House Portraits

Thursday 21 November 2019

Hello! Oh goodness, I can't believe it's mid November already and spreading the word about my pop up shop as well as preparing for the workshops (as well as creating new stock!) is proving to be a real juggling act. 

It's less than two weeks to my Pop Up Shop  so I thought I'd share my current round-up from my newsletter - to give you a whistle stop break down of what's going on and when. You can sign up for my newsletters here - I like to make them fun and personal, but I am pretty terrible for not sending them out often - so I promise you won't be spammed!

From the 2nd-8th December, I'm hoping to bring the Winter Gardens Pop Up Shop to life with some creative workshop activities - a chance for everyone to get involved and get a bit festive with me! See below for details and feel free to email me if you have any questions.

I'm so happy to have teamed up with The Better Together Project - a community project that is organising a free Christmas party for people in Sheffield who are likely to be spending the festive season alone. Throughout my week at the pop up, you can drop in to make and write a card - and the lovely people at The Better Together Project will be giving them out to their guests. Click here to find out more.

Next up is Let's Draw Sheffield! Another free activity where you can come along and draw your favourite building or place in Sheffield and add it to a giant map I've been busy illustrating. The collaboration will be made into prints after, which will be sold to raise money for a local charity, to be announced very soon. To keep updated, please visit the Facebook event here.

As well as the free activities, there is also one ticketed workshop on Sunday 8th December. Create Your Own House Portrait will be collage focused, with materials I've illustrated and collected to reflect the architecture theme of my prints. You can create your own home, favourite pub or shop, as a handmade gift or to keep for yourself. Ticket price is £15 and includes a free collage pack to take home. Space is limited so please book soon if you'd like to join us! Visit the event page to find out more.

Last but not least, there are some shiny new things on the way to join my range of prints and products at the shop! Though my main hope for the pop up is for the community to get involved in the activities and to create a lovely (and little bit festive!) atmosphere, I am still very excited to share some new items I've been working on too. Please keep an eye on my Instagram or Facebook for updates! 

Friday 15 November 2019

I'm delighted to announce this free activity that will be running throughout the duration of the Pop Up Shop. Stop off at the Winter Gardens Pop Up Shop between 2nd-8th December to make a card and send a festive wish to a friend you’ve never met. 

It warmed my heart to read about The Better Together Project - a project aiming to alleviate isolation and loneliness in Sheffield. They organise a big Christmas party for lots of elderly people who may be spending the festive season alone... and you, me and everyone who stops by can make a card and write a message for one of those people. 

‘For the last 3 years, The Better Together Project has hosted a christmas party for many elderly people in Sheffield, who may otherwise be spending the festive season alone. Each event has been incredibly successful, as a result of overwhelming support from the local community. One lady told us that we had transported her back to the best days of her life...what more could you ask for than that?’
- The Better Together Project

Whether you want to draw or make an abstract collage, no art skills are necessary - all ages and abilities welcome. Visit the Facebook event page for more info!

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Hello, I have some workshop news! As part of my week in Winter Gardens Pop Up Shop, I’ll be holding a Make Your Own House Portrait workshop! 

You’ll get to use housey themed patterns and elements that I’ve drawn and prepared to make your own collage combination. You’ll come away with your unique creation, ready to frame - for yourself or as a homemade gift for someone you love. 

The workshop takes place in the Pop Up Shop, Sheffield Winter Gardens on the 8th December at 10.30am. Ticket prices are £15 and include a free gift. Read on to find out more or click here to book your place.

The workshop also times with the launch on my new House Collage Pack on the way to my shop this Christmas - a smaller version of some of the materials in the workshop. I’ve wanted to add this to my shop for ages and finally decided now was the time! I’ll let you know when it’s ready… and if you’re coming along to the workshop on the 8th, you’ll get a pack free to take home after.

It’s still in the making, so for now here are a few more examples by me and workshop participants.

As you can see, last time I decided to create my perfect fantasy cafe - the Yorkshire Pud Cafe! I also made a doughnut shop… because I clearly love all things batter based! 

I’m always drawn to the bright coloured papers - they would make lovely pieces for a child’s bedroom! But I also bring along lots of natural colours too, so people can create something cool to match their home (or someone else’s) Click here to visit the Facebook event page for the Create Your Own House Portrait workshop!

Friday 8 November 2019

The pop up shop is now on Facebook, which has made it all seem extra real! I want to say a massive thankyou to all who liked, commented or showed otherwise their positivity for it - you’ve no idea how much it helped! 

It had been so long since booking it at the start of the year and I have to admit my positivity started to wobble as it finally got closer and I still had so much to do. Posting it on here made me feel like it was definitely happening for real so I might as well enjoy it! 

I would love it if you can continue the support by simply spreading the word - please tell a friend who might be interested and go to the event on Facebook to see updates - more info coming soon on some lovely workshop activities I have planned!

Monday 28 October 2019


I have some news to share! It’s very big and exciting (and a little bit scary) for me… this year I will be doing no Christmas markets! Instead, I will be setting up my own proper little shop in Sheffield city centre for one week in December, eek!!!

I have lots of plans for how I want to make the space lively and fun, and I’ll be sending out more detail in my newsletter soon, so be sure to sign up here if you want to keep updated!

P.S the image is from my sketchbook when I was at Sheffield Winter Gardens Pop Up Shop with the Handmade Collective earlier in the year! Not a true representation of what to expect 😂

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Sketchbook Diary 2019 #4

Sketchbook Diary 2019 #4
Click on the images for a closer look
Hello there!

What a mad few weeks it has been... it has felt like Christmas levels of busy lately, but I'm very grateful! I've been working on a really fun mix of projects and not a lot of them I can share yet... but one big project is near completion and I'll be very excited to share that. It is a mural... and it's big! I'll explain the rest when it is out in the world soon...

So here's my latest installment of my sketchbook diary. I'm sorry I actually completed it a couple of weeks ago and am only just putting it here. Some of the things in this spread (the 18th March to 24th April) feel like ages ago now. I got a three month guest stockist spot in the lovely Sheffield Makers Winter Gardens shop - woo hoo! It has been going really well and it's such a good feeling to have my products in a great city centre spot, where people can easily buy them, while I'm working away in my studio.

But, even more importantly... something pretty major happened on the 25th of March. Some birds were eating a WAFFLE in my garden! It was a truly entertaining watch, as they worked their way through the whole thing. I couldn't work out from my viewpoint whether it was Belgian or potato though... and it will remain a mystery to me forever.

Back to work things, The Mummy Lessons got published! You can read all about it on the last blog post. My samples arrived and they look gorgeous, with lovely shiny spot UV finish on my hand lettering and icons. Lee and I went to see the amazing Phlegm exhibition - a little land of giants, asleep in a warehouse in Sheffield.

The spread finishes with that crazy hot weather we had, so a barbecue and paddling in a stream! I'm looking forward to more fun sun times ahead.

Not a bad few weeks really... 'till next time!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday 2 April 2019

My first book cover! The Mummy Lessons by Helen Wallen - Published by Hodder & Stoughton

Hello there! As you might remember from an earlier post, 2018 saw me get my first book cover commission - and I can finally share the artwork now that it is published (by Hodder & Stoughton, an imprint of Hachette). It was released on the 21st March, less than two weeks ago and has already been named a no.1 bestseller in the parenting chart and no.24 in the kindle chart! A massive well done to author Helen Wallen (aka. Just a Normal Mummy) - her writing style is hilarious and real. But y'know... I'd like to think the cover illustration enticed some of those happy shoppers too :)

I thought I'd share some of my progress drawings. I always love to see illustrators share this, as it shows the amount of work that goes into creating that final polished piece you only usually see. It shows that I sometimes draw things over and over again to get them just right. Letting go of wanting to get it right first time was one of my biggest lessons in the early days and made a huge difference to my work.

Sorry the previews are so small - please click on the image to enlarge.

It started with rough mum and baby drawings in my sketchbook...
...then the hand lettering... that I could arrange the characters around the letters

The design team at Hodder & Stoughton already had the idea of the characters interracting around the letters. Whereas I would usually expect to brainstorm some different layout options, I didn't need to here. I could go straight into creating the rough. The publishers then gave me the go ahead to create the final design - so I then illustrated the characters and icons in ink.

Drawing in ink...
...using layout paper over the enlarged roughs
I'm really happy with how successful it has been so far and still buzzing that my first cover is out. I did some spot illustrations for another pregnancy related book earlier this year - which will be published in the summer - and I have another book commission to start soon! So watch this space - I look forward to sharing them!

Click here to view The Mummy Lessons on Amazon (other book stores are available!).

Friday 22 March 2019

Sketchbook Diary 2019 #3

My sketchbook diary - see below for a closer view!
Pancake Day - one of my most favourite days of the year!

Hello there!

Here's a new instalment of my sketchbook diary. It's been an exciting month! It was my birthday right in the middle of London Book Fair, so in between my days of meetings, we went to see the Lion King at The Lyceum. It was amazing! I continued to spread out the birthday vibes after coming home, with a quiet relaxing weekend and a big roast dinner.

I really enjoyed the book fair. It was great to chat to lots of publishers about my work as well as have my illustrations on display in the gallery. Unfortunately, my visit did confirm that I am doomed to get headaches at conference centre events, but that I can keep them at bay if I constantly snack! I had this nailed by day three - so that is my number one tip for anyone visiting the fair. I went along to some of the talks and panel discussions too. It was a delight to listen to David McKee talk about his career as an illustrator/storyteller and it was lovely to meet Ren Renwick and Lou Bones from the Association of Illustrators, having been a member for a few years now.

Me with my book illustrations in the Illustrator's Gallery at London Book Fair

I've also been drawing some fun patterns in my sketchbook lately, which I will share soon - I'm looking forward to sitting and colouring them all. So as for the rest of the diary, it was some nice food, cosy times with netflix and the sofa, a little trip to Oxford and some rather elegant looking yoga moves (they totally looked this good in person. I swear).

Click to enlarge!

Friday 1 March 2019

Sketchbook Diary 2019 #2


I'm back with another instalment of my 2019 sketchbook diary.

My sketchbook diary spread for the second half of January... (click to enlarge!)

I've been enjoying the quiet spell after the madness of late last year and taking advantage of the chance to work on some portfolio pieces. I did have my tax return to complete though... and my display board designs for London Book Fair

My work will be on display at the LBF Illustrator's Gallery from the 12th-14th March. I am feeling really giddy because I've just found out that the illustrator of the fair will be David McKee - the artist behind Elmer, Not Now Bernard and MR BENN! Someone told me once that my work reminded them of Mr Benn and I can see the similarities too, especially in the detail of the houses and the black outlines. I'm excited to hear him talk about his career and to go to the other seminars going on while I'm there. I will be sure to report back with my illustrator's take on the book fair. It will also be my birthday while I'm there!

So, besides the book fair prep, I also got my hair played with by a cat, took a trip down memory lane with The Babysitter's Club Movie (I loved those books as a kid!), sent a drink flying out of a lady's hand while I imagined I was Penny from Dirty Dancing, and dreamt about spontaneously breaking out into song with all my friends. It's nice to have a record of these nice things when otherwise, I would have probably looked back and thought I'd been cooped up in my studio working on my portfolio for these couple of weeks.

Crab roe broad beans, tax returns and a missing red panda in Belfast!

Drink spillage, korean barbecue and dog farts (gross I know, sorry).

Sunday 17 February 2019

Ways to Spread Love - Valentine's Spot Illustrations

Love is for every day, not just Valentine's! So that's why I think it's ok that I'm posting this after the official day of love. Here are some loved up spot illustrations I made for Valentine's last week. I sent some out to clients and also reformatted for Instagram - to wish everyone a happy V day and hopefully just make them smile.

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Sketchbook Diary 2019 #1

As you might have seen in my last post, I decided to have a go at keeping up my sketchbook diary again this year. As much as I have found last year's drawings useful as miniature full pieces, I did find it hard to stick to, as I was a little ambitious in the way I set them out. I have a tendency to be consistent within my projects - thanks to my commercial design background and not something I particularly feel is a weakness. But as I felt I wanted to give each drawing similar time and space, it became difficult at busier times.

So this year, I've set out to simplify. I'm not spending as long on them, but that should make it more achievable to do every day - which was originally the whole point of doing it. They sometimes serve as quick warm ups when I start my day, but as I'm being less precious about it, they've been much easier to fit in whenever I have a spare five minutes.

So here is my first spread of the year! I've not thought so much about how to lay them out, but drawn them closer together this time. It means I can simply take a photo and post it, rather than have to scan in and adjust multiple files ready to post. This way, I hope I can keep on sharing regularly.

Daily Sketchbook Drawings - Click to enlarge

Besides the benefits of daily drawing practice, I also find that from a personal perspective, it's nice to record a snippet of something about each day, just to look back on. I sometimes take my sketchbook in my bag when I visit my Grandma. She is in her nineties and doesn't chat much anymore, so it has made a nice little talking point to show her my sketchbook and say 'look, this is what I've been up to lately' and it makes her smile.

Seeing this visual representation of all the things I've actually done (or eaten) - in what feels like a flash since Christmas - makes me feel better about how fast time goes. January started off with New Year celebrations in Edinburgh. I then laid low while I got over a nasty cold/migraine spell, caught up with my tax return, tried some new recipes and ate lots of cheese.

My next spread for the rest of January and part of February will be complete soon, so until next time... bye bye for now!

Friday 1 February 2019

2018 Review: A look back at my first year of full time freelance


I hope you are having a lovely shiny new year so far. I had a quiet start back after new year - I was under the weather for a few weeks and then had my head down with a big deadline. So it's a little later than I planned, but I felt I should acknowledge that I've just completed my first year of running my business full time - and reflect and share some of what I've learnt.

To fill you in up to the start of 2018, I'd been illustrating and designing greetings cards for almost seven years, the last five of those years was as a permanent employee (I was freelance before that but mostly for cards still). I worked four days a week, which allowed me time to complete my MA and then, eventually, start my own business. It was hard and I'm so grateful I don't have to juggle both any more. I am much more chilled and happy, feeling like my future is in my own hands.

I'm a big believer in simply 'doing things and putting it out there'. Whether I've posted a picture to my Instagram or made a new industry contact, the little things can all lead to something else. So I like to think that every time I put something out there, I am planting seeds. Some could be magic beans and some might never sprout. So you have to plant a lot of them and spread them far and wide! Having lots of little sprouts that you need to nurture might have much more longevity than one magic beanstalk with a pot of gold at the top.

So, on to looking at my previous year. I definitely don't want to sound like I'm boasting about all my achievements but a.) it's good to look back at all the hard work you've done and where it's got you and b.) I'm not sure who actually reads my blog, so I doubt I need to worry. It's good for me to think about what went well and what I'll do differently and I hope it's interesting or helpful to others who are starting out.

Some big things I've done or learnt in 2018...

Exciting Collaborations

Sharing my work, on Instagram especially, has lead to some lovely collaborations and features on blogs and in magazines in the last year. A job I got through using hashtags on Instagram was illustrating The Strong Girls Colouring Book for Scout - the super strong girl behind Barbells Before Boys. Scout is based in Australia and messaged me after spotting me through hashtags I was using while illustrating A Very Sheffield Colouring Book.

So my tip here is: use hashtags to get your work seen further! A long list of tags might look spammy to some people, but maybe those people work for a company where someone else takes care of the marketing. As a freelance artist, it's your job to promote your own work - and getting it seen by more eyes is way more important than looking cool (in my opinion).

Book Illustrations

This year, I worked on two more books (including a cover - yay!) for Hodder & Stoughton and Little, Brown Book Group. I had a good few meetings to show my portfolio and got lots of feedback from publishers I made contact with. One of the jobs came to me three or four months after a meeting, so it was great to see results long after I had worked to get my work noticed.

I find that sending a physical sample in the post and following up with a phone call is much more effective than sending out a PDF/link to lots of publishers and waiting to see who replies. They get LOTS of emails like that and they are very easy to delete! So you really do have to stand out.

A Very Sheffield Colouring Book

After listening to customer requests at markets (one of the benefits of selling at markets!), I illustrated a colouring book that was all about Sheffield. A new thing for me was that I took pre-orders before it was finished, which funded the first print run! It went down really well and I've had a couple more print runs made since.

See more of A Very Sheffield Colouring Book here

It took a while to find a reliable printers to execute it to the standard it deserved after the hours I'd lovingly put in. I recommend not putting all your eggs in one printer's basket! Get samples and test prints, allow time for things to go wrong and when they do, be a moaning minnie and get it put right. In the end, I found a really good printers, but on one print run, they did have a technical issue which resulted in 300 copies not good enough for me to sell. I donated them to Sheffield Children's Hospital at Christmas, so I hope that lots of poorly children got to enjoy my colouring book over the festive season!

Back to Screenprinting

My move to Sheffield from Barnsley meant that getting to West Yorkshire Print Workshop (where I made my screen prints) would take twice as long. Trying out a new place fell down the priority list and before I knew it, it had suddenly been a year since I'd made any screen prints.

I finally joined Sheffield Print Club late last year and got used to working in a different space. I made a new print of my Tower Bridge, London illustration. Maybe it was because of some of the materials were slightly different to those I'd used previously, but my fine line work wasn't coming out as well at first. I had to take some of the detail away and thicken up some bits. It made a healthy change for me to have to adapt the design as I went and it not come out as I'd originally intended. The most creative things happen when you have to relinquish control!

See more of the London Tower Bridge prints here

It was good to get back to screen printing. I don't go very often, but it's therapeutic to do something so tangible and process driven. And finding new places to work and belong make me feel extra settled and part of the wonderful creative community here, in my new home of Sheffield.

New Stockists

Putting a real effort into approaching new stockists is not one of my strengths and something I could do with addressing this year. So I think I did well considering, to get my pieces into a few new places!

I currently have a small selection in The Cooper Gallery, Walkley Press and Stopwatch Gallery. I was delighted to be accepted to show my work in the Millennium Gallery this Christmas, in their Handmade for Christmas shop. I am very proud to have work in these lovely shops and spaces and maybe this year I will extend the list!

Personal Projects

I had gotten sick of hearing myself say 'I need to draw in my sketchbook more', so last year, I decided I would draw something each day in my sketchbook. I always hear how important it is to practice and that all the amazing illustrators draw every day, but drawing every day isn't easy when you also have admin, emails and quotes that eat up your time.

Though I didn't succeed in making it a daily thing, so much good came from what I did. Drawing 'off brief' regularly has made a huge difference to my confidence, speed and skill when I'm illustrating for clients. My personal work got referred to, by clients when briefing me, and helped influence the types of work I got asked to do.

If you're an illustrator/designer who doesn't feel like you're getting the type of briefs you want, doing personal work and getting it seen is a great way to gear the right kind of client work towards you. It may sound obvious, but getting 'pigeonholed' for the wrong kind of work can be a common frustration for commercial artists - but something you can equally use to your advantage if you turn it around and keep projecting what you want.

As well as keeping up off brief work, I have set out to have another go at my sketchbook diary this year. I hope to make it easier to achieve by doing the following:

  • Give myself less time to decide what to draw and to draw it (more thinking time = more pressure!).
  • Think of the multiple drawings as a whole, so I can easily post a photo or scan of the whole page on my blog (rather than having to assemble them digitally from multiple scans, making it a bigger task to make time for).
  • Be less precious. Simply reminding myself that it doesn't have to be perfect or consistent. I have got so much better at this over time, but it has taken training. Sounds obvious I know, but practice really is the best way to overcome this!

What's next

The fact that I mostly have no idea is one of my favourite things about my job. I really enjoy that the year ahead is totally flexible and could go in different directions, depending mostly on what I do, with a sprinkle of chance.

Some things I can already predict for 2019 is that I'm showing my work at London Book Fair in March, in their Illustrator's Gallery - which is really exciting! It's my first time and I'm looking forward to meeting lots of publishers there. I have also made a big, bold move and booked my very own pop up shop for a whole week - more info to come later in the year! I am also going to blog more. I've said it before and it's never been my forte, but I have to blog more! So I'm saying it here and I will try my best.

Other than that, just lots more drawing, sharing what I do and seeing what grows!

Thankyou for reading. Happy 2019!