Saturday, 31 January 2015

and the top blogs posts for January 2015 are...

Well you think you know your audience, my fabulous followers of my blogs. You think you know which posts will tickle their fancies a little more than other posts, and then you look at the stats and things aren't exactly as you thought.

In fairness, I hope that all my posts are of interest to you, or at least mildly amusing enough to make you want to keep visiting my blogs. But, this month the two most popular posts from my blogs were:

Stories and Stuff Blog
Mapping out a map - the turns, junctions and alternative routes of a story >

I did a doodle today Blog
Self teaching myself watercolour pencils... with interesting outcomes! >

I look forward to seeing what February ranks as the most popular posts...

Thank you to everyone who visits my blogs and I always welcome feedback on what I post and things that you think I should post. Let me know.

Happy February.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Baby Business: Week 2, Baby and me

Master nappy changing. Tick
Function on two hours sleep. Tick
Learn to be a good mummy. Showing great potential!

Is this really only the second week of being an actual mummy? Not even a fortnight since baby arrived in to the world? Only 10 days since my last Snickers bar and the last day of ‘bump’?

I am not going to gush on about how my heart is over-powered with unconditional love; how I have to pinch myself every time I look at my little bundle of gorgeousness; how I spend every waking second staring in awe at this beautiful baby that has come from me... nope, I am not going to go on about all that... not even a little bit... promise... but ... well... she really is gorgeous and I really cannot believe it and I really do waste away the days looking at every little part of her!

Her day of arrival was certainly one to remember. After coming in to the world in just 1 hour 17 minutes (why hang about!) baby and I got to celebrate further when later that evening my business won ‘New Business of the Year’ at the District Business Awards. Just a few days shy of the company’s first birthday this was a great gift and reassurance that maybe I was doing something right with the ‘baby business’ balance.

However, as I look in to those big blue-maybe-grey-slightly-flecked-brown eyes I get a sense of enormity that all new mothers will understand – the enormity that this is reality, not a bump that gives you a great reason to eat lots and put your feet up, but an actual new era of your life that is completely and utterly about your new baby and the acceptance that life will now revolve entirely around her. And you know what? That is absolutely fine with me.

By the way, it is absolutely true that following a night of sleep feed nappy change sleep feed nappy change sleep feed nappy change (you get the picture), it takes at least two hours to get up in the morning, another couple of hours until you can finish getting dressed and have breakfast (forget hot drinks!), a quick session of chores before spending two hours feeding, changing nappies and feeding again. Then it is time for a quick wash, online grocery shop and 4pm lunch... and so it goes on!

Would I change it? Absolutely not!

Baby’s firsts:
The big wide world!

Business first:

Baby Business: Week 1, Bump to Baby

Have a baby. Tick

This will probably be my shortest blog ever as I have only one thing to say...

.... I am a mummy!

Baby was born weighing 7lb 3oz.

After keeping everyone waiting for 13 days she arrived in just 1 hour 17 minutes!

We are all well, but I am far too busy staring at my gorgeous girl to write anything else this week! I’ll fill you in next week...

On the ‘to do’ list:
Stop staring at my baby.... maybe....soon....!

Monday, 26 January 2015

September sun

There is something about the Mediterranean in September, the sun blending hues and tones in a near dreamy effect. Washing away unnecessary fussiness and hiding the details, to produce pictures that just merge into the light or the shadows.

A perfect moment in an old city in the late September sunshine.
Menorca, September 2013

Sunday, 25 January 2015

My week...

Bonkers. Totally and utterly bonkers. Yup, me.

I am currently propping myself up on my desk, squinting at the monitor and only really seeing blur through the steam of my near-nuclear-strength coffee. I am tired. Dog tired. Actually more tired than my dog.

I forget that I no longer possess superpowers (never actually did, but liked to think I was super sonic through my twenties and...) and I try to take on way too much at the same time. Maybe I am bored? Whatever, I need to stop and just focus on one or two or (at a push) three things at a time and not try to reinvent life on a timeframe.

All that said, I have actually had a fab week... just need another week to sleep and all will be well again. So my week in blogland, writerland and creativeland...

  • Overdue, so guest writer in Baby Business blog. Read what 'bump' wrote >
  • A very short whodunnit. It really is very short, see >
  • Page design and layouts nailed down for children's picture book three
  • Seriously cool logo design
  • A budding map idea (and good map quiz). Take the quiz >
  • Interesting plays with cover design ideas. Feathers >
  • I did a doodle today and everyday last week, including
    • dodgy fist attempt at watercolour pencils
    • fab fun with a doodle app
    • prelims for a new painting
    • cute baby characters

Mapping out a map

I was recently sent a lovely exert from my dad, who has been reading the History of Maps and rediscovered a tip to authors that he had seen some years previously, written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1894:

‘Better if the country be real, and he has walked every foot
of it and knows every milestone. But even with imaginary
places, he will do well in the beginning to provide a map; as he
studies it, relations will appear that he had not thought upon;
he will discover obvious, though unsuspected, short cuts and
footprints for his messengers; and even when a map is not all
the plot, as it was in Treasure Island, it will he found to be a
mine of suggestion.’

So with my head whirring at present with children's picture books and my new project, whilst still working on the research for my grown up book, I have turned my mind to mapping out my books as actual maps. Now I know this is not rocket science or a unique 'wow look what I've come up with' idea, but for me it is genius as it enables my totally creative thought processes to layout my book journey as a pictorial illustrative visual. That's spot on for me - one great big picture that sums up the story I want to tell and the journey that the characters will take.

So, having patted myself smugly on the back and then realising that I should actually be thanking dad (thank you dad), I looked into this idea further by seeing who had done what before me... great travelers and explorers of the literary universe show all. Whilst delving in to the depths of Google I came across a quiz from the Guardian last year, asking if you could identify a book from its map. Whilst testing myself on the quiz I realised that maps of places (fictional or real) tell such a story of the characters and their tales and adventures that these maps become instantly recognisable. Now if I could achieve that then wouldn't that be something to be proud of.

Small steps, small steps...

Check out the Guardian's quiz and see how many maps you can identify >

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Baby Business: Week 41 and 2 days... Written by Bump

Finished growing. Tick
Learnt to suck my thumb. Tick
Got in some great kicks – thinking gymnastics! Tick
Ready to be born...?

Hi – bump here.

This week I have taken over as poor mummy is feeling a little fed up and uncomfortable, muttering something about ‘beached whales’ and ‘losing the will’.... not entirely sure what she means, but thought I would help her out and have a go at this blog thing.

All in all I have to say that this ‘creation’ malarkey has been great. I have spent the last 9 months in this wonderful squidgy floating bubble-thing, all warm and snug with very little to worry about apart from growing things. And I think I have been pretty good at it! I have grown all sorts of things - ears, a nose, some arms, hands and fingers and some legs feet and toes. I have worked out that the fingers are for sucking, the feet are for this great thing called ‘kicking’, and the ears have let me listen to my mummy (no idea what she’s on about most of the time, but she sounds kind of cool). However, I have absolutely no idea what this nose thing is for - I have tried sticking my fingers up it but this doesn’t seem to do anything.... oh well, maybe I will find out soon.

I also get to have lots of weird and wonderful new experiences every day. Dreamy warmth from sunshine, snuggling when it’s cold, splashing around in water, jumping about when mummy laughs and bouncing around on walks with mummy and Tiddler?... Tinker?... Timber?... the dog! Have not really taken to the ‘singing’ thing though – sorry mummy - but one of the best bits has been all the yummy food and so far I have liked just about everything, though I did get a bit fed up of all the scrambled eggs. And ‘oh my goodness’, what is that scrummy sweet caramelly nutty chocolaty thing? Heaven!!

There are still lot of things that I am learning about, which I guess is fair enough as I am only little. One thing I don’t understand is what ‘bed time’ is? I have worked out that it is something to do with sleeping which is great as I am really good at this, taking little naps here and there when I feel like it. But I think I must be missing something as mummy seems to moan about not getting enough sleep at bed time... she goes on about kicking, big bellies and toilets. Really not sure what this is all about so I don’t think I’ll worry about bed times – I’ll just stick to my napping as and when I feel like it. I’m sure mummy won’t mind...

So you see, everything has been pretty good over the last 9 months, but I now get the feeling that something new and big is meant to happen. I really don’t know what this is as my lovely mummy has made me so comfortable and happy here that surely there is no rush to change anything... though I have to say that, well, as nice as it is in here, and it is very nice, I have spent 9 months with my mummy, but I haven’t seen what she looks like... and I really want to try one of those ‘cuddle’ things that she has told me so much about.

Maybe it is time to change things...

...“Mummy, is it time?”

On the ‘to do’ list:
Meet my mummy!      

Think Mummy may be trying to tell me something!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Political Suicide - a very short whodunnit

The blood had trickled across the wet mud, round the sunken footprints and merged with the dirty puddle. Moonlight reflected in the reddened water, along with the worn face of Detective Rominus Badger. 2am and he had just begun to shake off his last brandy from a sobering wake in Harringate. Wet and grey, the coffin had been as unassuming as its occupant and had slipped into the ground just as Morgan Elliot had slipped into the backgrounds of everyone’s lives for the past 5 decades. 50 and dead. Prostate.

The corpse in front of him now was as recognisable as Badger’s own reflection. He had read and watched the events of the past 72 hours unfold in a media fuelled frenzy of rage and political suicide. The Deputy Prime Minister lifeless now, wouldn’t be making any more shocking and inexplicable speeches on women as weak, feminists who have destroyed family values and why mothers are only fit to mother. How someone so sexist, so prehistoric, so influential, so educated, had risen to such office without these beliefs ever being voiced or unearthed before had dumbfounded the nation and almost bought the current government to their knees.

Women across the world had taken to the streets with placards and anger. Student bodies had brought down social media sites with outraged traffic. Families had attacked the government’s morals and agendas. The media had gone to town, near demolishing the PM and all who had supported this prehistoric nut. The news of the death of the deputy PM would no doubt bring cries of rapture from many, but there were those who would not cheer, the ones that lurk in shadows and hide behind usernames , too cowardly to stand up for their twisted beliefs, who cheered as women were slated and who egged on the sexist rift that was being torn.

The victim’s family were all sat inside, a few crying, no one inconsolable. Badger went in, stamping the mud off his boots in the doorway. He knew who had pulled the trigger, people are so feckless yet think they are so smart. His brandy head was beginning to grind so he dug around his pockets for some painkillers. Tissues and gum, poor nicotine substitute flavour. No headache pills. Pissed off he opened the door to the large drawing room. The fire was blazing and he immediately felt the wave of heat hit his thick head. He was going to make this quick.

“Maxwell Farringball, I am arresting you for the murder of Margaret Dallington. 

My week...

Jam-packed week and highly productive on the work front... well, in my head I think that is the case. Of course, what goes on in my head does not always translate to the outside world, but as long I can continue being merrily disillusioned then hopefully everything will keep ticking along nicely.
So worky stuff and what else this week?

Finished Alison Moore's He Wants and Started Sandy Hall's A Little Something Different

  • Book three taking real shape and form - got my creative juices flowing and next week sees the illustration style nailed down.
  • Creative challenge two - 12 creative projects in 12 months - saw ink nudes as challenge one. Loved doing these simple vibrant ladies and now just need to get the final (selected) two framed. Inky Nudes >
  • Busy on my blogs:
  1. Rock n Roll photo State-side Check out the giant guitar >
  2. Overdue in Baby Business blog Bump still here >
  3. I joined up for the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch You could join too >
  4. Logo designs Travel Co and Club >
  5. I did a lot of doodles from hidden peas to Fairy fashion Take a peek >

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Baby Business: Week 40 and 3 days... Bump still here!

Still ready to have a baby! Tick

When I started this column it was all about the bewilderment of adjusting to a new life, balancing the changes pregnancy brings with the growth and obsession I have with my business. Several months on and the column has evolved to address all these concerns and excitement, but it has also taken on a growing focus on bump's arrival and the complete shift that has occurred in my life as a result.

With d-day's arrival and passing and my bump still growing, I now find myself mildly restless and (it takes a lot to type this bit) experiencing a lack of control!!! Ahhhhhhggg.... I am officially in foreign territory!

You don't get told too much about this part of pregnancy - there tends to be a focus on how we mums-to-be should relish this time away from work and get lots of rest and put our feet up... conserve our energies as we will need them. That's all very well, but what are we meant to do whilst we have our feet up? Jeremy Kyle seriously distresses me and there are only so many cookery and house hunting programs I can endure. I have read magazines, books and even the terms and conditions of my new indemnity policy... now what?

In my case? Focus on work! Whilst full term pregnant mums around me are twitching and counting the hours of the day, I am back in work mode - much to the bemusement of my clients! This is where the baby-business balance works a treat. I am doing as I am told and putting my feet up, but I have my laptop balanced on bump and am able to keep working on a few projects.

I am also still getting out and about (in small doses) and spent d-day in the supermarket, yesterday out for lunch and today walking the dog in the forest - all first class venues for birth! I have to tell you, people's faces are a picture when they ask "when are you due" and you respond "yesterday"! Cruel, but I love the fleeting look of panic on their faces as they work out how quickly they can get away from the lady-about-to-give-birth!

All that said, I am absolutely beside myself with excitement - when oh when will my little girl come out to meet me? 

On the ‘to do’ list:
Have a baby!  

Feeling Rock N Roll

Sometimes you just encapture a moment with a picture, and the picture tells a complete story that simplistically reflects that moment and place in time. A month travelling in West Coast America took me through towns, cities, desert, mountains, forests and to the coast. They merged in to each other with beauty and a feeling of hazy, lazy free days. This photo was shot in San Francisco and sums up the all American adventure with its rock n roll beat and bright vibes, laid back but making a very permanent mark.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

My week...

It's been a busy (Christmas-free) week, with some determined efforts to get back in to normality and some sort of routine again. And this is what I've been up to:
  • Worked on animal illustrations
  • Developed self-inflicted creative block Find out more >
  • Shelved a book project
  • Started a new book project
  • Sent myself back to (sketching) school
  • Finalised a colour palette for my new book
  • Got two lovely mentions in The Art Daily Take a look >
  • Revisited going into labour (maybe) in baby business blog
  • Posted a host of doodles in 'I did a doodle today' blog Check them out >
  • Received my new supply of books to read (loads of them)
  • Started Alison Moore's 'He Wants' (and almost finished)


Baby Business: Week 39, Overcoming all the bump challenges

Ready to have a baby. Tick

Well, my little girl did not listen to her mum and she is still firmly ensconced in her warm secret world. I guess I should have known really, after all she is very like me... and there is absolutely no telling me what to do or when to do it!

This week’s blog is a little later than normal as I have (according to the midwives) gone in to the very early stages of labour. Hold on – don’t get too excited! This actually occurred on Sunday afternoon, and here I am on Tuesday with nothing much more happening and apparently this could go on for a good few days. Ho hum.

Pregnancy has been all about adapting to the daily demands of our bumps and each of us mums-to-be dealing with our individual challenges. We grow (literally and metaphorically) and develop a whole new world that is less about meals out, shopping for handbags and going out for drinks, and more about buggies, expandable waistbands, food cravings and blood tests. How things change so dramatically in such a short time.

The last 8 months have been challenging in so many ways. I have been changing - my body has sprouted outwards (lost sight of my feet a while ago now), I have not had an alcoholic drink since I found out and I have worried about my business whilst continuing the drive to grow it. The baby business challenge has been exactly that – a challenge, but not one that has been insurmountable. It has been one that I have taken on with great joy and devotion.

As everyone has been telling me all through the pregnancy, having a baby changes you and your life in ways “you cannot image”, but you know what? I have already been going through it and love how things have changed, and I cannot wait to experience and encounter what is to come. This Friday is meant to be ‘d-day’, so bring on my new life...

In the meantime, my mum and friends have got me on a great distraction – cooking! Ensuring I have plenty of food in the house for all the visitors. Priorities hey!

On the ‘to do’ list:

Have a baby!   

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Self Inflicted Creative Block

With a thousand ideas jamming up the tunnel in my head, my creative demon shouts out to stop. But quietly and persistently, with calm and enthusiasm, my creative angel urges me on. Do I stop or do I go on? Do I take a different turn or plough on head first?

I have hit creative block, or illustrator block to be more precise. I have put myself in a stupid cage of a (in hindsight) ridiculous time frame for completing my project and now I keep attacking it with near-on desperation. All my reason and process have quite frankly been tossed aside, discarded like unwanted wrapping paper after Christmas.

I AM one of the most organised people I know.
I AM capable of doing this.
I AM of sane mind.
I AM under no obligation to finish by my (blatantly preposterous) deadline.
I AM going to do something about this.

So that project now finds itself neatly obscured on my concepts shelf, tucked away between the-one-I-never-finished and the-one-I-am-too-scared-to-start. I have opened a new file, written down my new project title, concept and initial brain dumps and am happily going to walk away from my desk. My head is swimming, but not with manic demonic-angelic voices or irrational overload, but instead it's full of wondrous colours and characters that will again open up the creative, slighty bonkers, part of my brain.

Little additional note - I have also sent myself back to school with sketching tests... forgot how rusty I was! Check out the random attempts >

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Bleak is beautiful

When you come across a windmill on a grey, slightly drizzly day, you don't automatically think 'how pretty, isn't it beautiful'.

However, hidden in the bleakness of the day, on the exposed hill amongst the scrub, lies something of strength and character, full of history and purpose. The sails may not have been turning, but the windmill stood out in its own glory.

Birkenhead, 2014

Sunday, 4 January 2015

I did a doodle today, and yesterday, and the day before that...

Four days in and my new blog is ticking along nicely, with daily doodles taking a different form each day. It's a nice surprise when I sit down with my pad and pencil as I discover what has made its stamp on my day.

Take a look at swirly dancers, decadent cakes, a long drive and guessing the future. All fairly average days so far!

I did a doodle today... take a peek

I have even set up a Pinterest board to record all the doodles...
Check out the board here

Thursday, 1 January 2015

I did a doodle today

 I'm excited this morning! Not because I am strangely hangover-free or that it is the start of a new and exciting year, but because I am launching (quietly!) my new blog 'I did a doodle today'.

Take a peek at my 'I did a doodle today' blog

I am going to keep a 'doodle diary' through a drawing, sketch or scribble illustrating something that has made an impression that day... Who knows what that may be as my days are always different and very often unexpected!

I hope you enjoy my new blog.