Homemade cards for friends

For as long as I can remember I’ve made greetings cards for friends and family. They’re never much like any commercial designs I’ve done. I like making them – it gives me the chance to do whatever the flip I want however the mood takes me. I do try to make cards that I hope the recipient will like. So, a card I might make for my mum is going to be very different from one I’d make for a friend-bloke who’s into art or music. Click to view gallery:

The ideas are usually very spontaneous (last-minute!) and depend on whatever there is to hand at the time. It could be scraps of paper, old typewriter ribbon or letraset. I keep hold of the by-products of my work – brush wipings and colour tests on pieces of card, for example – and use them as materials for other projects. Some cards are indications of what I was working on at the time: The brighter messy-paint collage ones are from children’s books, and are older; the inky ones with white and grey paint are from my graphic memoir and comics. I went through a long phase of using sweet wrappers, which friends would collect for me. I don’t feel precious about the designs – like they have to be some grand work of art.

I’ve thought about the reasons behind giving something I’ve created: Well, it’s cheaper for a start!  But, deep down, it can be about a strong wish to solidify what I feel might be an important friendship; it’s my way of saying I like you lots, you’re OK – here, have this thing I made.  I believe that once you give something away, you’re no longer its custodian. It’s nice to think people might keep a card but if not, that’s OK – it has served its purpose.

Thanks to the friends who lent me back some cards for this post.

Christmas card designs

December is upon us, so I’ve just added a Christmas card design to my shop. I’ve probably already missed the boat but, hey, I’m not keen on premature dangling of baubles.

I’ve been designing Christmas cards for many years. It formed a large part of my freelance work for a while. Some of these have been published commercially; some were for speculative work; and some were just my personal annual card designed for friends and family. All designs are my copyright now – click to view gallery:

New picture books!

I received the most exciting long-awaited parcel from my agent yesterday – my first two children’s picture books as author. I immediately made a cuppa and sat down to read them – twice – being very careful not to spill the cuppa! Although I’ve illustrated numerous children’s books over the years, this felt like an achievement because I’d been writing for eight years before I had any manuscripts accepted, signing the contracts almost 18 months ago. This isn’t an unusual scenario among children’s writers by any means.

The titles are by Australian publisher, Hinkler Books /Bonney Press (imprint):

Roble’s Rain Dance illustrated by Gavin Scott: A thirst-quenching quest in a drought-stricken desert. ‘Roble’ is a Somali name meaning ‘born during the rainy season’.

It Takes Two to T’wit Two illustrated by Guiliano Ferri: A lonely owl searches for a T’woo to complement her T’wit.

I’m thrilled with the illustrations – this is the first time I’ve seen them all together, although I saw some roughs for Roble’s Rain Dance earlier this year. My agent sent through one or two jpegs of finished artwork throughout the year and it was amazing to see the characters that I had written spring to life. This was especially fascinating for me, having been involved in the creative process of other books as a children’s illustrator myself. As in all children’s picture books, a good chunk of storytelling happens in the pictures rather than the text, so it was important for certain visual elements to be in the right place.

I’ll follow this up with an individual blog post for each title describing the inspiration behind the stories and perhaps one about the route I took to getting published.

I think they are listed on some Australian bookselling sites, and some Amazon sites (as ‘unavailable’ at present). I’m hoping to get hold of some copies to sell myself so watch this space…

Sketchbook pages

I’ve just come to the end of a sketchbook that I’ve kept for the last 18 months, so thought I’d post a few pages here. Ironically, when I was in the thick of being a children’s illustrator, I didn’t keep sketchbooks – the last thing I needed in my spare time was to be drawing. I had to rest my overstretched tendons and tunnels (I had recurring RSI). In recent years I’ve started to carry one around with me again. I’ve also included some pages from other sketchbooks – I have them of varying sizes from a tiny one that fits in my purse to an A4 book at home in which I do comics workings-out.

I don’t often attempt to do finished drawings in them – they’re more for practising looking, and planning (comics). I like to draw in cafes, on journeys, on beaches, and in waiting rooms etc. In these situations, people are in varying degrees of motion, which means fast drawing is required to get any sense of form. I like that challenge, and the results are very gestural lines – mere essence of movement or character.

My reasons for sketching are varied, and include: taking the opportunity to practise drawing when I’m not doing anything else; an attempt to be ‘in the moment’ and record it for posterity; on occasion, to escape from the moment or thoughts, or from boredom; note-taking at talks; and I also sketch in the wee hours when I can’t sleep – this tends to be when comics idea emerge. They can seem very urgent and important in a dozy half-slumber but often appear pretty rubbish later in the day. Like dreams!

Childless or child-free?

Click to view:

There are supportive communities online for those who are childless by circumstance and for those who are childless by choice. I’ve never felt that I can totally identify myself with either label.

I’m not keen on any term that defines you by what you are not. It seems rather negative. There has been much discussion about this topic on Gateway Women, a site conceived by Jody Day to bring together, and celebrate, women who don’t have children for whatever reason. She coined the term ‘nomo’ (not a mother). Again, the term certainly isn’t for me for the reasons stated above, but the site has some interesting articles and is a good place to go if you’re seeking solidarity with others in a similar situation.

In short, people who didn’t procreate shouldn’t have to be defined by that very fact. However, and all too often, women of my age are.

Spooky womb

It had to happen eventually. Anthropomorphising a uterus, I mean. Perhaps it’s the neglected children’s illustrator in me. (Feel free to clamp hands over ears to block out the deafening irony.) I probably won’t make a habit of it.

Anyway – I’ll be showing this and some other comics work at Comic(s) Bodies, a multidisciplinary symposium taking place at Nottingham Contemporary on 25th May. There is an exhibition alongside talks by graphic novelists Karrie Fransman, Nicola Streeten and Mary Talbot. I believe also that Thom Ferrier and Andrew Godfrey might have some work there.

Miscarriage platitudes

Following on from my earlier post ‘Words can be tricky, in panels’, I did a new comic page about one of the phrases used when people seek words to make a miscarriage-sufferer feel better. I understand that it’s hard to find the right thing to say at times. Below is my response to “It wasn’t meant to be”.

I’m not religious and I tend not to believe in fate or karma; this phrase suggests that such ideas are somehow involved, the presumption being that this will make the situation easier to accept. Fine if it does help some people, of course. The way I see it, for better or worse, nature just does its stuff and may cause sadness, joy or neither. I should probably have put all that in the comic, but I hope to go into it in more detail in my graphic memoir.

Do click twice to view larger if it’s a bit fuzzy!  I’ve also made a little stamp of my initials, carved out of a rubber, with which to sign future work.