Owlstation Store: Cabin Experiments

In between client projects (and trying to soak up us much of the Summer as possible) I’ve started work on the next range of products for the Owlstation Store. There’s still a lot to do, but I wanted to give you a little glimpse of some of the development work that’s been going on. Without giving too much away at this point…I’ve been practicing drawing lots of cabins!

Inspired in part by the awesome book Cabin Porn which features gorgeous, enchanting cabins from all over the world. But also by the idea of escaping somewhere secret, cosy and a little bit magical. My initial scribbled ideas, rough sketches and early thumbnails have started to come together and the new products are taking shape. I’ll be excited to share more soon, but for now here are a few more of those cabin experiments.

The Last Expedition: A Text Adventure Game

My brother Mikey and I have teamed forces again to create ‘The Last Expedition’ a text adventure game set in a frozen, dystopian future. Well, Mikey built it, wrote the story and composed the music for it, I just created the background art! It’s a work in progress (so a few bugs and unfinished sections) but I was excited to share how it’s come together…

Inspired in part by the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard and Arctic exploration, the story asks you to follow in the footsteps of a young, female explorer who has ventured onto the frozen wastes in hope of finding the now mythical landmark. As the adventure unfolds you are presented with choices about which icy paths to take, faced with decisions to make camp or push on risking frostbite and given the opportunity to investigate long forgotten structures.

Created during lockdown for Mikey’s final University project, it brought us closer together at a time when geographically we were quite far apart. Looking back at that time now, I realise just how special it was. We checked in on Skype every morning to discuss next steps for his compositions or coding. Briefly catching up on the news before checking our schedules and planning his deadlines. It gave me structure and emotional support in the midst of all that fear and uncertainty. Plus it was the most time we’d spent ‘together’ in years.

Though the game is a work in progress that we would both like to develop further – I’m very proud of what we achieved so far. You can listen to the entire soundtrack on Mikey’s Soundcloud page too, but here’s a taster from the Archive Facility…

If you like mystery, dystopian futures and ice, check it out! You can play The Last Expedition on Share My Game here. Don’t forget to wear headphones!

The Woods are Dark and Dangerous

owlstation illustration_the woods are dark and dangerous_2020I’ve been making more time to play in my sketchbook lately and draw things just for fun. Little, one off experiments based on references or prompts that I find particularly enticing and exciting. Raiding my Pinterest boards for images that have inspired me and then getting my art materials out to see what feels right.

Whilst not all of these experiments result in images I’m pleased with (aka ready to share on Instagram!) they’ve definitely been helping me develop my illustration skills and learn more about the mediums I work with. I was pleased with how this Crayola and pencil study turned out though…I added the owl separately after finishing the woodland background, sticking him on top collage style. I couldn’t resist adding a bit of typography underneath to encourage the story that was forming in my head!

Discovering Dungeons & Dragons

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For many years I’ve been keen to try Dungeons & Dragons.  As a gamer and fantasy lover I suspected it would be something I’d get on well with and its appearances in Stranger Things and before that The IT Crowd, spurred my intrigue further. However, although I’d been invited to join a few campaigns, it wasn’t until lockdown that I was finally able to make the time to play. In March, when a friend asked if I’d like to join their new online campaign (and my calendar was suddenly devoid of all weddings, birthdays and anything that would stop me from saying yes) I decided to go for it!

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We’re now several weeks into our Monday night sessions of dungeon crawling and I am completely hooked! I’ve met new friends, learned the basics of the game and been expanding my problem solving imagination. We play on Roll20, a website geared for online tabletop and role-play games. Whilst I can’t pretend I’d have had any clue how to set up our campaign or run the sessions as a Dungeon Master, I’ve been lucky to join some more experienced players who have been happy to show me the ropes.

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Something I didn’t expect, is that Roll20 enables you to see the dungeon or location your exploring and allows you to move your character through the environment. Whilst it’s fairly simple in it’s graphical style, it just adds so much to the fun. Creating and getting to know my character and his abilities has also been a source of great joy.

Engelbert Bramble Tamer, my Druid Gnome is curious, at one with nature and now able to transform into a handful of animals. He was a wolf in our previous session.

…that’s him at the top of the post there, I made a quick doodle. If you’ve been thinking about trying DnD yourself and are still unsure, let me encourage you to go for it! If you don’t know people that play already, I believe you can find new campaigns to join on Roll20. There are also lots of great online resources to teach you the basics and help demystify the rules. You might find your first session a bit overwhelming, I was unprepared and quite confused – but stick with it and you’ll soon find yourself drawn in to this vast, magical world!

Screenshot from Roll20 Campaign and Stranger Things image used here without permission. Drawing of Engelbert is my own!

 

 

 

Drawing in the Cotswolds

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Please note – this is was pre quarantine drawing adventure! I won’t be creating artwork outside until it’s safe for us to do so again. I’ve included links to spots we visited in case, when it’s safe once more post quarantine, you’re able to make a visit. 

Last year to celebrate my 30th birthday, Adam and I planned a clamping trip to the Cotswolds. I had always wanted to stay in a yurt and loved the idea of being nestled in the countryside in springtime with our sketchbooks and plenty of nature to draw. Above and below are some of my sketches, photos and select memories from that magical trip…

Fancy Service Station

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I’ve always enjoyed stopping off at service stations as part of a long car journey. Stretching my legs and picking up a treat or two. The transitory buzz of people heading off on their different adventures. But the Gloucester Farm Shop and Kitchen services that we stopped at on our journey into Stroud was by far the fanciest, most beautiful service station I have ever seen in my life! We settled down for a delicious, fresh lunch, then got the sketchbooks out to draw the idyllic views through its windows. After perusing the fancy goods of the farm shop for supplies we set off again to find our yurt.

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The Yurt

The Teasel Yurt was everything I hoped it would be! An enchanting little cosy space lit by fairy lights and a wood burning stove. Fabulous views looking out over Stroud in one direction and a thick pocket of luscious, green woods behind us. The little deck provided space for us to cook our tasty, treaty dinners at sunset and to spy birds of prey over tea and biscuits whilst huddled in blankets in the chill morning air. At night the stars were bright and clear and the smell of the wood smoke clung to our hair and clothes. It was the perfect little base for us to begin our drawing adventures from.

 

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Selsey Common

On our first day of drawing and exploring, we decided to check out our more immediate surroundings. Our Yurt was perched about half way up Selsey Common, a popular walking destination forming part of the Cotswolds way. We planned a little round route that would take us over the nearby hills, up through the forest behind us, up to the very top of the common and back down again on the opposite side – back to the yurt in time for tea. Of course we would be breaking up our journey with a few stops for sketching.

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A group of curious cows watched as as we worked on our first drawings. When we stopped for our second sketch in the trees behind us, I spotted a woodpecker flying back and forth to its nest. I could hear its hungry, chirruping babies from where I sat! I was using a combination of pen, chalks and oil pastel for these, whilst Adam had the oil paints out!

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Woodchester Mansion

Later on in our trip we visited Woodchester Mansion. An unfinished, gothic revival house situated in beautiful parkland. It was a hot day and after treating ourselves to ice cream and a quick look inside the mansion, we went wandering in the grounds beyond. I didn’t make any drawings I was pleased with on this occasion, but I remember watching the sunshine sparkle of the boat lakes and the smell of wild garlic (pictured below) in the early evening as we returned to the car, blissful!

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Puzzlewood

Finally, some of my fondest memories of this trip are from our day spent at Puzzlewood near the Forest of Dean. Magical, ancient woodland riddled with twisted trees, little wooden bridges, tumbling rocky drops and moss covered rocks. We had so much fun drawing and painting here – I could easily imagine that we were being watched by fairies and wood elves as we took in our surroundings. It’s easy to understand why it’s a popular location for filming. It even makes an appearance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens! We ended our day by driving to Stroud Brewery were we ate a delicious oven baked pizza and enjoyed a cold beer in the warm, cosy atmosphere.

 

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this little look back into some pre quarantine adventure times. Especially if (like me) you’re missing nature and the freedom to go out in that we’re normally blessed with…those days will come again my friends. I’ve included links to the places we visited in case, when it’s safe again, you’re able to make a visit. For now, I hope that you’re safe and well at home, sending love and good vibes to you!

If you enjoyed this post and would like to see some more drawing adventure fun, do check out my Skye and Shetland posts for some more outdoorsy goodness!

 

Prospect Cottage Saved!

Derek Jarman's Prospect Cottage 2

I’m so glad to hear that Prospect Cottage, the former home of British filmmaker, artist and activist Derek Jarman has been saved by an arts crowdfunding campaign! The striking cottage and garden sit nestled in the shingle of Dungeness, a vast beachy headland known for its eerie power station and stark, windswept beauty.

The cottage, which was under threat of private acquisition, will now be preserved and maintained for future visitors, along with its unique pebble garden. The proceeds will help to fund a permanent public programme set to include residencies for artists, academics, writers, filmmakers and gardeners according to this Guardian article.

Derek Jarman's Prospect Cottage

We paid a visit back in 2019 and I would highly recommend adding it to your ‘To Visit’ list for when the Pandemic is over and quarantine is lifted. Ghostly fishing boats and seemingly abandoned structures pepper the horizon. Tough, hardy plants grow up through the stones. Climbing the many steps of the light house will reward you with spectacular views of the sci fi-esque power station to one side and the roaring sea to the other. Here’s a couple of my snaps and a little lighthouse sketch from our visit.

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First two images used here without permission, all other images are my own.

 

Owl Post, Sending Love

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Dear Friends, I hope that this owl post finds you safe and well in these challenging times. I know that we’re all facing challenges right now. From the smaller adjustments of our daily lives to the bigger and scarier realities that some of us are now having to face. I just wanted to send you some love and warmth. Some positive vibes and hope. Encouragement and strength to look after yourselves, your loved ones and others.

Just to give you a little notice – I’m going to keep posting illustrations and images of nature, creativity and pleasant things here on the blog and across my social pages. I completely understand if that’s not for you right now or doesn’t feel quite right given these heavy times. We’ve all got to handle this in the way that suits us best. For me, that means balancing news checking and Covid updates with some down time and escapism. Staying informed and in touch, but also allowing time for rest and calm – which as I understand is good for the immune system!

That’s all for now, take care in your hobbit hole,
Love Alice X

Floating Worlds: Japanese Woodcuts Exhibition

Brighton Museum, Royal pavilion, collection, Japanese woodcuts

I was so pleased that I managed to catch Brighton Museum’s Floating Worlds: Japanese Woodcuts exhibition before it closed this January. It was such an inspiring and thoughtfully curated collection of woodcut prints.

The scenes in the show depicted the Edo period of 19th century Japan and offered a window into an unbelievably magical world…luminous full moons, bustling night markets, villages frozen in snow, sumptuous patterns and clothing…

The images really capture the imagination and draw you in, as if you could follow the traveller down the printed path and on to the distant mountains on the horizon. Here’s a small selection of some of my favourites, their titles listed at the end of the post. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Brighton Museum, Royal pavilion, collection, Japanese woodcuts

 

Brighton Museum, Royal pavilion, collection, Japanese woodcuts

 

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Brighton Museum, Royal pavilion, collection, Japanese woodcuts

Images shared here without permission. Titles in order of display:
1. Carrying the Mask to the Fair by Moonlight by Utagawa Hiroshige c1823
2. Snow at Tsukahara by Kuniyoshi Ichiyusai 1831
3. Picture of the Lake Hakone by Utagawa Hiroshige 1833-34
4. Station 46 Kameyama, Clear Weather after Snow by Utagawa Hiroshige 1833-34
5. The Hat Shop Seki by Utagawa Hiroshige

New Year, New Business Cards!

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Happy New Year! I hope that you’ve had a lovely, festive break. I’m back home in London now after an extended festive period and feeling quite grateful for January’s slower pace. Despite it usually being quite a grey and chilly month, I do enjoy the blank page it offers, the opportunity for reflection and some gentle planning of the year ahead before things gear up too much!

I’m excited to share my new, dragon themed, business cards with you! I got them printed on Moo’s 100% recycled cotton card (made from old T Shirt offcuts) they have a nice, tactile feel to them and are hopefully a greener option too. I had fun illustrating this fantasy, dragon ruled landscape and look forward to handing them out this year.

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If you have a design, illustration or digital project you’d like to discuss for 2020, please do get in touch, I’d love to hear about it!

 

Christmas Owl Post, tips for making sure it arrives in time!

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Despite my good intentions, most years my Christmas shopping always turns into a bit of last minute rush to get those last few presents sorted before the big day. And often my plan to order something unique and special from an Etsy shop is foiled, when I realise I’ve left it far too late for the order to be processed and delivered…

This year however, I’m going to try and get it right! And as I’ve recently had to do a fair bit of research into postal cut off dates for my own Owlstation Store, I thought it might be handy to share a couple of things I’ve learned with you…

Firstly, if your sending cards or ordering presents and want them to arrive in time for Xmas – it’s worth checking your local postal service website for details of their latest recommended postage dates. I’m in the UK and use Royal Mail who have some handy info here. If you’re sending or ordering packages internationally, make sure you find the latest postage dates for the country your sending to or ordering from.

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Secondly, If you’re ordering a gift from an online store, be sure to check their ‘processing time’. That is how long they say it will take them to prepare and package up your order. For example for a handcrafted item, the seller may need 2, 3, 5 or even more days to create or customise your gift. You’ll need to mentally add this time (sometimes the site does it for you!) to the given delivery dates to get a clear idea of how long your gift will take to arrive…and make sure it’s before Christmas!

Thirdly, remember that the festive period is a very busy one for sending and receiving post and it can take much longer to arrive than it does for the rest of the year…

But at the end of the day, it’s only Christmas!

If you miss postal deadlines and end up scrambling around in Flying Tiger on the 24th of December it doesn’t really matter (and I may well see you there!). It can be a stressful, tiring time of year and keeping calm and looking after yourself is more important than a big pile of presents. Good luck and happy hunting!

If you’d like to order a present or card from the Owlstation Store and need help with any Xmas queries, feel free to pop me a message. For the UK I advise ordering before the 10th of December. For International orders, please do get in touch as Xmas delivery recommendations vary from country to country.