Wednesday, 31 May 2017

May 2017

Last month I was bemoaning my sloppiness and lack of effort with trying to accurately capture people's likenesses. The above are both still true, but I have been trying harder this month, when I have time.

TIME! Honestly I thought that moving away from Brighton would give me more time to indulge in all the myriad projects and hobbies and adventures I want to have (you guys, I STILL haven't made it to Blackpool, home of so many piers, it's so near yet so far!)... But somehow, despite going part time in my main job, freelance work/dog walking/housework/mystery other stuff (I mean literally a mystery, where is my time going?!) are taking up all the hours of my days. Ho hum. Still I persist in making time for this drawing a day in the hope that ultimately I will get better at drawing, especially now I'm actually touting myself as some kind of professional (and at least partially motivated by all your wonderfully kind words about this project).

Anyway, May.

As part of this effort at capturing likenesses, I tried, yet again, to draw myself. I am still utterly TERRIBLE at self-portraits.

One of my favourite recent freelance projects has been an illustration for a book cover, which I hope to share with you in more detail soon. One aspect of the illustration was the small figure of a windswept man (the hero of the novel) looking out across the moors. My client asked me to redraw the man several times… initially because my original figure was too slender (I had a vision of the character in my mind but he actually needed to be far stockier/burlier), and then to very subtly adjust the angle of his head, so that he was looking down, not out/up. It can be very fiddly to convey such nuance in such a tiny silhouette, but a fun challenge! (I spent so long doing this that evening that I only had time for these sketches which were part of my working ponderings anyway)

Finally managed to make time for some screenprinting at The Egg Factory. A super busy, intense day, but I got a lot done, and now have a big batch of prints to sell at Hebden Bridge Print Fair in July. (Still got a lot more to go though!)

These last couple of days are some of my misprints, just sneaky teases of the full designs. I really need to set up a photoshoot so I can get them on this blog and my website! (And ultimately an online shop for them and my zines...)

First walk properly out on the moors. I am pretty unsentimental about nature and the countryside, so I'm not gonna claim some big emotional epiphany about how beautiful it all was, but it would be hard for even the most callous heart (i.e. mine) to deny there are some pretty great colours out there. My crude attempts to capture such...

Working remotely mostly works fine, apart from one incredibly frustrating glitch which occasionally occurs when I reupload my working files to the server, basically rendering them useless to my colleague James back in the office. Deeply distressing, particularly when up against deadlines, and no obvious fix or reason why it’s happening. Perturbing.

Okay, so, at around 1am, I awoke abruptly, to the sound of scraping scuttling noises (definitely animal), coming from INSIDE MY BED. Clearly, this is the stuff of nightmares, but I calmed myself down, assuming my half asleep brain had just imagined it. Lay awake with my heart racing for approximately 15 minutes, and then THE NOISES HAPPENED AGAIN.

Went through to get Alex (we sleep apart due to wildly differing sleep patterns — top relationship tip, seperate beds/rooms are amazing), aware that ‘There is something alive in my bed’ sounded a lot like the rantings of a confused half-asleep person… Alex gamely came through and helped me lift up my mattress to confirm that there was almost certainly (but not definitely) nothing in my bed. I was so freaked out that they kindly stayed with me the rest of the night, but the noises did not happen again.

We just got a new smart meter, and were checking it out the following morning, and noticed that at the same time as mystery animal, there was a MASSIVE spike in both gas and electricity usage.


The answer, in fact, is, we still have no idea. The power spike hasn’t happened again to our knowledge. We have heard the noises since, and actually they’re incredibly loud in the living room which implies it’s not something in my bed, but actually something in between the floorboards. Whether it is trapped, or freely coming and going, we don’t know, although its very intermittent nature suggests the latter. Now that I feel safe in the knowledge that whatever beast it is (and it sounds very large, much larger than a mouse!) is not actually in my bed, I am much less concerned. But STILL. Not cool.

Anyway, I also did more screen printing, went to the dentist for the first time since moving up here, and Justin took Charlie on a very long walk across the moors, inadvertently dying him orange.

I wouldn’t normally share this one, because it’s a terrible drawing… But if you read these blogs for Emma life updates rather than good drawings, this one is kind of a key plot point in my month, so it feels bad to leave it out… Charlie got hit by a car, and it was genuinely one of the most horrendous things I’ve ever experienced. Totally my fault. I thought he’d learnt a healthy respect for traffic, but it turned out, he hadn’t. We credit them with more intelligence than they actually have sometimes.
He got hit, hard, on his right side, by a car doing around 30 – 40 mph. There was a loud bang, he flew through the air, and I assumed, in that split second, that he was dead. But he was flung to the side of the road, and immediately came running over to me, all shaky and sorry for himself like I’d just yelled at him or something. I held him close, apologised to the driver (who did stop), and we took him straight to the vet. Somehow, he managed to escape the whole thing with nothing but a bit of a scare and a small cut on his back leg, which he had staples in. (Hence cone, although luckily he WAS intelligent enough not to obsessively lick the cut, so he didn’t need to wear it).

To be honest, I think I dealt with it worse than him… He was perky and right as rain by that afternoon while I’m still here having guilt and flashbacks at what a terrible dog owner I am, and how I could let that happen to this beautiful, warm-hearted little creature who is supposedly in my care. Pets. Who’d have 'em.

Our friend James and his brother-in-law were walking the Pennine Way, and came to stay with us for one night. We met them en-route at Stoodley Pike, a giant monument on the top of a big hill, which was very exciting, as Stoodley Pike had previously been one of my big future walking goals. (I had assumed it was TOO FAR, but it’s actually only about a 3 hour round walk from our house).

Rain still gets me down, but we’ve got to take our comforts where we can.

Even before the accident, but particularly since, I’ve wondered what Charlie thinks of me (if indeed dogs have the capacity for nuanced feelings about different humans, which I strongly believe they do). I think he likes me a lot. I hope he likes me a lot. (He doesn't like it when I run though)

Oh man can the election just be over already but also can it never happen so that we never have to confront the grim inevitability of another 5 years of Tories.

We found out that Finn took his life the night before. I can’t draw people. But I had to try and draw Finn. Finn was so good at drawing. And so many other things. I still can’t quite believe that he’s gone. Everyone who knew him is still heartbreaking, I know I am. I wish I could have done better (at this drawing, at being there for him, at so many things). Hold your loved ones close.

Steve came over and bought his very expensive bottle of trace minerals, and his new obsession — Pu-errh (?) tea. You take a tiny drop of trace minerals in a glass of water and in theory it gives you all the very rare minerals that are hard/impossible to get through most diets, and which can help revitalise you. (I am cynical about such things but I gave it a go.)
Then tea, brewed repeatedly in tiny pot with the flavour changing with each brew, served in tiny glasses like espresso. (I don't think I have a nuanced enough palate to appreciate such things, I find the same with coffee/wine connoisseurs, no matter how hard I concentrate, I can't get what they're getting from things...)

Still feeling all the feelings.

All the feelings while attempting to complete all the tasks.

Headed back to Brighton (Hove actually) again, for some work stuff.

Weirdly, MORE feels this time being back. Last time I felt relatively neutral about it. This time... Well, Brighton is at its most Brighton in May — sun out in full force, festival happening in every possible corner... I still believe it to be one of the best places in the world, in those moments. Being back feels like a lightness and a heaviness all at once. I don't (think I) want to live back there again. But it's hard to escape that emotional gravity well. I love the place SO much, still.

Delighted to be back in town for Chris's fringe show. This is actually worse than the drawing I did of him last year, because sometimes one step forward, two steps back, right?

And then trains. Home. I love trains.

Fleeting visit from Jonny and Kris, who are viewing houses both in Brighton and up here near us. Here’s hoping they make the (entirely subjectively) right choice and move up nearby! (Oh also I've been doing lots of brush lettering for a signage project with my work which is just a delight)

We watched the debates tonight. Was this election actually maybe less stressful when there was no hope at all, rather than now that there's just a tiny inkling of hope that things might be okay? Things aren't going to be okay, are they.


Sunday, 14 May 2017


Guys, I love Eurovision.

Yes, I know, the music is terrible. I hate most of it. Yes, I know it's political. That's half the fun. Yes, I know the hosts are always cringey and it's hard to believe this is the best Europe has to offer. This is the joy of it.

I have watched Eurovision every year since I was born... Always with my mum, till I left home, and then since then, with various delightful groups of friends. Last night I thought might be my first time ever going it alone, but housemate Justin stepped up at the last minute, and we had a whale of a time.

Growing up with my mum, we'd take detailed (often quite bitchy) notes on each of the acts to enable us to make an informed decision about who to vote for at the end (because it's easy to forget what each country's offering was, if you don't!)

In recent years, this has evolved into doing illustrations of all the acts... It's a good opportunity to try and hone my terrible figure drawing skills at speed (spoiler: still terrible), and even though it makes for a pretty intense two hours, it definitely enhances my experience of the whole thing.

This year was, I think, better than my previous years (links above)... Still got a long way to go though...

Monday, 1 May 2017


So when we moved to Hebden Bridge in February, I started getting over enthusiastic and leaping on every bandwagon I possibly could in order to make friends/get work/get involved with stuff in the local area.

This included a wild punt at getting a table at this summer's Hebden Bridge print fair (despite not reeeeally being a print maker). Remarkably, they accepted my application, and now I need to become a printmaker before July.

(I make this sound frivolous, but printmaking is genuinely something I've been wanting to get more involved with for a long time, so this is the perfect motivator).

With this in mind, I've booked myself a screenprinting session at The Egg Factory, and that date is now rapidly rushing up at me.

I had this idea that I want to make some beautiful two-colour prints designed to sit either individually or in sets. The cold hearted cynic in my tried to think about what would reliably sell, and the answer I came up with was 'everyone loves nature, right?'

I pondered a bit more about something that wasn't just a pretty drawing of some flowers, and, inspired by my now many many hours of walking the dog in the local area, decided to create a set of three prints titled 'look up', 'look down', and 'look around'. I was almost certainly inspired by the wonderful Cara Courage's 'look up' project, although weirdly the 'look down' idea was what came first to me, because I'd been seeing so much fascinating stuff around my feet as I strolled along.

So I made this set of three illustrations...

Look up...
Look down...

Look around...

But you know what, fun though these were, the city is where my heart will always lie. So I created a companion urban set...

Look up...
Look down...
Look around...
(TBH guys, I like the urban ones loads more)

I wanted to take a fun typographic layered approach (as regular readers of this blog will see a lot in my visual diaries), so the below versions are what I'm planning on printing (probably in roughly these colours, although I'll see what free leftover inks the Egg Factory have got knocking around when I'm in!)

So... I enjoy the typography, but do you guys like it? I wonder if they're better without and I should just do them as single colour screenprints but that seems kind of boring? I love the way layered inks interact, and the transparency colour mixes that are created, so I'd really like to go in for two colour versions if possible.

Another possibility is to sit the urban and rural side by side, like so...

Or perhaps the three views together (this would be a three colour screenprint which would be more work but maybe that's fine)

I'd genuinely like your thoughts. Do you even like these at all? Would you hang them on your wall? Which version do you prefer? For the versions without the text, I'd still have the title written very small in the bottom corner along with my signature and edition number, so the meaning wouldn't be totally lost, it would just be less overt. I'm incresingly thinking I really like those three colour ones, but I'd have to charge more for them, and they'd be a bit bigger, so maybe not as sellable...?

Although my colour choices are limited to an extent by what the Egg Factory have in stock, are there any rough colour combos you'd like to see?

Is there anything else fun I could do with these drawings in a screenprinting context that I've not thought of?

Basically I've got my screenprinting session booked in for this Thursday and I've got THE FEAR because I'll be spending a reasonable amount of money on studio time and paper and ink, and I don't want to get it totally wrong and make something that no one is interested in.

(Other pre-July projects I need to get onto include a new riso zine in collaboration with my friend Harriet, some kind of screenprinted tote bag because I love tote bags, and also just generally digging through my archives to see what past pieces might work well resurrected as a riso or screen print poster. Oh and I'd love to do some lino cutting if I get time but that MAY be over ambitious...)

New collaborations...

With Alex's Queen writings over, as a couple, we were lacking a collaborative project.

Now this is clearly far from an essential part of being in a relationship, but still, it's nice to be creative together, and Alex has been keen to continue writing, and I (when I have time/motivation) enjoy doing random quick editorial style illustrations, so we're keeping up a similar approach to the Queen blog, albeit less frenetic (I hope).

The first of these new writing projects is Tactics and Tactility, in which Alex writes about boardgames in great depth. So far for both projects, I've basically just been taking comissions from Alex, who says things like 'maybe draw me drowning in a pile of poker chips' and I oblige. I quite like a good firm brief and then testing to see if I can make it a reality.

(Read about Splendor here)

We actually started working on this blog together quite a long time ago, but my initial illustrations were lacklustre at best, mostly because I was already drawing upwards of 10 Queen illustrations a month, on top of my day job and freelance work, so my motivation was somewhat lacking. (i.e. don't scroll back too far, guys)

We've both come back to it fresh though, and I'm trying harder now...
Others include...

("Possibly a little statue of Maria Theresa's head, only it's fallen over and top's cracked open and loads of playing cards are falling out???")

(Terraforming Mars)
("I reckon this wants a simple picture of Sputnik with plants and flowers (abstracted or not) bursting out of it.")

The other project we're working on together is Alex's second new blog about perfectly crafted pop songs, called 'explodeypops'. I wholeheartedly do NOT endorse that name, while (so far) wholeheartedly endorsing the content.

Pharoahs is a banger, and for it I created Alex being poured into a Martini glass.

Like I say, I quite enjoy quick standalone little editorial illustrations, and this is a good chance to flex those muscles. (Although I do sort of feel like I should be getting half of the Patreon income [side-eye])