A Little on Art and Life

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Hello Sweet Ones!

So, as you may have noticed I’ve not been nearly as active as I had initially hoped to be when I came back to this blog in June and honestly the reason for that is a pretty simple one … I’ve just been so busy! I’m working full throttle on the business these days, and it feels good to have fallen completely in love with painting again. It seems I needed a bit of a kick, and the drama that unfolded last month was just the very thing to show me just how much I wanted to keep fighting for this.

The commissions to continue to roll in, and I’m just as busy now as I was at Christmas last year. Don’t get me wrong, that comes with it’s own challenges to overcome (social life, what social life?) but I’m never happier than when I’ve got a project to work on and ultimately I find that my mental health is kept in better check when I’ve got plenty to be occupying my time with. It also has another added perk … I’ve really been able to push and expand upon my skills these last handful of months, and I’m looking into other mediums to branch out into. After watching some YouTube videos and following some incredible artists on Insta (see Sanjana’s Art!), I’m really keen to start working with ink and seeing how that can impact the boldness of my artwork. I LOVE colour (this coming from the girl who mostly wears black …) and the vibrancy of the Dr. PH Martin’s Bombay Indian Ink has got me hooked before I even get a chance to use them, and I can already see that it will add a little something extra to my backgrounds. It also happens to be my birthday coming up this weekend, so perhaps I should treat myself?

I’m also working hard to expand my portfolio on my Redbubble (see Art Sweeties), creating a few digital paintings each week. It’s not a style I see over-taking my traditional art anytime soon, but it’s a welcome change from the often difficult processes that come with watercolour. I’ve just completed another series of pieces, these ratties based off a photoshoot I did of my ratties a couple of years ago, and it was certainly a lot of fun.


I’ve also been revisiting an old project of mine … plushies!! I LOVED making these guys back in the day, and I did start taking orders for them. Sadly, as I hand-sew, each individual rat was taking me so long to do that I just couldn’t charge what they cost me in time and hope to sell them, so they became a bit of a hobby that I would work in when I had a moment. Presently, I’m working on them in my evenings whilst watching some cartoons to chill out, and adding the pre-mades to my new Etsy store (see Art Sweeties Etsy).


There’s also been a lot going on in my life outside of art at the moment! Sadly, it’s not anything that’s going especially smoothly, mind. We are hoping very much to move out of our current little one bed basement home and move into a larger house, firstly so that my partner and I both have more room to expand our businesses. and secondly so that we can finally welcome out first doggy into our lives! It’s been an actual dream my entire life to have my own dog, and I really hope that I can make that dream a reality before this year is out … but finding a home that meets out requirements, and takes pets, is much harder in our town than we thought it would be, and there’s been a lot of disappointment in the time we’ve been looking. It’s one of those things we just have to keep plugging away it, and fortunately my work keeps me from obsessing on it too much …

As ever, I am open for commissions and taking pre-orders for Christmas slots at the moment, so get in touch if you’re interested! Otherwise, thanks for reading, and I’ll try and bring some regular updates over the coming weeks!

Holly Wells

I’m Permanently Covered in Paint!

After all those years belligerently and stubborning refusing the jeering calls of the paintbrush, I now find myself well and truly addicted to watercolours. I sleep, I dream of painting, I wake up, and I’m thinking of what I want to paint next, even when I eat I find myself wondering … can I paint with mushy peas? How well would they mix with my favourite yellow? Could a moldy canvas be the new artistic breakthrough that I’ve been searching for?

Either way, today I have been feeling quite under the weather, so instead of hiding under my duvet with baby rats I figured I’d put on some Doctor Who and paint with baby rats. By that I mean, the baby rats are on my shoulder eating treats, not that I use them to paint with. I didn’t have any real goal in mind, just that loading my paper with water and flicking paints on there looked pretty, and it slowly morphed into yet another ratty drawing, adding promarkers for good measure.

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I’m really happy with how this turned out, so happy that I think I’ll get some prints made up of it next week. The yellow is perhaps a bit more intense than it really needed to be, and some areas of the ‘nebula’ background is a bit too sharp, but will work on that for the next one!

Compassionate Artwork

Two posts in less than two weeks? Surely I’m just spoiling you? But in all seriousness, it’s nice to have things to write about again!

Last week I was asked if I would like a stall at the Compassionate Christmas Fair, held down in Halisham this December, and I’m very excited about it. The fairs aim is to promote a cruelty free lifestyle, selling vegan products and raising money for a number of different vegan and animal charities in the UK. Compassion and love for our fellow beings is something that I hold very dear to my heart, and I have been vegan for almost four years now, so it means a lot to me to finally be able to get involved in something that I feel so positively about.

I have been working on a number of artworks, my ‘Friends not Food’ series, that explores the beauty and compassion and love of the animals often overlook and exploited by many. It has been a good excercise for me, working with such varied features and shapes, animals that are certainly out of my comfort zone when it comes to drawing, and it has given me a chance to really dig my toes into the watercolours. I am a long way from mastering the medium, that’s for sure, but I am starting to understand how these paints work, and what you can get them to do!

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All of these so far have been on 5×7″ paper, a good size for prints, I figure! But I also finished this A4 piece last night. I’m not as happy with how this turned out compared to those above, but I suppose the composition is very different from what I have been working with previous, focusing mainly on the silly, characterful faces that these animals pull. But still, it was an enjoyable piece to pain.
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It also pleases me to say that all the materials I work with don’t contain animal derivatives, so that’s always a big bonus!

The Evolution of Change

It has been a while since I made a decent update to this page, what with my Facebook, Etsy and Tumblr pages taking up most of the time I had dedicated to networking each day, but I have experienced a number of changes over the past two months that have inspired me to put pen to paper (ok, fingers to keyboard) and give this blogging lark another shot.

The most notable development since my last update has been my decision to quit my part time office job, a position that caused me a great deal of stress, and focus all of my energy on Sweet Illustrations. It has been a rocky month, to put it lightly, though I am still earning more than I was before I took the plunge, and in my eyes that’s as good an achievement as any!

Having seven whole days a week to dedicate to my artwork has allowed me to explore mediums and styles that I simply felt I couldn’t dedicate the time to before, and my recently completed artworks have got me thinking about how much my art and, most importantly, my approach to art has changed since I first realised that I was actually pretty ok at it.

To start this tale, I’m going to take you on a magical journey back in time, where a younger, much smaller and much more naive little Holly stood outside of her art class at break time, talking to Mr. Endicott, the only art teacher that I have ever felt I learned from and who inspired me to do something with my talents. It was during my GCSE years that I really started to commit myself to the idea that I loved art, and to allow myself the time to work on my skills, and to feel confident enough in what I was producing to feel proud to show my family and my teachers. I loved drawing in graphite, drawing animals and cartoon characters, and presenting them in my art classes as my finished products. Endicott would give me advice and constructive criticism on my work, and over time my skills continued to improve, but there was something I really could not cope with. And that was painting. I refused to paint, because when I tried it look awful. I realise now that I was approaching paint in entirely the wrong way, that I was expecting the same results I got with my pencils without having to put in the effort, and it frustrated me. I outright refused to work in paint, no matter how often he would try and encourage me too, and as a result of this I spent most of my life never touching a paintbrush and certainly never touching paint. When it came to university we were expected to do our design proposals in paint, namely using gouache, but the method was simply filling and shading, and I almost always managed to find a way around that by using gel pens and pencils. When university was over I stopped drawing completely, too depressed to find any joy in it any more until, by chance, I was bought some promarkers and, when a friend lost one of her ratties, I decided I would try drawing them for her. I got back into art again, but still I refused the paints! I stuck with the markers, eventually moving onto graphite and coloured pencil.

I did get the old goauche set out during that time, though I used it exactly the same way that I used the markers … blocks of colours, refusing to utilise the many benefits that paint offered because, in my head, I still couldn’t paint. I would tell people that I couldn’t paint, that I was hopeless at painting, and further more I convinced myself that I didn’t need to paint. Whilst there are artists out there who find markers and photoshop and coloured pencils enough, I hadn’t come to this conclusion because I preferred the markers and pencils, but because I was too stubborn to give something a try. Because I had done a stupid thing and convinced myself that, because I couldn’t paint ten years ago, how can I possibly paint now? This is a mistake I see so many people making … people who tell themselves over and over that because they didn’t get the results they wanted years ago that it was impossible for them to do so now. People who say that ‘I tired but I can’t.’ But I was that person, for all that I had improved, I was still stuck in the same mindset as my sixteen year old self.

My journey into painting came about quite accidentally, rather recently. I bought myself some coloured ballpoint pens to do play around with, and realised that I needed an effective way to create some contrasting and dynamic backgrounds to the ballpoint subjects. I have an old watercolour set that was bought for me many many years ago, and dubiously I pulled them out, and after doing a little research I began playing around with throwing and splashing the watercolour onto the page. I loved it, I loved the result, and I loved naturally the results formed.

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People loved them, and I sold them in a very short space of time, and got a number of comments from people saying how much they adored this new style. It was a huge boost for me, as although commissions had been coming in fairly steadily since I quit my job, I still didn’t feel particularly confident that I was doing the right thing. Little did I know, that by simply splashing some watercolour around on some paper, I had begun to chip away at this idea that I couldn’t paint, and a few days later I found a wonderful reference photo that I was really excited about, and after I had done the splashed I realised that, actually, I may as well see what I can do by still working with the watercolours.

Let me just say, this was about as hallelujah a moment as I could possibly ask for. I LOVED it, and I was able to apply what I had learned with the markers, and the coloured pencils, in a way that really complemented the medium. Watercolours suited me, and how who knew? Certainly not me. It was the first piece that I had finished that actually had me beaming with pride. I had achieved something that the sixteen year old me always told the world was impossible. I had painted something, and I liked it!

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I am now exploring this new style that I have discovered, playing around with it as much as I can, adding other mediums when I can to see what sort of result I can get. Although I love doing the commissions, it’s nice to actually feel like an artist again, to know that I’m pushing myself. I have learned a very valuable lesson throughout all this, one that I wish I had learned earlier, and one that I hope everyone reading this can take from as well; you can’t expect to be good at something without first putting in the work to GET good at something. No matter how naturally gifted or talented you are, or you are not, everything that you do, that you want to get good at, requires patience, it requires an understanding that you won’t be producing a masterpiece of getting thousands of notes and likes on whatever platform you’re used to the first day, or the first month, or even the first year! What makes the difference between someone who is ‘good’ and someone who is not, is that one of these people didn’t give up.

I leave you now with a preview of the painting that I have been working on this evening.

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Holly x

Sweet Blossum

sweetrat164Today, after my office job forbidding me to come in thanks to the lack of work we have going at the moment, I decided to finish off the GiveAway prize that was given to celebrate Sweet Rattery Illustration’s second birthday!

The prize was for one of my rainbow pieces, however the winner wanted something that would fit better with their ink pieces that they had commissioned in the past. I decided that I’d use this opportunity to do some more work with the gouache, ink and promarkers combined, and I have to say I’m pretty happy with the result!

My realistic painting skills still leave much to be desired, but that will come in time I’m sure.

Twas the Night Before Christmas and … Zebra?

I finally got a chance to knuckle down and get my zebra piece finished tonight! I figured it was perhaps the only way I could distract myself from the mountain of cheese and crackers sitting in the kitchen.

I will confess I’m not 100% happy without the outcome. I think the background was, in retrospect, pretty poorly planned out in terms of the overall colour scheme. But hey, it was an experience and I’m learning to be a bit more confident with my strokes and to work outside of my usual ‘blocks’ of colour. The background itself I’m quite happy with, just think I should have perhaps used more mint green.
sweetrat153Backgrounds have been rather absent throughout the process (why yes, yes I do watch the Apprentice and yes I am now thinking in Mark’s accent), and it definitely adds a little more to the overall piece. Just need some fine tuning is all!

So, here he is, the Zebro!

As ever, gouache and ink were my medium of choice 🙂

My First Lesson: Gouache is Not Goulash

When I first set off the University we were given a list of books and products that we would apparently find very useful throughout the course. There was the usual, books we’d never in a million years read, pens and pencils, a couple stacks of paper, but one of the items on there was something that, in my lower class upbringing, meant nothing to me. A Introduction Set of Designer Gouache. I’d heard of Goulash, but I wasn’t sure that was quite what they meant. So, totally bemused as to what I would find, I set off the nearing art store to find this goo-ash stuff.

Turns out, it was a type of opaque watercolour. I’ve used watercolour and acrylic before, of course, but this was like heaven in a tiny squidgy pot. I loved the stuff! It had the strength of acrylic with the spread of watercolour, and better even than both, and ever since it’s been my paint of choice.

However, once uni was over and those two years of mind numbing boredom passed and inspiration hit once more, I found myself addicted to Letraset Promarkers, and they were so wonderful to use with my little pet illustrations, and gouache sadly got rather forgotten. It sat in it’s little box, it’s colourful squishy magic unused and unloved for the best part of three years, until I came across it again one day whilst clearing out ‘that’ cupboard.

Whilst I only seem to have one intact brush remaining, and have yet braved Hobbycraft to get another set, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the freedom that working with paint gives over working with ink. And gouache, in particular, is such a fantastic medium to use. As it is water based, I don’t have to worry about any wasted paint and can reactivate the palette whenever I fancy, which makes it convenient as well as pretty. When using it throughout my degree it was used, alongside Chinese Ink, to paint very delicate and detailed jewellery design proposals and illustrations, so it’s very freeing to be able to work a little bit larger. I’ve still got a lot of practicing ahead, but I’m enjoying the journey.
Below are a few example of some of the pieces that I’ve been working on the past two months. Personally I think there’s a little bit of a theme going on here, but I’ll let you all be the judge of that.

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The first piece – rainbow rat with slight wash.

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One of my first attempts to illustrate a ferret in a good year or more, turns out they work quite well in … rainbow.

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Perhaps betraying another key interest and care of mine, you either know what I’m talking about or you don’t here 😉 But everyone loves a pretty cow. In rainbow.

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By this point I had grown more familiar with the process and the paints, and starting to feel a lot more comfortable with the strength I could work at. In rainbow, of course.

There are quite a few other pieces that I’ve worked on since, and it’s an idea that I wish to continue with and grow upon in the coming year. Gouache really is wonderful paint to work with, and if you’re a fan of watercolours and/or acrylic then I very much recommend giving it a go.