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Next Phase

I’ve been teaching high school and primary online for the past three months. It was an interesting experience and I’m happy to say that having tried it out I think I’m most suited to primary school art teaching. It’s a whole lot of fun. So I’ll be doing more of that. It wasn’t straight forward but I developed a way of drawing with the kids whilst I drew in Photoshop. The results from the students were truly wonderful. I also developed a ninja like ability to rustle up a video tutorial. With the help of some fabulous online resources like Deep Space Sparkle and The Arty Teacher there’s no stopping me!

Having worked out less teaching time though it’s back to some serious illustration time. I’m getting out and about (not literally of course, I’m not allowed out of my suburb!) online scouting for projects, and drawing dancing animals in between.

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That Drawing Project I did 100 Years Ago!

It’s hard to believe how quickly the past two months has disappeared. When I last wrote I was finishing up on my #100daysofanimalsinhats project with The 100 Day Project. I really got into the swing of it towards the end and stared getting to grips with using Adobe Illustrator and building my skills. I also made all sorts of contacts with other artists so it’s safe to say the project fulfilled what I hoped it would. And then…. at the end of June, I took a teaching job for a one term contract. A really great opportunity to get into teaching art at high school level, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I spent the school holiday getting to know the school and having some extra training and then suddenly it was announced that we’d be doing online teaching. And that’s where the past two months went. Climbing up an enormously steep learning curve! It now looks like I’m not going to meet the students before my contract ends. But wow, I’ve overcome any inhibition I had of talking to a camera or making video tutorials. That’s all I do now!

I took a moment to pick some of my favourite animals in hats from the last 20. I need to choose which ones to turn into greeting cards, or t-shirts. I like the raccoon, the camel and the kiwi. It’s odd doing a project like this, the pictures take me back to the time I was making them. That time when I was able to have drinks with friends on a Friday evening. Ah well, by Christmas we’ll be back to normal and 2020 will be a bad dream. Hahaha.

Hey! Stay safe, mask up, wash your hands and don’t forget to call your parents.

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Creativity, young people and mental health

As a teacher of creativity it was really disheartening this week to hear in the news that humanities degrees in Australia are set to double in cost over the next few years. The (total nonsense) logic is that it will encourage young people to consider more vocational subjects. But of course it will only disadvantage those that can’t afford to pay for more expensive courses and so the arts, society and the country will be utterly deprived of some of the most brilliant minds available. The education system has started recognising that teaching children through creative thinking develops the laterally thinking strategies that are desperately needed in a world that is changing so rapidly. If you’ve never had the treat of listening to Ken Robinson talking about schools and creativity check it out here.

Nurturing creativity

Here in Australia we’re getting used to the idea of going back to school and work. During lockdown we’ve been at home with three teenagers. I can’t tell you how much painting, drawing and sewing has been going on around here. The kids have grown up around drawing and painting like its as natural as breathing and it has helped enormously during this time. But I don’t want to paint a false picture (excuse the pun) of some Brady Bunch family here. We argue as much as the next family and believe me we’ve been through our share of difficulties with regard to mental health. And although creative activity may seem trivial and silly to some people it’s like a backbone sometimes. It can been an escape or mendative, for pure enjoyment or for professional fulfillment. We certainly can’t do without it.

Mental Health

Whether it’s music, sewing, drawing and painting or dramatic arts I really believe that creative activity is valuable to our mental health, but particularly for young people. I’ve taught art in many ways for many years and seeing the satisfaction and sense of pride that young people get out of creativity is beautiful. Depriving young people the opportunity to pursue what they love because the course is too expensive is appalling and so wrong.

Here are a couple of really excellent resources for young people with regard to mental health.

Headspace (Australia)

The Black Dog Institute (Australia)

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Learning new skills

Skillshare class…at last!

I’ve had it on my to-do list to put together a Skillshare class for about a year. I had all the equipment and knew how to structure it and write a script. The one thing that stopped me was putting myself in front of the camera. The thought of it was paralysing. But then we had three months of being at home with three teenagers who are fairly successful on insta and tick-tock because they have no inhibitions at all about sharing their opinions, dancing and generally being silly in front of a camera. It’s a very different generation of course. They helped me enormously with speaking and the editing but I’m proud to say I pulled it together, and now I want to do it all again.

Here’s a little gift for you

If you’d like to explore what Skillshare has to offer and maybe take my class click on the button here. It’s a referral code to give you two months absolutely free! Theres an enormous number of well qualified professionals there teaching all sorts of skills from crochet to marketing. And you could learn an awful lot in 2 months.

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Black illustration

This week the world has changed.

I’m ashamed to admit that although I know about discrimination and white privilege across all industries, it feels so huge that I’ve been complacent about doing or saying anything. This weeks events have shifted that and I can see now that even the smallest acts add to the whole system of change. And wow, things really need to change.

I’ve always been passionate about voting. Knowing that women died for my right to vote. I’ve made sure my daughters know how important it is too. There’s a lot of complacency around that too. People believe they are just one person and can’t make a difference. Of course that’s not true.

1%of all children’s picture books feature central characters who are black!

That’s and incredible statistic from a reputable source. One of the best posts I’ve found on this is this one by A Mighty Girl. She reviews and celebrates a huge number of really great picture books including these pictured above. You don’t have to look far, but you really do have to look for books with central characters who are black. They certainly don’t appear frequently on the bookshop shelves in Australia. It fact the above statistic is no doubt much much smaller here. Magabala Books is a wonderful publisher of books by indigenous authors and illustrators. Fremantle Press also have a wonderful selection of books by indiginous authors.

The illustration industry is no different.

Black illustrators are massively under represented. #drawingwhileblack is a fantastic celebration of black illustrators. In the field of textile and pattern illustration Spoonflower have a post from a few years ago celebrating their designers of colour. Here is Australia one of my favourite designer clothes stores Kablooie is owned and run by a hugely inspiring woman. If you’re looking for fabulously colourful clothing for women it’s truely amazing.

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More sewing

Face masks with wire!

So life is opening up again and it feels weird and worrying so this weekend I hid behind my sewing machine. That’s not strictly true, we did have drinks with a few friends and of course I ferried the kids around but I did spend a large amount of time sewing and it was great! I started with making a few super pretty masks with pockets in the back for an extra filter and pipe-cleaner wires across the nose for good fit. They’re beautiful but honestly, I’m still not really sure what to do with them. We don’t travel on public transport at the moment but when the kids return to school and university they’ll probably need them. There are many many articles out there about making your own masks but I particularly liked reading Happy DIY Home because it’s so comprehensive and practicle.

My pattern designs on actual fabric!

Next in the sewing project queue is pyjama making! The absolute best thing in the world for an illustrator is seeing your own work come to life on products, whether that getting first editions of children’s books or seeing note books, paper, cards or fabrics printed. Last week some of my own fabric arrived from Next State (a digital fabric printer in Melbourne I use. They’re awesome) and I was joyful! It’s from my African Discoveries collection. The colours are a touch more vivid than I planned. And that’s why you really have to do a print test! But then again sometimes mistakes are happy mistakes and lead to bright and cheerful pj’s and you can’t complain about that. A few weeks ago I bought a pyjamas pattern from the fabulous Style Arc and I’m itching to get going with it.

A quilt in a day!

I am shocking for getting diverted into other projects if the mood grabs me. I do all the grown-up things like making lists and plans. But on a rainy Sunday if one of my kids says ‘Can I make a quilt?’ my head spins and it’s ‘Ooh, a shiny thing!’ So that’s what happened yesterday. Literally no housework or meal prep was done by me. We planned, tacked and sewed until a gorgeous quilt was made. I’d like to say that I guided my daughter and taught her and that she did loads of the sewing, but that would be a total lie. She designed it, chose the fabric and helped me tack it. But honestly when it came to the sewing I hovered over her painfully correcting her until she gave up and I did it.

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More and more animals in hats!

Day 40 and counting.

40 days ago I had the ridiculous notion to start The 100 Day Project. As I love creating characters I set myself the challenge to create 100 animals in hats. Why? I don’t really know…it’s fun and we all need more silly nonsense in our lives. I’m contributing to the greater good of course! Or am I just doing something silly because why not? Really, who cares? It’s been fascinating. I started with full enthusiasm, got prepared, made loads and loads so I was able to upload every day because lets face it I’m not actually going to sit and draw a character every single morning for 100 days. Neither my life or my brain work on that kind of regimented, consistent routine level. Sometimes I have a few hours to scribble like crazy and my mind is full of ideas so I’m able to file all the paintings and they’re ready to go. It’s not following the proper rules. Again, who cares?

Connections and feedback

What I have managed to achieve for 40 days on the trot though is sharing an image to Insta’ every day with a small collection of hashtags including #100daysofanimalsinhats. How catchy is that? haha. And the delightful bonus that come out of it is a small collection of gorgeous people that say things like ‘These things brighten up my day’ and ‘I love this one’ and it gives me a happy glow.

What next?

Well, I’m going to have 100 characters to think about. Some of them are rubbish and don’t inspire me. Some of them, like the lovely whale and hippo, have inspired me to do more with them. For the time being I am a little behind schedule with making them so I’m going to plough on and take stock later. I’m hoping for many more greetings cards and patterns.

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Getting Help…getting too much help

Yet another piece of guidance.

I went for my usual morning walk with my silly big dog this morning. Usually I don’t take my phone, or I take it just to take photos. Today I decided to listen on Audible to my most recent purchase, Lisa Congdon’s ‘Art Inc’. I bought it because I totally adore her work and admire the classes she produces on Skillshare, Creative Live and Creative Bug. Honestly though, I probably bought it in the hope that it would clarify things and give me more guidance. It sort of did. I knew a lot of the content already from the mountain of guidance I’ve consumed over the past ten years of pursuing a creative career. And I had the realisation that eventually you have to implement the guidance to make it happen. Especially the marketing. It sounds daft but marketing it’s something I will put off until the end of time. Hearing Lisa talking about it so matter-of-factly did actually remove the emotion for me.

What I’ve learnt

Over the past two years I’ve learnt how to use Corel Painter, Photoshop and Illustrator proficiently. I’ve learnt and trained ongoingly and I’m really proud of how well I know my way around these programs to create designs, illustrations and patterns quickly and deliver them professionally. It’s a never ending persuit and I absoloutely love learning more. I never blow my own trumpet, but look at that, I just did! I’ve also learnt a lot about putting together and managing a creative business. Some of the advise has been perfect for me. Practical, to the point and actionable. But there are many many many people out their offering to help save you and make your business work and I’m steering clear of anyone promising to fix my life at an expensive price tag.

Where I’ve found the best guidance

Two years ago I started a course on Skillshare by Bonnie Christine on surface pattern design. I didn’t know that her beautiful step-by-step approach would absorb me into learning exactly how to use Adobe Illustrator for creative illustration and pattern design. It was exactly what I needed at the time. Since then I’ve explored other artists classes such as Mel Armstrong, Sue Gibbins and Shannon McNabb.

Business advice

For me the best has come from other creative people. Shannon McNabb’s Skillshare class on Air Table really changed things for me. I organise all sorts of things on there from accounts for my business to goal setting, to-do lists and even home expenses. I was also lucky enough to grab the free offer of Make Art That Sells Money Badass Course which is really great at making you look at your relationship to money.

Super useful stuff

I love making lists and setting goals. I bought a Passion Planner last year and I’m going to just keep on buying them. I really enjoy indulging in brainstorming and mind-mapping but these books help you to put a timeline to your ideas and make realistic plans.

Skillshare, a special mention

I’m working on my first Skillshare class, not an easy task for me at all. Seeing myself on camera and editing myself is excruciating. But the free guidance offered in the Skillshare workshop I’m doing has been fantastic and motivating. I highly recommend it if you want to create an online class.

Here’s a bit of marketing!

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My first story reading

At last!

I was brave enough to get in front of the camera and do a story reading. And it turned out to be the best fun and much easier than I thought, so I’ll do it again. It helps that I have three teenagers who are really great at directing and editing. Directing usually comes in the form of phrases like ‘Chill-out Mum, it’s just a bit of fun’. They don’t understand that I’m of the generation where if you looked at yourself too long in the mirror it was considered odd, and hearing your own voice recorded was excruciating! I remember vividly seeing myself on film for the first time when I was about 13 and telling myself ‘Well, that’s never ever happening again’.

Here it is.

Feel free to share it to anyone you know who has small children at home or is working in childcare.

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Happy Easter

Stay home, stay safe

This time next year

With any luck I’ll be able to look at this picture and remember this crazy time as a distant memory. A time when life was really odd but it’s ok again now. It’s not really looking likely at this stage though. But it is Easter! There’s chocolate and we’re all together and healthy.

Looking back

Having us all together all the time does make me look back on a time when I was at home with the kids a lot. My mum told me when I had my first baby to make sure I didn’t give up on my creativity. She might say I took that a bit too seriously. But the really great thing now is that all my children draw and paint to get through it all. I found these two drawings from 12 years ago when the kids were 2, 4 and 7. I’m not sure who drew them but they say a lot. I kept this ‘I’m sorry’ one on the fridge for ages to remind me not to shame the kids and make them feel this way. I wish I was a perfect mother, but let’s face it, who is? Someone who’s not telling the truth. This other drawing shows me on the phone. The blobby shape is a speech bubble. From my persepctive it shows I’m desperately trying contact the outside world but the little child hanging onto me would have a different perspective.

Easter Bunnies

Looking back on old pictures makes me realise there’s been a lot of projects featuring rabbits over the years. I’d forgotten all about this gorgeous quilted rabbit. I think it went to Hong Kong with a quilt for a new baby.

Creative Kids

A few weeks ago I put together a list of really great sites with a wealth of ideas and activities for kids. Check it out here.

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The 100 Days of Animals in Hats

It’s getting to us all

Well of course, like everyone else on the planet, life is just not the same. We’re all working at home now. But it’s going just fine. There’s an endless list of things to be thankful and grateful for of course, and we’re all massively productive in pursuing our fabulous passion projects now we have so much time. And every single person in the house is helping out without a single complaint. It’s utter paradise, I don’t why we didn’t think of doing this before!

Ticking off the days

I decided to take on a project. A 100 day project in the hope that by the end of these 100 days life will have shifted into another dimension. One that’s a bit more normal and involves having a more healthy amount of time around my immediate family. I thought about an earnest project, one that really ‘makes a difference’ like making cloth masks (it’s still jogging along). But for #the100DayProject I felt the world needed me to contribute something utterly useless and a bit silly.

Animals in Hats

So here it is. I’ve done a few in preparation. The style might change and some of them might be especially silly. I’m really enjoying it so far. I might even try to make some of them look like my family. One way or another there’ll be far more drawings or animals in hats by the end of this and that can’t be a bad thing

Whilst you’re here

I really hope that you’re ok during this disturbing time. I know it’s really terrible for many many people. Take care of yourself.

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Getting by at home

Sew-Walk-Draw-Design-Repeat

As for most people on planet earth at the moment life has changed dramatically around here during the past two weeks. But we’re lucky, we have space to walk the dogs and for each of us to hide away from each other when we need to. I’ve been enjoying starting some unusual projects. At the beginning of the year I certainly wouldn’t have expected that I’d be researching the perfect sewing pattern for a face mask. I found a pleated version first but it really wasn’t very effective. Then I found Craft Passion. What an absolute feast of goodness that is! This red face mask was put together really very quickly and easily. It fits snuggly over the nose and has a pocket in the lining for a disposible paper mask or peice of filter paper. We live in the countryside south of Melbourne so we don’t really have much call for facemasks here yet. But we’ll be ready if we do need to go somewhere and if anyone else needs one just contact me.

Custom Tissue Paper and Funky Mock-ups

My other discovery this week was the very wonderful noissue. They’re an Australian based company who produce compostable postage sacks and customisable tissue paper, tape and stickers. I’ve been playing with some of their beautiful mock-ups. I’ll be using their services but as a creative partner I can also offer this service to anyone.

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Flying Elephants from the Past

Many years ago when my parents lived in Australia (and the world wasn’t completely fxxxed…sorry, I’m trying to stay positive!) my daughter drew this marvellous elephant. Mum loved it so much she had it stuck on her laundry wall for ages. I managed to take a photo before it faded and the other day it popped up whilst I was reminiscing. So, of course, I made a pattern out of it.

So this got me thinking about all the millions of people who are housebound with children. Mine are older now but not so much older that I can’t remember exactly what it was like. We were lucky enough to live near the beach and amongst tree and countryside. Our kids were wild. They climbed and ran and swam and any opportunity. Confinement was really tough. But when we were stuck inside on a rainy day creative activity was on!

I have taught art for many years and love running workshops in schools. I’ve put together a list of fabulous online resources where you can find a wealth of ideas for creative activities for kids

kate's elephants_drawingkate's elephants_yellow

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Time for some Dancing Bears

I scribbled down some dancing bears today. It seemed right to find something silly to do. Things are still pretty easy for us in southern Australia, but we know that the schools will close soon and we’ll told to stay at home.

Over the years I’ve run private art classes and school workshops on drawing and painting. It’s always been something I have loved doing. I pulled out all my files of ideas and plans for children’s art activities today in the hope that I can translate some of the most successful lessons to short videos or blog posts.

In the meantime I was reminded of the truely fabulous blog/website Deep Space Sparkle. It’s a fantastic space to find ideas on doing creative projects with kids.

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Rainy Day Mock-up

It’s been raining non-stop today and I’m feeling a bit coldy and yuck, so what better to do that play around with some mock-ups. It’s so great to see a whole collection of patterns come together. I’d love to see it come to life one day. There is so much brown, ochre and muted tones around for children and babies, which may look stylish but colour is more fun.

A mock-up picture of a nursery crib with cushions and blankets in brightly coloured patterned fabrics.
Mock-up of artists print. Blue and pale blue guinea-fowl in various size
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Setting up shop!

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been setting up shop on my website. The idea is that this will support my market shop. At the end of last year I was able to have a small stall at a twilight market for alumni at Chisholm college. It was such an uplifting experience to have my work in front of people and talking about how it was created, I can’t wait to do it again! First I have to create the stock though. I’ve been really enjoying creating these little cards to go with baby blankets and newborn wraps.

That Chishom market also led me to meet a wonderful creative entrepreneur Rondelle of Rondelle Designs . She’s a total inspiration. She’s recently set up the amazing Rita and Frank Creative Studios in Capel Sound on the Mornington Peninsula. It looks like it’s going to be a fabulously busy creative centre.

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New Collections!

African Discoveries

It’s taken a while but I’m so pleased I have taken the time to create three new collections that I’m happy with. Last year was really eventful. We were thrilled to be able to take the children to Zambia. It’s been ten years since we last went and being able to take them on safari in the Luangwa National Park was unbelievably special. From all the sketches and photographs I’ve created a pattern collection including rich colours and animals that’s designed to be joyful and fun.

Big Oak Tree

Two weeks before our trip to Africa I returned to the UK. Early July a beautiful time of the year to visit rural England and the trip included many early morning walks around familiar lanes. It always surprises me how green and dense with life the English countryside is. I was there because Dad passed away after having dementia for many years. It was a sad time but also really nice to have the time to enjoy walking in the places he loved. This collection celebrates those walks.

Children of Nature

Last year I created a pattern for a Spoonflower contest inspired by my husband’s childhood in Africa. The idea developed to include other patterns related to children’s curiosity and wonder. Each of these patterns takes me to a time when either my children were small or I was. Looking for bugs and beetles whilst camping. Getting new chickens for the garden coup and fishing or searching rock pools for prawns, or seeing a rare lyrebird in the rainforest.

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Springing Forward

I’m finally getting back to work! It’s the start of another school year here in Australia, and we’re all wondering where on earth the Summer went. The country has had a hideous time and we’re not sure what the future holds. On a personal level our little household has been very busy with the start of renovations and a new puppy who is growing before our eyes. We also bought four new chickens who are delightful to look at because they’re all black, but they’re pretty useless. We’ve had several escapes as they try to navigate the ladder back into the coup at night and not a single egg has been laid!

Spoonflower this week

Of course I set myself some lofty and ambitious resolutions and goals for the start of the year. And of course they’re not being met. One of them was to write a blog post each week…hahaha! Another was to complete two Spoonflower challenges each month. It’s February and this is the first one for the year. It’s a Springtime theme so an opportunity to illustrate some cute little lambs with the potential for making baby blankets. I’m really happy with this. I drew on some of the many many photos I took in the Devon countryside when I was home last year. My particualr favourites are heather and cow parsley (how good is that name!) because they remind me of walking with Dad.

cushion with a pretty Springtime pattern design
blanket with a pretty Springtime pattern design
a pretty Springtime pattern design of lambs, flowers and ducks
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Magical Mallacoota

Australia is experiencing our worst bushfires in history and the news from Mallacoota was some of the worst. It is harrowing and difficult to get your head around. It’s hard to know what to even write under the circumstances. There is so much commentary on how to donate, whether or not to send goods or money. Should we be making joey pouches or donating money to animal shelters? I enjoyed listening to Magda Szubanski yesterday, who’s teamed up with Will Connolly (aka Egg Boy) to raise money for the long term relief effort through providing trauma/mental health support. Here’s the link at GoFundMe.

So, I will donate money and time and sew joey pouches, but in the meantime, I’d like to share my connection with one of the worse affected towns, Mallacoota. We first visited Mallacoota in January 2009. We decided to treat ourselves and stay in a house rather than camping. It was a mudbrick flat and the excentric owner encouraged feeding the wildlife, especially the birds. We fell in love with this magical little town by the sea. The abundant wildlife captivated the children and when we left we always said we’d go back one day.

Ten Years On

It took a while but finally, we returned to Mallacoota, and it didn’t disappoint. Again we found wildlife, beautiful bushland walks, hundreds of little blue crabs scurrying on the beach and the most stunning scenery you can imagine. And now a delightful little coffee hut near the beach selling delicious coffee and a daily supply of origami animals! The kids might be older but nothing beats a bit of origami art. My husband loved to admire the spectacular coffee machine, and I enjoyed the coffee and the view. When you go, visit them! Mallacoota Origami Coffee

Hope

So this week has been heartbreaking but my little ray of hope is seeing that Origami Coffee is still operating on the seafront in Mallacoota. A lot of their customers are the fireys and they’re running a little jar for donations. I read a lovely little article in The Age that offers hope and optimism. We are all hoping that Mallacoota will continue to be the magical place of our memories. We’ll certainly be visiting again with our empty eskies.

If nothing else…. draw.

Using the inspiration I have from the wonderful times we’ve spent on the east coast amongst the parrots and lyrebirds I’m getting back to designing and drawing. Watch out for some colourful patterns!

Australia Red Cross

Go Fund Me page for Trauma and Mental Health ongoing Support

Wildlife Rescue

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Happy Holiday Season

I made this!

The holiday season always seems to creep up on me at an alarming rate in Australia. The kids finish school and the weather starts to warm up so we all hit the beach and forget that Christmas is coming very soon! I did manage to organise myself a bit this year though. I ordered some of my own fabric printed through NextState and got sewing with a beautifully easy-to-follow pattern from Tilly and The Buttons. Of course, when I came to actually wear out to an event I had a crisis of confidence and felt very silly. That’s where having daughters really helps. I swear I wouldn’t leave the house in anything but black without their help.

Puppy news

I know this has nothing to do with design, pattern or illustration but just look at this gorgeous boy! He’s distracting me a lot when he’s not napping or eating so it’s been tricky to get on with any real work. But that’s what the holiday season is for, isn’t it? Plans, drawings and pattern collections can come later. In the meantime, I’m running around in the sunshine with this one.

Happy Christmas

I wish anyone reading this the very best holiday time. Stay safe and have fun!

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Walls That Talk

My illustrations on the outside of a public building!

Back in August The Maitland Library in New South Wales approached me to ask if they could use the illustrations from one of my books for their Christmas exhibition ‘Walls That Talk’. So I was delighted when I checked out their website and saw that they are there! Click on the screenshot below to have a look. It’s the classic ‘The Night Before Christmas‘ and was the first published picture book I illustrated back in 2012. So it’s particularly dear to me. I remember exactly where I was the day I got a call from Hachette Children’s Books to say they wanted to offer me the opportunity to illustrate a childrens book.

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Christmas Cake Toppers Workshop

A bit of history

A few years ago a friend and I met once a week to make cakes. It was a good excuse to get together and laugh, and she really makes me howl! We got pretty good at cake making aswell. I can’t, or rather won’t, bake but I can design stuff. Over time I started making my own fondant and even figured out low-sugar or honey replacement fondant which was delicious. I learnt how to smooth fodant, make all sorts of little models, paint on fondant and create 3D model shaped cakes. We even started exploring gluten free options and beautiful tiered decorated cake with minimal frosting and fruit and flowers. We made cakes for all kinds of different occasions. A lot of them, but nowhere near all of them, are on this Pinterest board.

Christmas workshop

Several years later and we have both got back into teaching. But it’s great to have a reason to work together again. So yesterday I went to run a workshop in cake decoration at the High School where she teaches. It was so much fun I really hope we get the chance to do it again. I tried to keep it relatively simple and gave the kids step by step instructions. They did a truly fantastic job and we laughed a lot.

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Christmas! Just round the corner.

A fun illustrated advent calendar

It’s going to be a bit of a mad Christmas this year at our place. With relatives driving across the Nullarbor Desert to be with us, a new puppy and just one bathroom because the renovations haven’t progressed in time….what could possibly go wrong? One thing is certain there’ll be a lot of laughing and probably some emotional tears. We’ve had some tough times since the kids last saw their cousins so we’re all incredibly grateful that we’re all still here and able to enjoy the gorgeous Aussie summer together.

Advent Calendar

Over the next 20 days I’m offering this free A3 printable to anyone who chooses to subscribe to my news and ramblings. It’s a bit of fun and I’m thinking of using some of the motifs for cards and patterns.

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Excitement all round Play School, Fabric and Puppy!

Mini Celebrations

We had a lot of fun watching Play School yesterday and celebrating ‘Eva’s Imagination’ being read out. It brought back memories of the time when it was on every afternoon. The bubbles were non-alcoholic, and when the kids were little they certainly didn’t have chocolate and crisps for afternoon tea. Who knows if this little bit of exposure will lead to more projects, but it was certainly fun!

Fabric and sewing plans

I finally received the fabric I ordered a while ago from Spoonflower and I’m looking forward to whipping up a few tea-towels. I love Spoonflower for all sorts of reasons, mainly the mock-ups and the design challenges though. Actually ordering and receiving fabrics in a timely manner is pretty restrictive when you live so far from the USA. I’ve decided to stick to NextState. It’s local and many of the fabrics are locally farmed and woven. That’s just sensible all round. Next year I’ll be making some pretty baby wraps and muslins for markets. I’ve ordered some fabric labels for products, so I’ll have to wait for them to arrive before I start on my tea-towels. In the meantime this gorgeous sewing pattern is waiting for me to sew something for myself for the Summer. I’ve ordered the fabric in the Lily pattern I created a couple of weeks ago.

Two weeks is a long time

It’s hard to believe it’s been just over two weeks since I had a nightmare phone call from my daughter travelling in Europe to tell me she’d been in an horrific coach crash. She’s been home for ten days and is doing remarkably well considering what shes been through. So, as things seem to have settled just for a moment in our mad household we’ve decided to shake things up a bit with this little bundle. I stress about not having time to do all the design work I want to do. Not entirely sure how this is going to help. Christmas is going to be fun.

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Book reading on Play School!

We’re on the telly!

Front cover of 'Eva's Imagination' a children's book illustrated by Karen Erasmus and written by Wenda Shurety

I was super excited this week to hear that ‘Eva’s Imagination’ is going to be read on Play School. I used to watch the program every day with the kids ten years ago, but on Tuesday this coming week I be sitting in front of it again with my three near grown-up kids and a bottle of champers. And to add to the excitement the reader is Kate Richie (of Home and Away and Nova 100 fame). This past year I have been exploring surface pattern design with a passion and I really enjoy it. But book illustration has a beautiful lasting quality because people really treasure books.

Maitland Library

A few weeks ago Maitland Library in NSW contacted me to ask if they could use some images from my first published picture book ‘The Night Before Christmas’. They are using the images their Christmas ‘Walls that Talk’ exhibition on the outside of the building. I illustrated the book seven years ago now, so I’m thrilled that people are still enjoying it.

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Water Lilies

I made a new pattern yesterday with water-lilies for inspiration. I was also following the creative prompt ‘Grateful’. My cynical voice didn’t get much of a look in (‘god help me if I hear someone tell I have to be grateful one more time I’ll scream!’…that one) because I really do have something to be incredibly grateful for this week. Forever. Water lilies were what I focussed on when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter. The colours and design had to be joyful and bright. I gave this one a lot of thought and I’m happy with the result.

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Inktober Round-up

This is the round-up of all my Africa Inktober sketches. I’m not sure what I was thinking of when I decided to do two Inktobers. I over-did-it and didn’t do any of it brilliantly or finish it! Pretty sure that’s breaking the rules and shows no hard-line commitment at all! But it was wonderful to attempt to discipline myself to draw every day on a subject matter that I might not necessarily feel like doing. I’ve collected up some funny motifs that should be really useful for pattern making, cards, graphics and all sorts of stuff. Now onto Advent!

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Inspiration for Design

Inktober

I’m managing to keep up with two versions of Inktober, but only just. Days go by and I miss doing the sketching and then do a whole load at once. So, as with many things, I’m hopelessly inconsistent. The sketches I’m accumilating though are leading to all sorts of ideas for patterns and collections, cards and prints. There’s so much to do! It’s a good space to be in. The Christmas holidays are coming up and instead of dwelling on everything that needs to organised, I’ve decided to be optimistic about getting some design work done during that time.

Just keep swimming

Ive been looking back on all the illustration work I’ve done over the past ten years. It’s really helpful when I’m feeling like I’m not getting anywhere. There’s an awful lot of work there and some of the ‘passion projects’ I’ve done along the way have been the best to keep me focussed. I wasn’t sure if Inktober could give me a similar sense of satisfaction. Afterall it’s just sketching everyday. But the body of work that’s coming together is interesting and a lot of it will be really useful.

New collection started

This is just a start to a new collection incorporating ideas from our trip to Africa. I’m working on some guineafowl patterns at the moment as well. Completing the Spoonflower tea-towel competition was a good incentive.

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African Designs

This week’s Spoonflower challenge spurred me on to look at my drawings and photos from our recent trip to Zambia. I loved the whole idea of using a folk art style for this tea-towel design. It just seemed right. The colour palette came together easily from a mixture of folk art research and collections of photographs. I’m looking forward to designing a whole collection of patterns for children from this.

When I first looked at the tea towel challenges on Spoonflower for this month I honestly didn’t find them very appealing and thought they probably weren’t for me. But I guess that’s the whole point of a challenge. You find yourself researching art forms and genre that you wouldn’t previously have considered looking at. I love the way folk art has no rules. This design appears symmetrical, but it’s not. The drawing is naive, yet accomplished. The design seems haphazard, or cute, but it’s deliberate. This definitely won’t be my last attempt at folk art

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Do children have a say in design?

They have minds of their own

A long time ago, when I started illustrating children’s books someone very cynically said to me ‘You know you’re not illustrating for children, it’s for the parents or grandparents, they’re doing the buying’. Now that’s all fine if you’re in publishing and marketing and all that matters is shifting units off the shelf. But are we designing and illustrating to sell stuff or do we do it with children in mind? Do we consider their little personalities and the quirky choices they make? Personally I think the kids definitely have a say.

We start communicating with our children from day one. Mothers, in particular, are usually highly tuned to what their child likes and dislikes. My girls had a say in almost everything because they imposed their views and were very chatty. And, with three under 5, sometimes it makes for an easier life to let them go to kindergarten with their bathing suit on over their leggings. It’s not a great style choice, but it is theirs. Children make their own choices all the time. It’s healthy for them to be given the freedom to choose. You can buy them all the books you like, but they decide if they want to read or listen to them. They may have beautiful dresses but they often won’t choose to wear them. My middle child wore the same rainbow coloured skirt every day for almost six months until the colours faded (it did get washed). The person who bought it for her really knew how to buy for that particular child. It certainly simplified the morning dressing routine for us for a while.

Thoughtful gifts last

Some of the best gifts, the things we continue to treasure from when our children were little, were sourced thoughtfully or handmade. Beautifully made dolls, quilts and knitted baby cardigans. Things that we’ll keep safely in a box for when they have babies. I love the way we have more opportunities to choose now. I don’t mean that there are more and more things available in the shops or online. I mean that you can choose to make ethical choices when you buy things. The baby market is a throwaway market in the extreme. It’s painfully short-lived. But people buy gifts for little ones and there are more and more opportunities to buy well. Keeping in mind the environment, buying local and supporting small businesses.

Environmentally conscious buying for children

I come across a lot of washable nappy companies that use pattern designers for the wraps that go over the washable nappy. They are so colourful now! I used washable nappies but it was 18 years ago. It took some effort to source them and we had to drive about 30 miles up the motorway and pay a small fortune to get them. When we moved to Africa though I really found out that it was the best decision. To dispose of ‘disposable’ nappies there I would have to burn them (yuk…it takes ages!) or bury them (really?) So I loved them my washable nappies. It would have been so great to have had some of those beautifully patterned wraps that are available today. And you bet this little person would have had a say in which wrap she was going to wear….before she ripped it off and ran around with nothing on her bottom.

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Tea Towel Design

I’ve never designed a tea-towel before. I did this one for this weeks Spoonflower Challenge and it was an absolute joy. I thought I’d do something that would be of use to me. As you can see, the pages of my recipe book are well worn on this particular page. I’ve been making chocolate brownies for the kids since they were little, or since I was given this book was given to me by someone super clever at giving presents. I’ve adapted the recipe and simplified it but it’s usually successful. ‘Bosh it together and chuck it in the oven’ is my way of cooking. The brownies usually last about two days in our house.

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Inktober

Well, a new month has arrived and that always gives me a bit of a boost…’This is the month! This is the month I will get my s*** together!’ I can start with good intentions anyway. I’m in complete denial that the year is nearly over. It has been a particularly tricky year. But less of that, I’ve decided to set myself the ludicrous task of doing not one, but two, Inktobers. The official Inktober was started several years ago and now has a huge following of super talented artists. Let’s hope I don’t contribute to bringing the standard down! I’m really looking forward to following #inktober2019 on Instagram. I also decided to do my own African Inktober. This is a way of disciplining myself into getting some drawing done from the wealth of material I gathered from our trip to Zambia in August. I’ve set myself some rules

Rule #1 Work ahead of schedule

I have to do this to stay in it, to get to end and to stay sane. From past experience with these kind of things it never gets finished unless you work ahead of schedule. Life is crazy and unpredictable and the reality is that I am fairly unlikely to be able to sit down and draw and paint every day for a month. It’s nice to think that that’s what a professional artist does but in honestly it’s a round of marketing, emailing, doing other work, running a household and having three kids. So, in reality I have taken full advantage of being sick all weekend and I’m a week ahead of schedule. Round of applause for me!

Rule #2 Keep it relevant

I could let my imagination go mad with these prompts and try to do clever, illustrative images. But what I need are motifs for pattern making and prints for children. After all that’s what I’m offering and what I most enjoy creating. So I’m steering away from drawing people or scenes and keeping it simple.

And that’s it. Wish me luck. There’s a heap of other things coming up as well. Not least preparing something for the fabulous Illustrators Australia 9×5 Exhibition ‘Grow’ in December.

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Licensing my work

This week my surface pattern designs were accepted on patterndesigns.com, a European pattern licensing site with really high standards. I was really thrilled. The designs are all checked and curated, so you have to have a sharp eye with whatever you present or it’s rejected. I’ve only managed to upload two patterns but, as with all these things, once I’ve done a couple a system can be put in place to get the rest up there.

Spring continues to inch forward here in Melbourne. The kids are on holiday so I have more time to get some more patterns designed. My plan is to get into get into working on some African animal designs for children.

I had a poke around on the Pantone site in the search for good colour combinations. These colour trends for 2019 look like just the right kind of mood for children’s patterns.

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Winter Blooms

What better way to get back into designing than to enter another Spoonflower challenge? This week is Winter Blooms and as we’re coming out of Winter it wasn’t difficult to figure out the colours. Greys, soft greens and little splashes of colour are very much par of the Australian scenery. This little bunny jumped out at me for the perfect colour combinationthough. And, as we’re a bit topsy-turvy with Christmas in the middle of Summer I was aiming for a subtly seasonal print.

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Limited Palette

This is the first time I’ve attempted the challenge of using a limited palette for a pattern. Who knew it could be so incredibly absorbing? And I’ve just spotted a mistake! Ahh. Anyway, it’s inspired by the thought of floating along the Lower Zambezi admiring the egrets wading. Something I’m really hoping to be doing soon. In the meantime I can’t decide on the combination.

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My pattern designs on cushions

My cushions arrived from the seamstress! I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to see my own work on finished, beautifully sewn cushions. My style will continue to evolve but I will always love these.

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African Boyhood

This weeks Spoonflower challenge was for boys clothing. It coincided with celebrations for my husband’s 50th birthday. So the challenge got me thinking about his childhood, which was pretty unique and special. He grew up on a cattle farm in rural central Africa. They didn’t have a TV until he was about 15 and communication was by radio. But he had a dirt bike that he would go out on with his cousin all day. His was a wild childhood of adventure and exploring, climbing trees and rocks and messing about in dirt surrounded by all kinds of creatures.

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Vintage postcard inspired pattern

This week’s Spoonflower challenge was inspired by vintage postcards. I chose my palette from various old Australian surf posters. I also explored under-patterning and adding texture so the final effect has depth. I think it would be a nice piece for a beach bag. Still thinking about doing something to bring out the turtles.

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Cushions!

I finally got you round to having some of my own prints made up into cushions. It was about a year ago that I first took some classes on Skillshare with Bonnie Christine. Then we went on holiday to Queensland and I collected a whole load of drawing and photographs to make my own patterns. I’m always learning more and more about pattern design and it just gets better. I’m working on getting some baby quilts and muslins made up next.

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Cycling and Pattern Design

I’ve been wanting to find an excuse to design a pattern for a cycling shirt and this weeks Spoonflower challenge was just perfect. I was really working from what I’d like to wear as a cycling. I enjoyed playing with the colour palette and there’s definitely some more playing around to be done. Maybe the pink as a background or even an additional panel? The maths involved in creating this was daunting at times. I created each of the wheels and cogs in Adobe Illustrator. The mock-up came from Creative Market which is an increasingly valuable design resource for me.

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Small Scale Summer

A couple of weeks ago I entered my second Spoonflower competition and was please to get around 90 votes! That’s my best result yet, but it didn’t cut it for the top 60. Onwards and upwards though. I’m going to just keep on trying. This week was Small Scale Summer. It was so perfect for Australia and it taught me a thing or two about scale. Voting starts on 2nd May here

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Australian Beauty

I have loved creating a new pattern for Spoonflower this week. Australian florals are an endless source of inspiration. The’r mad and random, curly and spiky and come in the brightest, loveliest colours.

I also discovered Roostery this week. Cant believe it took me so long. What fantastic resource for creating quick mock-ups and visualising your work win products.