Kathryn Lawes: Creative Box

Ambitious graphic designer and illustrator, Kathryn Lawes, like many young artists, dreams of having her own design company. However, it is a competitive world, and starting small is the only way to go. Having earned a degree in Graphic Design after three years of study at Portsmouth University, Kathryn has proven her desire to create by taking on the odd commission brief.

When starting up as a freelancer, it is very difficult to earn enough money to live on, therefore ex-students often end up in dead-end jobs whilst they try to get themselves known in the world of their desired profession. Kathryn, however, has been particularly lucky in landing herself a job at an architecture company, Thrive Architects. This may not involve the style of design and illustration she ultimately wants to be working on, but it provides the opportunity to develop her skills. And, at the end of the day, it is the vital experience that graphic design companies or prospective clients are on the lookout for.

D17474745_10154646198504387_67877695_nuring the limited spare time available, Kathryn also takes on freelance commissions. She has worked on branding jobs, produced children’s picture books, and has also branched out into mural painting. But, the thing she enjoys most is drawing and illustration. As a child, Kathryn was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she said “an illustrator”! And, now it appears her childhood ambition could actually turn into a reality.

“I love to bring a story to life,” Kathryn explains. Using mainly watercolours and pen, Kathryn’s illustrations lend themselves towards children, the soft colours and smoothness of the final outcomes being particularly attractive to young minds. With already one in print, Kathryn is currently working on a second book based on the Six Behaviour Strands used by the client, the Primary Behaviour Service (PBS). Rather than focusing on National Curriculum subjects such as Maths, English and Science, PBS concentrates on six areas: Focus, Independence, Resilience, Respect, Boundaries and Self-Regulation.

The first book in the PBS series is titled It’s Just Too Noisy, and teaches children about how to focus. Using her favoured illustration style, Kathryn introduces Barney, a rabbit who wants to relax and read his book. However, each time Barney settles down to read, he is distracted by loud noises. Unlike traditional stories, It’s Just Too Noisy invites children to engage with the story and its conclusion by deciding what Barney should do next. A choice of two actions leads to contrasting scenarios, thus educating children about the more appropriate ways of reacting in difficult situations.

barney-rectangle

Kathryn’s love of children’s illustration stems from her own childhood.

My biggest inspirations are my Mum and Walt Disney. When I was little, my Mum would use up old tiny pots of paint by painting on my furniture various characters from Disney films. I remember having a big white toy box with some of the puppies from 101 Dalmations on, which I loved! I have always loved the Disney hand-drawn style animation illustrations, and I guess this is what fueled my desire to draw as well.

Alongside her decorated furniture, Kathryn’s strongest art-related memory is winning a design competition whilst at Primary school. The task was to create an advert and logo to promote Walk to School week, and Kathryn’s illustration of a book bag with legs landed her with first prize. Embedded in her memory is the day the Mayor of Havering personally congratulated her on her winning entry. “… a huge car with little flags at the front pulled up … a very important man got out of the car and then he came and told me how brilliant my work was! ”

83As an illustrator, Kathryn does not only concentrate on child-targetted artwork. One of her favourite pieces of work to date is an illustration of a classic racing car. Inspired by the vehicles on display at Santa Pod Raceway, Kathryn has created a small series of vehicle illustrations, including a few as commissions. However, it is her first attempt at this new genre that Kathryn is most proud of.

Taking her illustration skills to new levels, Kathryn has recently added mural design to her repertoire, charging reasonable prices for beautiful wall art. Like any professional designer, Kathryn liaises with the client to make sure the outcome is exactly what they want but also employs her artistic eye to suggest the best method of achieving their wishes.

Thanks to her childhood fascination with Disney films, Kathryn is expert at replicating the original Disney characters and has often incorporated these into wall murals. Whilst cartoons are popular for children’s bedrooms, Kathryn is also skilled in typography, and faultlessly applies words or quotes to the layout. Details, including prices, can be found on Kathryn’s Creative Box website.

Kathryn’s dream is to have all six books in the PBS series published and to continue working in the graphic design field. As with all students and graduates, Kathryn has experienced ups and downs, competing against other designers as well as her own confidence. Yet, experience leads to knowledge, and Kathryn leaves us with some sound advice: “Keep Going. Honestly, the best advice is if you keep pursuing and persevering … you are much more likely to reach [your goals]. Never give up … you will never find out what potential you had.”

Kathryn’s portfolio can be found on Creative Box as well as her personal blog. She is also on Facebook and Tumblr.

 

Colourful Blessings

Colourful messages to bless a heart, soothe the soul and calm the mind.

Colouring books appear to be on the way out, but colouring products appear here to stay. Shops around the UK, whether art focused or not, are stocking colouring themed items. Recently I have seen calendars, greeting cards, mugs, table cloths and duvet covers that require you to add colour.

One such retailer is Christian Art Gifts, who provide numerous colouring products such as books, bibles, journals and cards. From a friend, I received a box of 44 cards produced by Christian Art Gifts. Titled Colourful Blessings the box contains over three dozen (business-size) cards with detailed, floral illustrations and bible versus to colour in.

Designed by an unnamed artist, the beautiful images look great when coloured in with bright, cheerful colours, which emphasise the positivity of their messages. The intricate details require thin pencil tips to avoid going over the lines, however the thickness of the card is also suitable for finely tipped pens – potentially easier than constantly sharpening your pencils!

These cards are perfect for giving away to individuals, friends, family, those in need of care or encouragement etc. Being only 4 1/4″x 3 1/4″the cards are easy to slip into pockets, purses, handbags etc, however can also be stuck on fridges and walls as constant reminders of God’s love, peace and joy.

Most of my cards I have donated to my church to be sent out to people we pray for, others I will give to friends who need a reminder that they are loved and cared for. Although most contain a bible verse, there are a few that are less obviously religious, so you can send them to the agnostics and atheists, too!

Make sure you look at the rest of the colouring range at Christian Art Gifts. It is amazing how many ways to colour in there are!

Recycled Art: Collage (Part 2)

“Every artist needs to find the right material through which he can express himself.” -David Mach, sculptor

Last week I wrote about a method of recycling old magazines etc to produce a work of art. In terms of collage making, this is an effective, but basic technique. However, artists are not restricted to paper based materials when creating their artwork. Almost any unwanted object can be recycled to become a part of a bigger, creative picture.

Here are a few examples of artists that use a broad range of resources:

Jane Perkins

I am a ‘re-maker’, taking inspiration from found objects and working them into something new.

Using mostly plastic materials (buttons, beads etc), Jane Perkins recreates paintings by the Old Masters. Inspired by Impressionism, Perkins’s artwork needs to be viewed from a distance to see the full picture, however a close-up look will reveal the thousands of ‘found’ objects used to produce such amazing outcomes.

Tom Deininger

Tom Deininger also uses plastics in his collages. If you look closely at his artworks, you will see that they are made up of small toys as well as buttons and other everyday objects. Not only must it be difficult to create a realistic image from the amalgamation of material, but we can imagine finding objects of the precise colour is a nightmare.

Zac Freeman

My final example today is Zac Freeman. Similarly to the previous two artists, Freeman uses found objects or ‘junk’ to build portraits that are better off viewed at a distance. Up close, evidence of buttons, beads, broken computer parts and lego bricks can be seen amongst the collection of materials. Whereas Perkins and Deininger painstakingly sought out particular colours,  Freeman has been more relaxed, using a rainbow of colour to produce an interesting effect.

What can you make with all the junk and unwanted objects around you? Perhaps you could recycle it into a fantastic work of art!

Recycled Art: Collage

Recycled art is not something that’s beautiful but just a waste of time and space. It’s like alchemy which turns base metal into gold, except that it turns trashes into gold.

In this day and age, recycling is something that is regarded as extremely important. The government leads us to believe that we are doing something good for the environment by placing paper, cardboard, plastic bottles etc into specially labelled bins. In actually fact, recycling is something that humans have been doing for centuries – it is human nature to reuse things, make-do-and-mend or just “I think I’ll put this broken thing in the shed, it may come in handy one day.”

Recycling can also play a role in art. Every artist is always creating some new – a new portrait, a new landscape painting, a new drawing and so forth. In fact, it is impossible to produce something old. The methods in which the artist goes about making their masterpiece, however, is not limited to new materials. Using pre-existing materials within artworks has become fairly popular in recent years. One such method is collage – a combination of materials stuck onto a backing to produce a picture or pattern.

Derek Gores

American artist Derek Gores, encompasses the idea of recycling in his captivating collages.  From using very simple materials – magazines and labels amongst other printed elements – Gores creates realistic images. From a distance, some of his work could be mistaken for photographs, which is amazing considering that they are nothing but cut up pieces of paper.

Gores is mostly influenced by past abstract painters – those whose works have so much going on, it is difficult to completely focus on the overall picture without being distracted by the odd element. Although his work is not abstract in the same sense, there is so much to look at due to the significant amount of collaged parts, that it becomes impossible to view in the same way one might look at a photograph or painting.

Whether or not Gores is possibly contributing to the environmentally conscious world through his use of recycled material is up for debate, but it is admittedly a fantastic and beautiful way of doing so. Anyone can cut up paper and stick it down, yet to create such vivid, lifelike images is a very rare skill – something for us all to be jealous of!

The Life of a Sketchbook

Sketchbook ˈskɛtʃbʊk/ noun a pad of drawing paper for sketching on.
I lost count the amount of times throughout school and college people asked if they could look through my sketchbook. I felt uncomfortable letting people flick through the pages for two reasons. 1. I did not believe I was any good at drawing. 2. I knew the contents of my sketchbooks were not what they were expecting to see. There seems to be a misunderstanding among non-artists that sketchbooks are full of perfect works of art, but this is not the case at all.
The purpose of a sketchbook, particularly when studying, is to document creative ideas. It is a private place for artists to record their thoughts and experiments before developing various versions of a particular concept. It is only after these stages have been completed that the final artwork is put together.
There is no right or wrong way to keep a sketchbook. Everyone works differently and find some methods more helpful than others. Some books may not contain any drawings at all but be filled with collage and inspiration from a number of resources, whereas others may be packed with rough illustrations and scribbled notes.
Steven Heller, an author of art and design books, has compiled together snapshots from professional artists’ and designers’ sketchbooks. It is interesting to see the methods they have taken to move their thoughts from brain to paper. Two books I particularly enjoyed looking through are Graphic and Typography Sketchbooks.
Inspired by these books I have taken photographs of a few of my own sketchbooks that I kept whilst studying for a degree in Graphic Design. As you can see below I did not stick to one method, instead I experimented with drawings, collage, paint, colour, rough thumbnail sketches etc.

Next time you ask to look at someone’s sketchbook remember you are not going to see perfect artwork. What you are really requesting is to take a peak into someone’s brain. So don’t be surprised if they hesitate to show you!

Colouring with Purpose

Colouring books are great things to buy. They are fun, relaxing, beautiful, and make fantastic presents. It is impossible to only buy one book. Before you know it you have too many to store. But nowadays colouring is not only restricted to books…

One innovative colouring alternative are greeting cards. They are creative and personal ways of expressing you feelings, congratulations or sympathy for friends and loved ones. Many people have made their own cards by hand at some point, but these cards make it slightly easier to produce something (almost) handmade. You may think it is cheating, but everyone has a unique way of colouring. Every picture is different due to the choice of colours, type of pen/pencil, and even the way we hold said pen/pencil.

The pictured examples above come from a set bought for me from The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall.Each one features a different type of bird: hawfinch, goldfinch, yellowhammer, coal tit, great tit and long tailed tit. Some of the cards are more detailed than others, but the final result relies on you, the artist.

There are loads of ready-to-colour cards out there. Look in art and craft shops, book stores and local gift shops to discover many of the different types. Also, websites like Amazon have a huge selection. Here are some examples:

  • Rebecca Jones has produced several ranges for The National Trust. Each set contains some aspect of nature: butterflies, flowers etc.
  • Prepare for Christmas with these cards produced by the same publishers as above.
  • Instead of greeting cards you could opt for Postcards, like these from Puffin, the publishers of thousands of children’s books.
  • You can buy cards for all sorts of specific occasions, especially birthdays
  • … and thank yous.
  • Even popular colouring books have postcard versions.
  • Colouring cards are just as relaxing as colouring books.

Sadly, these packs of cards can be expensive. However you can make your own coloured-in card. If you have finished colouring sheets lying around (or a book that’s fallen apart like I have) you can turn them into a lovely greeting card for someones birthday. All you need is a blank card to stick the sheet on (which will probably need trimming), and voila, one handmade card. Give it a go!

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Scribblicious

Scribblicious – The Works

My coloured drawings have amazed and baffled many people over the past few months. “How are you doing that?” “How are you producing shading?” “Are you using special pencils?” Well, no I am not using “special” pencils, however I am using a large variety of colours.

Many colouring pencil packs contain only the basic colours (e.g. red, orange, yellow, light green, dark green, light blue, dark blue, pink, purple, brown, black), which are usually all you need to complete a colouring sheet, or some such. In order to make artwork look more realistic or three dimensional you need many more shades.
5052089169708_zSome people, and rightly so, may assume that bigger packs of pencils are expensive; however this is not always the case. Most people living in the UK should be aware of the family friendly discount store The Works, sellers of cheap books, puzzles and art & craft supplies. Whilst browsing their Scribblicious range of art equipment, I came across a set of 36 colouring pencils for a ridiculously low price (currently £4 at time of writing).

As you can see from the picture above, there are 34 coloured pencils that include the basic colours and all the shades in between. There are also two metallic pencils – silver and gold. The Works claim that these 17cm pencils are “perfect for use at school or home, create beautiful pictures on paper, card and more,” and I completely agree.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, it is difficult to find colouring pencils with which one can create amazing art work. Often I find that they either break every time they are sharpened, or they are so hard that it is impossible to produce a deep enough colour without destroying the paper in the process. With these Scribblicious pencils I have not had a single problem: they have not broken, sharpen easily, and are very soft thus producing bright, satisfying colour.

As for my own artwork, I am able to use these pencils to slowly build up the shading in my drawings. By lightly colouring in using circular motions, I gradually increase the pressure until I get the tone I want, using the darker versions of the colours where shadow is present. Obviously you need to become skilled in this technique, which takes a lot of practice: it is not as though the pencils are magic, turning everyone into artists, however you do need a considerable selection of colours as in this particular set.

Scribblicious colouring pencils are definitely the best I have come across so far. I highly recommend them to everyone, and suggest you take advantage of the low prices in The Works. When purchasing art equipment many artists buy the well-known, expensive brands, but The Works have proved that being cheap does not equate to rubbish!

Innsbruck, Österreich

It was my aim to complete several drawings of Austrian buildings and scenery whilst on holiday in Innsbruck, however there were so many things to do that I barely got the chance! I only managed to sit down and draw twice. The first sketch is of Goldenes Dachl – or the Golden Roof – which I am very pleased with. The second drawing – Stift Wilten – did not go as well as I hoped. I struggled with the perspective and rushed the shading. I am disappointed that I did not get the opportunity to improve on this, but since I have not drawn buildings in this way for several years, I think I did better than I initially expected.

Despite my lack of artwork, I managed to take hundreds of photographs around Innsbruck. Austria in general is a very scenic country. The mountains make you feel like you are in the countryside even if you are walking through a city. One thing that makes Austria different from countries such as England is the architecture. Many of the buildings I saw around Innsbruck and the nearby village of Igls were absolutely beautiful. In the mountains it is common for the houses to contain wooden features. Sometimes these are converted barns but mostly this is the traditional style that has been maintained throughout the years. Many of these houses have several balconies that are great places to sit regardless of the weather, as the roof usually overhangs, creating a shelter from rain, sun and snow.

In the city of Innsbruck, despite the contemporary shops and companies, the buildings have not changed much over the past couple of centuries. Instead of knocking down old buildings and erecting concrete or glass monstrosities such as the ones in London, the original structures are used to house modern businesses. This makes walking through the streets a pleasant experience, and can almost convince you that you have travelled back in time – although their tram system has definitely been brought up to date. Many buildings have paintings on them of either Austrian or religious scenes. Some of these are centuries old, whereas others have been painted more recently, but in the old style. Tradition is a very important aspect of Austrian lifestyle.

Innsbruck is definitely a cleaner, more attractive and quieter city than the gray city of London. Granted it is so much smaller, but there is no one rushing around, no obscenely long queues, and the public transport actually sticks to the timetables! See TFL, it CAN be done!!

Of course, as with all countries, Austria does move with the times. Their shops sell the latest fashions and gadgets as any other western country would do. But unlike England, they still celebrate their heritage by dressing up in traditional clothing, and not only for fancy dress parties. Many restaurants require staff to wear a Dirndl or Lederhosen, and you can buy teddy bears dressed up like this in every souvenir shop.

Whilst I was in Austria I got to experience the Festival of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – Herz Jesu Tag. The Austrians dressed up in their traditional clothes, went to church then paraded through the village with an orchestra playing Austrian music. They take their festivals very seriously and it is wonderful to watch even if you are not participating.

To sum up, Austria is a beautiful country from all angles. Yet the thing that attracts tourists the most is definitely the mountains. I hope these photographs inspire you to holiday in the Alps!

Start Where You Are

A journal for self-exploration

Start Where You Are is a “self-help” journal put together by an American artist, Meera Lee Patel.It is a book that causes you to think and contemplate about your day, behaviour, life and dreams.

91i5z-42velMeera Lee has used her self-taught artistic talents to produce beautiful, hand-rendered typographic compositions for every page of the book. She has selected appropriate quotations that relate to a task she has set the reader on the facing page.

Most of the tasks throughout the book require the reader to think carefully and write down their answers. Each instruction is to help people sort through their true feelings and put their thoughts into some kind of order. For example: “What is something you wish you could leave behind?”

Although Start Where You Are has not (yet) be medically approved by mental health professionals, it contains a lot of deep, meaningful, assignments that can help you to learn more about your own insecurities, anxieties and depression. Meera Lee admits in her introduction that it took her a long time to be comfortable with her own life and spent a lot of time waiting for the future to arrive, but not really knowing how to get there. She discovered that in order to move forward she needed to find out who she really was, what was important to her, and what she wanted out of life. Meera Lee confesses that this is no easy task and warns that some questions within the book will be harder than others – but ultimately Start Where You Are will reveal your true personality, hopes and dreams, and convince you that life is not all doom and gloom.

There is no right or wrong way to complete this book. It is not a course or a linear activity, therefore there is no need to complete the pages in order. Some pages may feel too difficult, which is not a problem – the book’s purpose is not to cause stress – you can skip that task and come back to it when you are ready.

I have found Start Where You Are very interesting so far. I particularly enjoy reading the quotes included in the fantastic artwork. They are all positive and inspiring, showing the brighter side of life. As an artist, I have decided to also use this book as a way of practising my art skills. Recently art journal photographs that have appeared on Pinterest have been inspiring me to make my own. Instead of starting with a blank book I am using Meera Lee’s publication instead. On each page I complete the task given, but instead of merely writing my answers down, I display them in some sort of typographic or illustrative composition. So not only is Start Where You Are benefitting my mental health and thought processes, it is helping to improve my art skills too.

I highly recommend Start Where You Are for everyone feeling a little lost and unsure about the future. Whether you have been diagnosed with a mental disorder or are going through a low period of your life, this book is perfect for you to help pick yourself up again. But please remember this is not a form of therapy and is not going to “fix” you. It will either be a bit of fun or something insightful depending on how you approach it.

THINK. Then Draw. Create.

Following instructions is something everyone needs to be able to do in numerous areas of life: school, work, relationships, cooking etc. Despite people assuming artists can do what they like – which in some cases they can to an extent – following instructions is an extremely important part of an Art & Design career.

Sometimes instructions can be straightforward and easy to complete, e.g. “Draw a tree.” However, there are times when the way to tackle a direction or design brief is less clear: “Produce something that represents happiness.” In these cases the artist needs to take time to mind map ideas before settling on a final outcome. This is something that school and college tutors are constantly stressing the importance of to their students.

When I was working on my BA in Graphic Design I initially found it difficult to map out my ideas before starting to put together the final design. I remember one of the first assignments was to create four typographic posters to represent a chosen London location. We were instructed to draw at least thirty “thumbnail sketches” before we even touched a computer or began experimenting with materials. I overheard a few of the students around me complaining that it was a waste of time, or too difficult to think up such a large amount of ideas. I agreed with them. However as time went on I began to understand the reason we should begin all projects like this. The obvious answer to instructions is not always the right one.

I confess that since finishing college I have not always sat down and mapped out a multiple of ideas before starting a brief. Often this is because of a time limit, but sometimes it is impatience – a need to get things over with and finished as quickly as possible. Occasionally brilliant ideas pop into our heads whilst sitting on a bus or lying in bed, however most of the time, unless we stop and really think about the task in hand, we are only going to produce average art work.

This is something I have noticed happens when I am completing (for fun) pages from the book Think. Draw. Create. I have written about this before but to recap it is a book with a prompt on each page that requires the artist to think carefully before they start drawing. I set myself the challenge to complete a page every weekend, and this pressure has slightly prevented me from properly planning what I am going to draw. Some of my outcomes (ones I am too embarrassed to show you) are very mundane and poorly executed. I am disappointed with myself for my lack of effort on these occasions. This is why it is so important to THINK before you start anything.

From now on I promise to really try to plan before I start on any design work. I urge you to do the same regardless of the size or importance of the project. You may think it a waste of time, but would you rather take a little longer and produce something amazing, or rush and end up with something merely passable?