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)


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.


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.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin


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.


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.


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!

Success! You're on the list.


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.


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.


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.


Getting by at home


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.