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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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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.

Illustrated gum-nuts

After an extended break to the wilds of the UK and Africa, I’m finally back to creating patterns starting with recolouring these gum-nuts. This was one I started before I went away but it’s been jigged about about this week. Looking forward to more creating soon.