through an art foundation and a three year degree in illustration, not to mention the rest of my life!! without coming across their work? How on earth could it be Pinterest...Pinterest people!! that was finally filling in the holey socks of my education?!?! The answer is a simple one and yet still, somehow (naively?) astounding. They are all women. The list of illustrators I looked at this morning are all women who were around and producing art during the period that is now regarded as the Golden Age of Illustration in Europe. It was inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites at the end of the Nineteenth century and lead on to other such glorious movements as Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts and Art Deco during the early Twentieth century and included illustrators such as Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac and Kay Nielsen (all well known and well loved names). I would boldly consider the work of these female illustrators as equal to such champions of the Age, however, the annals of History do not agree. I've compiled a small list here of women who I feel deserve to be counted with the men. One day I dream of standing with them.

Bertha Lum (1869 – 1954) . She was an American artist who lived in Japan over several periods in her life and helped to make the Japanese and Chinese woodblock printing process known outside of Asia. Her work sweetly combines the fluidity and style of both Japanese art and Art Nouveau. I love the lights in this image, the yellow just pops out next to the subtle grey and blue tones of the rest of the picture and draws the eye in. 

Jessie M. King (1875 – 1949). She was a Scottish illustrator mostly of children's books although she also designed jewellery, fabric, and painted pottery! The delicacy of her line work and colour pallet is beautiful here and makes me want to hold her originals in my hands so that I can peer at it up close to see all the details. I feel some of it is lost on the computer. 

Emma Florence Harrison (1877–1955). She was an English illustrator of both poetry and children's books. Her work is both strongly Pre-Raphaelite and Art Nouveau based although her lightness of touch is uniquely her own. I love how the colours glow in this image through the contrast of the cool blues and warm oranges.

Cecile Walton (1891 – 1956). She was a Scottish painter, illustrator and sculptor and a leading member of the Symbolist movement in Edinburgh. The subtlety and coolness of the colours creates a beautifully mournful mood in this image and is also true of all her work. 

Jennie Harbour - (1893 - 1959). She was an English illustrator between 1917 and 1936 but very little else is known about her life before and after those dates. Her works of art are little gems, so saturated with jewel-like colours. You can't be fooled by the simplicity of her compositions because her colours do all the talking.


Monday, 17 February 2014

The Waves, the Waves are green!

I took the metaphorical plunge and coloured the image I had only pencilled in in my last post about The Waves, the Waves. Here it is looking all glossy green!

Friday, 14 February 2014


I now have a pinterest account where you can find the inspiration behind my illustrations. It also gives me the opportunity to spread my own work further and wider...hopefully! So get pinning guys! And don't forget to check out my pinterest account.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Sketching for "The Waves, the Waves"

I have a twin sister who is an absolutely awe-inspiring writer! and I am totally unbiased, so no arguing please! You may be wondering what this seemingly random piece of information has to do with anything, apart from giving me an opportunity to boast about having a talented sister. Well, I'll admit I have an ulterior motive; namely, the excuse to say that I shall be illustrating a novella she is working on at the moment. From when I was very little I always wished that there was a job that both me and my sister could do together, and here is the perfect solution. Without wanting to give too much away, I'll say that it's a story about love, time travel (think The Time Traveller's Wife rather then anything overtly sci-fi), a house on the cliffs, selkie magic, 18th century tea smugglers, wartime austerity and the fact, the working title is The Waves, the Waves (it's kind of like a combination between Virginia Woolf's The Waves and Iris Murdoch's The Sea, the Sea thereby referencing two brilliant female writers in one fell swoop! Clever, huh?). It's a project we've wanted to work on together for a while now so it's exciting and also a little nerve-racking to start on it. I wanted to share the small start I've managed to make. One is only half started and one didn't go so well but in the spirit of documenting my progress, here they are.

" Coldness filled her glass-glinting self up to the brim and life poured gratefully out. She kept falling. Arms caught her and enclosed themselves about her, cradled her through the darkness. This, she thought, is what it feels like to surrender." 
Extract from The Waves, the Waves by Abra Hunt.

I had Daniela Drescher and Warwick Goble in mind when I started applying the watercolour to this drawing. I can confidently say that I was (if I'm honest more then) a little disheartened it all went slightly awry. It's something I may go back to but at the moment it's staying in the back of my watercolour pad where I can't see it.

"It took her nearly an hour to reach the main road and the toothy outline of the village roofs. At the junction she stopped and bent down to remove her sturdy walking boots, delving deep into the depths of her bag and coming out with a catch of tan leather heels."
Extract from The Waves, the Waves by Abra Hunt.

I'm planning on using watercolour again on this illustration. I will not be defeated by the watercolour!

Sunday, 19 January 2014


I have been struggling lately. It's hard to admit, and even harder to actually write down but it feels good to be honest and I think I'm not the only one. I'm talking, of course, about the seemingly herculean battle of creativity. The motivation to keep going. To keep pushing through the doubts, the endless rejections, the fear that what you put down on paper will not live up to the elusive perfection in your mind (am I just talking for myself on that one??) and, perhaps hardest of all, the brick wall. That brick wall. It comes at you from nowhere and then plants itself directly in your path that, up until then, had seemed blissfully clear. After banging your head on it for a while things can sometimes feel pretty hopeless. Am I right?

At the moment my brick wall is the fact that I seem to only be able to bring my illustrations up to a certain level of completion, then I get stuck and that's it. The images themselves look okay as they are and as I don't know what to do next I feel alright about leaving them, but they're missing the finishing touch; the thing that's going to get them noticed. They are unsatisfying. After a year of feeling that I've been improving and learning about, and understanding, the way I work, I've now reached a block in the road that seems unmovable and impossible to figure out. How do I take the next step? To make myself feel better and get a little inspiration I've been typing the names of illustrators I like into google and trawling through their pictures in the hope that I'll somehow soak in some of their pure awesomeness through osmosis. If some of you are reading this thinking, Merle, you are a GENIUS!! Why didn't I think of that before?!?! then let me warn you now and save you the time, that it rarely ever works! In fact, more often then not, I've come away feeling even worse about my own work then before. I have been told (although perhaps not in so many words) that pilfering ideas and storing them for later use is practically the art of an artist and I agree ("No man is an island" and all that) but if you've come to a dead end (I fear my metaphor-ising may be getting out of hand!) looking at the work of other artists who seem to have got it so right can be like eating that whole tub of ice cream in the freezer; it seems like a good idea at the beginning but by the time you've demolished the last spoonful you feel a teensy bit sick....and then possibly depressed after all the sugar burns out. The truth is, comparing your work with others is never going to help you feel better about your own (unless you're pretty darn sure you're the best artist out there and I'd like to think there are some of you who feel that way) and so should not be indulged in.

There doesn't seem to be a right answer to help solve such creative blocks (although there are clearly plenty of wrong ones!) and talks with family and friends often end up with me saying "that's not what I mean, no, that's not what I mean and that isn't what I mean either." I suppose, what I want them to say, what I want to say now, is: "It's okay." That's it. No golden thread to lead us out of the maze, no single sentence to sum it all up. Just the sure and uncomplicated knowledge that it will all be, no matter what "it" is, okay. We will all of us come across a wall or two (or three or four or.....) in our creativeness and it's okay. That's why I wrote this post. It's not meant to be depressing (really-truly-cross-my-heart-honestly not depressing!) or all poor mememe. It's for everyone who has felt the same. You are not alone (there's at least me here waving the creative block flag) and it's okay.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Mud at the Market.

With an abundance of cards to sell and a growing realisation that, if I really am going to make it as an illustrator (I clutch an imaginary tail and utter "I do believe in me, I do believe in me, I do, I do, I do, I do, I doooooo believe in ME!") I'm going to have to make it happen on my own, I very optomisticly booked myself a table at the Plawhatch Winter Market in December last year. Now, the operative word here, and it later became apparent, the one I should have heeded, was Winter!!!  I should really have been a little more conscious of what I was taking on when I said yes to an outside market in the middle of the coldest and wettest time of the year. And it should have come as no surprise that the 21st dawned not bright, cold and cheery, as I had gloriously pictured in my head, but dark, wet and windy. Infact, as predictions of the downpour clearing up by noon became a distant memory, the greatest miracle was that someone managed to keep a blazing fire going all day....that's right chaps...all day!!! But the real surprise came when, at the end of a seven hour stint standing under a marquee with the wind and rain buffeting myself and my stock from all directions and with the dubious feeling that, like a house with rising damp, the muddy puddle I was standing in was gradually seeping through the thick soles of my D.M's, through my socks (several layers of) and up my legs, I'd actually sold some stuff and enough to make a wee profit to boot! Now, I can't say I'll be jumping at the chance to do an outside market again in the middle of winter (who would really?!? I mean, really?!?!) but the whole experience was a welcome confidence boost.

Here you can see me with my table (which I shared with a talented chocolatier mmmmmmm.....). I think it's a shame you can't tell from the picture just how wet it actually was, although you can see how muddy! All in all though, it was a very successful day and I'm looking into doing more (inside) markets. Watch this space.