Wilmington Expedition

owlstation_instagram_wilmington_4

Back in January my Mum and I spent three days in a cabin in Sussex exploring and drawing on the downs! We stocked up on hearty winter foods; soups, crusty bread and cheese. We packed our warmest clothes our sketchbooks, paper and drawing materials and set off for the hills.

Hailing from Newhaven, my Mum has always felt a strong connection to this part of the world and has been drawn to the mysterious Long Man of Wilmington, something that she has passed on to me. There is definitely something about the place. An ancient chalk figure etched into the hillside, being able to see way out across the land, rolling greenery and patchwork fields. The feeling of being high up and catching glimpses of the silvery sea.

It was late afternoon when we set out on our first sketch-pedition. We walked up the chalky track that runs alongside the Long Man. Though icy cold, the sun was shining brightly, setting everything ablaze. It was hard going clambering up the steep track in our skiwear whilst juggling our drawing equipment and we quickly overheated. Underfoot, beautiful frosty patterns had formed in the chalk, the ice wrenching the track apart and churning up the ground.

owlstation_wilmington sketch_2016_ sun photo

At the top, spectacular views across the valleys. The sun seemed to hook into you and draw you out of your winter shell. I always get a primitive feeling when I’m there. My inner cave girl rises up! I felt like I could have been a horse in a previous life as I had the urge to gallop and jump around. I wanted to look at all the plants and flints. Examine every bit of sheep’s wool caught on thorny bushes. Mum stood next to a large metal gate and discovered it was singing a strange melody as the wind blew through the tiny holes in its metal surface.

We made quick sketches. I thought about all the artists who have been inspired by the landscape over the years and the beautiful works they have created. Scruffy pencil marks, etchings, layers and textures. I found it quite difficult to draw the sparse landscape, but the feeling of calm that came from getting totally lost in the moment and absorbed by the surroundings was amazing.

owlstation_wilmington sketch_2016_ravilious inspired

The cabin itself was our refuge from the cold. Lighting fires in the wood-burning stove became my job. A good little fire would quickly warm the small room and give off a lovely smoky smell. In the evenings we cooked our meals, settled into the comfy chairs with hot chocolate and dissected our drawings. Our soundtrack was Arch Garrison’s album ‘I Will Be a Pilgrim’ a beautiful piece of music with lyrics mirroring our experience of enjoying the wild, chalky land.

 

We spent two days like this, waking early, making crumpets then setting out to the hills. Drawing, getting cold, coming back to warm up and refuel, then setting out again. Collapsing into our beds at the end of the day, feeling that we’d earned our rest.

On the last day, it snowed. It had fallen quite thickly in the night and we woke to a silent, white world. The Long Man was lost in the freezing clouds of fog. We sat on the cabin porch and drew the view in front of us, our breath freezing in the air. We set out on a different route that day, the snow had completely changed the views and we had to stop every few minutes to photograph and gawp at how different it looked. The white contrasted against the dark sky and enhanced the many lines and furrows that cut across the landscape. They seemed to carve it up, scars on the surface of the world.

owlstation_wilmington sketch_2016_ snowy photo

We arrived at a little church and entered the graveyard. A giant, ancient tree was at its centre, reinforced by heavy planks of wood and bound by thick iron chains in an attempt to keep it together. Most of the snow had burned off by midday as we made it to the top. It was difficult to work on a drawing too long because of the cold but we put the effort in and both make sketches we were pleased with.

I enjoyed treading on the frozen puddles. Carefully displacing my weight a little at a time and watching the splinters and shards form in the ice until, with a squeaking sound, they give way and the brown muddy water gushes up to greet your wellies!

It was such a special weekend. Making drawing the focus of the trip meant that we really made time for it. If we saw something we wanted to sketch, we could change our plans to fit around it, something that isn’t always practical on a more usual sort of holiday. Being outside in January despite the cold made me very happy too. Shutting ourselves away from the modern world and keeping things simple. We definitely want to go back again next year!

On this trip we stayed at Jackson’s Cabin in Polegate, hosted by the lovely Alison.

 

Illustrated Festival Posters

festival posters

There’s been a super lovely crop of illustrated festival posters this Summer. Featuring bright colours, strange little characters and odd machines. They seem to have a bit of a ‘Where’s Wally?’ vibe to them, which does makes sense as it can often feel that way trying to find your friends at a festival! This type of illustration seems to be particularly popular for music and gig art at the moment and it’s really nice to see more of it about! Bestival, Wildlife and Music Wins festival posters shown above.

Secret 7

owlstation_secret7_illustration_1

I took part in this year’s Secret 7. A nice, inspiring project which invites creatives from all over the world to interpret designs for 7” record sleeves based on one of 7 songs chosen each year. The designs are not allowed to feature the artist name or track title (hence the secret bit!). Whilst my entry wasn’t selected for the charity exhibition I was really glad I took part. I chose to create a piece for the Tame Impala track ‘The Less I know The Better’ a melancholy song with hints of unrequited love, lust and longing.

owlstation_secret7_illustration_detail_1

I wanted to push my conceptual thinking but found it tricky to choose an idea. Finding a way to reflect the themes of the song without feeling too obvious or being influenced by existing media attached to it. Eventually it was the electronic sounds that inspired me the most. I felt they had an underwater-like quality to them conjuring imagery of ripples and watery light. I also enjoyed the lyric ‘Wait ten years we’ll be together’.

I imagined that the lover in the song was banished to an isolated underwater lair and forced to wait, striking off each year on a seaweed covered rock until they could return to their love. Something like that. I’m pretty pleased how the final piece turned out. It uses a mixture of watercolour, oil pastel and pencil. It helped me to explore use of composition and layers texture.

owlstation_secret7_worksheet_2

owlstation_secret7_worksheet_1

 

Year Walk

yearwalk_simogo

I’ve played some really great games on my phone recently. I haven’t had a Playstation of my own for some years but I’m finding that puzzle and adventure apps are just right for enjoying on a smaller device. In the same way that you can’t put a good book down, I find myself sneaking in a breakfast gaming session, tapping away on the tube and trying (and failing) not to play in bed.

A recent stand out for me is Simogo’s Year Walk ; an atmospheric game set in the snowy Swedish woods.  In times of old, man would walk deep into the woods in the hope of catching a glimpse of his future. It was a perilous activity and many who ventured never returned. As the story unravels, you encounter strange, dark beasts of the forest taken straight from Swedish folklore. You must solve the puzzles they set out for you, searching for clues and performing clever interactions to impress them.

 

The art style is beautiful. It somehow manages to be both cute and creepy at the same time. It is Illustratively rich, the textures adding just the right amount of detail. The gentle shift of focus and blurring/sharpening of foreground and background objects seem to add to the feeling of unease.

The interface is super minimal, which seems to me to be a mark of a well designed experience. I would rather focus on story and game art than an ugly button or unnecessary menus. If you do download it, be sure to grab the companion app which has a few secrets of its own!

yearwalk_simogo_house.jpg

 

Edinburgh

edinburgh castle_owlstation sketchbook

I had a wonderful time exploring the beautiful city of Edinburgh. This was my first trip to Scotland as an adult and I took my sketchbook along to record the adventure. Good thing too as there was plenty of inspiring stuff to draw; from stunning gothic buildings to the cheeky airbnb cat ‘Minou’. Here are some of the other things that made my trip special:

Visiting Edinburgh Castle, climbing Arthur’s Seat, cobbled streets and ‘wynds’, The Elephant House, a battered Mars bar, bagpipe wars, crumbling graveyards, Michael Fassbender’s Macbeth, the National Museum, trendy cocktails, getting spooked in the catacombs, veggie haggis, quality whisky and vintage trousers.

 

stag 2_owlstation sketchbook

 

birds at museum_owlstation sketchbook

minou_owlstation sketchbook

arthurs seat_owlstation sketchbook

 

 

Drawlutions

2015 image_7

January always feels like a good time of year to think about where you are now and where you’re headed. To dust off the cobwebs, consider lessons learned in the previous year and psych oneself up for some self improvement. I’ve been thinking about how this applies to my illustration for 2016 and what my ‘Drawlutions’ should be (yeah I went there). So here’s the list. I could have gone way beyond eight but for now these feel the most important to me to carry through the year.

1. Get Conceptual
I’d like to create more conceptual pieces. Really consider how I could fulfil a brief and look for unusual and interesting ways to do so.

2. Use Colour
I’d like to be more experimental with colour in my work. I often shy away from it, feeling scared of getting it wrong. The time has come to experiment!

3. Skill Up
There are so many online courses out there, I want to get involved and increase my skill set. There are typography lessons to be learned, use of composition and light to name a few. I’m always attracted to the Skillshare site…

4. Create Portfolio Pieces
My personal projects can get benched and neglected when client work takes priority. Meaning lots of illustration ideas I have aren’t seen through to their final conclusion. I want to add more to my portfolio this year with both client and personal work.

5. Set Up Shop
I see so many lovely prints and products sold by illustrators who have organised, sexy shops. I want to join the online shop gang! Or at least explore the idea of selling work, cool items to share with the world, things I’d actually want to buy myself. I feel like i’ve got a LOT to learn here.

6. Keep Drawing
I’ve been pretty on it lately with sketching which I’m chuffed about and definitely feel like my drawing is improving. I want to keep that up this year and get along to more life classes.

7. Artist Studies
I found this really helpful last year. Looking at artists I admire, examining their style, having a go myself to see what I learn. Mixed results but definitely useful.

8. Texture Play
Layering up marks, messing about in photoshop, this is something I’ve started to do. I’d like to keep it going and try to find my style.

I’ve kicked off experiments here with a young kayaker paddling away from 2015, more experiments soon! If you have any Drawlutions of your own I’d love to hear about them and how you plan to carry them out. Happy New Year!

Little Look Back

L is for Lepidoptera_Owlstation

It’s January and the start of a shiny new year already, it hardly seems possible! Before I get stuck into my new year drawlutions (drawing – resolutions, anyone? Oh dear..) I wanted to have a quick look back at December and 2015. The ‘Easy As’ show was a lot of fun. Seeing everyone’s beautiful alphabet artwork displayed together was brilliant. With a real mix of styles, colour and approach from each artist.

Meeting and collaborating with the talented Drawn Chorus Collective was a great experience. On a personal level it was lovely to be exhibiting again and creating a piece that would have a physical life. Whilst I love working on games and apps, it feels great to see my work printed and framed up every so often. In case you missed it, here is my illustration ‘L for Lepidoptera’ and some photos from the private view.

easy as show_2_

easy as show_1_

I was lucky to work on some fantastic digital projects in 2015 such as Silverpoint. I got down to lots of sketching; including my Devon holiday and recent trip to Edinburgh (more on that soon!).

Moving from Brighton to London was a big change for me. It wasn’t until the tail end of the year that I really started to feel settled and get a feel for my own place in what can sometimes seem a daunting and isolating city. I now feel i’ve found my feet and am thrilled to be in such a happening space, with so many gigs, exhibitions and heaps of culture, plus meeting lovely people to boot. 2016 here we go!