Saturday, 5 April 2014

Inspiration for the Weekend {3/12}



This post is a week late, as I've spent the last few days in bed trying to recover from a pesky flu plus a migraine. I'm finally feeling better and I'm anticipating a lovely, leisurely weekend of sunshine, light breezes and cappuccinos!  

In the meantime... Here are a few blog posts I've loved reading this week:  

The importance of play

What do your magazine subscriptions say about you? 

Creating a stimuli list and curating where you focus your attention. (So important in this noisy world!)

Here's a creative challenge from Felecia! Tell your life story in less than 300 words.  

Simple things: the smell of wisteria. 

I want to have a cappuccino and a peppermint slice in this Scottish cafe

Watercolour travels across 3 continents. (I wish I did more travel sketching.)

The perfect succulent and tender breasts (chicken breasts, mind you! I'll be trying this later...) 

And don't forget to join the One Picture, Three Stories linkup! It's so much fun, I promise.  

Wherever you are, I hope you enjoy the weekend!    

Thursday, 3 April 2014

One Picture, Three Stories #4 {Blog Linkup}



Welcome to One Picture, Three Stories!  This is a monthly link-up where we share one picture and tell three stories about it. Unraveling the many layers in a single captured moment is a great way to train your brain to look at things from multiple angles. I'd love for you to join me and add your link below. It's a great way to make friends around the world and to challenge your creativity! 

Story #1:  Staring off to sea, she wonders how life lead her to this rock at the end of the world.  Far over the horizon Antarctica looms with cold hostility, but here it is warm and deceptively comfortable. The rock radiates the late afternoon heat from the sun.  She spreads her palm over the granite and watches the ants run in caravans avoid her fingers. Where are they going? And, where will she be tomorrow?

Story #2: Tomorrow I will still be in Cape Town. And the day after that. But shortly, very shortly, I will be spreading my wings for other locations.  I can't wait to share my travels with you here!

Story #3:  Have you ever seen a sky so blue?  If I were to paint that sky, I'd use a combination of cerulean (for the light bits), ultramarine (for the middle tones), and prussian blue and dioxazine violet (for the darkest parts). But still, it would never match the infinite depth and beauty of the real thing!  I love looking at the scenery around me and picking the paint tubes I'd use to capture the view.

NOTE:  I had a suggestion this month that maybe I should make this link-up bi-weekly instead of monthly. I think for the time being, I'll keep it monthly, but you are more than welcome to submit more than once!  Let me know if you have any thoughts or opinions. 






I want to thank everyone who participated last month!  I was so excited to look at your pictures and read your stories.  I can't wait to read all your submissions this month.  I'll be featuring a few again next month, so make sure to post your link below.  


Lissa outdid herself this month by submitting two sets of fantastic short-stories. I'd almost go as far as to call them masterpieces of micro-fiction. The stories are full of emotion, yearning and little twist endings that keep you guessing.  Make sure you click HERE and HERE to read them!   


Emma writes eloquently about her thoughts about the moon.  Did you know that the man on the moon is actually a normal sized person, and immortal?  And you can find out why Emma and the moon are kindred spirits.  Read her touching tales HERE


Meg Kra talks about the touching legacy of a bar being passed down from father to son, and eventually to her. But she keeps you guessing.  How much of what she says is true?  You'll have to read the stories HERE and decide for yourself!  



Rosie reflects on this ballerina brooch.  It reminds her of how much she wanted to be a ballerina when she was little (didn't we all?), and also of the poignant story of the Steadfast Tin Soldier and his ill-fated love for the paper-doll ballerina. Read her lovely stories HERE



Chinwags and Tattletales shares this almost century old photograph and reflects on how life and dress in the Phillipines have changed since the time it was taken.  She compares her grandparents' characters and wonders how their social media profiles would look today based on those traits.  Read her lovely stories HERE


I'd love for you to join me in sharing "one picture with three stories."  The stories can be factual or fictional, they can be inspiring, funny, educational, or entertaining. They can be one sentence long, or much, much longer.  The pictures can be photographs or sketches, or whatever tickles your fancy.

Give us a glimpse into your home, your town, your world, your past, your present. Nothing is too simple to feature in One Picture, Three Stories.  

The whole idea is that each picture has many layers of meaning. So show us all your layers! 

Follow the link-up on Twitter using hashtag #1picture3stories. 

You can see past examples HERE


One Link-up, Three Guidelines: 

1.  This will be a monthly link-up, so you have plenty of time between now and next month to add your link.  

2. I'll choose three participants to feature on my blog each month.  In order to be eligible for selection you have to link your "one picture, three stories" link-up post back to my blog in some way. 

3. Make sure you visit other linked blogs to read their stories, you might make new friends all over the world! Don't forget to leave a friendly comment to show your appreciation.  


Note: If you're reading in email or a feed reader, in order to see the link-up entry form, you'll probably have to click through to this blog post.  And, if the form doesn't work, please leave your link in the comments below. 



Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Winds of Change




The winds of change are blowing.

Quite literally, too.

In the past week our weather has shifted from the hot and dusty south-easter to the cool, wet north-wester.  The north-wester is the winter wind; it brings rain and cool air from the Atlantic.  I think this change in season, from summer to autumn, has instigated a change in my routine. I feel like I need to hibernate. All I want to do is burrow under the covers and read novels, and philosophy (or novels that are full of philosophy).

But aside from the change in seasons, there are lots of other changes afoot (which I'll be sharing here in due course, but not right now). I don't do well with change. I always want to start back-stepping when it seems like too much is happening at once.

I'm trying to spend a few hours each morning working on my next book project (very exciting one too!).  I'm still in the sketching and "moodling" stage, trying to figure out how the story will look and feel. I have a big, black, Seawhite of Brighton sketchbook that I'm filling with thumbnails and character sketches. The whole project is due in a few months, so there's not much time for second-guessing my choices.

Once I'm satisfied with the day's work, I curl up under a blanket and pick up where I left off in "The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Eco. It's a medieval murder mystery set in a monastery, full of mysticism, philosophy and intrigue. I'm reading it slowly, because I want to bask in the rich atmosphere and delicious language.  (This is also a change, because I almost never read slowly otherwise)

So, in the midst of all this change, I'm so grateful for the work I'm able to do. I'm so grateful that I can do something that fills my soul and recharges my batteries. I'm not always equally inspired, but I always leave a studio session feeling lighter and happier.

How do you welcome the change in seasons? Or change in general? Do you have any coping mechanisms or tips to share?

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Today is.... Rainy {And Another Giveaway!}



Today is rainy. 

I've always loved rain.  I just love how it makes the world soft and quiet. Things never seem so big or overwhelming. 

I'm taking a moment to sit and gaze at the rain-soaked courtyard. The plants look so green, so verdant; they're almost "super green." Above the rooftops, the mountain is floating in the mist like a something from a Japanese print. 

I'm puttering in my studio and reminding myself to take deep breaths.  

Breathe....  

I know I've said this before, but I'm always thinking about it. The root for the word inspiration is spiro, which is latin for "I breathe."  Inspiration literally means "to breath in." 

So, before you click away and carry on your way, close your eyes, place your hands softly on your lap, and take a deep breath. Now inspiration will follow you with every breath you take today. 

What is your day like today?  Is there one word you could use to describe it? 

The Giveaway!

Maybe March, my birthday month, should be a month of giveaways? Here's another one!  You can win $145 in cash! 

This giveaway is hosted by my lovely friend Karli at September Farm.  

Need ideas on how to spend $145? Here are some great options from Karli... 
  • how about some new hunter rain boots just in time for spring showers?
  • how about some glorious easter decor from pottery barn? (a personal favorite.)
  • or maybe you need a ridiculously beautiful new easter dress to wear to brunch and sip champagne in? (oh easter brunch…i love thee.)
  • possibly you've been eyeballing a new swimming suit for all the hours you're going to log at the pool this summer? (dear god, please tell me this is in my future.)

Make sure you enter as many times as you can! And make sure you visit all the lovely ladies who made this giveaway possible. 



very very best of luck! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Another Year Older




Another birthday. 

Another birthday self-portrait to add to the growing series.  You can see the others HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE

My goal is to do a self-portrait for every birthday. This year I was inspired by fashion illustrations done in ink (think Garance Dore). I'm not sure I achieved my vision, but that doesn't matter. It's the experimentation that matters.

This tradition of painting birthday self-portraits is inspired by Rembrandt. He painted 90 self-portraits over the course of his life. He was very experimental, and often showed himself in a not too kindly light as he aged (wrinkles and all). I'm not sure I'll be brave enough for that!  His self-portraits are like an autobiography in art, recording his changing moods and appearance. Maybe I can do the same, in a very small way

To celebrate my birthday, and to thank you all for sticking around this little corner of cyberspace, I'm giving away free printable birthday party invitations!  Just go HERE and click the picture to download! Or click the image below, and you'll be brought to the page.  



Monday, 10 March 2014

Group Giveaway (win an amazon gift card!)


Happy Monday!

I don't normally host giveaways on my blog, but this one was too great to pass up.  My friend Melyssa from the Nectar Collective is giving away two amazing prizes: a $125 Amazon gift card and a $50 Etsy gift card.  

Just imagine all the books you could buy!  If I won I would practically double my "to-read" stack!

This giveaway is open internationally, so all you friends abroad are more than welcome to join in!

Here are the gorgeous bloggers who are making this giveaway possible, why not pop by their blogs to say hello.

feb-giveaway
Brought to you by The Nectar Collective
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway Rules

1. Winner will be contacted within one week of the giveaway ending. Winner must respond to congratulatory email within 48 hours, otherwise a new winner will be chosen.
2. This giveaway is open to international readers, too.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

One Picture, Three Stories #3 {Blog Link-up}


Welcome to One Picture, Three Stories!  This is a monthly link-up where we share one picture and tell three stories about it. Unraveling the many layers in a single captured moment is a great way to train your brain to look at things from multiple angles. I'd love for you to join me and add your link below. It's a great way to make friends around the world and to challenge your creativity! 

Story #1:  This weekend we decided to escape the city and head to the seaside. On our way, driving out of Cape Town, the traffic slowed to a stand-still. Smoke billowed from the fields and bushes beside the road.  The acrid clouds crowded onto the highway. As we neared the blaze, the smoke was so intense we could barely see more than a few feet in front of us. We drove carefully, hazard lights blinking. Even with the air conditioning on full power, the smell of scorched earth filled the car. 

And then, just as suddenly as we entered the smoke, the sky was clear again. We had passed through the "trial by fire" and continued on our quest for fun and sun. 

Story #2: The smoke obscuring the road made me think about how we all are moving forwards into the unknown. We all have visions and plans for our lives, but none of us can foresee what will happen from one moment to the next. None of us really know where we are going (or why).  And maybe that's ok. Maybe the unknowns are all part of the journey... 

Story #3: I was looking over the photograph, trying to figure out what to say for the third story when I saw the shape of a face emerging from the cloud of smoke!  Can you see it?  In the bottom right section of the clouds. Now that I've seen him I can't see anything else when I look at the photo. 



I want to thank everyone who participated last month!  I was so excited to look at your pictures and read your stories.  I can't wait to read all your submissions this month.  I'll be featuring two or three again next month, so make sure to post your link below.  



Rosie shared this energetic photograph of her niece, and mused about how children throw themselves into life with joyful and trusting abandonment.  This photo encapsulates all the pure hope and joy of being alive. Read all about it here! 



Van Nguyen told a poignant tale about her parent's marriage in Vietnam, and now shortly after their wedding day her father was sent to a prison camp for 8 years. Can you imagine the courage that must have taken? Read all about it here! 


The Rambling Introvert contemplates how this antique photo came into her possession (her grandmother loved it), and what the mysterious history of this man might be.  Right now it holds pride of place on her mantlepiece in Texas! Read all about it here!




I'd love for you to join me in sharing "one picture with three stories."  The stories can be factual or fictional, they can be inspiring, funny, educational, or entertaining. They can be one sentence long, or much, much longer.  The pictures can be photographs or sketches, or whatever tickles your fancy.

Give us a glimpse into your home, your town, your world, your past, your present. Nothing is too simple to feature in One Picture, Three Stories.  

The whole idea is that each picture has many layers of meaning. So show us all your layers! 

Follow the link-up on Twitter using hashtag #1picture3stories. 

You can see past examples HERE


One Link-up, Three Guidelines: 

1.  This will be a monthly link-up, so you have plenty of time between now and next month to add your link.  

2. I'll choose three participants to feature on my blog each month.  In order to be eligible for selection you have to link your "one picture, three stories" link-up post back to my blog in some way. 

3. Make sure you visit other linked blogs to read their stories, you might make new friends all over the world! Don't forget to leave a friendly comment to show your appreciation.  


Note: If you're reading in email or a feed reader, in order to see the link-up entry form, you'll probably have to click through to this blog post.  And, if the form doesn't work, please leave your link in the comments below. 



Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A Day in the Life of a Children's Book Illustrator



I thought it would be fun to share a typical day in my life as an illustrator.  Right now we're in Cape Town, but my routine rarely changes whether I'm here, in London or in Canada. It's just the scenery that changes.  

7am: Wake up. Stumble bleary eyed into the blinding sunshine in the kitchen. Pour a glass of cold orange juice and will myself to wake up. 

I wish I started my morning by reading something erudite, or meditating, but I usually end up checking Facebook...

8am: I walk down the hill to the post office to send off the most recent order from my Etsy shop. Luckily it isn't far to go.  It's already so hot that I make sure to find all the patches of shade on the way there and back. 

This is the view I see on my way back up the hill.  Our house is the one with the brown door in the garden wall.  The frangipanis (also called plumeria) are blooming so beautifully this time of year. There's a wisp of a Table Cloth on top of Table Mountain. That means it's going to be a hot and windy day. 




8:30am: On my way back from the post office I like to stop by Vida e Caffe for a cappuccino.  Vida is a local coffee chain with a wacky, energetic feel. I love how they decorate their paper cups.  Which moustache are you?  I also love that they give a square of dark chocolate with every coffee order. I'll save mine for later.... 

{Coffee on the studio table and ready to work}

9am: I'm already hard at work and listening to BBC Radio 3 online. I love how the classical music gives a sense of order to my crazy imagination.

Right now I'm working on a big book project for Magination Press (a job I got through my agents at Advocate Art). The deadline is fast approaching, so there's no time to spare.

When I'm painting I go into a zen state. I focus. I breathe deeply. I concentrate on the colours and patterns unfolding under my hands.

Any work I do in the morning is like double work. It's that magical time of day when my ideas flow and time seems to cooperate with me.

10am:  I find myself googling things like "chalkboard brushes" and "monarch butterflies" to look for references for my current project. I also spend a bit of time trying to win a game of solitaire while my paint dries.

{This is how illustrators do their hair... with a paintbrush.}

{Dive into the colour!}

12 noon:  Noon Gun!  Boom! You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but I always jump.  The noon gun has been marking midday in Cape Town since 1806.  It's loud; it echos between the mountains; sometimes I spill paint...

It wakes me from my painting reverie and I remember that I should eat lunch.  Wait a second, did I even eat breakfast?  (Usually not). I make beeline to the fridge and graze from last night's leftovers.

12:30pm: Back to the drawing board. Literally. By now I'm starting to lose concentration.

In the afternoon I often focus on smaller projects, or work on scanning or photoshopping illustrations I'd started the day before.

If I don't have pressing illustration work, I'll write blog posts, or brainstorm ideas for new projects.

....Oh dear, my eyes are drooping.


2pm: Time for that square of dark chocolate.  Thank-you Vida! 

3pm: Unless I have a super-stressful deadline, this is the end of my work day.  I take a long bath, to ease my aching muscles.  You wouldn't think working as an artist would be that strenuous, but hunching over paintings can make my shoulders so tight!

After my bath, I unfurl my back muscles with a short session of yoga.


3:30pm: I rush to the grocery store (aptly named "Pick and Pay," I laugh every time I think about it) and figure out what to make for dinner. Sometimes I pop into the bookstore for a little inspiration, or grab another coffee.

4pm: Skype time with my Mom in Canada!  She's finally awake and I can tell her all about my day.  

6pm onwards: I make supper, and my husband and I settle in for a relaxing evening. Sometimes we have a glass of wine; sometimes we watch a dvd; sometimes we read; sometimes we escape the heat and head to the seaside.

10pm: Time to curl up in bed and close my eyes. Tomorrow will be the same, all over again! 

Here's a one minute video I made of me painting... Enjoy! 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Come smell the roses!




{Photo taken with my new Canon EOS Rebel T4i}


A warm, warm welcome to Chasing Happy readers!  Today I'm guest posting on Kenzie's lovely blog about why creativity is hard (even for me), and what you can do to make writing or painting a little easier. 

Why not pop over and read it here

And, if you're new here, please feel free to stay awhile. Draw up a chair and we can chat in my studio. 

Tell me, what are you working on at the moment? 

Do you have any tips for keeping the creative juices flowing? 



Friday, 14 February 2014

Swooning in the Cape Town heat {a little animation}






{Swoon!}

It's summer in Cape Town, and it's so hot. So, so, so hot.

The noon gun has just fired (as it does every day). The air is so still that the reverberations from the blast have shaken the frangipani flowers from their branches, and now they're wafting down in front of my window. Across the street someone is playing sultry saxophone.

If I slouch in my chair (as I often do), I can see the top of Table Mountain peeking above the roof of our house.  It's shimmering in the heat today.

It's so hot that I think the paint is melting on my palette before I can even get my brush into it.

The heat always brings out the diva in my characters; they always seem to have minds of their own. This little girl was frustrated that I wasn't paying enough attention to her heat-induced swoon, so now she's swooning over and over and over again.  Ad infinitum.  

The grass is always greener on the other side isn't it?  I envy all you readers who are cozily cocooned in  winter.  Oh!  For the snow and the hot chocolates and the great big fuzzy scarves.  Enjoy it while you can!

{Note #1: I posted this little girl last year, but as I have so many new followers, I thought some of you might enjoy seeing her brought back to life)

{Note #2:  I'm not sure if the animated illustration works for email subscribers, so you might want to click through to the blog to see it.}