Sunday, August 12, 2018

Goggle Eyes

Here's a piece I did for my Middle Grade portfolio, based around Anne Fine's Goggle Eyes, which is a fabulous book. If you haven't read it, you should - and if you've got an Audible account, do yourself a favour and get the audiobook, Jane Asher does such a great job.

"I know!" I cried, "I know why you're so upset. I know why you're crying your eyes out. I know why you don't want to be sent home!" She lifted two fierce, red-rimmed little eyes that burned through the cupboard like live coals. "Your Mum's going to marry that man with grey hair."

Her mouth fell open. I felt like Sherlock Holmes on a good day. "And you think he's a proper creep. You've thought he was a creep all along, but being the sweet Helly that you are, you've been too gentle and polite to say so, and now she's talking about your happy future together, and it's too late to explain that you don't like him."

She twisted her fingers so tightly, I thought they would snap. "Don't like him?" she repeated in a cold, low voice. "I can't stand him." and all the colour drained out of her face.

"Helly?" I flicked the cupboard light switch. Luckily for her, it was the dimmest lightbulb ever seen. I slipped inside and dropped on a pile of old gym shorts and woolies. I pulled the door closed to shut us in. "Listen," I said, leaning towards her, "No need to tell me about this sort of thing. I am the World's Great Expert, Helly Johnston. The stories I could tell you!"

She looked up. "Go on then," she said, still ashen. "Tell me."


I didn't actually plan the image out as square (I want it to look like an illustration in a book, after all). The space above is for text, voila:

As I was suddenly super busy when Colour Collective rolled round, I slapped on some colour (fortunately the 'Delft Blue' prompt was a convenient colour for school uniforms!) so I'm adding that here, although I prefer the black and white version. What do you think? Colour or black and white?

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro.  Not sure how long it took, I worked on it over quite a stretch of time.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

March Meet the Maker 2018

Whoops, my blog has been in a state of hibernation for a couple of months. I was on holiday all of June, and then July was spent catching up with everything I should have been doing in June... so let's get this thing started up again!


This year I took part in March Meet the Maker over on Instagram. It was started by Joanne Hawker and is a month's worth of prompts that let your followers learn more about you. I thought it would be good to put everything here as well, as it's so easy for things to get lost in an Instagram feed!

So we'll start off with March 1, 'You' and all the rest will be under the cut.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Cat Detected

Colour Collective's 'Mexican Pink' prompt made me think of poodle skirts (and Mexico, obviously, but I decided to go the less-obvious route)

I threw this together very quickly, so again it's more a sketch-with-potential than an illustration. I'd had one of those weeks where I think it's a day earlier than it is all week, and then we had a concert to go to on Friday (The Western Australian Symphony's Symphonic Tribute to Comic-Con, which was fabulous (and hilarious). There are some highlights up on my Instagram page, which you can see here.) So I ran out of time rather quickly!


I'm sure anyone with a dog has felt like this scenario could all too easily come true! I like a dog on the smaller scale, to avoid this, but when velocity and all that other physics jazz is taken into account, my Myrna can definitely pull a decent weight, and there's a miniature pinscher on the oval that can - and has - pull a pram (complete with baby), and a toddler along the grass. In theory he is tethered to the pram to stop him bounding off exploring, but they have to keep the brakes on or he ... uh... makes a break for it. 

I chose to draw a standard poodle because it matched the skirt, of course, but I have also been chased by a standard poodle, and while this statement is inevitably met with laughter... they are BIG and it's no joke when they are on a mission!

For your delectation, here is the original sketch:

This piece was done in under 2 hours, in Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Mushroom Fairy

For Colour Collective's 'Mink' prompt I eschewed fur coats in favour of mushrooms. About 6 months ago I did a quick little sketch of a mushroom fairy, and I thought I'd try working her up a little:

Being for Colour Collective, she's still a sketch, of course, but now I think she's a lot more interesting, and all that extra background makes her seem properly small.
I think I spent the most time on her hair, and I'm still not happy with it. I think I need to do a bunch of studies of fairy hairstyles...

Here's the original sketch:

The whole thing took me about 2 - 2.5 hours, so I wasn't exactly bothered with everything being perfect. But I had fun, that's the main thing. =) 

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A spot of Divination

I tweaked this little illustration the other night, and ended up posting it as a secondary Colour Collective 'Laurel Green' because I didn't much like what I did specifically for CC. 
Twitter pixellated the bottom of the image for some reason, but she did much better than my original CC, so I think I was right not to be too keen on it. =P

This little witch can be traced all the way back to my highschool sketchbooks, although she looked rather different then. If I remember rightly she was blonde and wore a dirndl... but she has the same hat, and the same goose. 

I didn't change much, as I rather liked the original, but a few things had been bothering me (mainly the staff) so I wanted to make a couple of changes. The original blog post from last year is here

And here's another quick sketch of the same witch, from my 'Potential To Turn Into Something Bigger But Currently Bleh' sketch pile:

Adobe Photoshop CC2017 / 2018 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 / Wacom Mobile Studio Pro

The Makeover

I did this piece for Colour Collective's 'Laurel Green' prompt. I can't say I'm all that keen on it, but sometimes that's the way things are...

It was a redo of a very quick sketch I did last year, but I don't think it's an improvement... so maybe I'll revisit it again next year, and do better! It wasn't so bad as linework, but it went downhill when I added the colour, and lost all its energy. However, we live and learn, and we can't draw perfectly 100% of the time. Next time I'll do better! I'll just treat this latest version as a second draft,

Here's the linework. I think it works much better than the coloured version, although there's still a lot I'm not happy with:

I still think the concept has potential to be expanded, so maybe one day. =)

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro
The original sketch was done in Adobe Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion

Sunday, April 15, 2018


Colour Collective's 'Amber' prompt made me think of wheat, and having got that far, it's a very small jump to 'harvest mouse'. (To be honest, I don't really need an excuse to draw a harvest mouse...or any mouse). A google search for 'harvest mouse' (as well as providing you with cute overload) will give you lots of mice climbing around plants, and sitting in their elaborate woven nests. For a kidlitart scenario, that naturally brings me to a mouse that has made its own little swing:


He doesn't stand out much, but that's okay, because harvest mice are supposed to be camouflaged, right? I added the poppies because it really needed a contrast to all that yellow and brown. 

I whipped this up in just an hour or two, almost exclusively using Kyle Webster's Gouache brushes (specifically the Gouache a Go Go and the Gouache Bonus Gritty Dry). Not super-refined or anything, I was in a hurry. 

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Pen Pals

Colour Collective's 'Celeste' prompt came right at Easter... but I didn't want to do anything Easter-themed for it. The colour reminded me of ice, and eventually that ended up with this little set of pen pals. I don't know about you, but I always cringe when I see illustrations with penguins and polar bears in the same place - these two are definitely in their original habitats, but with their icy life experiences, I thought they'd make perfect pen pals!

Here's a look at them individually:

I rather like this little bear - I'm not sure I've ever drawn a polar bear before!

As tends to be my habit with Colour Collective, I threw these together very quickly, but I think I'd like to take them further one day. They can go in my files for when I have no inspiration and want to rework something. =)

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro
About 2 hours total

Penguin Delivery

And you thought baby penguins hatched from eggs. 

This is a quick, sketchy piece I did for Colour Collective's 'Gainsboro' prompt. During the week I watched the new Air New Zealand safety video, themed around Antarctica, and they said 'you never see a penguin with an umbrella'. Sentences like that are like a red rag to a bull for a children's illustrator!

So I did a little illustration of two proud penguin parents receiving the delivery of their fuzzy baby chick - parachuted down (presumably from the stork, who I doubt would relish landing in Antarctica) with an umbrella.

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro - About 2-2.5 hours.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Project: Floral Wreath Stool

As it's the Easter long weekend, I thought I'd take some time to do a project that's been hanging around, undone, for far too long. And then I thought I'd share it around, so read on for a template and mini tutorial!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Illustrator Tips: 5 Ways to Keep Organised

Second in my series of tips for illustrators, we have 'Staying Organised'. Freelance life can be extremely overwhelming, and if you don't stay on top of things you're going to fall in a heap of missed deadlines and confusion. And none of us want that!

So, without further ado: 5 Ways to Stay Organised as an Illustrator

1. Get a To Do App. 

I use Things from Cultured Code. It's a Mac and iOS app, so that's no help for all you Windows and Android users out there, but I'm going to tell you about it so you can see how I use it.

Here's a look at my to-do list for today. Yeah. I had a busy weekend and I'm paying for it now.

You'll note I have everything organised by area. Right at the top are miscellaneous items that crop up during the day. They need to be done, but don't belong anywhere specific, so I just bung 'em up there. Then I have my Home area, which is usually full of recurring items I've set up - piano practice daily, vacuuming twice a week, my turns to cook dinner, when the dog needs her flea treatment... all that stuff.

And after that, we have business items. Firstly, miscellaneous items - social media, blogging, finances. And after that, items organised by job. I have three jobs on now, plus my website redesign. I create a project for each, and fill that with the various things that need to be done. Every day I check through and move everything that needs to be done today to my 'Today' screen, because that's where I spend most of my time. I don't want to be flicking through different projects, I want everything together in the one place. So anything ongoing is in there (I don't really think I'm going to get the final illustrations for a whole picture book done in one day, I just have it there so I know that is ongoing) and anything that needs to be done today, and anything that crops up throughout the day - maybe I got an email before I got up, or really late at night, and I don't want to reply until I've finished my morning up of tea. I'll put it in there so I don't forget I need to attend to it.

I also use Things to keep track of my invoices. When I send off an invoice, I'll put in a reminder in Things, and set it to pop up in Today on the day it is due. When it does, I can check my cashbook, and if it's been paid, I can just mark it off. If it hasn't been, well, time to send a friendly reminder!

2. Utilise your calendar.

Here's a look at my calendar from a random week, from about midday to midnight. As you can see, I colour-code it. Green is work, blue is everything that isn't work. This way I can see at a glance if I've been managing to get a decent amount of work done or not. If there is too much blue in my calendar, I'm in trouble and need to work harder.

I also code every project with a reference code. I use it in my invoices, my database, my calendar, my folders, my to-do list, everything. If I want to find something I can just search for the code. As numbers and I are not the best of friends, I start each code with the initials of the client, followed by the number of projects I have done with that set of initials. It's unlikely that I'll have two clients with the exact same initials at one and the same time, which means I can tell at a glance which project is which just by this code.

3. Create a project database

I use Tap Forms as my database. I used to use Filemaker's Bento, but they killed it off, so I had to find a replacement.

I keep all relevant information about each project in the database. The code, the project name, the commissioner - everything I need to know. When the project is finished I enter in the final fee and mark off when I have been paid, along with adding a picture to represent the project. You can see the job marked [ST2] has no picture yet, as it's a long project that isn't yet finished. No picture until I'm completely finished, so I don't accidentally think it's all been done! In the sidebar, I can see at a glance which projects are finished, which are paid, etc.

4. Create illustration checklists

For each job I have that is more than just one illustration, I create a checklist. I make a table with every illustration in, and check boxes for thumbnails, (approval), draft, edits, (approval), finals, edits (approval) and typesetting (if required). Then, as I complete each stage, I fill in the box. This way I can see at a glance where I am in a project, and it doesn't feel so overwhelming.

5. Get a yearly planner. 

This, I do not do. I just don't have the wall space to put one up, otherwise I would. They're a great way to get an overview of the whole year and see where you are.

These are just my tips. There are lots of ways to stay organised, and not all of them work for everyone. Do you have any tips for staying organised? Let me know in the comments if you do!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Jivin' Through the Jungle

I got a bit carried away with Colour Collective's 'Tomato' prompt. I was expecting work to materialise (the client is running a bit late) and so I didn't start anything important, and just noodled away at this CC. Not, perhaps, the best use of my time, but I'm always unsettled when I can't do what I've scheduled in... anyone else find that?

This is a redo of a (very) old Colour Collective, which I never actually finished. This time it's been completely redrawn. Here's the original (and didn't I just end up down the wormhole of my twitter trying to find it. I don't remember a good 80% of the things I draw, I swear o.O)

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro (the first one was Photoshop CC2016 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2, if you need the full deets.)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Late Bloomers...

Or, 'The Swimming Lesson'

I put this little illo together for the first Colour Collective of 2018. The prompt was 'Cinnebar Green' and I thought frogs:

I had fun with all those eyeballs!

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro

Happy Lunar New Year

Colour Collective's 'Boto Pink' prompt came along when I was completely snowed under with deadlines (14 illustrations in 5 days, anyone?). But I don't like to miss CC, and I also didn't want to miss posting something for Chinese New Year... so I took an old Myrna illustration I did for Colour Collective some time back, and updated it (very quickly) to suit both themes. Under the circumstances, it was the best I could do!

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Charlotte Brontë

For International Women's Day I coloured up this colouring page of Charlotte Brontë that is included in my Literary Romance Colouring Book. Charlotte Brontë is definitely one of the women of the past who paved the way for us today, even if she originally had to do so under a male pseudonym. 

She's sitting on the Brontë chair, a natural rock formation near her home.

If you'd like to colour this too, it's in my colouring book, along with 32 other pages - portraits of Austen and Gaskell, and illustrations from Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Jane Eyre, Wives and Daughters and North and South. Buy it here! (there is a trailer for the Austen section of the book on my website)

And as I did the colouring in in Procreate on the iPad Pro (using only the standard 6B pencil brush) here is a timelapse. For maximum size I've embedded my Instagram post (blogger uploaded it very tiny), so you'll need to click to the second image, the first is just the illustration itself.

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We watched the movie version of Roald Dahl's Matilda, so naturally I got my copy of the book off the shelf and did a little sketch:

I had fun drawing some 80s clothes. Matilda was published the year after I was born so I can juuuuust about remember people dressing like this.

Adobe Photoshop CC2018 on a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Misc Sketches

Here are some miscellaneous sketches I've done this year:

Katia, the protagonist in the picture book I did for my honours project in Uni. I'm fond of her, every now and then I dust her off:

I don't know if this girl is hiding or discovering something. It's up to you:

There are more below the cut!

Sunday, February 25, 2018


Over Christmas, while I had a small window of time where I didn't need to be working all the time (December-January is usually pretty crazy for me) I let myself do one watercolour, all for myself. I'd just finished several extremely tight deadlines and thought I deserved a bit of a play at Christmas time!

I do most of my work digitally these days, but I do love my watercolours, so I decided that I'd do a traditional painting - and to make it interesting, I decided to work with Mariella, my little ghost character, and see if I could pull that off with watercolour.

Keep reading below the cut for sketches, progress shots, videos and all that fun stuff!


For Colour Collective's 'Midnight Green' prompt I branched out into siamese cats (I love siamese cats, they're mental). The colour reminded me of secluded ponds and goldfish (and siamese cat eyes)

Adobe Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. 2 hours.

Happy Scottie

I didn't think of anything creative for Colour Collective's 'Ruby' prompt. I was so busy that I didn't even check what the colour was until Friday. I'd decided that morning that whatever the colour was, I was going to do a scottie dog in a tartan coat. A carefree scottie with no deadlines and no one asking when something would be finished. Oh, to be a dog....! 

When I found the colour was very pink, I added a butterfly. If it had been a more autumnal colour I would have done a drift of leaves - basically, whatever suited the colour of the week! 

I spent about an hour and a half on this, so not long. It's important to do some things that aren't work (especially if your work is being boring and not really letting you actually draw) to preserve your sanity, so I didn't feel guilty taking a bit of time for Colour Collective. 

Adobe Photoshop CC2017 on a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2


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