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A Nice Surprise

Thanks so much to This Enchanted Pixie for including "Wise  little Owl" in her gift suggestions for children. Check out her lovely Blog full of great ideas!

It is so lovely to know that somebody on the other side of the world has seen Little Owl and liked him! The internet is amazing isn't it!

The art of randomness

Is randomness a real word? I am not sure, but it describes what I would like to think about today.

One of my favourite processes to get my imagination working is to make random scribble drawings and develop them. There are no preconceived ideas when I begin. I simply draw a whole bunch of scribbles on the surface on which I am working. The original inspiration was from Carla Sonheim's idea of looking at sidewalk cracks and making pictures from what you see. I then started seeing creatures everywhere, on my wooden floors and on the I promise I am not crazy!! It is particularly weird if you are in somebody else's house and you see a cool creature in their floorboards and you want to draw it. Come on! I know I am not alone in this!!

Here is an owl from my kitchen floorboards. I hope you can see him too!

And another cute little floorboard face!


 After you have made your scribble have a look at what you have drawn. I find the best scribble drawing is one where you are mindful of how your pen or pencil has been moving, draw slowly but don't over think it. Make varied marks. rounds curly ones, square ones, zig zags. The following drawings are examples from my sketchbook. The first one shows the scribble and what I found within it.Of course you can add lines if you want to, this is only a starting point.

The drawings are then further developed as you like.

I enjoy looking for characters in my scribbles and love it particualrly when there are a whole host of weird 
and wacky findings in one drawing. I just finished a set of ACEO's which are 3 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches and are full of weirdness! It was really fun and challenging doing it in such a small space and trying to create a unity of composition and meaning. They will be heading to my Etsy Shop shortly.

 This is a great project for children when you are trying to amuse them and have no resources.
 Have fun discovering the weird within the random!

Ironically when writing this, the tree outside my studio fell random!
Monty the cat lost one of his nine lives.

Little Angel

This little angel was standing on a pile of rubble behind a fence in  Port Adelaide.
The image seemed symbolic of hope to me.

A is for ..........

The illustrated alphabet is perhaps something which we have all encountered as children, that is letters of the alphabet illustrated to tell a little story about the particular letter.

 Recently I have challenged myself to start working through some letters to create an illustrated alphabet of my own.

So far I have worked on "F is for flowers"

"B is for beard  of Bees,"

 and, as I shared in my previous post "Q is for Quinoa"

United Nations International Year Of Quinoa Stamp Design

At the start  of the year I was one of some recent graduates of UNISA who submitted designs to commemorate the United Nations International year of Quinoa. The aim was to promote quinoa as a super food as it is jam packed full of nutrition and also to honour the custodians of the grain, the Andean peoples who have grown it for thousands of years.

This was the rationale for my design:

"This design connects with the origins of quinoa as a food from the Andean region where it was known as the "queen of the grains." I felt it was very important to acknowledge the indigenous nature of the quinoa and the region it traditionally comes from as people are very dependent on it's production for their own food source and it has been given to the rest of the world from there.

I have represented my idea of an Incan sun wearing a head-dress which is made up of sun-rays and also the quinoa seed- head/plant. The face of the sun  looks benign rather than fearsome to represent the health-giving quality of quinoa. The face could be construed as male or female in which case it could be seen as a queen (as in "queen of the grains").

The sun face is shaped as a "Q". The name quinoa is often mispronounced (the name sounds like it starts with a "K) so I wrote "Q" is for Quinoa on the head-dress. This gives authority to quinoa as it now becomes the word associated with the letter "Q".

The image and the colours are very bright and graphic as the image needs to be read easily when it is small. Blue represents clear Andean skies.

The letter "Q" is filled with seeds/grains of quinoa in lots of different colours as the plant colour is very diverse and colourful."

ideas about composition

colour ideas

final rendering

 My design was one of the 8 shortlisted and because of this we got the opportunity to go to Government House in June and receive a certificate from the His Excellency the Governor of South Australia, Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce.

Recently were were invited to the UN Annual Dinner at the beautiful National Wine Centre in Adelaide to see which designs had been made into stamps and happily all of them were!

This is my design. 
The stamps are only available on a limited release through the Adelaide Office of the United Nations. 57/81 Carrington Street, Adelaide SA 5000

We discovered that even though we all thought we were pronouncing quinoa as keen-wa we were wrong. The Chilean musicians attending the dinner told us it was actually pronounced keen-o-a. Glad we got that sorted out. 

A Wintry Fairytale

A while ago I shared an image I made as part of a collaboration.
It was an image of a snow goose which got me thinking. If the snow goose was part of a bigger story what would it be?

I imagined the snow goose as protector, it nestles in it's cave of snow in deep winter and protects all the people and houses in the village below.

A peaceful winter time image just as we are about to go into spring!

Etsy Shop

Well one minute we think summer is around the corner here in Adelaide and the next winter is back! It is so confusing but it has meant I am still quite happy to be inside doing inside activities!

I have finally got around to opening my Etsy shop. I have been playing with my new printer and making some prints. If you have a moment you might like to have a look.

Gelatine Prints on the brain!

Recently I created more gelatine prints to try and develop my skills in that area. By making  some masks and hand cut stencils it enabled me to work in layers and increase the depth of the prints.
 I also explored adding text and image to my prints to see what kind of effect could be created.

I have now got about a kilo of prints! lol.

It is my plan to make a hand bound journal one of these days and use excess prints as a basis for a journal.

using colour with a mask

using mask to create layers

hand cut stencil and masks

using stencil and hand generated text

layering and hand drawing

print with hand drawing and text

col·labo·ration n.

The illustrator/artist may be thought of as a creature who is most happy when closeted away alone with their paint, pencils, brushes and  their computer! Maybe the scene will include a dog or a cat or 4. This however may not always be the best thing as dogs and cats are fairly accepting of any design they are faced with.

With  this in mind my fellow illustrator Celeryanne and  myself entered into a collaboration.

For now I would like to share the images I created with this collaboration in mind. At a later date we will share the images generated by our collaboration.

Celeryanne has shared one of her images on her blog.

Illustration of the poem Escape at Bedtime by Robert Louis Stevenson
Illustration inspired by Celeryanne's photo of snow and reeds

Illustration inspired by the words "pond, jumble, pocket"

Illustration inspired by Celeryanne's sketches of dogs

Seasons Come, and Seasons Go.

"She enjoys rain for its wetness, winter for its cold, summer for its heat. She loves rainbows as much for fading as for their brilliance. It is easy for her, she opens her heart and accepts everything."

          Morgan Llywelyn, Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish



It has been about 8 months since my last trip home to N.Ireland and a lot has changed in that time. Seasons come and go but it never ceases to amaze me that the world is a beautifully designed place that runs like clockwork in spite of our delusion that we are in control.

I had two winters in a row last year, winter in the southern hemisphere followed by a northern winter. For this reason my opinion of the seasons has become a little askew! The Irish winter was wet and dark and cold but even so it was lovely walking around in my parents garden, sniffing the decay and dampness. It really appeals to my dark side.



However the earth has merely been sleeping! Look what has happened in the last few months.

mum and dad in the very green garden.


Some giant super-veggies!
















The changes from winter through spring to summer  made me reflect on how the seasons are ordered and what a wonderful world we live in; which in turn lead to me designing this illustration.
The circle of a designer's life!

Thanks to my niece Tori for the photos of summer and freaky vegetables!

Summer Camp

The best fun a painter can ever have is when they are doing what they love, wading in paint up to their elbows and wallowing in colour!

This week was a good one, it was finally time to go to virtual "summer camp"organised by Carla Sonheim!  I packed my virtual bag and made my virtual snacks and off I went.

I had chosen to take the class run by Diane Culhane, an amazing painter whose work is full of colour and character and an amazing teacher. Each day we watched a video and then went off to our virtual cabins to explore what we had been taught. It was a great exercise in stretching the imagination and learning new techniques.

There were other classes I would have loved to have done but maybe next time.

I will show you some snippets of the work I did this week. It was a great inspiration to me so I got a lot of work done. Here is a small sample.


Exploring line with angles and curves and then finding new shapes within the shapes which have been created and adding colour.

Creating a collage with random pieces of paper and then looking for new shapes within that shape. Isolating those shapes and forms with gesso.

Colouring the forms with paint whilst trying to retain some of the clarity so the collage paper and texture can be seen. Unfortunately this one got too opaque so a lot of the texture was lost.

Creating an image from a collage beginning with the form of a tree.

Adding colour to discover and create new forms within the previous collage.

This is just a snippet of what this week was about but for someone who like to be surrounded by paint, paper and ideas it was fun!

Feathers and Flux

One of my oil pastel images was used to illustrate an article in  Mint Magazine produced here in Adelaide by Annie Waters. Each issue of the magazine explores a theme and the theme this time was Flux. Check the Mint website out here and you can like them on facebook here. My image is on Page 36 of Issue 3, Flux which you can find here.

Gelatine Monoprinting

This week the weather has taken a turn for the worst and we have had high winds and rain in Adelaide. This has meant that indoor pursuits have been very attractive so as well as developing my image making I had a session making some gelatine prints. When I say gelatine prints I mean prints made on a print plate made of gelatine, the type you eat! Apologies to any can buy vegetarian gelatine but I have not tried it yet.

Gelatine print making is a great image making process as the image is uncontrollable to a certain degree and you get some wonderful texture and marks that you can't get any other way. Each print is a one off and totally unique monoprint.

I have shared the process here just in case anybody would like to have a go at making some too.

If you are going to make some prints you will need;

gelatine powder  (which you can buy in the supermarket. I have never tried the vegetarian substitute for gelatine.)
a tray to put the gelatine mix in, like a swiss roll tin
acrylic paint, or ink
something to roll the paint out on, I usually just use a tile or sheet of glass.
Gatherings of items you can put on your gelatine plate to  make images, leaves, pieces of paper, either abstract or cut-out, lace, thread, anything you can think of that you could place under a piece of paper!

To make  the gelatine plate mix 6 tablespoons of powdered gelatine with 1 1/2 cups of cold water in a saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups of warm water and put it on the stove to dissolve slowly over a low heat, just enough heat to melt the gelatine.
Keep stirring it with a whisk to stop it becoming lumpy.
After the gelatine has dissolved pour into a tray. This amount made enough to fill a swiss roll tray which was about the size of an A4 piece of paper. Put in the fridge to cool and harden. This does not take very long, maybe half an hour for this anount. Take care not to spill it over the edges as it is very difficult to remove from the floor, well more messy than difficult and also do not put it down the sink as it will mess your pipes up.

When the plate is ready tip it out gently onto the bench. I usually place it on a piece of foil to keep any mess contained. Use your brayer to roll some paint over the plate. It should look like this:.

Place some items on the gelatine print that you would like to make your print from.

Place a sheet of paper over the plate and the material you are printing, in this case my leaves and rub the paper all over with your hand. When you lift the paper your image will be revealed! As you can see the material on the plate has left a negative image. You can use fabric instead of paper if you like.

You can now lift the material off your plate, and put another sheet of paper over the plate to create a ghost image which in this case is a positive image of the leaves.

 The images can be addded to in photoshop or by using them as a basis for mixed media like I did here where I added my watercolour butterflies in Photoshop.

The gelatine plate will last for a week or so in the fridge but eventually gets a bit yucky! I find that it gets more and more interesting as it gets older as there are more cracks and marks on it which add texture.

Here are some more of my images from this week.

There are many techniques which you can use to increase interest in your simple gelatine print. You can draw on the plate before you pull your image. Just remember to do it backwards.You can draw after you have made your plate. You can make marks with random objects you may have just lying around begging to be used either by pressing directly onto the plate before making your print or by stamping onto the image afterwards. You can create stencils and place them over the paint and then make your image or place cut outs which you have painted on top of your painted plate and then create your print.  You can  include your prints as part of a collage or collage onto your print.
For something really unique how about binding your prints into a book.
 The sky is the limit! just have fun.

I hope you have a go at this image making process and I would love to hear how you get on and see your images.