Free Printables and a new website

How is it going in your corner of the world? Busy? Wonderful? Challenging? Fun? How would you describe your life right now?

I recently decided to eradicate the word "busy" from my vocabulary. It's not that I'm not busy, it's just that it's not a constructive way for me describe my life right now. The word "busy" makes me feel frantic and hassled. Whereas, if I say that my life is "full" or "rich," I feel like each moment is ripe with possibility.

One of the ways I cope with the "fullness" of my life is to keep detailed to-do lists. Being a working mom with a busy, curious toddler takes a lot of organization!

Do you also want to organize all the "richness" in your life?

I've created a special, printable PDF to-do list notepaper for all my Studio Friends.

Want one?

All you have to do is head over to the home page on my website and sign up for my mailing list.

As a Studio Friend, you'll receive no more than 6 emails per year. I don't like a crowded inbox, and I'm sure you don't either!

If you want to download the special "to-do" list and much more you can find it in the resource library in the "Studio Friends" section of my website. There are loads of free printables, from party invites to custom day-planner pages, all free for you to print and use! The "Studio Friends" page is password protected. Want in?  Head over here and sign up for the mailing list.

So, what can you expect from my emails?

I will share insights into my studio: photos and stories and sneak-peaks at works in progress. These are things you won't see anywhere else on the web. I will also share some of the things that inspire me most. Hopefully you'll be inspired too!

My Studio Friends are so special to me!


Why I'm inspired by the clutter on my desk

As I sit at my desk, I can see five coffee mugs or jam jars filled with various pens, pencils, paintbrushes, and crayons; three notebooks half-filled with project ideas and dreams; two sticky-note pads; a scattering of pencil shavings; a baby monitor (she’s still sleeping!); half a dozen tubes of watercolour paint; my computer (on which I’m typing); and a pair of glasses I never wear (I’m convinced my eyes have improved).

I don’t need all these things. In fact, I rarely use half of them. But the fact that they are there, right at my finger-tips, gives me the sense that I could use them, if I were inspired.

If I were inspired...

You see, that’s the operative hope. I desperately need all the clutter on my desk because if it isn’t there, it makes work too difficult. I would have to find the exact pen in the zen-style storage container on my shelf. I would have to search for the perfect shade of blue pencil in the pencil case. I might waste five minutes rummaging through an immaculate storage container to find my favourite "hake" brush for watercolour washes. And in that five minutes, the fleeting, diaphanous idea that had been floating through my mind might have disappeared forever.

But, if my desk is cluttered, or even messy, then everything is ready... just in case.

My desktop clutter is a kind of superstition. If it’s not there, I’m not sure I can make anything.

So, I work with projects layered upon projects. They are piled on my desk, like some sort of sedimentary settlement of creativity. They are a river delta of thoughts; grains of sand upon grains of sand forming an unsteady marsh for me to wade through.

Even the floor is part of my geography of inspiration. Scattered at my feet are: my scanner, my wacom drawing tablet (still plugged into my computer, with the cord snaking off the desk to the floor, just in case), three more notebooks, a binder full of archived lists and ideas, a ream of printer paper, a half-finished book, my garbage can (newly acquired, now at least there isn't any trash on the floor), and several large pads of Fabriano watercolour paper.

In this mess I have my best ideas.

In this mess I feel comfortable.

I think I'm pretty good at keeping our house clean and clutter free. I've read the decluttering manifesto by Marie Kondo. I regularly donate items to the local charity shop. I keep to a rigorous weekly cleaning schedule. I make sure little-one's toys are organized and stowed away at the end of each day...

So, even though I sometimes dream of having the perfect zen-like studio space, full of organized storage, white walls, and calming house plants lining the window sill.

In reality I have happy mess; a happy creative mess.


Daily Drawings plus a few photos from the week

{A midsummer night's dream. Celebrating Shakespeare's 400th anniversary}

{Happy Birthday to the Queen! I sketched her surrounded
by coins from all the Commonwealth countries I hold dear: 
Canada, Great Britain, South Africa and Namibia.}

{A portrait of Mrs. Pontipine from the children's
TV show "In the Night Garden.}

{Baby's desk...}

{My desk}


Daily Drawings

{Bright colours for a gloomy day}

The wonderful thing about my "daily drawings" is that I don't berate myself if I can't actually draw every day. 

In fact, I do draw every day, but not always fun, experimental or "sharable" things. 

My theory is that if I have a goal of "daily fun drawings" and I draw 4 or 5 days out of seven, then I'm succeeding wildly. 

It's just like my "daily" yoga practice. My ultimate goal is to do yoga first thing every morning.  But I normally manage it three or four mornings per week.  That's still a victory, right? It's more than nothing! 

I'm trying to celebrate small moments of progress. 

What is one small thing you've done this week to move towards your dreams?

{Drawing on the train}

{Drawing on the train}


How I'm hoping gratitude will change my life

It has been two weeks since Easter, and I'm finally planning to take the egg tree down off our mantlepiece and carefully pack the decorations away for another year.

Easter always sneaks up on me. It blooms, unexpectedly, out of winter darkness like a crocus popping out of the snow. Always before I expected it, and always against the odds.

Despite my unpreparedness, it is my favourite holiday. The promise of new beginnings always gives me new hope. Why don't we make Easter resolutions, instead of New Year's resolutions? The momentum of the new-growth would carry us farther than the gloom of winter.

My Easter resolution this year was to keep a gratitude journal. I've flirted with the idea for years; scribbling little notes in the margins of my journals or day planner, but I've never stuck with it for longer than a few weeks, because I've never had a concrete plan.

This year I decided I needed to be more committed.

Enough flirting, let's get serious.

I realized that if I listed three things I was grateful for every day, that would be 1095 happy things to remember over the course of a year.

I wanted a special notebook to motivate my in my quest for gratitude, so I ordered the gorgeous "Line A Day" diary from Chronicle Books, which is a perpetual diary that runs for 5 years.

Think about this: five years of daily gratitude would record 5475 happy moments.

I hope that as the years go by I will notice how my responses to gratitude will evolve, and that I will discover aspects of my life that I have previously underrated.  Maybe I will even discover the secret to lasting happiness. (One can only hope).

When I look back over a period of time and think "I have been happy" or "I have been unhappy," what I say depends completely on the mood I am in at the time.

If I am happy -- if my daughter is laughing and content, and I have had time to draw, or paint, or read -- then that moment acts as a thread to connect to all the other happy moments in my life, when I have felt similarly content.  It becomes a string of pearls extended backwards in time.

But if I am unhappy, then I am reminded of all the moments in my past when I have been sad or discontent. The past, and therefore the future, seems impossibly bleak and cold, with all those unhappy memories starting at me like reflections in a hall of mirrors.

What I want to do is focus on all my happy memories.  To do that I need to focus on being happy today, so that I can pull that pearl-string of happy memories back into my life.

I want to dwell in gratitude.

This is how I'm doing it:

1. Setting a time. I like to write my gratitude list right before going to bed, so that I can fall asleep surrounded by happy memories.  So that I don't forget (and I forget everything nowadays) I set a reminder on my phone to go off at 9.30pm.  I'm usually asleep by 10pm.

2. Three unique things. I try to make my items unique. So, if I'm grateful for a cup of coffee for the third day in a row, I try to think of something special about it. Maybe holding the warm cup in my hands. Or the smell. Or the ritual of preparing it.  That way I can explore as many aspects of the things I love as possible and not get bored in occasional repetitiveness of the process.

3. Really being grateful. Once I've written my list I pause for a moment and I actually say "thank-you" for those things I've just written down. That way I can internalize the gratitude and not write the lists mindlessly (though some evenings I'm so exhausted I'm happy if I can put pen to paper.)

If you liked this post, pin it, share it, tweet it... or just leave a comment to say hello!


Daily Drawings

Part of this daily drawing discipline is about experimentation. 

My normal style is pen and ink coloured with watercolour, then scanned and given sleight of hand photoshop touches. 

This works really well for me. But, sometimes it's necessary to jump into new waters for a refreshing swim. Then one can return to work with a renewed mind and fresh perspective. 

So, I've been playing with collage this week. I feel like I've returned to the delights of kindergarten, when cutting, gluing and sticking were my favourite activities. 

I've done fewer drawings this week, as little one has been miserably sick with conjunctivitis. So in between cuddles I rush to my sketchbook to record the visions from my inside-eye. 

{On Monday morning I could have stayed in bed all day}

{Drawing comics for SCBWI British Isles}

{There is nothing better than clouds of cherry blossoms and a clear sky. The skies have been altogether too cloudy for my taste recently.} 


Dancing with Daffodils

When I open my front door I step into a cloud of purple fragrance. It is sweet and intoxicating. At my feet the bees are getting drunk on the nectar from the hyacinths. My window boxes are an open bar with an infinite tab.

I love to see the bees waltz, bourrée, and fox trot around the hyacinths, muscari and daffodils.

Sometimes, when I'm stuck in my studio with a fog of thoughts and worries clouding my senses, I think I hear the flowers knocking on the door, wanting me to come out to play.

So, the other day I did.

I drew a fairy, and she and I cavorted with the spring flowers for an afternoon.


Daily Drawings

In January I resolved to do daily drawings. I purchased a new moleskine sketchbook (small enough to carry in my hand-bag, but still large enough to hold big ideas), and set out to experiment, play and have fun.

I haven’t managed to draw every day, but I draw most days, and I consider that a success.

The thing with being an illustrator is that I do draw every day, but most of the time the drawings are for other people. They fulfil a brief. They need to be vetted by editors and art directors. They get sent back for changes. I love my work, but sometimes I crave the freedom to experiment.

So daily drawings are a way for me to let my creative soul soar.

Here are a few..... 

I'll keep posting more on either a weekly or monthly basis.  

Do you have a daily discipline that makes you happy? It doesn't have to be drawing, it could be journalling, or yoga, or cooking delicious dinners.... There are so many ways to ignite our creative hearts.  


Sketches from Namibia

In February we made the long trek to Johannesburg and Namibia to celebrate my sister-in-law's wedding.  We frolicked in the sandy desert and I enjoyed sketching the out-of-this-world scenery.

If you like these sketchbook pages, please feel free to share on Facebook, Pin on Pinterest or Tweet to all your friends!

What have you been up to in the past month?

The seasons are changing from gloomy winter to glittering spring and we're gradually settling into our new little house. I'm so grateful for the feeling of new beginnings; new home, new ideas, new routines, new excitement for life!

Here are some pages from my sketchbook. 


{Enduring a 12 hour over-night flight with a 14 month old baby girl....}

And Some Photos of Johannesburg....

Some Photos of Namibia

{From the air}

{Sand and sea forever}

{I got my Dad's watch repaired at a friend's antique watch shop. My Dad would have been thrilled that his watch travelled all the way to Namibia to be repaired. He loved Africa.}

{My niece and nephews playing on the dunes}

{The wedding car}

{In the town of Swakopmund}