Glen Baxter

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I’m currently enjoying Glen Baxter’s Blizzards of Tweed, a fabulous collection of whimsy and nonsense!

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I was lucky enough to receive my copy as part of a work-place Secret Santa (a rare occurrence when freelancing!). It must be the best one I’ve ever received and I felt pretty guilty for giving a standard chocolates and sweeties combo when I unwrapped it.

Baxter’s wonderfully ridiculous humour and embracing of the absurd aside – it really is a beauty to behold. The first part of the book is made up of elegant line drawings, then towards the middle he uses layers of coloured pencil to great effect.

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I find it can be difficult to do this well as sometimes the colours can turn muddy or the texture refuses to build up evenly, but he’s clearly mastered this.

I love that at first glance, any one of his sketches feels like it could be a legitimate illustration from a classic children’s book and it’s not until you look more closely that you can spot the oddities and weirdness of his storytelling. Lots of owls to enjoy too!

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My January Rituals

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It’s 2018 and I’m actually quite excited for January. Though I love Christmas, the festive cosyness, sparkly lights, delicious food and drink, by New Year’s Eve I’m usually feeling ready to get back to normal. To try and eat a bit healthier, venture outside and asses my goals and plans for the new year. January also signals the approach back towards my preferred time of year…with more light in the evenings and (hopefully) warmer weather on the way!

As January can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming with resolutions and laying plans, I thought I’d share a couple of things that I find helpful and inspiring for getting back to it – Especially as a freelancer.


Yoga With Adrienne
Every January, YouTube yoga teacher Adriene releases a new ’30 Days of Yoga’ challenge. I’m no yoga expert but the videos are easy to follow and pretty accessible to everyone. I find that concentrating on breath, moving the body and stretching make me feel so much better and are a really good way to start the day. I’ve never managed to do the challenge on consecutive days, but I don’t think that matters!

Walking
It doesn’t have to be a long hike in the countryside (though that’s definitely a bonus when available!). A 10 or even 5 minute walk around the block on my lunch break always lifts my mood. It can be especially difficult to motivate myself to do this when it’s chilly or a rainy day. But a brisk walk seems to wake me up, give my brain a break and make me more productive in the afternoon.

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Writing
Putting pen to paper to note down how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking about is a useful way to clear the head and help order priorities. I grab a biro, whatever notebook is lying about (usually some nice new ones post Xmas!) and just jot down whatever pops into my head. Sometimes this can turn into a bit of a ramble, but the act of writing down my thoughts, just for me, always gives me a sense that I have a plan, or at least the start of one.

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So there you have it, my January rituals! I’d love to hear about any techniques or ideas you have in place for to kick start your 2018. Happy New Year!

Happy Christmas!

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Happy Christmas everyone! Wishing you a lovely festive break and chilled end to the year. Here’s a quick little sketch from our bracing walk on Ovingdean beach earlier today. I’m looking forward to more drawing challenges and adventures in 2018 – I’d love to hear about your creative resolutions if you have some. Until January 🤗🎄

Advent Countdown

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This year I’ve had a paper advent calendar instead of a chocolate one and I’ve really enjoyed it. My Winter Woodland advent calendar by illustrator Angela Harding is very satisfying. There’s a wide variety of wildlife, big and small – birds, stags, badgers, foxes and a healthy dose of owls!

The blue and white shades of the snow are set off by the reds of the berries and fur of the animals. The warm glow from the house in the distance stops it from feeling too chilly.

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I love the linocut style and the flowing composition which draws the eye around the scene. The numbers on the little doors are quite tricky to pick out, so sometimes it takes a while to find the right one but it’s well worth it when you’re rewarded with a miniature deer or leaping greyhound.

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A spell of pre-Xmas work in Brighton has drawn me away from my advent calendar – but it will be nice to discover all the other doors in January when I return to London and eek out the festivities a bit longer!

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Brian

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This week I’m cat sitting Brian. We’ve hung out a few times now and it’s always a pleasure spending time with him. While I get on with my work in the day, he’s usually curled up tightly on the sofa. He’ll occasionally pop over to say hello, climb over my Macbook a few times and sit on my lap for a bit, kneading me with his claws.

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Like most cats, he goes a bit hyper in the evening before bed time. Launching himself into the air, skidding through rooms or climbing up my legs while I’m cooking. On this visit I’ve decided to try and sketch him during some of his quieter moments. He’s so dark and fuzzy that sometimes when his eyes are closed he just blends into one big fluff-ball and it’s tricky to pick out any features! It’s been good practice though, trying to quickly get his form down before he shifts position and nice for me to have some cat company.

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Making my game

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Unity game engine

This year i’ve started learning to use Unity; a free, creative engine that is capable of  making all kinds of games and interactive experiences. Initially I wanted to learn it as a gateway to making things for Virtual Reality. I’m still planning to do that, but realising I was trying to gallop before I could walk, I slowed things down and set myself a personal project of creating my own 2D game.

As a freelance designer (by day!) I’ve worked on many games over the years and have even used Unity in some projects to assist developers with simple tasks – but I’ve never attempted to create an entire game myself. When I found this handily titled ‘2D Games for Non-Programmers’ tutorial I decided to get involved and see what I could learn.

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A spot of mood boarding

It’s going well so far and after an initial spot of mood boarding and research, I’ve settled on the title ‘A Witch’s Garden’ and started sketching enemies, collectable items and logo ideas for my ethereal concept. It’s going to be a long journey to creating for virtual reality and I’ll have to remind myself to be patient, but i’m already excited and absorbed by my mini project and will keep sharing my progress until it’s ready to play.

 

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Shetland Adventure

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Last year my brother, father and I went on a road trip to the Shetland Islands. We’d all been keen to explore and to visit our friends who had moved there some years previously. They’d been tempting us with stories of epic scenery and wildlife. I packed my sketchbook, plenty of jumpers and warm clothes (it was May but I wasn’t taking any chances!) and booked us into a series of ‘Böds’ – buildings once used to house Fisherman’s equipment – now turned into basic accommodation for travellers.

We had such a brilliant adventure! I didn’t keep a journal at the time, so will share some highlights with you here, as well as sketches and photos made along the way…

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Dunnottar Castle
Before taking the ferry to Shetland we visited the ruined, Medieval fortress of Dunnottar Castle near Aberdeen. Perched on the headland, it has serious Game Of Thrones vibes to it! The many crumbling windows and arches gave incredible views of the sea and coastline and provided plenty of inspiration for drawing.

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Ferry Crossing
We then took the overnight ferry to Lerwick, the main port in Shetland. It made me realise that I’ve got a bit of a ‘thing’ for drawing modern fishing boats! Something about all the criss crossed lines of the ropes, the symmetry of their cranes and pulleys, the bold strips of colour and chunky iron fittings…Spending a night on the ferry was pretty exciting too. We had fantastic views of the choppy sea as we made our way north. And enjoyed several intense games of Canasta with beers and hot chocolates.

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Arrival in Shetland

It was snowing when the ferry pulled into Lerwick. We spent the next few days staying in a Bod near our friend’s house. They were wonderful tour guides and hosts and took us to some of their favourite spots. At Sumburgh Head Lighthouse (foghorn pictured below) we were blasted by icy winds and saw puffins. A stones throw from our friend’s home we saw the washed up spine of a whale and spotted otters but the big treat came when we visited the lunar-esque cliffs of Eshaness…

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Just as we were about to leave the cliffs, our friend bolted from the car and pointed out to sea. She had spotted a pod of Orcas! We were extremely lucky to have seen them on our first visit to Shetland and luckily had a pair of binoculars with us (nature nerds) but we could even see them with the naked eye; the tall dorsal fin of the male and a baby orca keeping up with the pack.

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Though I made some drawings I was very happy with during our trip, there were several occasions where I was thwarted by the weather and had to admit defeat. Snow one minute, torrential rain and howling winds then beautiful, warm sunshine the next, quite tricky to keep up with! But I was determined to finish my drawing of little coloured houses across the bay and these fluffy Shetland ponies (chalk pastel sketch at the very top of this post).

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Island Hopping
We moved on from the mainland to stay in Yell. This involved another ferry crossing, though this one was so quick there was barely time to finish a Mars bar. On Yell we stayed in a Bod next to a ruined, haunted house. There were a few eerie buildings during our stay which was exciting – until you turned off the lights and let the fires go out!

From here we made little expeditions around Yell to see ‘The White Wife’, the figurehead of a German ship that wrecked near the island, some secret beaches and to drink in the Northern-most pub in Shetland (or so claimed the pub). We also travelled to neighbouring Unst for a day trip.

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A grey day on Unst

Unst is one of Shetland’s North isles. We took another little ferry over to explore. It was a very grey and foggy day. On a quiet winding road, a Viking Longboat suddenly appeared from the mist! A complete replica perched next to a reconstruction of a turf covered Longhouse.

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Later we took a walk to the cliffs at Hermaness Nature Reserve. We stuck to the wooden path to avoid falling into the saturated ground – very reminiscent of Tolkein’s ‘Dead Marshes’ – until the path ran out and disappeared into the fog. Knowing this was pretty close to the cliff edge, we decided it would be a smart move to turn back!

At the Keen of Hamar nature reserve we hunted for Edmonston’s chickweed. A small, yellow flower that can only be found in this little stretch of protected land. On a chilly, seaweed covered beach we were eyeballed by a large male seal from the water. We posed in the decorated bus shelter, an attraction straight from Craggy Island and marvelled at one of the moss covered Standing Stones.

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Ferry Home
It was a calm sunny evening when we took the ferry back to the mainland. There was a beautiful pink sunset and the sea had a milky quality to it. We stood on the deck for quite some time watching Shetland shrink into the distance.

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There’s a lot more that we did and saw on this trip that i’ve missed out but these are some of my favourite memories. If you’re a nature lover that’s sturdy enough to withstand the constant weather changes and seeking somewhere untouched and remote to explore, then I highly recommend visiting Shetland. Don’t forget your binoculars!