Collaboration with Cactus Revival

Cactus and Erasmus

One of the best things about the madness of selling at markets is the wonderful people you meet. It’s what makes the early mornings and setting up all worthwhile. Sometimes you have the joy of meeting someone who is precisely on your wavelength and just gets why you are doing what you’re doing. Last season I met the owner of a Cactus Revival, Kate Fenby. She expertly embellishes secondhand children’s clothes to resell them. An idea born out of noticing how quickly children go through clothes, and the massive contribution that makes to landfill! It was clear to us both that we have mutual interests in sewing, fabric, crafts and the environment. As parents, we are also aware of what a valuable skill sewing is for young people to learn.

Sewing Workshops for Kids

So, we’ve pooled our skills in sewing and teaching and next week we’ll be running our first sewing workshop for kids in Mornington. We’ll be using my sewing kits to teach basic embroidery and hand stitching. It’s proven very popular with this workshop already sold out. I’m looking forward to meeting the children and parents. It’s been several weeks since I last went to a market, and it’s wet and gloomy here at the moment. So this should brighten up my Winter holiday time.

Get in touch!

If this appeals to you and your child would like to learn how to sew and go home with a fun little soft toy that they’ve made themselves, please contact me. Or perhaps as an adult you’d like to learn how to embroider in a relaxed environment with like-minded people. We would love to hear from you.


Scribbles to Picture Book

Where do you start?

I love the first stages of creating a picture book. Picture books hold a unique position for children in their first years. They offer a way to engage with the written word before they can read. The pictures, and the people who read the words, guide them and show them how stories are told. I have such lovely memories of seeing our girls ‘reading’ their picture books to little crowds of toys. They either memorised the words or told their own story by reading the pictures. They had worked out which way up the book went, the front cover and the title and how to turn the pages so that the story unfolded in front of them. These sound like simple skills but many children don’t get the opportunity to learn them before they start school. I like to remember this when I first get the manuscript for a new book. It’s so much more than just drawing pictures for the written words. It creates a small imaginary world for a child to engage with.

Stages for creating a picturebook
  • Read the manuscript and make the first margin notes and ideas. Sometimes the best ideas come from how you imagine the characters in the first read-through
  • Conceptual ideas. The look and feel of the whole book. Time, place and possible colour palette.
  • Character sketches. Getting to know the characters. Sketches from different angles and different expressions or poses.
  • Thumbnail sketches for each spread. Page planning. These first scribbles for scenes are often the ones that are used. It helps to see them all and work out the variation of full-colour spreads and vignettes. It’s also good to consider how you can vary the angles.
  • Design the page layouts with the text in mind. You have to leave space for the book designer to put the text in. Also, think about the page gutter. This is really important. If you have illustrations over the centre of the pages they will be obscured and difficult to see, so the pages have to be designed carefully.
  • Plan your workflow. When I was working in watercolour this stage involved stretching 16 pieces of watercolour paper onto boards and labelling each of them with the book title, my name and the page number. Now I work digitally the process is similar but less physically taxing. I create all the pages in Procreate, title them with the page number and stack them with the book title. What’s really important to remember here is that the dimensions and resolution are consistent.
  • All the blues. I draw out the whole book in blue, sketchy lines. These ‘blues’ form the basis of the roughs. They’re great for figuring out the compositions.
  • Roughs. I draw up the whole book with some basic shading. This is the first submission to the publisher, and sometimes the author.
  • Back and forth about the roughs between me and the publisher. Generally, a professional publisher will keep all this to a minimum.
  • Finals! This is all the colour work. I use a limited number of brushes, textures and colour palettes to keep it all consistent.
But it’s not over yet!

So, all of the above takes about 6 to 18 months. Oh yes, it is far from a speedy process. I have knocked out a whole picture book in less than three months, but it’s not fun for me or the family! When the book finally gets sent to the publisher there are usually some alterations. That’s where the digital process really helps because it’s so much faster. After this final step it’s over to the book designer and the people who print the books. I’m not entirely sure why, but this process seems to take ions of time. Your advance has been paid and you get on with other projects and life in general. Then just when you had forgotten you ever created a picture book a box arrives on the doorstep and it’s a magical day! There they all are shiny new picturebooks in all their glory. You bask in your own brilliance for a nanosecond and then look at all the stuff you’d do differently next time.


Happy June!

I am celebrating with another challenge.

It’s officially the depths of winter here in Melbourne. People are wandering around in the thickest down-feather puffa-jackets they can find, wearing woolly hats and mega scarfs! We’re suffering people! (TBH it rarely drops below 10 degrees Celsius here but we love to fuss). Melbourne people usually despise the winter but I love June. It’s birthday month for me and D and it’s our anniversary. Yay!

Purposeful but fun side projects.

I’ve been working on an animal alphabet. It was a side project I decided to embark on after watching Andy Pizza on Skillshare one rainy afternoon. He’s an incredibly enthusiastic designer/illustrator who discusses ways to fuel your creativity. The lessons I watched were all about purposeful side projects. I love a side project. If I have a little thing in my sketchbook to be jogging along with during down times I feel settled. Like having a good tv series to sit down to in the evening. How will we all cope now Succession is over?

Counting Down

So, I set my parameters and decided it should be something useful, child-centred with the potential to be printed and made into a product. At the very least it would be a portfolio piece. By happy coincidence, 26 letters work perfectly as a little countdown to my birthday. So tomorrow my socials will feature my first illustrated ‘A’ and each day after that will count down the ‘Z’. How cute is that?

Procreate Tools and Textures

After learning how to add texture using Lisa Glanz‘s brushes and brilliant little tutorials, I created each of my animal characters with a specific colour palette and style. I’m really happy with the way it turned out. Hopefully, you’ll be able to follow along on insta @karenerasmus or Facebook – Karen Erasmus Illustration. I’ll reveal what will be happening to all the illustrations at a later date.


Thinking Outside the Sketchbook

Different ways to find inspiration.

I have this wonderful cartoon by Judy Horacek stuck to the front of a writing journal. ‘Inspiration’ is a tricky word. It seems to conjure some divine light that will strike when we least expect it. As artists, we’re supposed to get these otherworldly flashes of passion daily. After all, we’re artists. Personally, I see creating art as a regular job. I have to create the stuff in order to get paid. Sometimes I really don’t feel like it and parts of the job are mundane and necessary like any job. You show up anyway.

Side projects.

The best time is the start of a project when the pages are blank and waiting to be filled. Often the author’s words conjure up a wealth of imagery and you wake in the night with those illusive thoughts and ideas to scribble down. But there are times between projects that can also be productive. I love having side projects going on. Things that can be picked up and put down, like a bundle of knitting. At the moment I’m creating an animal alphabet. I might get it printed eventually but for the moment I’m enjoying drawing it.

Learning from other artists.

These ‘between jobs’ projects are often a perfect opportunity to practice new ways of creating art. I’ve always admired other illustrators. Freya Blackwood, Emily Gravett, Lucinda Gifford, Russel Ayto, Julie Vivas and Bruce Whatley are all artists that I’ve desperately wanted to emulate in the past. But when you study how other artists work and learn from them, your confidence grows and you start loving the way you work. I’m ten years into this and I’m still developing my style. It never ends. My most recent work involves much more sketchiness, linework and texture. This has developed from learning techniques of other digital artists like Lisa Glanz.

Stressful and busy times.

I find it really difficult to look away from a work project. Of course, you want to get the work to the client on time so it’s head down time. But these are also some of the best times to do something else. It doesn’t have to be work-related. Creative people are curious about all sorts of things. I take my dogs for a walk every day. I’m lucky that we live in a semi-rural setting where we have creeks and woodlands. At this time of the year, there are hundreds of different types of fungi around. I take photos of them but I don’t use them for anything. The trees, leaves and even the dogs find their way into my work all the time though.

Other times and places.

The paths our lives take are unique to us. Childhood memories can be a wonderful source of ideas. My mother had a fascination for whimsical things like dollhouses, miniature furniture, crockery and kitchenware. She also sewed and made ragdolls. There’s a clear connection between her and the products I design and sell. My illustrations also draw heavily on the rural, agricultural setting I grew up in. It’s almost impossible to shake off.

Artist Play Dates

‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron is a cult classic amongst visual artists. For me, one of the best takeaways from it is giving yourself permission to play and go on dates with yourself. Heading into the city has to be one of the best things I can do to spark ideas and enjoy life just for the sake of it. It sounds trivial, but it works. Don’t go looking for inspiration or for any particular reason. Just go.


Wondering how to get started with drawing?

Drawing without purpose.

Some of the best drawings can come from just messing about and letting your mind run free. There’s something about not having a rigid outcome in mind that allows you to produce work that is free and looks loose. Elise Hurst talks about the joy of creating works not attached to a brief. It’s just as important for established artists as it is for those starting out.

Fun exercises to get you started

Blobs and fingerprint characters

We often place far too much significance on creating something fabulous. Creativity needs to be fun, even childlike. You may surprise yourself with what you come up with, or you may think it’s rubbish. It doesn’t matter.

Put some ink on your fingers and make some fingerprint characters. Or just draw a random blob or scribble. Walk away from those random shapes and then have another look later to see if you can turn them into drawings of things, animals or characters.

The scribble game

Extend this idea by asking someone to scribble on a page for you and turn their scribble into something. Who knows where this could take you? I found these fabulous images drawn by Ryan Ottley, the American cartoon artist, from his son’s scribbles.

Exercises that don’t involve thinking.

It’s tricky to turn your brain off from wanting to create something groundbreaking and brilliant. I teach young people who have often started creating art by copying artists on their phones. They have a fixed idea of how they want their work to look because it’s right in front of them. This can be a great access point and it’s good to get you started. But eventually, you need to find your own way of working.

Continual line drawing

This exercise is best if you have an object, person or scene in front of you. Really look at what’s there and keep your pen on the paper. It encourages you to really look at the subject rather than the paper. It also takes you away from being overly concerned about the quality of the lines you are producing. The outcomes may be surprising. It’s certainly fun.

Dumpy, Bright, Droopy and Long

This has to be one of my favourite exercises to get into drawing characters. Again, for absolutely no reason other than to start drawing. Many years ago I bought the book Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered by Quentin Blake and John Cassidy The exercises in this book are wonderfully freeing. I’ve used this one in my classes for years and it’s always a winner. You can start with inanimate objects like candles or brooms. Some of the characters below have gone on to appear in picture books.

It’s just a piece of paper.

It sounds simple, but it is worth keeping in mind. The other day a student reminded me that I had told her ‘It’s ok, it’s just a piece of paper. There’s another one if you don’t like what you did on this one.’ It’s something I keep in mind if I find myself being over significant about creating something groundbreakingly brilliant.


Central Character Energy

You’ve got the brief, what now?

As an illustrator, it’s wonderful to get a new manuscript or brief because now the fun starts. You have to create a little world that will be opened up and pawed over. Hopefully over and over again. The characters need to be engaging and captivating so your little reader wants to follow along with them through their story. So, there are a few decisions to make. The style, medium, settings and colour palette.

So where do you start?

I like to start by scribbling down the first ideas I have for the central character. 90% of the time in picture books the central character is introduced on the first page, and possibly features on almost every page from then on. There may be two central characters or a sidekick. The important thing is that you ‘get to know’ your characters. Here’s an example of a character evolved through costume change, colour change and adding textures.

Inspiration Searching

Little girls feature heavily in most of the books I’ve illustrated. It’s easy to find ideas for visual elements, but the text tells you what the character will be doing so that’s a good starting point. In ‘Eva’s Imagination’ she was going on an adventure with her little dog. So I wanted her style to be quite ‘everyday’ and practical.

Front cover of the picture book Eva's Imagination
Eva’s Imagination

In ‘The Flying Optometrist’ the setting is an outback town. It’s hot and dusty and Emily needs to wear a hat and glasses. So the hairstyle needed to be straight. In ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ I knew there would be a lot of other children featured throughout the book, so the little girl had to stand out and look like she was festive or going to a party. From my books, my favourite character is Jemima in ‘You’re Different Jemima’. The story has a school setting but I knew Jemima had to look a bit wild and out of place. That was how I felt most days at school so I went with wild curly hair.

Costume Prompts

It’s delightful when the character has a costume device that fits the story. In ‘Box of Tricks’ Katie Cleminson gives the central character a cape and wand and her whole world becomes magical.

In ‘Emily Loves to Bounce’ by Stephen Michael King, the central character’s outfit is frankly bonkers, which fits perfectly with the mad energy of the book.

Cute Devices

Costume devices help to highlight character features and story elements. The book I’m working on next has a sewing theme, so I’m looking forward to including some fun costume devices for the characters. These are not necessarily part of the story but they give the character some extra cute appeal. Here are a couple of my favourites from other illustrators.

‘Lulu and the Flying Babies’ is an old book. I noticed that my copy has my old name inside it and I’ve been married for 22 years! I love the English Winter scenes, but what I love most is Lulu’s gloves on a string through the arms of her puffy red coat.

In ‘Grannysaurus Rex’ illustrated by David Cornish the little boy character is in costume and never shows his face. It adds brilliantly to the ‘imaginative worlds’ theme of the book.

So, what next?

Creating the central character is a great way to get the ball rolling. Next, you need to consider the world they inhabit. Once you’ve spent some time getting to know them through scribbling their features and costume you can move on to thinking about the concept of the book and the settings. That is another task entirely. But you’ve already started.


My Most Recent Book

Teddy, The Most Beautiful Boy in the World.

This book is very popular. I’ve been selling copies at the markets and it sells more than the other books I stock. It’s such a sweet story of acceptance and friendship.

The Author

I got to know the author of this book, Kylie Miller, through the book launches we’ve done. Our first introduction was with ‘Heroes of Black Summer‘ which was her first picture book. It was published by Australian Geographic and celebrated some of the amazing people that helped out during the 2020 Australian Bush Fires.

One of the best things about being a children’s book illustrator is that you meet incredible and unexpected people through each project.

Next – Dotty!

Kylie draws a lot of inspiration from her own rescue greyhounds. Dogs I didn’t really know anything about before this project. They are unique with their quirky characteristics and the people who adopt them are very passionate about them.

The next book in this series is almost ready for print. I can’t wait to see Dotty come to life. She’s a cheeky pup who lives on a farm.

The Greyhound Adoption Program

In 2022 I had the pleasure of creating the backdrops for the stall at The Melbourne Royal Show for the Greyhound Adoption Program. Look at my Commercial Projects portfolio to see more.

If you’re interested in adopting a greyhound and you live in Victoria click below.


Wildly Adorable

Creating Animal Character Illustrations

The joy of illustrating animal characters comes from knowing you’re creating a substitute for a child. They can have playfulness, curiosity and silliness. In a picture book, they can show another visual story that might not be mentioned in the text. As the sidekick or silent partner they can offer some additional emotion with their expressions and postures. In Eva’s Imagination, the dog is a loyal companion and protector, but there’s also a curious cat in the house on the edge of the storyline. For ‘The Flying Optomotrist‘ the dogs weren’t mentioned but they appear on almost every page. They are such a fixture in the rural setting and as the action moves forward the dogs join in.

The Animals are People in Disguise

I love illustrating dog characters, and I’ve had a lot of opportunities to do it recently with Albert and Teddy. Greyhounds are wonderfully expressive and quirky dogs in life, so it was fun to illustrate them

Often animal characters represent people and human relationships. Sometimes the animals represent whole families. I was given the chance to do this in Five Little Platypuses. The challenge was to give each little platypus different characteristics. Emily Gravett illustrates the expressions and characters of an extended family brilliantly in Meerkat Mail where we are taken on a journey all over the world. One of my all-time favourites ‘Pig in the Pond‘ has the farm animals representing children misbehaving whilst the grownup is out.

Where do you start?

Whatever the animal is I start from photos and a good Google search. Some animals are completely unfamiliar. I remember clearly the first time I had to draw a reindeer. It took a lot of scribbling and drawing what looked like horses and dogs. What makes a reindeer look like a reindeer? Essentially it’s the large hooves, fluffy ears and the horns. It’s all about finding what is distinctive about them.

Monkey Trouble

I find drawing monkeys and gorillas quite tricky because they have such human faces, but they shouldn’t look too human. This video shows how much scribbling and playing around goes into a first character drawing, and then you can adjust the limbs and proportions to show different expressions. The facial expressions of course are all about the eyebrows.


Relax, it’s just a piece of paper

Drawing without purpose

Spend more than 30 seconds on the internet and someone will tell you how to monetise your skills and be better and more efficient. It’s exhausting. So it’s not surprising that many people are looking for hobbies away from screens. Pottery, crochet and sewing are having a moment. But they all involve equipment and basic skills. What I love about drawing is that everyone can do it. Anyone who can pick up a pencil can draw.

But I Can’t Draw

A lot of adults will tell you they can’t draw. As if it’s a magic power that some of us have and some of us don’t. But almost everyone can hold a pencil and make a mark on a piece of paper. Betty Edwards, in ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ makes the point that everyone who learns to write with a pen has an individual handwriting style that develops over time with age and practice. My dad used to say he couldn’t draw but I remember his handwriting because it was so beautiful it was like calligraphy.

It’s all yours

One of the best things about drawing is that you can do it alone. You don’t have to share your work or have ambitions to sell it. It’s personal and it’s between you and the piece of paper. I have a shelf filled with old sketchbooks. I wish I could call them visual diaries but they are a shambles, disorganised and often undated. In the front of them there are drawings of children at various stages. In the back of almost every one of them though are children’s drawings marking times when we were on long journeys or waiting at a sporting event. It’s not a perfectly curated set of memories but it shows how the kids have grown up with drawing as if it’s as natural as breathing. They are adults now, and working towards very different careers, but all of them can be found sitting and drawing for relaxation or to visualise ideas.

Give it away, even if you don’t think it’s great.

A friend reminded me the other day that I had done a watercolour sketch of her daughter when we were on a camping trip about 100 years ago. She said her daughter still has the sketch on her bedroom wall. There are a few people who have kept my drawings dotted around the world. I’ll remember this when I’m stuck in feeling like I’m not good enough or haven’t yet achieved my ‘goals’. I also have a sketch of me that was drawn my a friend (artist Kate Pettitt) in 1988 when we both in high school, and I love it to bits. Drawing connects people in the best ways.


Navigating the Craft Market Scene

The market season is drawing to a close.

Here in Melbourne it’s getting chilly and the leaves are changing colour to mark Autumn. I’ve only been doing markets for two seasons and recently I’ve been reflecting on the whole experience. I started it just as we were coming out of the pandemic lockdowns and I really needed to get out of the house and start talking to people again. I’ve also been a freelance illustrator for a long time, which is a particularly isolating profession if you let it. Although the markets are hard work, I absolutely love doing them. The early morning rise, the packing and unpacking, the set-up. But most of all, the other stallholders. They are supportive, enthusiastic and fun people to be around.

So, if you’re considering sharing your wares on the craft market scene here are a few pointers.

Be prepared and have a checklist

Like any good Girl Guide you’ve got to have your ducks in a row before you start. But, you don’t want to bust your bank account before you’ve sold anything. Here’s a handy list of the bare essentials:

  • Get a good sturdy tent. I bought a cheap one and it almost snapped in the wind. If you’re in Victoria have a look at Canopy Outdoor. I used the code from Unrivalled Events. (go to Stallholders – Stallholder tips and get a code for 20% off)
  • 20 Kilo weights for each tent pole.
  • Light trestle tables. I got cheap secondhand wooden trestles and my back suffers especially with lugging the above 20 kilo weight!.
  • Easy-to-wash tablecloths.
  • Sturdy stackable stock boxes with lids.
  • Different ways to display you stuff. Washing lines, poles, baskets and cute little boxes. Anything that allows you to display at different heights to attract attention.
  • A Square or some way of taking credit card payments. Absolutely no one carries cash.
  • A cash box. Just in case.
  • A ‘Bit’s and Bobs’ Box for all the extra handy stuff you’ll need. Listen below.
  • A chair! It’s a sad day when you leave it behind.

Here’s what I ditched

  • Email list sheets. I prepared sheets to take people’s email addresses but I’ve never used them. Sales are too speedy. There’s a function on the Square for this if you’re super savvy and remember to ask. Handing out a business card instead is good.
  • Unprotected paper goods. The sun is harsh and it can get very dusty or rainy.

Good ideas

  • Stickers. I’m not much of a hustler but I can attract the attention of little kids with stickers and start a conversation with the parents or carers.
  • Pretty business cards. See above, kids love them

Your ‘Bit’s and Bobs’ Box

Give it a go!

There’s a lot to love about putting yourself out there. I like the way markets allow you to take stock of how things are going and shift things around for the next season. The people are super friendly and, usually here at least, the weather is fine. If it starts getting tiring you can pair it back and pick it up again later.

The absolute best part about it though? When friends pop by to say ‘Hi’. Here’s just a couple, but I’ve had visitors from nearby, across the bay, interstate and overseas. It’s always a delight to see them.

Here’s where I’ll be on Saturday


New Projects and Old

I’ve been creating work on the iPad for some years now. It changed everything for me. I could talk about improved workflow and efficient delivery of work to clients. Yawn. But, my absolute favourite thing about it is exploring brushes and textures to work in different ways. It’s like preparing a canvas with paper and glue and painting blobs with a palette knife, but a lot less messy. I discovered Lisa Glanz a few weeks ago through a new design assets marketplace Design Cuts. Lisa sells brushes and textured canvasses for Procreate that are transformative. The assets come with excellent tutorial videos as well. I am finally creating the type of whimsical, hand-drawn illustration I’ve been striving for since I first started working digitally around 5 years ago.

Old stuff

This week I was delighted to find an old friend in my postbox. Ten years ago I made a pop-up diary for The Sketchbook Project. It documented little snapshots of our lives together. I posted it to Brooklyn and it sat on a shelf in The Brooklyn Art Library. Sadly the library closed, but I was really happy to get the book back. Most sketchbooks are digitised now and the collection is well worth looking at. Check out my sister’s Chris Andrew. She’s a cartoon artist in London. The sketchbook is about the time our Dad passed away. It’s incredibly moving, poignant and darkly funny. I might be biased but she’s quite brilliant.


I Love My ‘day’ Job

Decades ago I trained as a teacher. Before I’d had a chance to work out what I really wanted to do. Does anyone know what they want to do at 18, or what they’re good at? I did a pretty good job at pretending to be a primary school teacher for a while. But it nearly broke me on more than one occasion. My parents had encouraged me to get a teaching degree to have a profession, something to fall back on. They didn’t realise that it was a profession I didn’t want and wasn’t suited to. That changed this year though.

Teach what you love

It’s just easier. I started teaching illustration to adults this year at our local college. Honestly, it’s the most enjoyable and satisfying teaching I’ve ever done. It helps that my second choice of career as an illustrator is something I love and that I am constantly growing and learning in myself. We’ve all had teachers who are passionate about their subject and it’s easier to learn from them. I’ve had a taste of that this year and I can’t wait to get back to it in the new year.

Time to reflect

So, how’s the end of the year going for you? Started making lists and losing them and wandering around the shops in a daze? I do it every year. Shopping malls are nightmare places designed by evil sadists. Craft markets on the other hand are delightful places full of lovely arty people. Before this year I never appreciated the work that goes into selling at markets. It’s physically demanding and often doesn’t make sense. But it’s one of the most effective ways to meet the people who are interested in your products and which products sell well in which areas. I’ve studied and carried out plenty of online market research, but nothing beats the real thing. Speaking to your customers face-to-face.

This year’s highlight

Apart from enjoying the markets and finding a job that I enjoy as much as illustrating children’s books, there was one event this year that stands out. I finally got to go up in a hot-air balloon. If you ever get the chance to do this you must. It’s magical in every way.

Happy Christmas and wishing you well for the new year!


Embrace the mess

You may have noticed that I got very enthusiastic about writing for the past couple of weeks. I had decided that I could put out three blog posts a week ongoingly. Why? Well, it seemed like a good idea of course. I do this a lot with all sorts of things. I can never manage to structure things so that the kitchen is clean and the washing is done but when I get inspired by something I go for it.

Blind enthusiastic commitment

Like most creative people I get inspired and grab hold of an idea that consumes me for a while. Often these commitments can be really great and I work through projects piece by piece until there’s a beautiful body of work. One particularly mad example of this was back in August 2013, when I created this pop-up diary for the Sketchbook Project. Others have been projects for Inktober and the 100 Day Project

Attempting structure and routine

Structure and routine for the boring stuff like shopping and cleaning isn’t something I’ve ever been great at maintaining. I like to think that my kids won’t ever remember that the house was clean and tidy, but I know they remember the spontaneous trips to the beach to watch the sunset or the mad camping weekends. I do apply some level of structure and routine to creative projects though. Although a lot of the creative process can be ad-hoc, a basic timeline is reassuring and helps me to know it’s likely to get finished. Apart from once, when one of my children had a medical emergency, I’ve never missed a deadline.

A whole lot of mess

Jen Storer is a wonderful children’s book author who runs creative writing workshops. She explains that we need to embrace the mess to foster good ideas. I love this so much, especially because there seems to be a lot of mess in my life. We’ve been renovating our house for 15 years and have three kids, three dogs and chickens. It’s a lot of mess. I hide in my office for respite and think that the ideas will just flow out of me when I have peace and quiet. It doesn’t really work that way. How often do we notice that ideas come to us at times when we’re out walking the dog or just before we go to sleep? Ideas and inspiration can strike anytime. I used to feel guilty about taking too many breaks in the day. But breaks are an important time to let your wondering thoughts mill around in your head. I make sure I get outside to throw the ball for the dogs regularly during the day and wander up to check on the chickens when they don’t need checking.

The big breaks

By far the best breaks are the longer ones though. Travel, weekend trips or a quick spontaneous night out. It’s so important to find time to get away and refuel your creative mind. That’s why I’m forcing my whole family to go up in a hot air balloon this weekend! Seriously, I may be pushing things a bit far with that though. The weather forecast is looking terrible at the moment so they’ll be relieved when we have to cancel it. Perhaps a warmer time of the year would be more sensible.

Over enthusiasm

Sometimes project ideas don’t work out and that’s ok too. I’m not going to be writing three blogs a week ongoingly. You’ll be hearing from me once a week, or sometimes just because I have a burning need to share something. Have a good week!


More Dogs

The second greyhound book by Kylie Miller was sent off to print a few weeks ago and the book launch is being planned. Drawing dogs with such quirky characters naturally leads me to think about all the dogs that have featured in our lives over the years.

Adopting a dog

Mum owns a big hairy stag hound called Pheobe. Definitely an adoption success story. She’s got a big head and a bit of an attitude. Not the type of dog you’d expect to see with a 75-year-old woman walking along the country lanes of Devon. Dad adopted the dog in Australia and, when they returned to the UK, there was no question that Pheobe would be going too. Dad had early onset dementia and as the disease progressed and he was in a nursing home, Pheobe would visit Dad with Mum daily.

Happier times

I remember Pheobe in Australia when she was much younger. The mad energetic puppy ploughed straight into my legs one day whilst she chased one of my chickens. She had anxiety and could scale a 6-foot high fence if left alone, so naturally, she went everywhere with Dad. They often took our youngest, for long walks along the creek. She loved a chat and Dad and Phoebe were good listeners.


Boys Can’t Sew

It happened again!

At the market last weekend someone approached my stall and showed an interest in my Sew Together Dolls. They appreciated the concept, the design of the animals and multicultural people. They loved the step-by-step visual instructions to encourage children to be involved. And then she said ‘But I only have boys’. Seriously?

How did this happen?

A little bit of history. The invention of the domestic sewing machine was a fabulous thing. Sewing became an activity that anyone could do at home. It was, of course, heavily marketed as a tool to assist women and so it became associated with domestic labour. Exclusively a female activity of course! There’s no logic to it of course. Before making clothes could be done at home it was the job of tailors who were usually male. There are countless examples of male fashion designers. Fortunately, times are moving on rapidly and the world is beginning to realise that attaching gender to activities makes no sense. It limits us and in this case, it limits boys and stops them from learning in a field that is steeped in rich knowledge about design, materials and valuable skills.

What are we afraid of?

Modern sewists have been working hard to break down the entrenched gender stereotypes around domestic sewing. The pandemic led to a massive rise in sewing machine sales and the popularity of independent sewing pattern makers. This article in the New York Times describes how some men are attempting to break gender stereotypes through sewing clothes. It also describes how sewing can be used to advocate body acceptance and sustainability. Fast fashion is a massive contributor to pollution and climate change. All these issues are incredibly valuable in teaching young people. So why do we limit it or diminish learning about it?

Sewing has it all.

Schools are often looking for activities that bridge different curricular areas and are project-based. We learn because the activity gives us a purpose and we can see possibilities in it for ourselves. It doesn’t have to be about making clothes. It’s about understanding materials, and how they’re manufactured and put together for artistic expression or for functional purposes.

Just for the fun of it.

Aside from the fact that it’s a good thing to teach all children how to sew, why not do it just for the fun of it? My sewing kits are designed to be simple, easy to complete but also engaging. We don’t always have to be consciously breaking down gender norms or teaching kids how to save the planet by making their own clothes. Why not just start with a project just for the fun of it?


We’re off to The Show!

The Melbourne Royal Show

I’ve heard a lot about it over the years. My kids have visited it with other families and bowled through the door with show bags bigger than themselves full of nonsense, telling stories of mad animals and fairground rides. It sounds exhausting but as we did just about every other thing that Melbourne has to offer, I’m not sure why we never braved the show. It’s an agricultural show similar to the Devon county show in the UK that was part of my childhood. Well, this year, it looks like I finally get to go.

Greyhound Adoption

The books I have been illustrating recently were written by a greyhound enthusiast. She’s keen to let people know about their adorable quirks and encourage people to adopt them. As a result, the Greyhound Adoption Program is using some of my illustrations on their stall at the show. I’m really excited to see the large-scale results. The show runs from 22nd Sept to 2nd October. So if you’re going, head for the Greyhound Adoption Program stall and have a look. Of course, there will be the opportunity to buy picture books whilst you are there.


Australian Animals on their way!

My best-selling products at the markets are the collections of small doll ‘Sew Together’ kits. When I first designed and made them I honestly wasn’t sure how much people would like them. But I found that after a few weeks I needed to order more fabric. The ‘Little Bag of Friends’ are particularly popular, especially with teachers.

More ideas

One thing I absolutely love about selling directly is that you get honest and imediate feedback through sales and peoples comments. A lot of people have told me how much they would love to see a collection of Australian animals. My individual koalas have sold out, so I’m running with this idea.

Ready for Christmas

They’re getting printed at the moment but these little darlings will be available for my sprint to the Christmas finish line. If you’d like to get in early I’m taking orders. Just contact me.


Peninsula Studio Trail Artists

Last week I had the opportunity to have coffee with another peninsula artist. Narelle Callen is a fantastically talented painter. She’s been living on the peninsula for around the same time as me and we found we had a lot in common. She has also dabbled in creating patterns for fabrics which I spotted when I visited her studio a while ago. However, the fabric goods she has on display are eclipsed by the stunningly beautifully canvasses that line the brightly lit walls of the studio and the stairwell leading to it. Her house is a striking piece of architecture too. Perched on a corner it was designed to be energy efficient and uses slats of wood and different materials. It’s well worth a visit. If you look carefully she has a couple of tiny cigar-box paintings sitting on her window sill by me! She bought them at an Oak Hill Gallery exhibition years ago, before she knew me.

The Trail

Narelle is one of the artists in The Peninsula Studio Trail. I joined the group this year to push myself to become more involved in the local art community. It’s what has given me the boost of confidence I needed to get out to sell at local markets. We have Open Studie weekends twice a year in May and November. During my first open weekend I set up shop on the dining room table and it was a lot of fun inviting people in to talk about my work.

When we first visited the peninsula, all those years ago before we moved here, I remember driving to Red Hill and popping into a couple of artist’s studios that happened to have small shops and signs. It was a lovely way to talk to local people who were passionate about living and working on the peninsula. From ceramicists, glassblowers, textile artists and painters, it’s all here. The Peninsula Studio Trail just makes it easier for you to plan your trip. You can find out more about the trail and the other artists on the website. It’s a great way to see the peninsula and meet some interesting people.


Christmas in July!

I last set my market stall at the end of May and it was a super chilly start. It’s been two months and it’s time to flex the muscles and get back into it. I had a false start last week at Boneo Community Market. I was up at 5.30 am in the dark and the cold full of good intentions. I even got as far as driving down there and setting up my tent. The wind was really picking up and it looked like it might rain, but it was when the tent next to me took off into the neighbouring paddock with four people chasing it screaming, I decided it was time to go home.

The forecast is looking more promising for this Saturday at Dromana Rotary Market. I’m hearing a lot about the insane heat in Europe but it’s super chilly here so we’re pretending it’s Christmas! Yes, nothing makes sense in Australia, but they’re promising singing, open fires, chestnuts and mulled wine. I’ll be there with my woolly hat and scarf and red nose.


Celebrating Dogs

I don’t have favourites.

I love dogs so much that we have three! I don’t (really) have a favourite, but I’m certainly their favourite human, especially for one of them and probably for all of them. It helps that I’m the one that feeds them of course. As a family, we have always had small dogs but we were persuaded to get a Germain Wire-haired Pointer and we’ve never looked back. Don’t get me wrong, I love our little 10-year-old smelly Jack Russell – Pippa. She’s grumpy, stubborn, lazy and will bite the ankles off any other dog that gets too close. But Doug, our first GWP, he’s all dog and also, without a doubt, a bit human. So, because he added so much to our family by being incredibly well behaved, easy to train, loyal and handsome….we thought we’d get another one! The two of them would look so great together strutting about in their huge gentle way. Ha ha ha. Angus. Yes, he’s loyal, loving and easy to train but he’s not a handsome GWP. He a big clumsy ball of fluff that somehow manages to attract dirt like a magnet. He’s also the happiest and daftest looking dog I’ve ever known.

Illustrating dogs

I could go on talking about them, but that’s not the point of this post. I’ve illustrated a lot of books featuring dogs over the years. When they haven’t been title characters they’ve been featured in scenes about families and communities. Because they are just part of life. So I was delighted last year when I was asked to illustrate a series of three children’s books about rescue greyhounds. It’s a breed I didn’t really know much about other than the fact they seem to polarise people. The supporters and owners of greyhounds are a passionate bunch. They adore the characters of the dogs, their expressions and mannerisms. I can really appreciate this from having GWPs. But greyhounds also come with a whole load of rules attached to owning them. They have to be kept on a leash and muzzled when in populated areas for example. This comes from dogs being bred to race, treated badly and rehomed without guidance.

Inspiring characters

Kylie Miller is the author behind the book series. So far two have been completed. The first one, Albert, is out in the shops. The second one, Teddy is being printed. And the third one, Dotty, is still in the sketching stage. Kylie’s inspiration for writing the books comes from being involved in rescuing greyhounds, so the characters all exist. But although I haven’t met any of them it’s not difficult to find inspiration for drawing them. They have similar characteristics to my own dogs. They loll about, sleep on their backs and stare at you like you are the most important thing in their world. It’s been great trying to capture all that. I hope I have many more opportunities to illustrate dogs in the future.


Albert on ABC Radio National!

The author of the book I most recently illustrated is an absolute gun with publishing. It’s a joy to watch her and listen to her in newspapers, tv and this week on national radio with Jacinta Parsons.

A delightful object

Finally seeing the hard copy of a book you have worked hard to create can be a really nerve-wracking procedure. And honestly, I have received books in the past, two in particular, and literally sobbed. If the production process bleeds out the colours, or the book design is lacklustre, it can be really sad. So when I saw Albert from the first time I was absolutely over the moon. The production is gorgeous, the colours sing and it’s a lovely object. I’m proud to be able to supply copies in my online shop and at markets.

The slower season, time for cake

Here in Melbourne it’s getting pretty gloomy but I have to say there’s a lot to love about winter here. The winter walks are endlessly interesting because of the mad abundance of fungi and the sunsets and sunrises are spectacular.


A few years ago a friend encouraged me to get into decorating cakes. It was enormous fun and I have a lot of great memories from the experience. We spent a whole year creating a different cake every Friday. She did the baking and I did the decorating. It really showed me what could be achieved with steady, consistent work on something. I have a Pinterest board of some of them.

The fungi wonderland cake

Last year the mushrooms I took photos of inspired this cake for my daughter’s birthday. So pulled on my apron and remembered the skills I acquired from my year of cake making.


It’s all new to me

‘Emerging artist’ always seems like an odd term to me. It seems to suggest you’ve been hiding away somewhere, not quite ready to brave the bright lights. I feel like I’ve been emerging forever and perhaps that’s all there is. Being an artist is about constant discovery, learning new skills and looking at what you want to do next. It grows slowly and even when you reach milestones there’s always more things to work towards.

I hate goals and dreams

In a creative industry you come across many many individuals who want to inspire you to get your shit together, set goals and fulfil your dreams. That’s what everyone wants isn’t it? Of course it is. But this week I’m taking some time to value how much I’ve already done. For a whole lot of it, I had no plan at all. Some plans are a waste of time. Birth plans for example. Don’t bother. I had my first baby on the living room floor by accident. I don’t think a birth plan would have made much difference. Stephen Fry says “The worst thing you can ever do in life is set yourself goals. Two things happen: one is you don’t meet your goals so you call yourself a failure. Secondly, you meet your goal and go, ‘Well, I’m here, now what?

Save me

Sometimes I come across an individual who speaks so much sense and clarifies things so beautifully I just want to devour everything they’re saying. This week I’ve been finishing another picture book and finishing a project isn’t always easy. In fact it’s a pain in the arse. I’ve established how the paintings will be put together and I’ve done most of them but for some reason sitting down to finish the last two or three seems arduous. So to help me I have Lisa Congdon in my ears with her new podcast. She’s my new savour at the moment. Ironically she talks about having to stimulate other pathways of your brain whilst you have to complete the arduous tasks of illustration.

The value of experience

Lisa Congdon is 53, another reason why I love her. As an older person pursuing a creative career its really easy to think you’re too old. But what is too old? My work now is informed by everything that came before and I have far more confidence in what I’m able to do now because of all the different areas of illustration and design I’ve explored along the way.

I had no clue what I was doing

The most unbelievably stupid and impulsive decisions I have made have turned out to be the best. Here’s a few examples, I let a guy who I’d met only a few times move into my one bedroomed flat. I moved 20,00 miles away from my home country with two toddlers. I bought a house that was falling down. I had three kids in 5 years. None of it was planned, there were no goals. It’s been messy, heart breaking and massively rewarding.

So what’s next if you don’t plan?

Having said all that I do set goals and make plans. But I think it’s really important to keep all that in perspective. Life gets messy and things take longer than you think they’re going to. But that’s ok. Lisa Congdon also talks about taking on challenges and not knowing where those challenges will take you. When I took on putting together my market stall this year I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I have. The next challenge is to find wholesale partners on the back of all the discoveries I’ve made about which products sell well. I’ll make plans and schedule things but if it takes me a while that’s ok.


Time to stop

We need a mini-break! The first three months of this year have whipped by at break-neck speed. It’s just as busy as it was in pre-pandemic days. Perhaps we’re trying to keep on the treadmill to distract ourselves from the nightmare that is going on in the rest of the world. With horrific floods in other areas of Australia and war in Europe it seems easier to put your head down and feel grateful you can work every day.

I do find myself grasping for moments to spend with the kids. Lockdown was such an odd time and of course it wasn’t easy, but we did spend time together sewing, cooking and doing puzzles. I try not to be overly nostalgic because that time was wrapped up with a lot of angst, sadness and deep deep worry, but we did make some pretty cool stuff together. Now I enjoy the times when they tell me about a new band they’ve found, a book they’ve read or if they ask for help with some sewing. Despite the old trope that young people are disengaged and always on their phones, these moments do happen and it reminds me that they are engaged with their own creative projects and worlds.

Easter’s on it’s way

The seasons have changed and the clocks have been adjusted so we’re waking up in darkness here in Melbourne and things are feeling a bit gloomy. But we have Easter to brighten things a bit. A wonderful excuse to have four days off, meet with friends and reconnect.

Two markets

Before the break though, its another busy weekend for me. I’ll be at Emu Plains in Balnarring on Saturday and Mornington Racecourse on Sunday. I’ll be attempting to offer an alternative to chocolate. How cute are these bunnies? Mum always liked things that were made in threes, because there were three of us. So I’ve sent her one of these to make with her nephews. There’s only two of them, but she can keep one.

Happy Easter!


Markets Update

It’s been a little over a month since I started selling at local markets. Packing up my car the night before with tables, gazebo, card stands, 20kilo weights in case of wind gusts and boxes and boxes of stock. Then leaving the house at 6am to travel to a field and set up shop with everyone else. It’s super hard work, physically as much as anything else, but honestly I absolutely love it to bits.

Time/cost analysis

When you consider doing markets using a time/cost approach it makes absolutely no sense. But I think the whole ‘time is money’ thing is outdated nonsense. Frankly, any work I’ve ever done doesn’t make sense in those terms. Illustrating children’s books takes an enormous amount of time, but the results are hugely satisfying. I was a teacher for years and spent many many hours outside the time I was paid doing all the ‘stuff’ that needed to be done. That wasn’t at all satisfying, it was soul destroying and it’s why I’m not still a school teacher. Don’t get me started on teachers only being paid for the time they are teaching – how utterly insane is that? Anyway, markets take time but I feel like I’ve found something that complements and enhances my work tenfold and brings me a whole heap of joy.

It’s all about the people

In the early hours I drive into the market space and chat to the coordinators who are alway happy to see me. Then there’s getting to know my neighbours! At Red Hill when the rain was lashing down and it was a really early and dark morning I managed to get a spot in an old barn with sparrows nesting in the roof. My neighbour was The Perfume Workshop. A beautiful woman who laid out rows and rows of shiny perfume oil bottles and encouraged customers to find the smell that suited them most with her expert help. I had to buy some and where it every day now.

The Perfume Workshop

Last weekend I met John from Celtic Motifs, with his delightful hand made silver jewellery. I knew the second he arrived that I wouldn’t end the day without buying something. It was a lovely silver ring made from a little old fork and silver plated.

I also got to know the wonderful women who are The Wild Kid Collective. They are two local mums who sell hard wearing beautiful clothing for kids.

And then there’s the customers! People who are intrigued, curious and hugely complimentary. You just don’t get this kind of ego boost sitting at home working alone. I invite people in to talk and before we know it we’re discussing kids, education, connecting the generations through shared activities and the effects of the pandemic on us all. So yes, the time and effort involved to attend markets makes no sense but it really is rewarding in so many ways.

This weekend

I’ll be packing the car and heading off to Yarra Glen Market this weekend. It’s a bit of a trek for me but it looks like the weather is going to be bright. I’ll have my Easter Bunny Kits and all the other little characters. I just hope I can get set up before the 9am start and in time to get a coffee.


Time to celebrate women

It’s 8th March again! International Women’s Day. Time to shout loudly about how great women are. I was really lucky to be the middle one of three sisters. This picture was a watercolour I painted a few years ago of a memory of us on holiday together as kids. I went on to have three girls of my own and the similarities are frightening sometimes. They can make each other scream laughing and make each other scream for other reasons. When I listen to them talk about the issues that are important to them it blows me away how beautifully articulate and intelligent they are. But honestly, you could say that about millions of women.

New adventures

I’ve recently started touring the local craft markets with artist prints, books, cards and Sew Together Dolls. It’s all new to me and the one reason it’s turning out to be so great is the brilliant stall holders I’ve met. A boutique owner who designs and makes glorious linen clothing. A perfume maker who frankly was a magician with smell. A plant and hanging basket artist whose attention to detail and meticulous presentation but just amazing. An artist of beautiful watercolours of Australian animals. All of them women, getting up super early on Saturdays and Sundays to set up their stalls and talk for hours to people. And all of them so supportive and generous it makes me want to keep doing this forever. But it isn’t the first female dominated work I’ve done. From school teaching to illustration and publishing, I had a handful of bad experiences but more often than not the women I’ve worked with have been truely incredible.

My eldest helping out on the stall

Girls Education

I was really lucky to be able to get a good education. It certainly isn’t the case for many many women. One of my ambitions for my little business as it grows is to make a regular contribution to One Girl. It’s an organisation that works towards girls being educated. Their website clearly lays out the need for girls to gain an education wherever they are in the world.

Pictures say it all

I was searching for pictures that celebrate women and girls and fortunately the majority of the books and projects I’ve worked on over the years feature women and girls.

The brave and adventurous.
Arriety from The Borrowers
Rose in Rose’s Red Boots
Little Red Riding Hood
Inspired by my eldest’s endless need to climb


I’m really looking forward to seeing which of my children become mothers, but it’s also completely fine with me if they choose not to. I certainly didn’t know what I was taking on at the beginning. The book ‘Even Mummy Cries’ by Naomi Hunter was a particularly poignant book I illustrated. It tackled the subject of being a mother and the sense of overwhelm that can take over sometimes.

I’m almost at the point where my daughters have grown up and they certainly seem ready to take on the world. Without being too gushy, I hope they know they have each other, and other women, to support them too.


My First Market Day

If you were to make a wish list for the best weather and people for your first market it would look a lot like this. 24 degrees, light breeze and clear blue skies. Friendly stallholders who buy you coffee before the start of the day – seriously, I’d never met this person before! (Tracey from Chalk n Cheese Clothing, what a delightful human)

Nervous start

When the gates opened I suddenly felt nervous. I stood for over an hour and didn’t really get any interest. But with some help from family and friends I rearranged the stall to be more inviting. The customers were full of questions and compliments. I can’t wait to do it all again!

Mini Sewing Kits

These proved to be an absolute winner. As well as the addition of little bags of stuffing and the canvas bag to keep them in. This came about after I sent out a survey and got some really great suggestions. All the small business advice will tell you to ask your audience, so it’s great when that works out.

This Weekend!

I’ll be a Little Beauty Market in Frankston on Saturday 9am to 2pm. Entry is free.


Market Time!

I’m having a mild panic putting together my first market stall. Fortunately the market is set a truely gorgeous place and I’ll be surrounded by other lovely creative types. Check out The Emu Plains Market in Balnarring, it’s very beautiful. I’ll have my Sew Together Kits, artist print, t-towels and cards available.

Markets have been an ambition of mine for a while and I’m really looking forward to meeting and chatting with people. 2020/2021 clearly wasn’t the time to plan being in front of people but it gave me a chance to develop a product I’m really proud of.

Can I have your opinion?

So, to prepare for all this excitement I’m trying to work out a few things. If you have a minute I’d love to know what you think of my Sew Together sewing kits. The button below links to a short survey. Thank you in advance for any help you can offer.

Book News!

I recently completed this delightful book about greyhounds. The world of greyhounds wasn’t something I knew an awful lot about. Turns out they’re pretty quirky things and people who adopt them are truely passionate about them. I’m a convert to GWP’s but some of the traits are similar.

This time of the year

It’s a tricky anniversary to celebrate. Two years ago Australia was burning horrifically and many lives of people and wildlife and habitats were lost. One year ago I was happy to have completed a book celebrating some of the wonderful people who helped in those fires. The book has been very successful and has helped to raise a considerable amount of money for the ongoing recovery efforts. I’m hoping to have a few copies available at the market too.


You Can’t Get It Right

At the start of an art class, particularly with children, I often say ‘You can’t get it right and you can’t get it wrong. Art is an individual thing and no one does the same work. It’s an attempt to put the learners and ease and reduce comparisons and harsh judgments. Creativity is easier when the pressure is off. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a friend’s birthday event at a class at Bayside Bottle and Brush. It was a lovely opportunity to play with paint and I noticed that I was able to enjoy it without the (self-imposed) pressure to create something amazing. The teacher struck the balance between giving instructions and letting us do what we wanted to.

When do I get there?

Getting there and ‘making it’ are those magical places that creative people are really good at visualising. In fact, the start of many courses aimed to help you to reach your goals will start with imagining that magical place in detail. It makes me a bit suspicious. I can see the value in setting goals and planning for them but working creatively is a daily activity. When you work on something every day it takes you over. Then over time the idea you had about what it would look like changes again. I was listening to a friend talk passionately about what yoga had contributed to her and her life over the past 10 years. A continual practice that gives her peace of mind and at the same time makes her work her body with focus, ease and strength all at once. She was able to look back on all that consistent practice and see how it rewards her now every day. I think I can safely look back on 15 years of art practice and say that it’s contributed a huge amount to me. And I’ll never ‘make it because ‘making it isn’t real. I will keep working though.

Writing every day?

I have ambitions to write and illustrate my own picture book. I’m very attached to it being brilliant though of course. I love listening to Jen Storer on the writing process. She talks about consistency and writing every day and how this can lead to being at ease with it. Honestly, I can pick up my sketchbook every day and draw or paint easily, but writing feels a bit like a chore. But I’m willing to believe that consistency will make it easier. With sketching, I often set myself simple daily drawings. At the moment I’m using pen and ink to fill a beautiful sketchbook my sister gave me for Christmas. Now I need to build in some playful story writing.


Wrap It Up

Time to wrap up 2021 and wish it a fond farewell! But first a little bit of reflection. It hasn’t all been easy but I can look back on this year and safely say I enjoyed creating a bunch of stuff, I made some good progress and faced some really unexpected hurdles. I use a desk planner, a big old A4 thing with heaps of space to scribble plans and ideas. I’ve tried a few but for the past few years I’ve used Passion Planner. It’s a bit pricey but I use it every day and it’s nice to have something pretty. There’s loads of space to plan and dream about projects. A lot of the time I look back on these plans and realise they were wildly unrealistic, but they also prompt me to keep moving forward.

Best and Worst of 2021?

I was going to concentrate on work things, and I’ll get to that, but honestly the best thing in 2021 was getting Gus. Another German Wire-haired Pointer and possibly the happiest snuggliest dog in the world.

Work-wise, an absolute highlight was illustrating Heroes of Black Summer for Australian Geographic. Visiting Nowa Nowa for the book launch and meeting Kylie Miller the author was a real treat. As it turned out it was the only trip away I managed all year.

A low point this year was definitely my husband getting stuck overseas when we were all put back into lockdown. We’re very fortunate that things have worked out now, but it definitely put the breaks on things in the middle of the year.

I did that!

During the first half of the year Global Sisters were a massive help to me. It still amazes me that their incredible services to women in business are completely free. With some excellent guidance I created my Sew Together Dolls and got them onto their beautiful Marketplace. I’m looking forward to developing this further.

I also completed a Cert IV in Training and Assessment this year which means I’m now qualified to teach adults. I’ve always enjoyed sharing skills and working with other creative people so I’ll be looking for more opportunities to do this.

So what next?

I get overwhelmed at times. So it helps my muddled brain to think of my little business as divided into three parts; creating illustration, creating and selling products and teaching. In any given year, or quarter, there can be more focus on one of those areas. For the coming year I’m really keen to work on communicating and getting out ‘there’. The pandemic has been the perfect excuse for me to hide and create work. I plod along quietly and create work for clients without actually stepping out of the front door. This year though I’m planning on taking some products to a few actual markets. I loved creating my ‘Sew Together Dolls’ in the first half of 2021 and I have a nice collection of products so it’s time to have fun and talk to people about it. I’m also planning some more Skillshare classes so watch out for me sharing a little more about that.

In the meantime, I’m illustrating another book for Kylie Miller about a greyhound.

Happy New Year


Christmas Challenge

Mid November, panic time! Although generally I get the sense that Christmas has a different tone this year. Let’s face it, it’s very difficult to expect anything to arrive on time if you’re buying online. Stuff is hanging about in warehouses waiting to be delivered. Here in Australia there are huge delays in the postal service and we’re starting to feel it. Personally I rely far too much on deliveries for vital stuff. In particular dog food and toilet roll! So Christmas is going to be a challenge, but there is a solution.

Local Artists

I’ve used Etsy for Christmas presents for a long time. Artists are easy to find if you know their name, but there’s also a handy filter system that allows you to narrow down the location. I have people in Devon, UK to buy for so knowing that the work is created there is ideal.

Get creative with Gifts

I have teens with a variety of interests and when I went searching for local artists I noticed that many of them run classes and offer vouchers. Personally I’m yet to do this, but for a person interested in learning a new skill like pottery or sewing this could be perfect!

My local delivery!

What I am able to offer is free local delivery for any of my shop items, in particular my cute little sewing kits. So if you’re in the Mornington Peninsula area and in need of cards or gifts message me or order from the shop. I’ll be delighted to deliver to your door!


Where have you been?

Well, the quick answer to that is nowhere! But I have been very distracted and busy with projects and trying to keep the family on track. Here’s a brief catch-up. My husband had to travel to Africa and was stuck there for three months whilst we were placed in another lockdown. Melbourne has had more lockdown days than anywhere on the planet. After his return, at last, the lockdown was lifted – hooray! But on that day we experienced a massive storm that cause havoc and left us without power for four days! Interesting times.

So now…Christmas!

So, having recovered from all that madness it’s time to take a deep breath and build up to Christmas. Halloween completely passed us by as we struggled by in the darkness. But today is the first day we’ve had over 25 degrees so that means we’re gearing up for Summer and hopefully a relaxing holiday season.

Polar Bear Christmas

Global Sisters Marketplace

One thing I’m really proud I achieved this year is my little shop on Global Sisters Marketplace. The sewing kits are designed to work as a teaching tool for kids wanting to learn how to sew or embroider. I made six different multicultural dolls and six endangered animals which can act as talking points. I’m working on making some smaller kits and building on my embroidery skills. The kits are also available on my shop here

Another Challenge

Yes, I’m at it again! I’m up to number 50 of my most recent drawing challenge. I’m not stressing to draw every day but it gives me a little boost sometimes to think of illustration ideas away from work projects. Thoughts are often formed more easily without the pressure of a deadline and can then be incredibly useful. It surprises me how these little whimsical illustrations in response to a word can eventually find their way into a picture book later on.