I'm featured on Ali Benyon's Blog today - 'How to Get Work as a Freelance Designer'!

Today I'm very excited to have been featured on Ali Benyon's brilliant blog.  She's featuring three artists over the course of this week in a post called How to Get Work as a Freelance Designer -  so please look out for Miriam Bos on Wednesday and Dawn Machell on Friday too.
Please click here to read my answers to her well thought out questions and see a few samples of my work (above are a couple that she used).
Thank you so much Ali for asking me to participate! xxx

Artists Around The World Blog Hop!!!

Before I went away, I was very pleased to be invited by my friend Melissa Iwai to participate in a blog hop called 'Artists Around The World'.  Unfortunately it's taken me more than a month to do my part as I was away for the first few weeks then came back to a back log of work to catch up with.
However, here I am finally doing it!  First I want to tell you about Melissa and show you her work.  You can see more on her website here -  and her blog here
Melissa is an illustrator and author of children's books. She very kindly gave me signed copies of two of her books at Surtex and my children, aged 3 and 9, adore them, especially the one she wrote herself - Soup Day.
The piece below is something Melissa developed from the cuckoo clock assignment in Lilla Rogers' Bootcamp.  Look at the stunning colour palette and the magical, dreamlike quality it lends to the piece.  There is so much to love about this - the rounded, perfectly proportioned characters, the depth created by the tree in the foreground, the soft, pink blurry clouds and the delicately patterned hill in the background.  And the crooked houses!  There are so many well-thought out, beautifully executed elements to this piece.  It's so original - I adore it.

This is Melissa's business card and I think was her submission piece for the cuckoo clock assignment.  Again, the palette is to die for (the orange hair and dusky pink sweater), the character beautifully appealing and the concept ingenious.

And look at the animals too.  It's obvious why her artwork is perfect for children's books.  I also think it would translate in a heart beat to so many other markets but from what I can gather she's so in demand, she's barely had time to consider them!!  I think it's on the cards though!

So the next bit is me answering some questions so here you go!!

1. What are you working on?
I started embroidering this Summer and decided to do one of the Bootcamp assignments (based on cups and drinks) in applique and embroidery.  I enjoyed it so much that I started a group of four pieces and as yet haven't finished them.  That will be my first priority this Autumn.

2. How does your work differ from others in your genre?
Oh - I don't know.  I think my work is quite sophisticated, even when the subject matter is young.  I tend to use quite grown up womenswear palettes as I was a fashion textile designer for years.  My taste is definitely very feminine but not delicate.  I like bold colour and imagery.  I'm also drawn to vintage references because of my history with textile design.  I love vintage fabric (the embroidery above is made with old bed sheets and tablecloths) and I love mid-century modern illustration - the crisp graphic styles that work so well with Illustrator.

3. Why do you create?
Because I can't not!  When my children were very little I made a point of being available for them a hundred percent for at least the first year and didn't work much at all.  I loved being with my babies but by the time I was able to find time to work again I was craving it.   If I was stuck on a desert island I'd start weaving bits of grass and leaves together, drawing in the sand and decorating pebbles before long  - and I'd be sat starving and freezing in my very nicely decorated shack!

4. How does your creative process work?
My creative process ranges from chaotic to militantly organized.  I don't keep routines well but am forced to by my children's school hours.  If I could choose I'd get up at midday and work through the night.  But I can't.  My husband takes my kids to school so as soon as I leave I start checking email, Facebook etc on my phone.  Then I get dressed and try to be in front of my computer by 10.00am.  I work right through until 4.00pm everyday, taking a break to eat lunch, read a book, or just lie around staring at the wall for an hour at some point.  I desperately need to incorporate exercise into this routine so next week I'm joining the gym.  Aaargh!  Let's hope it doesn't turn into a monthly charitable donation and that I actually go!!
I write myself a to do list every Monday and tick it off during the week but I don't have set tasks for each day.  I just do whatever's a priority or what takes my fancy.  I also try not to leave trailing ends anywhere. If I start something I like to finish it before I move on.  That's where I'm militant.  I'm also very organized with storing information and artwork.  It's all very regimented and thoroughly backed up.  I don't plan automatically but when I do, I make very comprehensive, no stone unturned, type plans.

So that was me!  The next bit is to tell you about two other artists and their work.  I've chosen my two good friends Bari J Ackerman and Wendy Brightbill.  They are both painters but approach their artwork very differently as you'll see.

First Bari!  The words that spring to mind most when I see her artwork are 'cornucopia' and 'abundance'.  Bari is a designer for Art Gallery Fabrics and her paintings translate beautifully to her collections.  She's somehow managed to create a magical blend of impressionistic floral imagery, digital imagery and contemporary fabric design that's uniquely hers.  Just look at the palette in the second painting!  Stunning.  Below is a picture of her striking booth at Surtex and once again you can see the abundance of colour and pattern in the peacock and the complementary patterns. You can see more of her beautiful work on her website here and her blog here.

Now Wendy!! Wendy's paintings (so far) are more abstract but she is starting to create more figurative pieces that are beautiful too.  She often combines delicate lacy or geometric motifs with great, joyous sweeps and swirls of color and texture.  Her palettes tend to be very sophisticated and the overall effect is  layered and explorative.  The two stunning pieces below are typical of the gentle, layered complexity of her work and I can imagine either of them as wall art in a very contemporary but feminine setting.

Wendy also designs digitally and you can see how her palettes and overall style are consistent even while the commercial subject matter is wildly different.  I really love this design. Those animals are just like real children. You can see more of Wendy's beautiful work on her website here and her blog here.

Vote for me!!! Round Two of Lilla Roger's Global Talent Search!

So today the voting starts.  I am sooo excited to show you my entry for Round 2 of Lilla Roger's Global Talent Search and I would be delighted if you'd vote for me! Below are the details from the competition website.  Click the links to cast your vote!!!!

"Fifty artists were selected from around 1,000 entrants to go through to this round of the competition, and tasked with designing a personified animal character for a young child’s t-shirt. The artists were encouraged to be themselves with a vengeance and create a character with personality.  Check out the fabulousness they created in our online gallery which is open here now!"   

Now is the chance for you to cast your vote

Five finalists will be chosen by our esteemed panel of judges, and one finalist will be chosen by the public! YOUR VOTE COUNTS. The person with the most votes when the gallery closes at 9am PST / 12 noon EST / 5pm GMT on Friday, September 12th will go through to the Final as The People’s Choice."

This means everything to me and my Aztec Zebra knows it.  So here she is pleading on my behalf!

I loved doing this brief but again - the timing was a challenge. We had nine days to complete the artwork and during the first four of those I was still in England without a computer.  I spent that time thinking about a concept and doing some truly awful sketches (see the lion below).  I knew immediately that I wanted my character to be first and foremost a vehicle for pattern - and lots of it, as initially I was thinking about incorporating embroidery into the design.  I knew I wanted to do girlswear as I have more experience designing for females and have a very feminine aesthetic in most of my work.  I also knew I was aiming at 3-5 year olds as the brief referred to 'a young child'.
At first I thought of doing a little lion in a dress and had visions of this beautiful, richly patterned mane.  Then I had a conversation with my cousin and she reminded me that lions are, in fact, boys.  
Oh.  Start again.  So which animals can carry a pattern  and embroidery really well? I was keen to choose a jungle animal rather than a woodland one and was also keen to have it holding something that could be a design feature.  A balloon seemed the obvious choice to become a pocket and a heart shape lent itself well to the function of the pocket.  Since Christmas I've been dying to do a design featuring horses (I didn't have time before Surtex) so a zebra seemed to be the perfect choice to meet all my criteria!  The words "Wild at Heart" seemed fitting as a) they fit with the heart motif and b) the sentiment reminded me of my own children, looking endearingly sweet and innocent but being capable of behaving like wild animals!!!

So I drew this.  Ordinarily I don't sketch much but my computer was still locked away, having come back from holiday, so I had no choice!
I finally managed to put her into Illustrator and give her a bit of color.  Obviously the wrong ones! I printed her out onto fabric to test the idea of embroidering and it didn't work.   The colours were dingy and the idea of then photographing the embroidered zebra, bringing it back into Photoshop and trying to put it on a mocked-up T-shirt, without losing quality and vibrancy, made me change the plans entirely.

I decided to completely revise the colour palette to something more commercial (looking at children's clothing websites and Pinterest helped here!) and imply stitching on the design. I thought this way, at least, the image would stay fun and crisp and work well on a mock-up. 
This design was obviously crying out for co-ordinates.  My intention was to give it as much mileage as possible with the use of pattern so I chose to focus on additional swatches rather than more mocked up products.  I kind of wish I'd done a pair of wellies or a journal but was worried I'd diminish the co-ordinates by mocking them up.  
I used to work as a womenswear textiles designer so adding the neck lining and the trim was the fun bit that came easily at the end.  I really enjoyed doing this group of designs and that lion is going to find a home in there somewhere - not as a transvestite but as a pretty little boy out playing with his zebra friend.

I made the top fifty in Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search!!!!!!!!!

I entered the Global Talent Search this year after some deliberation. It's a fantastic contest and the prizes are wonderful. There were a thousand entries from all over the world this year so the competition is fierce. You can read more about it here.  
However, I knew it would coincide with family holidays in Tuscany and England and wasn't convinced that I wanted to take the time away from my children to participate. I worked so hard earlier this year for Surtex and practically ignored them. I felt I owed them a work free holiday in spite of my career aspirations. I signed up, then decided to make a final decision based on timing (our holidays weren't yet booked or scheduled) and more importantly - the brief!! I knew I wouldn't be able to resist a great one. I took a sketchbook and some bits and pieces with me incase. 
The email arrived while we were in Tuscany and before I'd finished reading it I was plotting how I'd fit it in and what I'd do. It was beautiful. Wall art based on terrariums. 
I found an hour or two to draw when my children went to the pool with my husband. I also found a big box of Sicilian cakes and bottle of wine. Come on! Who wouldn't make time to sketch succulents while gorging on cakes and wine in a villa in Tuscany?
This is me, the cakes, the wine and the sketches. 

Fortunately, I arrived very quickly at a basic concept. A palette of rich blues, hints of yellow and pink - and neutrals. I wanted the jar to be a negative space, a framework, rather than an object - so I could fill it with vibrant, highly contrasting imagery - a contained world.
I like the idea of appreciating the small things in life, finding pleasure in them (like cake) - and that sentiment seemed fitting with this tiny world so I looked for a quote that would work in that context. A lot of my research for the piece was done on an iPhone by a pool - terrarium shapes, quotes, succulents etc.
When I got back I immediately launched myself into making the final piece. I did the whole thing with acrylic paint and collaged paper then photographed it and put it into Photoshop. The lettering and final touches were done digitally. I did it in on the afternoon we arrived home and the following morning, sat on it two days, fiddled with the lettering a bit, then uploaded. Then I packed and went to England.
I tried not to think about it too much while we dashed around visiting my relatives but failed! I couldn't wait to hear whether I'd made it through to the next round. 
And I did!!!!!
We were advised to not share our artwork online before the submission deadline so when the results came out it was really exciting to see everyone else's artwork.  My Mom and I went through every single one, discussing them all in great detail.  There were so many staggeringly beautiful pieces, among both those that were selected for the top fifty and those that weren't.
You can see the top fifty here and the gallery of all the entries here. You'll enjoy looking at them I promise!
I'm just so thrilled that Lilla chose my art to go forward and I'm so glad I found a way to make it possible for me to enter the competition.
The next brief is a beauty too so wish me luck!!!

Embroidery for Bootcamp!

I started embroidering this Summer.  I used to embroider and embellish frequently as a fashion textile designer but the only stitching I've done in the last few years was while making Christmas ornaments with my children.
I've been collecting old  fabric for years (lots of old bed Italian bedsheets from my mother-in-law) and they were all stashed downstairs in a plastic box.  One day in June I had a sudden stroke of inspiration (brought on by the fact that I bought two embroidery hoops and a small pack of threads from an art shop in New York a month earlier) and decided to use the fabrics  to appliqué.
Then along came Lilla's July Bootcamp assignment!  Create a piece of artwork based on beverages in any way you like.  Make it personal to you - a gift to yourself or a friend!!!  I was sat there reading the assignment with an embroidery hoop in my hand and a coffee right in front of me.  I was drinking from one of my beautiful cups that my Mom bought me.  Most of them are shades of blue, green, mint and aqua - as are many things in my house - and so were my old Italian bed sheets.  I thought - I know what I'm going to do.
I didn't sketch or plan.  I just chopped out my shapes, stuck them on with glue stick and an iron and stitched away.  It just grew.  I parked myself in front of the telly and found myself truly relaxed and happy.
I love Lilla's assignments.  I love the variety, the ingenious subject matter, her ability to draw you away from the tried and tested and try the new, the exciting.   This brief enabled me to rediscover a way of creating art and develop a real enthusiasm and passion for it.  I can't stop!  I'm carrying that embroidery hoop wherever I go.  So far it's been to Ponza and Tuscany and tomorrow it's coming to England with us.
On the way home from Tuscany last week, just me and the kids, I saw a sign for Orvieto and asked the kids if they'd like to stop by on the way home.  It's an old walled Medieval town.  I've been there before years ago.  It's beautiful. They, of course, said no.  So I ignored them and drove there anyway.
The main street leads up a steep hill and they moaned incessantly as we trudged along in the midday sun.  In the end they forced me to turn back round and head back to the car.  By this time I was carrying my three year old.  As we plodded down the hill I noticed a shop window full of sewing equipment.  You don't see that often in Italy so we went to have a look!  It was an Aladdin's cave!!!  I asked for embroidery threads and the lovely old shop owner started to show me drawer after drawer of threads - every single color in existence.  Isadora suddenly became interested when she saw the colours and Leo was happily chatting to some accessories on a stand behind us.  I thought I'd pick maybe 15 colors at first and was fairly restrained throughout the blues but by the time we'd reached the orange drawer I was  deranged!!!  By the time we'd been through all 400 of those in stock, I'd picked 80.  Isadora was beaming at the decadence of it all - at me grabbing handfuls of colours and the little old man bringing out more and more!
Ha ha!  Look at these beautiful colors.  This is my new stash!

And this is the lovely shop owner and his wife.  I wanted a picture to remember the moment.  Orvieto's Willy Wonka of embroidery threads who turned our crappy day into a beautiful one!

Mermaids and Ships in Bottles - in memory of dear Alfio

I've been painting.  And collaging.  This is the final piece for Lilla Rogers' fourth week of Assignment Bootcamp.  The theme was nautical and the palette was pretty much this - predominantly acqua with hints of blue, neutrals and accents of tomatoey oranges - some of my favourite colors.
My Father-in-Law recently passed away and when my husband and I were clearing out his office we came across these - literally within days of starting this project. They're grappa bottles (one of them with a ship inside!) and a little wooden boat that my husband made with his Dad when he was a child.

Alfio was devoted to his holiday home on the Italian island of Ponza and every day in August he'd be out on his little boat in the crystal waters surrounding the island, diving for shellfish, then spending the evening on his terrace playing the mandolin and drinking grappa with his lifelong friends.   It was so fitting to draw and paint part of his grappa collection with a nautical theme in mind - the very quintessence of my children's beloved Nonno.  It was very easy getting into the spirit of the project simply by imagining the paintings hung on the wall of his house.
When I started painting the bottles,  Isadora had just finished school for the Summer and was lounging around between the TV, the iPad and my phone while I worked.  I was in despair and was delighted when she sat down to paint with me.  I didn't imagine she'd do this though!!!  My jaw dropped.  She's nine!!

In the meantime, I was doing this.

These canvases are really small - post card size would you believe?  In a couple of weeks we'll be going to Ponza to scatter Alfio's ashes in the Tyrrhenian Sea between Ponza and Palmarola (an island that is a completely unspoiled paradise near Ponza and a place very dear to Alfio's heart).  I'll take our paintings and put them in the alcove in the living room.  I think they'll look nice there and I'm sure Alfio would have liked them - especially Isadora's.
Here are some pictures of him on his boat and at the house with my children.  Aren't they lovely.

Surtex - Jumping off a cliff with a well-constructed parachute!

Happily manning my booth in my matching cardy

Booth 447 in all its glory

Co-ordinating pom poms

Portfolio book and Uppercase Magazine

Pretty stuff
Have a business card,  some stickers, a flick through a book - or just a jelly bean and a sniff of the roses!

Products and mock-ups

I can't believe it's over. What am I going to do with my life now?
I signed up for the show last September.  I almost choked when I found out how much it would cost (approx $6000 including everything) and immediately started panicking.  I also started working with an enthusiasm and motivation that I haven't felt in years!  During the last 8 months I've been completely consumed by the preparations and I think most of my friends and family became sick of hearing me refer to 'Surtex' (though every single one of them was 100% behind me and I never heard anything but encouragement from my lovely children and supportive husband and Mum and Dad).
So was it worth it?
Oh my God!  Just a bit!!  Jaw droppingly worth it in fact!!
To put things in perspective I want to list a few of my worst fears leading up to the show then describe the actual outcome - so you can see how extremely positive it was by comparison.

Something won't arrive in time (before I leave) or safely (at the airport).
My portfolio books, my banners (without banners you have a blank stand), my promo materials - the timing of everything was nail biting. Obviously you want as much new work as possible involved so everything has to be ordered last minute.  When I saw my tube of banners lying safely next to the luggage carousel at JFK I felt the first massive hurdle had been overcome and that if all else failed I'd have a furnished stand.

I'll get a bad spot.
I was one of the first to arrive on the initial set up day and the whole vast hall was nearly empty and I looked at my spot near the back where they hadn't finished putting up the cafe and thought, 'Oh no it's crappy, it's crappy.  I've paid all this money for a crappy booth!!!'. The next day I arrived to find that loads of other exhibitors had started to set up and the booths around me were beginning to look really beautiful.  I was in a lovely area.
Stuffing cushions with Melissa on the first day of setting up

Hanging tissue pom poms

Audra and me!

My booth will suck.
The problem with seeing so many beautiful booths was that I immediately started to worry that mine was 'wrong'.  It was too pink.  It was too simple.  I didn't have enough pretty mock-ups or eye-catching details.  Before the show I'd been shocked at how much effort it had required to organize my booth decor and had wondered if everyone else went to such great lengths.  Then I  saw that many of them had gone to even greater lengths than I had.  Sarah Ehlinger, Bari Ackerman, Kathy Weller, Kelly Ventura, Rosie Simons and Feng Liang were all very close by and each one of them had done something amazingly special.   I was very tired at that point and it took me a while to acknowledge that we'd all approached our booth design differently and each booth was striking in a unique and equally lovely way.  The pinkness ended up lending a pretty warmth to my spot (a bit like a shell, I thought) and I was quite pleased with the effect in the end.

My helpers (who I didn't know beforehand except by email) will be weird and spooky.
Ha ha ha!! I couldn't have been more wrong.  They were LOVELY!!!!  Melissa Iwai, a children's book illustrator from Brooklyn, and Flora Waycott, an English designer from New Zealand, were both warm and funny, extremely helpful and professional and brilliant company.  I felt like I'd made two new friends by the end of it.  Melissa even helped me by bringing me a small table and cushions from Ikea in Brooklyn.  I don't know how I would have done it without them.
Melissa, me and Flora!

No-one will come.
This was the big one.  What if, after this colossal effort, no-one came?  What if I'd thrown $6000 and 8 months of  hard work down the toilet.  Wrong again!  They came!  By midday of the first day I'd made back the cost of the show almost twice in sales.  There's a huge debate about selling versus licensing and whether you should even sell at all.  My view is that I'm running a business and that my business needs cash flow.  I created enough cash flow to pay for this show and next year's too and then some.  I also encountered plenty of licensing opportunities which will generate future income.   I think this is the best of both worlds. I am prolific and have a lot of work and am not heart-breakingly attached to (most of) my designs.  In fact, now I know what sold (and there was a definite pattern to what people liked) I'm in an ideal position to create more of the RIGHT stuff that clients want.
Me in action

Deep in concentration

My marketing efforts (new territory for me) will have been a waste of time.
They weren't.  I attribute a lot of the traffic at my booth to something I invested an awful lot of time into.  I set myself a series of deadlines when I booked the show.  One was that I'd create new work up until the last day of February then for the entire month of March I'd focus on marketing. That involved creating an online look book and a promotional package (see below) that I sent out to a very tailored and thoroughly researched list of just 50 art directors - some established clients and some new.  I have no doubt that this worked though while I was doing it (struggling with all sorts of unchartered territory like learning Indesign and sourcing printers)  I wondered repeatedly if it would be worth the time and money.  It was!

I won't have enough new work.
After the March marketing I had to tackle the banners and portfolio books - but the catch was that I had to have new work to put on/in them (this was the conclusion after asking my MATS community friends what they thought about what needed to go on banners - both marketing/ brand identity and new work). But I'd stopped designing in Feb to do the marketing.  So the next deadline was to create 5 new groups by the end of April in order to put some on the banners and show some in the portfolio books and have both books and banners designed and ordered by May 1st.  Phew!!  That was not funny and I might plan that differently next time.  But I did it.  And loads of that new stuff was sold or selected for presentations.
Yes - designing and ordering all this in a hurry was a bit of a strain!

I'll be too tired from jet-lag, early mornings, late nights and hard work.
Adrenalin takes care of all that!  I lived on it - and coffee.

I won't be comfortable and rested staying with friends.
Badly wrong again.  Thank you so much Audra and Brett and Jen and Rom.  You made me so welcome and it was just lovely staying with you!

My feet will hurt.
In this case I was right.  They did.  I wore 3 different pairs of shoes on different days in an attempt to alleviate the pain and ended up having three different sets of lacerations.  My feet were in tatters  (mainly from trudging too and from the show). Next year I'm wearing fluffy slippers with cushioned insoles.

So those were the biggest dreads and apart from the feet the actual outcome was fantastic.  A massive added bonus was the community of people at the show - both exhibitors, visitors and clients.
The number of MATS students there was incredible and it was just lovely to walk into a place and 'know' so many people.  My friend Audra, who is also a designer but works in fashion, came with me to help set up and kept asking 'How do you know her?  Is she another one from the internet?"  Ha ha! But I really felt they were my friends and it felt great to belong to that community and be cheered on by both the ones who attended and the ones who were at home but following on Facebook.  Well done to Jacqui Crocetta for being the reporter in the field.  It was lovely to meet Jacqui and everyone else.
It was also great meeting clients who I've been in contact for up to two years but have never met in person. I can see why trade shows still have a value in spite of the internet.  Meeting people face to face and engaging with them, even for a short time, lends a warmth and familiarity to a business relationship.
Another huge bonus was meeting Lilla Rogers.  I felt like I knew her, having been so involved with her online courses and Facebook communities for this last year.  On the last night Flora and I (and Flora's boyfriend Nick) went for dinner with Helen Dardik and Carolyn Gavin and my lasting impression of Lilla and her 'gang' (I was delighted to meet Jennifer and Susan too) was that they're all genuine, warm, funny (hilariously so in Helen's case) and very, very magnetic!
So - would I do it again!  Oh yes!! Would I recommend it to everyone?  Yes - because there's something exhilarating, motivating and rewarding about taking that leap  - but making that well-constructed parachute was no joke and there were no guarantees that it would open.  But it did.  Sometimes they do!

I'm here in NY - welcomed by a feature on Print and Pattern!!!

I arrived!! I'm in NY, awake ridiculously early, waiting for daylight so I can start preparing my case to take to the Javitz centre to set up. 
I got my wifi set up last night and what did I see? A post from my friend, saying my work was on Print and Pattern!! The post shows a preview of my new work ( see above) and my flyer and I was so thrilled to see it there and so grateful to Bowiestyle for supporting me. 
I absolutely cannot wait to meet everybody from MATS later today. It's going to be like a huge reunion - except we've never met before!!!! And the ones who won't be making it have been so kind and supportive - just unbelievably encouraging. I'm grateful everyday for my online artist friends. They're like a great force of energy, motivation and warm spiritedness and I can't imagine doing this without them. Xxxxxx
Here's the link to Print and Pattern!

Preview of my stand at Surtex!

If you're curious about how my stand will look at Surtex then have a look at this drawing by my daughter!!  She's included EVERY SINGLE minute detail.  I'm even wearing my new handbag!  For 6 months she's seen me plodding my way through an enormous list, assembling all the pieces.  She's woken up on many mornings to find a new bit  of something waiting on the dining room table and she's  been unfailingly impressed and curious about each step (she could not keep her hands off the business cards when they arrived!) Look at the little cake stand on the table on the right.  She thinks the clients would like a piece of cake when they visit.  And the display shelf.  She helped me plan my booth layout.  My little boy Leo has been very involved too, crying when I rolled the 'big pictures' back up (the banners), but Isadora has really been my right hand man.  I often ask her what she thinks of a design and her insights are so sophisticated.  How does a 9 year old understand that a drawing of a dog is too realistic, not stylized enough, that it doesn't fit with the other designs in the group?
She's making me a little folder to bring with me, full of little drawings and messages (this one too of course) and maybe if I look at it every day I won't miss her and Leo so much.  Maybe.

I'm on Two Blogs Today!!!!!

A few weeks ago Gabriella Buckingham, designer of Moobaacluck asked me if I'd like to be featured on her blog and I, of course, said yes.  Shortly after that Ali Benyon, surface pattern designer, asked if I'd like to be included in a feature on her blog where designer/illustrators contribute their 5 tips for working in this industry.  And I said yes, of course, to that too!!!  As it turned out, both blog features were posted on the same day - today.
Gabriella has posted some of my designs and the answers to a few questions she asked me, like what is a typical day for me and can I describe where I work.
Ali has published my top tips along with those of several fantastic designers - such as Jessica Hogarth, Jilly P., Mary Beth Freet of Pink Light Studio, Kristian A. Howell, Zoe Ingram, Jill McDonald, Veronica Galbraith, Flora Waycott, Julie McKeown, Valerie Foster, Rosie Simons and Julie Hamilton. Quite a list of names to be included in - and the tips are really well worth a read!
Thank you Gabriella and Ali sooo much for asking me.  I'm thrilled to be featured on your blogs! xxx

SURTEX 2014!!!! Here we go!!!!

So today is the day!!!  I'm starting to post and send out the Surtex Flyer and the Online Look Book.

Here's the link to it  - Victoria Johnson Surtex 2014 Look Book or just click on the pic on the right side bar of my blog.

These last few weeks have been pretty relentless but I'm getting close to the end now!! Just got to do those banners and my portfolios (the books, not the work - I've done that bit).
So - please come and visit me.  I'll be standing there in my colour co-ordinated outfit (or maybe just a black dress - I did consider a suit made of my designs but thought perhaps not) with a friendly smile on my face waiting to meet you!!!

I'm on Lilla Rogers Blog today!!

Lilla and Beth recently asked artists who'd taken MATs or Bootcamp  to email in their 'successes' that resulted from participating in the courses so they could write a blog post about it.   I sent an email with a list of projects I'd worked on, my competition win, inclusion in Uppercase and features on Print and Pattern.  I said that I didn't know if they fit with their criteria for 'successes' but I was happy about them and wanted to share them with Lilla and Beth in the hope they'd want to include something in their post.  So when Beth announced on Facebook that they'd posted on their blog about their alumni I thought perhaps there might be a mention of me.  Maybe.  If I was lucky.
And there was!!!  I'm so pleased!!  You can see the post here and see what they wrote.  You can also read about other artists and the incredible things they've accomplished.  A lot of them are friends from the MATs course I took last October and I know they're thrilled too.  It's just lovely to feel that your work is valued and all your efforts have been recognized - especially by Lilla and Beth!!

Minted and West Elm Together Again - Editor's Pick!

Remember I asked you to vote for my artwork in the Minted and West Elm Together Again competition?  Well I won a prize!  My design 'Desert Frost' was an Editor's Pick (see above)!   It's my first Minted competition and there were nearly 2000 entries so I'm really pleased.  My winning entry will be sold at http://www.minted.com. Apparently I also get a Minted Storefront as a prize so I've hatched a plan.  I'm going to pander to my yearning for hand-painting by shoving loads of hand-rendered artwork in my Minted shop as wall art.  I'm really excited about this as it gives me an opportunity to paint with an objective.  I'm constantly trying to reconcile hand-painting with creating my commercial art and now I can.  These below are the other entries that didn't get picked.  You might notice a slight similarity to the designs that will be in Uppercase, featured in my last post.  That's because these too were adapted from the Lilla Rogers Bromeliad project.   Those Bromeliads have gone a long way!  Thank you Lilla for an inspired subject to explore!

My work has been selected for the The UPPERCASE Surface Pattern Design Guide!

My work's going to be in a magazine!!  I've never been in a magazine before!  I'm so thrilled about this!!  These are the designs that were chosen.  The first two are pieces from a group I adapted from the Lilla Rogers MATS Part A Bromeliad Project  - the originals were plate designs but I thought they'd make lovely all-over fabric designs - I can actually see them on bedding - so I re-worked them. Who would have thought that 6 months later they'd be in Uppercase Magazine!

'The UPPERCASE Surface Pattern Design Guide will feature the best in established and up-and-coming surface pattern designers. By being part of the guide, your work will be exposed to an engaged and active readership of art and design buyers, potential clients, collaborators and consumers. This spring issue of UPPERCASE will be distributed free of charge to media at Surtex, the famed surface pattern licensing show this May in New York City. It will also be made readily available as a free pdf download available online. (Last year's Stationery Guide has had over 84,000 impressions via Issuu.)'

The work of 100 designers will be featured (many of whom I know from the Lilla Rogers courses) and I can't wait to see it!  It will be in Issue 21 April 2014.
You can see the promo video here and if you'd like to subscribe you can use this discount code - USPDG2014 - good for 15% off.  Here's the subscription link .

Lovely Ink on Print and Pattern! (and Rubbish Cat - read further)

The Lovely Ink Project has been featured on the Print and Pattern Blog -  http://printpattern.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/art-collaborative-lovely-ink.html 
and my little cat was posted.  I'm particularly happy about that because there's a long story behind that cat.
I  knew I wanted to draw a cat for a group of designs I had in mind and I had a fairly clear idea of what I wanted this cat to be.  I sat down to draw him/her feeling quite confident - and I couldn't do it.  I drew the thing over and over and over - in pencil, paint, pen, on the computer - and it was pathetic.  In desperation I posted on the MATS Facebook group that I couldn't draw a cat and that what I'd drawn was RUBBISH and ended up with 50 requests to see this rubbish cat.
By this time I'd been drawing cats for 2 days and had finally come up with this benign little creature (above) and was quite pleased with her.  So I posted her - and there was an uproar about how she wasn't rubbish enough.

So, to compensate, I drew this;

And then Nic drew this (so rubbish it looks like a fox);

and Anne this (way too good!):

but later admitted the first one had been this (far more rubbish);

then Ohn did this (Austrian rubbish cat with no ears);

Vivayne this (so sweet - looks like it wants to make friends);

Jennifer this (cat putting out the rubbish);

Wendy this (which isn't a cat Wendy - definitely a fox!);

Stephanie this (outrage ensued - is not rubbish ATALL);

then this (a bit more rubbish I suppose but not really rubbish enough);

and finally this (drawn with left hand - so rubbish is gorgeous);

then Rachael added this (pretty rubbish Rachael);

and Amalya this (I love this vibrating cat);

and Carolina this (look at it's tail);

So, while I'm sure my friends would much rather I show-cased their brilliant portfolios, showing how amazingly talented they are, I'm choosing to post their worst artwork - because it's funny!!  Vivayne even started a Facebook page for our crappy drawings!
The following weekend I was planning my artwork for Nicole Piar's wonderful Lovely Ink Project.  I'd already picked my phrase 'Choose Happiness' and was wondering how to illustrate it and realized my little cat looked so serene and happy.  So I sat her in a pretty garden and thought she illustrated the phrase really well.   Seeing her shortly afterwards on Print and Pattern was such a lovely surprise and I felt like all that cat anxiety had really paid off. 
There - that's the story of Rubbish Cat!  And the moral of the story is - your crappy artwork may become decent if you spend 3 days plodding away at drawing one thing - and if it doesn't you can share your desperation with other people and laugh hysterically at their crappy efforts.  Choose Happiness!

Lovely Ink

Free Inspirational Art Lovely Ink lovely ink

It's time to talk about Lovely Ink!! 

I've been asked to be a participating artist in Nicole Piar's Lovely Ink Project and I'm so flattered.  The other participating artists are incredibly talented and you may recognize some of their names!!

"Lovely Ink's mission is to uplift, to awaken a sense of wonder and to sprinkle inspiration around the world. A group of 12 artists have come together to create beautiful art that includes an inspirational saying. They deliver this art to you each month for a year in the form of a 8x10”printable that is ready for framing and a desktop wallpaper to cheer up your workspace. It begins on April 1." 

If you go to the Lovely Ink webpage you can find bios and samples of work from the twelve artists involved and you can very easily sign up to receive your free art every month. http://www.ghostkitten.com/lovelyink

Lilla Rogers Bootcamp February - Cuckoo Clocks!

Get ready for it!!!  There's about to be a tidal wave of cuckoo clocks washing over the internet - such is the influence of the magical Lilla Rogers.  There are 400 designer/artists on this course and they are sooo GOOD!!!
The theme of this month's assignment was...cuckoo clocks of course.  It's a lovely theme as the clocks themselves are full of details: the little house, the clock face, the animals and figurines around them, the cuckoo itself, the pendulum, the painted floral decoration, balconies, shuttered windows.  There are so many design elements within them and such huge variations between each clock that I thought it would be fairly easy to create something pretty and interesting even though I was a bit stuck for time.  I had to miss out the first week of sketching and went straight into the second week so rather than explore different concepts I interpreted the theme quite literally, thinking that the variety and interest within the subject matter would be enough to draw on.
We were instructed to create a design for a phone case (very clever - old and new technology) and were given a colour palette - initially a combination of dusky pink, acid/mustard yellows, palmolive greens, teal, purple and red - and at first glance I thought I'd give them a miss and choose my own palette.  There didn't seem to be much point in paying for expert direction only to completely ignore it though - so I decided to rise to the challenge.  And surprisingly (or not, if you consider the source) it worked.  The colours looked really pretty together.  So, all happy with that, I read the third week's installment from Lilla - another colour palette (the original one really with a greenier yellow and the addition of a lovely dusty navy and orange).  Hmmm.  I'd thought I was finished.
I couldn't not have a go.  I should have been working on a project but really wanted to try that navy. So I did.  I put the two versions to the vote on the FB page and the blue one won hands down.  I'm really pleased with the way it worked out.  It was refreshing to try something new and make it work.  I can't wait to do some designs to go with it. And I can't wait until the gallery opens and I can see ALL 400 interpretations of this theme!  The talent in this group is extraordinary!
Below are the two versions based on the two different palettes. Which do you prefer?